To help you decide what method you would most likely feel comfortable using in training your dog, take a look at this scenario and answer the question at the end: You have a young child who is sitting with you and there is a hot cup of coffee on a coffee table. The child shows lots of interest and wants to play with the hot coffee.
What would you prefer to do?
A.) Distract the child by pulling out food or a toy and playing with them.
B.) Take this moment to teach the child that this is hot, and they should not touch it
C.) Do Nothing, and let the child learn on their own.
Which do you choose? Before reading on, write your answer down on a paper or in your phone. Why do you choose this option?
If you choose A. Positive reinforcement only training is for you. But in my experience A essentially doesn’t teach them anything in the long run, and next time you aren’t in the room and that hot cup of coffee is there, the child will go for it again because they were not taught otherwise.
If you choose B, balanced training is for you. But be sure that the “balanced trainer” you find also praises the good behaviour as well as corrects the unwanted. Personally I choose B. because I want to set my child/dog up for success, and teach them what is wrong and what is right, what is safe / unsafe, polite not polite etc.
If you choose C, you choose not to get a trainer at all. C is too risky for me. I don’t want to risk 3rd degree burns just to teach the child a lesson.
Dogs are a heck of a lot smarter than even science can prove at the moment. So far, science has proven that dogs have a capacity of a 2 year old human child when it comes to learning human vocabulary, understanding how to decipher photograph’s and images of objects, and solving puzzles. So why wouldn’t you use this scenario above to choose the training method for your dog?
Yes, the science says that when learning, dogs learn faster when food and praise is involved. Unfortunately studies have yet to be done on how to best deter or stop unwanted behaviours. Learning new tricks is different from curbing habits that have already been formed.
In my opinion, it is best to learn from dogs themselves when trying to communicate with them. Try to speak their language and teach them ours in return. We can learn so much form each-other.
If you want to learn more about how dogs interact, think and learn, order a copy of The Social Dog: Behaviour and Cognition by Juliane Kaminski and Sarah Marshall-Pescini; one of the most recent collaboration of studies from all over the world on dog psychology and etiology. These researchers have watched dogs interact with each-other in the absence of human intervention in the outskirts of Rome, Italy and India where street dogs roam. It is incredibly ground breaking and insightful research that is debunking some old wives tales about dogs and how they think, learn and interact both with each other and humans.
If you are interested in a great book that could give you a great head start on forming that special relationship of trust and better your communication with your dog, try reading Let Dogs Be Dogs by The Monks Of New Skete. The first time I read this book I was shocked at how similar their methods and philosophies were even though I had never heard of them before.
If you are interested in helping your dog become well behaved, happy and balanced, contact me to book a session.