Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: Ontario, Canada
Getting Inside Your Dog's Head (Reading Your Dog)
I think I'm going to have to create a special file on my computer for this lady's training advice! She is THAT good!
The Naughty Dogge
I recently posted about finding a trainer that has all methods at their disposal. But people rightly pointed out that strictly rewards, or strictly punishment, are both harmful. Agreed.
Punishment and rewards are thought of as being polar opposites, and we dog people argue about it like they are the two ends of the spectrum. But here is the oddity. They are both the same side of the spectrum.
Punishments and rewards are both designed to manipulate and control behaviour. They create the same thing. Neither of them considers emotions, inner turmoil, past baggage, or anything other than the behaviour itself.
All the talk of rewards or punishments is distracting us from mastering our craft. The best dog trainers out there know how to read dogs, determine their struggle or need, and then come up with a plan to help them. While rewards or punishments may be used, they are not the focus, but rather a teaching aide to get over a hurdle. We need a relationship based on trust before we focus on the type of training a particular dog needs.
Now before you argue, just think about this for a moment… the dogs trained by the good trainers strictly with positive reinforcement are often stuck in their own heads. They don’t have free thoughts and can become frantically obedient trying to please their people. Dogs taught with strictly positive punishment or negative reinforcement, both correction based, when taught by the good trainers result in too obedient with not enough free thought and spunk. Both sides aim to control and manipulate our dogs to do only as we wish and request, and the end product is the same in both… Do as I ask.
If we look at both sides being used to stop a behaviour, if a dog lunges at a dog, both camps would work on the lunging. One side would add a correction. One side would add rewards. But neither camp delves into the dog’s head to find out why specifically he was lunging. Many would assume fear, but fear of what?
And this is how we SHOULD be training dogs. If he has a fear of enclosed places and dogs getting into his space with no escape route, create 100 games where his space gets invaded and he has fun… you might need to use food to help you orchestrate those games, but rewards should not be the focus. Fun should be. If he has fear of a dog injuring him, create a physical barrier around him with a stick, so that no dog can get within six feet of him. Fix his need so that he can succeed, and through his success, his worries will dissipate. If he has no idea how to play with his own species, put him in a group of dogs and teach him how to sniff a bum, approach a stranger, and be a dog. Being at one with his species is the biggest reward of all, and the only one needed.
We must always be considering the dog’s emotional place, and his reasons for the behaviour that we are seeing, and then fix that need without aiming to control or manipulate our dogs.
A trained dog, our end goal, should be able to stand on his own four feet, make good decisions without our help, and have free thought, with no rewards or punishments present. Only understanding them can get us there. And rewards and/or punishments are just a tiny piece of that journey.