Last week we discussed some of the history behind positive dog training. This week we will look into the science behind it, which is what led to the old theories of “alpha” and “dominance” being disproven and retired. The reason these theories are still holding on, is because of television’s marketing muscle, as well as so-called dog “trainers” who wish to capitalize on that popularity, not because there is any actual evidence to back them up. Every town has a “whisperer” now. These people are doing a huge disservice to you and your dog.
A major contribution of the positive training movement was introducing research that had long proven that pain induces fear, and that fear in turn, is likely to produce aggression. In addition, coercive techniques, even without “pain,” induce fear, and again, fear is likely to produce aggression. It is always much better to be kind in training a dog (or any animal) and to reward for good behavior. Because of this scientific research, the old philosophy of training dogs using “dominance” and “pack-leadership” diminished from popularity. In fact, all throughout the Nineties and into the new Millennium reputable dog trainers began using these more scientific based methods, and taught people a better and more humane way to train their dogs.
The old school rituals, such as, “kneeing a dog” to keep him from jumping, or the “jerk and pull” method to prevent pulling on the leash, or “pinning” a dog down to teach him to submit when he was getting out of hand, were all basically retired. These methods were replaced with “learning theory” which uses gentle techniques, primarily, positive reinforcement, to teach a dog the right behaviors. Simple applications of operant and classical conditioning were also utilized. These are learning theories that apply to small children and canines. Please do a little research on these learning theories, and think about the applications. After all, would you pin your three old down to teach her to submit?
Next week we will discuss what to do with the flurry of conflicting information from the experts. See you then!