The "Secret" to Dog Training?


What is the secret to dog training? As I browse the Internet I keep reading about secrets. Secret techniques. Secret solutions. I even saw a e-book that claimed its secret would "slash my dog obedience training time in half" while another claimed to contain all of the secrets of a professional dog trainer

The problem is, there are no secrets

There is nothing special about how dogs learn or behave. Dogs do have specific characteristics and behaviors but at their core they still learn the same way all other creatures on this planet do. How animals learn has been exhaustively researched and while there is still plenty we do not know, there are no real "secrets." Certainly none that are available on the Internet for only $39.99

Some claim to have some sort of inside track on how dogs think, often throwing around terms like "psychology." The fact is, we don't really know how dogs think. We know how they learn, we can observe how they behave, and we have a pretty good handle on what motivates them, but we don't know how they think or even if they think in words and ideas the way we do. Applying the term "psychology" to dogs doesn't really make sense.

Others have a special or even worse, a "new," way of communicating with dogs. They have their clients doing outlandish things like spitting in food, mimicking barks, or even pinning their dogs to the ground, all under the rubric of communication. Dogs have lived side-by-side with man for at least 10,000 years. They have hunted, herded, protected, and provided companionshipe to us and as more research is finally being done with the domestic dog we are learning that he has adapted to living with us in some very interesting ways. The dog is very adept at reading human facial expressions and can interpret human body language better than primates (Although recent research shows that this ability is more prevalent in some breeds than others.) With humans gradually selecting dogs for their ability to work with us, it makes perfect sense that communication between our two species has become more effective. Why on earth would we need a new language to communicate with them now.

So does this mean that all trainers should be using the same methods? Of course not. While all methods should have a firm grounding in behavioral science, there is plenty of room for innovation and specialization. Dog training consists largely of facilitating communication between dogs and people. Just considering the large variety in people and how they communicate leaves ample room for different techniques and different situations where one trainer or her methods may be superior to another.

Does this mean the dog training is easy or that training one species is the same as training any other? Not at all. Dogs have many species-specific characteristics and that is where a trainer's specialized knowledge and experience comes in. However, this specialized knowledge is again, scientific, not magical, and not a collection of secrets passed from trainer to trainer in a special ceremony.

As time goes by and as more research is done with dogs we will learn new things, but the information will not be hidden behind 10 pages of high-pressure add copy and a place to enter your credit card number. It will added to the tool bags of savvy trainers that keep in touch with current science.

Bottom line: beware of anyone that tries to sell you on "secrets" or quick fixes. There are plenty of verifiable and proven techniques as well as reliable information on dogs and dog training available for free.

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