Fact vs. Folkore

When it comes to training, some people pass off folklore as fact. “My grandfather did it this way, my father did it this way, I do it this way. It works.” That may appear to be true…on the surface.

With the cultural phenomenon of “dog whispering,” we’re lead to believe that there is a simple yet mystical path to gaining CONTROL over your dog. By providing discipline, exercise and affection, we’re lead to believe that our canine companion will be happy and obedient.

That may appear to be what’s happening, at the moment, to the humans. But from the dog’s point of view? Things are very different. By suppressing a desire to act, the dog avoids punishment. That creates an antagonistic relationship…and temporary results.

My Karen Pryor Clicker Training has begun, and it’s so refreshing to be learning the SCIENCE of learning. All living beings with nervous systems have the capacity to learn. Whether fish or fowl, canine or human, or anything in between, we all have the ability to learn, to modify our behavior. And through positive reinforcement (also called operant conditioning), we learn best. But what’s most exciting is the actual process of learning.

Contrary to the out-dated dominance theories that would tell us that dogs are all about pack order, we now know, scientifically, that their existence is quite different, more complex, than that over-simplified trendy talk would have us believe. While wolves in the wild do place a bit more importance on pack order as a necessary means of survival, our canine companions are different. Their interaction with us is like a dance, and they are following our lead, responding to what makes us happy, deferring to what makes us angry. They speak to us and react to us. It’s our job to listen.