The Atkins New Dog Training Revolution

Blood Pressure Meter

I have high blood pressure.

When this was discovered a few years ago my doctor did what any doctor would do: she prescribed medication that lowered my pressure. This addressed the symptom, but didn't really fix the problem. The problem was too much time on the computer with a sandwich in one hand and my scintillating opinions in the other, and not enough time with no food in either hand while actually doing something.

There was nothing wrong with my doctor's approach, of course. This is how we work in modern society: we want the fix that isn't just quick, but also simple. Take the one right pill. Elect the one right guy. Get the one right cell phone. Find the one right significant other. Eat the one right food. Skip the one wrong food. Even our notion of "common sense" is biased toward simple, straightforward, easy-to-digest tidbits. Why else would ideas like the Greek, Okinawan, or Abkhazian, diets gain so much traction?

The most effective (not to mention often the only effective) approach is rarely that simple. In the case of my high blood pressure I needed to not just exercise and not just avoid this food or emphasize that one – I needed to make that oft-discussed and rarely seen "lifestyle change," and so far it has halved my blood pressure prescription and will likely eliminate it next year.

So why discuss this on Dog Star Daily? Bear with me.

I have a young couple in one of my basic obedience classes. Their very large dog started out displaying some very aggressive behaviors, and I had to make a quick decision the first week of class: do I try to convince them to switch to privates? Will they follow through if I do? Can they afford it? Will privates really help? I have some great management options at this particular location, and decided that they would benefit from the classes, while I doubted they would follow through with privates or being sent 50 minutes away to the closest “growl” classes.

Meanwhile, the couple wanted the simple solution. Throughout the first couple of classes I fielded numerous question that were steered in, let’s say, one particular direction. While it is easy to blame you-know-who, which came first? The “simple” solution to dog training or our collective desire for simple “homespun” solutions?

I’m happy report that after 5 short weeks the change in this dog is amazing. Redirecting the people toward better communication, management, and training new behaviors, in other words a set of approaches rather than one, has paid off.

It’s natural to grasp onto simple-sounding “logical” advice. We need to understand not just so we can find the right approach but also so we can understand why people do what they do.

Photo credit: comedy-nose

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