I’m writing this tongue-in-cheek in small part. The remaining part is righteous indignation fused with trying to achieve a middle ground where things are not so mutually exclusive as we are lead to believe.
Recently, you may have read a blog post authored by my friend Aimee, at “My Mega E Dog” (This debate will NOT change my respect for her as a writer, trainer, or person!!) http://mymegaedog.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/why-dominance-doesnt-matter-to-clicker-trainers/ She is a gifted writer, and very heartfelt in her belief in the clicker-training system. That’s great, and I support her. But a SINGLE sentence set me off… I quote:
“Exercise, discipline, affection” is one of the saddest phrases I have ever heard.”
I put it to every dog owner, handler, trainer, admirer, or whatever you consider yourself with dogs, that if you attempt to raise and give a dog a home without EXERCISE, without DISCIPLINE, and without AFFECTION being an integral part of your training, you will not only fail miserably, but you will have a dog that is unpredictable, untrained, and maybe even dangerous.
This is where the militancy of the Clicker-Trainers gets them in trouble. They have a deep-rooted hatred for anything “Millan-esque”, and they reject every syllable of that method. It’s time that they had those three words, and the phrase broken down and explained to them. I won’t change any of those minds, but I can see to it that new dog owners will try to understand that Clicker training is NOT the end-all, be-all method. It IS a good method, but Exercise, Discipline, and Affection must be wedded to it in an unbreakable bond. These things are NOT mutually exclusive.
It’s important to note that these three traits are only properly used in that order. 1) Exercise 2) Discipline, and 3) Affection. We cannot, and must not, anthropomorphize our dogs with the mistaken notion that Affection sways a dog into obedience and proper behavior, and is THE only trait required.
First, a breakdown of the individual words:
Clicker Trainers have a very different view of what Affection means to a dog. They tend to anthropomorphize, or give human qualities, to an animal. A dog, left on it’s own, can live wholly without affection, solitary, and satisfied to find something to eat. We, as humans, contrastingly need Affection, and we need to give it away. I grant you, our dogs accept affection, and thrive upon it when offered in the proper context. It is a bonding mechanism, and a wonderful one at that. But to say that Affection should be the Top priority is truly not accurate. To quote my esteemed colleague again from her post:
“Positive reinforcement training is all about putting affection and the bond between human and dog at the top of the list, not the bottom.”
This is how that might sound in the fantasy world of “Affection First”
“Fluffy, please don’t jump up on the kitchen counter and steal food. I LOVE YOU so much…(Click)
“Don’t lunge at that nice little boy on the sidewalk…I will pet you and stroke you, and give you doggy treats!”(Click)
BOND and AFFECTION are two separate things, but they are also symbiotic. One does not exist without the other. The above examples are perhaps somewhat over the top. But it doesn’t cloud the issue. Just being affectionate with your dog will not train it to obey, perform, or learn. Affection is part of the reward for Obedience, Compliance, or Good Decisions. Affection can take many forms, and I exhort you to use Affection freely and without restraint!!! Every positive action my dogs take turns into a blessed Festivale of playing, rewarding, praising, and outright snackage! But that Affection comes after the fact. Because that’s how dogs think.
Hopefully, you’ve read ALL of this, and understand the intent. Clicker Trainers use “Exercise, Discipline, and Affection” whether they like the quote, the source, or the idea or not. Saying that “Exercise, Discipline, and Affection” is a “Sad” line of reasoning is misleading and indicative of bias of a personal nature toward an accomplished Dog Behaviorist. From a purely human and humane standpoint, this trinity of behavior reinforcements is unparalleled, unsurpassed, and superior. They can, are, and should be a part of every training methodology. When proper intent is observed, they follow something very old but still considered, “The Golden Rule”.
Yeah, It’s the Word of God, and it applies in this instance to my dogs. I treat them the way I want to be treated.
Whatever method you want to train in, and Clicker Training is a great one, don’t forget…Your Dogs Needs and Wants EXERCISE. Your Dog Needs and Wants DISCIPLINE, Your dog will Thrive and Return AFFECTION.