Vintage Dog Training and Performance: Jay Sisler
January 7, 2012 7:56 PM   Subscribe

Positive reinforcement dog training existed in the States in the 1950s. Sisler's dogs were trained to amazingly high performance standards using hand signals and body language with just... petting, praise and pancakes? Aussies, maybe, but greyhounds, really?


Jay Sisler (February 20, 1926 - July 8, 1995) was inducted to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2002.

Sisler’s dog act, which included (dogs) jumping rope, head stands and see saws, was a hit at Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden, the Cow Palace, Calgary and the Snake River Stampede during the 1950s and 1960s. Sisler and the dogs appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, and the dogs played lead roles in Disney’s Cow Dogs and Stub: Best Cow Dog in the West. Other film credits include Greta the Misfit Greyhound, Run Appaloosa Run and A Man Called Horse.

And these videos are really the reason for this:

Part 1

Part 2 (Potential trigger warning: monkeys "riding" dogs. No, I do not want to know how the monkey was held on. No, I will not debate this. No, monkey riders are not done nowadays.)

And happy Aussies with a an even happier greyhound.
posted by vers (22 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Petting, praise & pancakes...would work for me, so why not dogs? Mmmm, pancakes.
posted by scalefree at 8:00 PM on January 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Vers, the monkeys just hang on to the miniature saddle, and they actually appear to enjoy riding the dogs. Monkeys riding dogs are still a feature at modern rodeos. I was 'backstage' at one rodeo where the handler kept having to pry the monkey off the dog, as he appeared to want to go for a ride around the back of the chutes. They are agile, inquisitive critters with an amazing sense of balance and hang on like stink.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:23 PM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

When my wife was studying dog training, the director of the academy had a chow chow she had trained only with the positive reinforcement techniques they teach there. One is not even allowed to gently touch the dog to guide it into the desired behavior.

The idea was that if anyone complained of getting a Beagle or a Bulldog for a test, she could always point to the chow chow. If you can train a chow chow, a greyhound should not be that hard.

Also, it is easier for dogs to learn hand signals and body language that it is to learn voice commands.

If you want to teach a dog pure voice commands you have to be very careful with your body language so that you don't give any cues.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 8:25 PM on January 7, 2012

Is this the thread where we post pictures of our dogs with pancakes?
posted by moonmilk at 8:32 PM on January 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

I had my greyhound trained to shake hands, sit, stay, do voice return (although we never tested in an unenclosed area because you should never have greys outside off-lead due to their speed), play dead, fetch, roll over and go where a finger pointed, and random other tricks. I could have taught her anything because she was eager to please and we worked well together. Then again, I have taught cats the same tricks, using whatever motivated that specific cat as a prompt. It's easy enough to teach someone who loves you as long as you don't damage their trust in you.

I can not imagine training a chow, though. That takes some chops.
posted by winna at 8:46 PM on January 7, 2012

Monkeys dressed like cavaliers riding dogs. I know what I'm going to be dreaming about tonight...

Seriously though, great videos! The happiness just radiates from those dogs in waves.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:49 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

No, monkey riders are not done nowadays.

Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey

Official website and bookings.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:48 PM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

The two disturbing things I learned from this: people have uploaded 748 youtube videos of monkeys riding dogs. And it takes 10 minutes of helpless, horrified laughter before Himself becomes curious enough to come see what I'm watching.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 9:59 PM on January 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

This baby monkey riding on a backwards on a pig seems to be having the time of his life, so I'm not sure there's much coercion there.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:36 PM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm also a little confused by the monkey trigger warning? Are some people afraid of monkeys?
posted by rebent at 11:45 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

748 youtube monkey riding videos?

Hell, back before there ever was a YouTube, companies spent millions, broadcasting them in prime time TV.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:49 PM on January 7, 2012

AUSSIES! Squeeeeee!

(also... the baby monkey riding on a pig seems pretty content with the situation. The pig? Not so much)
posted by theplotchickens at 4:39 AM on January 8, 2012

Metafilter, I stand corrected about monkeys riding dogs in current times. I lead a sheltered life, apparently.
posted by vers at 5:32 AM on January 8, 2012

No, monkey riders are not done nowadays.

Apparently the Denver Broncos missed the memo.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:40 AM on January 8, 2012

Hey guys I heard monkeys still ride dogs
posted by nathancaswell at 6:41 AM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hey, it worked for Hellboy.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 9:25 AM on January 8, 2012

Why would training a chow be harder? The best dog I've ever had was a chow, (she sadly died this summer, I'm still not over it), and despite having no dog training classes myself, I was able to train her to follow hand commands to sit, lie, get up, get in the truck, shake and roll over. Well, not really roll over, she would roll enough to get tummy rubs. I never used anything but milk bones, praise and tummy rubs. Although, to be fair, she was the smartest, best girl in the whole world.
posted by dejah420 at 9:49 AM on January 8, 2012

Petting, praise & pancakes...would work for me, so why not dogs? Mmmm, pancakes.

Don't tell your employer that, or things may not go so well for you at your next salary review.

Also: add "ghostride the whippet" to my list of hypothetical sockpuppet names.
posted by drlith at 10:40 AM on January 8, 2012

Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off of the floor!

We have an ex-racing greyhound that we've managed to teach the standard well-behaved dog commands - sit, down, and stay. He already knew "kennel up" from his days on the track. I assumed that, because he's a greyhound, it wouldn't be worthwhile to try to teach him more complicated tricks.

The first video proves me wrong. A greyhound that you can wind up like a toy? That jumps over a human on command? Looks like my boy and I have some work to do!
posted by LightStruk at 11:57 AM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

LightStruk, glad to see another greyhound person here! My nod to training greyhounds in the post was because there is a common misconception that they are more difficult to work with outside of a track environment. You'll probably like Never Say Never Greyhounds, if you haven't seen it already. The owner does an amazing job with her hounds, competing in obedience, agility and dock jumping.

Greyhounds are, as winna noted, very trainable in their own way -- they are smart pups, though often independent thinkers (when I started training with mine, I was often reminded that I always have to have an answer to their question -- if we do this, what's in it for me?).

I have done a far amount of training with my two greys, but Jack Sisler's videos were inspiring to me. I hope to start rally obedience with one of mine this spring.
posted by vers at 12:32 PM on January 8, 2012

Aussietone News 1950. A team of crack Australian Shepard scientists and their Greyhound colleagues have trained a man to invent new fun games. He also dispenses head rubs and pancakes.
posted by gamera at 3:28 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Good lord, next time my greyhound tries to pretend like he doesn't know he just kicked me in the face in an attempt to win more couch space, I'm going to sit him down and make him watch that first video until he admits that he is in no way as stupid or clumsy as he pretends to be.

Hear that, Badger? If that dog can do somersaults, you can manage to not wave your junk in my face while simultaneously attempting to give me a nosejob!
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 5:17 PM on January 9, 2012

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