Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ranger Recommends: Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked Out

Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked Out: Training Crazy Dogs from Over-the-Top to Under Control by Laura VanArendonk Baugh CPDT-KA KPACTP is another of those books that Ranger and even more Finna would heartily recommend. I picked up the book because the title made me laugh and definitely captured life with Finna. It turned out to be the perfect 'textbook' to go with what our trainer is teaching us.

When we're working together on training Finna with her right there we don't have the luxury of going into the logic behind what our trainer is asking us to work on. I have a wide ranging knowledge but very little practical experience--although I sometimes think that by the time Finna is done with me I should be able to pass any test for training certification with my eyes closed. Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked Out is the perfect bridge between the practical hands on work our trainer directs and the theoretical knowledge I've gained through my wide reading.

On nearly every page I found myself thinking "Oh, so that's how those pieces fit together. That's great. Now I get it." For example, I've read a lot about the limbic system and how it affects a the way dogs, and other mammals too for that matter, respond to stimulus. We've worked a lot on impulse control with Finna and on giving her tools that allow her to respond thoughtfully. Baugh provides a simple graphic at one end is the fight or flight response and at the other is the rational thoughtful response. As she describes it dogs are born somewhere on the continuum between these two extremes. Dogs like Finna are born much closer to the fight or flight response and dogs like Ranger are born more toward the rational thought end. Every dog has it's own genetically programmed range on the continuum. Good training can move a dog like Ranger who tends to think before he acts anyway to a position on the continuum where he is darn near bombproof. Good training can move a dog like Finna out of the fight or flight response into an area where she can think. She's never going to be as bombproof as Ranger but she is able to learn much better responses than barking and lunging at anything she finds frightening. I looked at Baugh's graphic and her brief description and suddenly all the things I've learned about the limbic system and all the work we've done with Finna on impulse control meshed and I understood how the two related and it all made better sense.

Reading Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked Out helped me to connect my theoretical knowledge and the practical applications and made me a much better trainer. Ranger and Finna both highly recommend it for anyone who is dealing with a crazy dog. Not only was it extremely helpful but it was also a very enjoyable read. We all recommend it.

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