It’s Raining Dogs and Turtles?

Beyond Basic Dog TrainingBeyond Basic Dog Training

Alert submitter said she couldn’t stop looking at this cover. For the love of all that is canine, why are turtles “jumping” barriers on the front cover?   Is the dog about to eat the turtles?  Are turtles capable of tricks like jumping over little metal things?  Of course the mother of all questions, is this a book on how to train your dog to train your turtles? Very impressive dog, not to mention impressive turtles…

Again, my expertise in dog training is limited to episodes of the Dog Whisperer.  Dog people, please advise!


dog proofing with turtles

      1. LOL

        In all seriousness though – I could use a good dog training book. I adopted a rescue dog last year – my very first one. Minnie was a breeder dog in a puppy mill. I just can’t seem to get her to potty mostly outside. (I’ve also got piddle pads just incase. Sometimes that training aid spray helps and sometimes it doesn’t.) On top of that, having been a puppy mill dog and subject to starvation – she was 3 1/3 pounds when rescued, 7 now. (Mini breed) so she eats her poop if I don’t catch it beforehand. Like if I’m at work.

        I have a feeling this book doesn’t cover how to deal with a rescue dog who’s used to starvation, abuse, and a cage. It took me a week to get her to walk in a straight line rather then circles.

    1. Jami, you might consider taking your Minnie to obedience classes. My dog has some doggie version of OCD and obedience classes with a nice gentle trainer have helped him learn to be much more calm and happy. We just did a couple of group classes at the local pet store, nothing fancy or drawn out or with turtles. 🙂

      1. Yeah, while she was at the groomers today I filled out a little thing to have a free talk with a trainer.

        She’s my first ever rescue dog. My first dog, Bitty, we got direct from her mom’s owners – they were sitting outside a general store with a box of puppies and a “Free to a good home” sign. My second, Audrey, was given to me by my cousin Eddie after he bred his pure breed cocker spaniel. After Audrey had to be put to sleep last year (she was 16) I said I wanted a rescue dog. My oldest brother tried to talk me out of it saying I’d get a dog with “emotional problems” and blah blah blah – always gave me names and numbers of pet stores and breeders. But I stuck to my guns and now I’ve got Minnie.

        I tell people I didn’t pick her, she picked me. She didn’t bark or whine. Just stood at the front of her cage and stared. Now I’ve got an adorable little dog who’s very attached to me. And a total DIVA! I never thought I’d be owned by a dog that likes to wear clothes! But she does! Even has favorites and the more ruffles and lace the happier she is. Oy vey!

        Just can’t seem to get the potty training down.

  1. Ha! I’ve always wanted a dog that can fetch box turtles! That would make a walk in the woods that much more fun.

  2. Proofing is when you give your dog a task and then put up all kinds of distractions, to see if she/he is really trained or if she/he can be lured off task.

    They teach the dog exactly which of those little barbell looking things they’re supposed to pick up by putting them all on a pegboard and wiring down all but the one that the dog is supposed to choose. Later doggie should be able to tell by smelling/looking at them which one is the correct one, but to start they make it easy by making only one available to pick up.

    Turtles, the ultimate dog-distraction. Who knew? Surely there are newer, turtle-cruelty free books for advanced dog training though. Yikes!


  3. As far as using another small animal for a distraction, I can’t think of anything else that would work since small mammals would probably end up being killed by the dog. Bits of food would probably be used in training today, but the turtle at least has its innate defenses and probably wasn’t harmed by the experience. I was a little confused by the terminology, but after Resa’s explanation it all makes sense. I just don’t see people actually training their dogs this way–after all, we want our dogs not to pull at their leash or bark at strangers. We could care less whether they pick up the right barbell or not.

    1. I just wish I could teach my dog not to pick up anything at all. With the amount of garbage she eats in the park, we should be on the town council’s payroll. As for pulling on the leash and barking at stuff, I’ve learned to live with it.

  4. Having owned a box turtle before, I’m not sure this mix is necessarily a good idea. Sure, the turtles may react to the dog by tucking into their shells – they may also react by biting the dog’s nose and not letting go. Of course, the turtle my family owned may have just been particularly temperamental…

    1. I had a “pet” turtle as a child… the thing terrified me after the first bite, he was mean. I pity any dog that had the misfortune of sticking his nose anywhere near where this mouth may be.

  5. Huh. I’d never heard of “proofing.” My best guess was that the turtles were supposed to be a shaming thing. “Look, Fido, these turtles can climb over barbells. You can’t even roll over.”

    Really, though, there have got to be easier ways of training your dog than buying a bunch of turtles.

  6. “We could care less whether they pick up the right barbell or not.”

    Actually, if you were training your dog for AKC obedience competition, you would care about this. I’ve done advanced obedience training with my dogs and currently train for agility competition. In the higher levels of obedience competition, there is an exercise in which the dog has to perform scent discrimination; there are several articles, one of which has been handled by the trainer, and the dog has to find which article has the trainer’s scent on it, pick it up, come back to the trainer, sit in front and let the handler take it. I believe that exercise is what is being proofed here. Would the average pet owner be interested in this? Not really, hence the book’s title, Beyond Basic Dog Training. This book was meant for people doing obedience competition with their dogs.

    Now, that said, the proofing with turtles is really, really weird. I’ve been in classes where we proofed with tennis balls, crinkly dog treat bags, and wind-up toys, but never turtles! And dog training methods have changed a lot since 1988, so this book may be too dated to be of use to its target audience.

    1. Posted too soon. Should have mentioned Diane Bauman is really well known among people who do competitive dog sports (obedience, agility, herding and tracking). This particular book is now in its 3rd edition (2003) and has been updated to be more current. It also has a new, more attractive cover sans turtles. If your library has patrons interested in this particular subject, it would probably be worth adding the newer edition and weeding this old one.

      1. Our Veterinary Medicine Library has the 2003 edition, which does have a less confounding cover, but the turtle pictures are still there in the proofing chapter.

  7. I’ve read and used this book for Obedience training. Articles (the barbell thingys) are used at the highest level of Obedience trials. This is NOT a book for the casual dog trainer. And believe me, you will “proof” your dog with anything distracting if it gets them to pick the right article and ignore the rest–though I have never personally used turtles.

  8. My dog is terrified of turtles. Luckily, she is bright enough to learn complicated commands without reptilian or amphibian training aids. Obviously these people had never heard of clickers…

  9. ok, my limited knowledge of obedience tells me that these turtles are placed here to distract the dog. The idea here is scent discrimination. The dog must identify the one article out of all the identical articles that his handler touched regardless of how many cute little smelly reptiles are placed in his way. Now, I personally know some obedience wackos, and even they don’t use turtles to distract their dogs, so this would be new to me. Airhorns, dog treats, red hot pokers (kidding) yes, but turtles, no. Of course, I do conformation with my dogs, so these obedience people are all a bunch of nuts to me…..
    Great cover though, hysterical… I’m going to go throw some lizards at my dogs!

  10. Resa explained it fairly well.

    But to address one more thing- The whole thing about the dumbbells & having the dog pick the “right one”? It’s something people train for when competing in AKC Obedience trials. There are 3 levels of difficulty in Obed trials; the scent discrimination exercise is part of the most difficult/advanced level.

    Here’s a video of the actual exercise:

    I competed in Obedience trials for a while. Had a dog with major issues so it was a huge milestone just to earn our Novice level title. Never would have made it all the way to Utility- but I have seen the training process numerous times.

    There are several different methods….but, I can honestly say I’ve NEVER seen TURTLES used…?

    Most people who compete in Obed trials “proof” their training by working the dog around a ton of distractions, to simulate a trial atmosphere. Obedience trials are noisy & there are hundreds of other dogs & people walking around nearby. We did off-leash heeling exercises at the dog park, and down/stays at street festivals, etc. Seems more logical than using…turtles….Unless you’re trialing outdoors, next to a swamp, it’s not likely the dog is going to have a turtle walk through his scent articles.

    But hey, whatever works. *shrug*

  11. You might not think it’s important training, but once they learn to avoid distractions, dogs can track criminals without pausing to sniff at cats, birds, squirrels, etc. They can search for cadavers, or sniff through wreckage, to find exactly what they are sent to find, because of the silly looking but very serious minded training. People who own service dogs trained like this can send the dog for the mail, the paper, their remote control, keys, cell phones, and the dog will stay on task. I know, because I own one. After turtles, which wander around harmlessly and unharmed, the dogs are very solid and stable at their jobs.

  12. This is a little more than I wanted to know about dog training, but interesting anyway. I’ve got a cat. Now the question is…Should I try this?…sorry, I just got a little distracted by a turtle…where the heck did you come…ouch!

  13. This is an upper level obedience exercise called scent discrimination. The dog is trained to choose the metal or leather dumb bell with the owner’s scent on it. The turtles are a distraction. Proofing in dog training is adding distractions and training the dog to work around or through them. Some trainers use tasty treats; others fuzzy toys and/or tennis balls; noise; and even a rabbit in a cage is used as distractions in this exercise.

  14. anyone note who has the photo credits?

    since the book is from ’88 he musta got that gig right after leaving office. that is an example of someone w/a real work ethic; i’m sure he couldve gone on unemployment for awhile-or even retired, considering his age-but nosirree, he got right out there and found another job. and in a completely new line of work!

    yep…gotta admire a man like that.

  15. The pictures and the comments are cracking me up. Thanks, y’all!

    @jacki — in 1988, no clickers or they were at the very, very beginning of being used in competitive training as it is a relatively new concept in dog training. Regardless, proofing is should always done prior to showing whether or not one is a clicker trainer.

  16. Film of this, if it exists, would make a really great alternative rock music video…

    1. If you’re going to make a rock video of this, the music should be Terrapin Station by the Grateful Dead:

      faced with mysteries dark and vast
      statements just seem vain at last
      some rise, some fall, some climb
      to get to Terrapin

  17. Randy, that is his son! Can you imagine a president taking pictures of dogs and turtles!

  18. There was a turtle surplus after they were popularised by those Teenage Mutant Ninja ones. At least these ones have found something to do before growing too big to be cute & getting flushed down the toilet. What’s the betting they are named after Italian Renaissance artists?

  19. What does the owner of the dog do if the dog grabs a turtle in it’s mouth, (if the dog didn’t learn) how do you actually train the dog not to bite down on the turtle? I never saw anyone train a dog with a turtle, you’d have the humane society coming to your house really quick!


    I’m SOOO sorry I didn’t check the website earlier….here is my personal youtube video — maybe the first from one of your followers! My Catahoula named Jubilee at about 3 months meets my turtles (Dudley and Scarlett — Scarlett is the world’s fastest turtle I am convinced).

  21. I always thought the “wtf?”, or “what the f–k?” comment was ridiculous and unnecessary. Now I know I was wrong.

    1. It’s the only response, right? I mean, I’m not hallucinating…but there are little turtles playing with weights on the cover of a dog training book…

  22. The turtles have to be better trainers than the Dog Whimperer, and not nearly as dangerous.

  23. I gotta admit, my first thought after “Those are turtles, right?” was “That dog is going to pick up a nasty case of salmonella!”