Blocked By Words
In my experience as a dog trainer, word associations are barriers. Many people basically shut down when they hear certain words. They infer negativity by the use of a word. I watch people’s faces when I say their dog has an insecurity, or an unstable state of mind. Those words are not negatives, they are truths. I have insecurities, so do you. Recognition is a positive step forward. To automatically become unreceptive is a disservice to our dogs, and ourselves.
There is a lot of debate on dog training methodology. I read several articles a day on dog behavior. The one thing I have determined for sure is that we can find opinions supporting and refuting every method there is. I’m a trainer that started with a good amount of forced submission, alpha rolls, and strict pack mentality. Those techniques worked fine for me, but were difficult for the average dog owner to perform. I have developed a cognitive learning process for both dog and human, and have enjoyed watching my clients be more successful as a result. One of the pitfalls of many professions is to get stuck in a method. I wanted to learn other ways because every dog is different, and needs to be treated as an individual. If we try to solve issues using a preconceived notion, we are setting ourselves up for failure. A dog barks or growls for different reasons. Body language can be ambiguous to the untrained eye, sometimes to the trained eye as well. There are many resources available that can teach you how to deal with a particular behavior. As I have shifted my methodology twice since starting my practice, I realize that there is always more to learn.
In the last paragraph I used some words that many people don’t care for. Though it is rare occasion I need to use a forced submission these days, just the word submission is troubling for many. My methods are of a cognitive, non physical nature, but submission is a necessary aspect of dog training. Submission does not have to forced, it can be commanded, and it can be voluntary. Alpha doesn’t fly, nor does pack mentality, with Positive Only training. It is commonly argued that pack mentality doesn’t apply anymore, and the domestication of dogs has basically severed their ties to the wolf. I contend that basic instinctual behavior remains in dogs. Though I base my practice on positive technique, most beings, human and other, do respond to consequence. There’s another one of those words. Does consequence make you think of physical rebuke or denial of needs? If it does, realize that consequence is a tool to teach the dog how to get what they want in a proper manor. It’s ok for a dog to want your affection, it’s not ok for them to jump on you or invade your space to get it. The consequence for that action is not providing the affection. When the dog settles and shows better manners, affection is provided as reward for good behavior. If it is acceptable to you that your dog jumps on you at the door, please don’t discredit them or discipline them for jumping on your guests. You have encouraged that behavior. Dogs learn by cause and effect. Mental impressions can not be made through cause without effect. There is no reward if there is no consequence.
Then there’s the mother of all controversial words in dog training…dominance. I dominate dogs on a daily basis. Now what kind of images are in your head? Hold on to those images as you read the next two sentences. I dominate mentally, not physically. Dominance is not about intensity, it’s about stable state of mind. Did those images just change? If so, you’ve shown the ability to open your mind to a word that you just seconds before associated as a negative. That’s the essence of counter conditioning. Don’t let words block you. Understand the context before rejecting them. Those words could turn out to be the impetus of a valuable growth experience.