It’s time to address a controversy that leads to more questions than anything else in our AAT work. Not, do the dogs enjoy the work, not the debate around positive reinforcement only training and not how do you fit in bathroom breaks. No, the question we get asked most often is, “If Rory is a girl why does she have a boy’s name?”.
I could say that we decided to be all ‘Hollywood’ and give her a cryptic name such as, Apple, Moses or James Reynolds (the girl). But I would be lying. And since I believe in honesty and transparency with my clients here’s the truth…
We simply didn’t know Rory was a boy’s name!
We named Rory after Rory Gilmore from The Gilmore Girls and didn’t realise that while Rory was generally a girl’s name in America, in Australia, it’s pretty much only ever a boy’s name.
So there you have it. 1) Rory (the dog) is definitely a girl 2) She’s named for a character we both relate to! and 3) she doesn’t mind the gender confusion so much anyway!
Apparently someone famous once said, “Never work with kids or animals”, but I have never really understood that! Yes, both kids and animals can be messy and unpredictable at times, but they’re open and honest and genuine and they definitely keep you on your toes!
It’s really important though that if you are going to mix kids and dogs (in any context or setting) that everyone maintains good manners! That includes making sure the dog isn’t leaping all over the children (and vice versa!), that the children respect the dog’s space and need for private time and most importantly that you can trust the dog around food.
The last thing you want is a dog that gets snappy or aggressive or protective around food and a child who’s wandering around with half a biscuit in their hand (which is often, conveniently at dog mouth height!). Or even a situation where the child is offering the dog food that either the dog shouldn’t be eating or that they may snatch out of the child’s hand.
So this is a short demonstration of using the voice tones to let Rory know when she can and can’t eat the available food – in this case, ham (which she really really likes – check the eyes!).
In the first part she’s just being told to avoid the food even though it’s placed right in front of her. This is useful in non-clinical settings too (i.e., if you don’t want them to go for random scraps of food they may encounter on a walk).
In the second example I make it a bit tougher, I actually offer the food up to her mouth. Rory knows me and trusts me and knows she can usually take food from me, so she goes for it and ignores the much growlier warning, that’s why she gets told ‘no’ and the food gets taken away. When I bring it back towards her she’s listening much better and leaves it until she’s told, “Get it”. Again, really useful if someone is offering your dog food that you don’t want them to have, and something that we still need to keep practicing!