Today I was summarily removed from a Closed Group on Facebook, by it’s administrator.  It’s a very small group of about 35 people, espousing the techniques of Clickers and Operant Conditioning.  It’s an active group, with lots of video and instruction.  It is a group that I have enjoyed watching, and learning from.  The group does a good job of helping and answering the questions of the group members.  The owner of the group is an intelligent and well-spoken person, with a growing and successful business.

So why was I given a one way ticket out of town?  And why am I airing this dirty laundry here?  Both good questions, deserving an answer.

First, I’m not going to air any dirty laundry.  It is perfectly within the domain of a group to allow or disallow any one as a member.  Period. End of discussion.

But the other question plays into a mind set of Learning, and a subject discussed on this blog before.  A mind set that I encourage everyone to adopt and use to create something uniquely yours.

People that question everything are inherently better educated than those who learn by rote or imitation.  I have found that those who focus on who has this “Degree” or that “Degree” are quite dismissive of those who have only “Years of Experience” to hang on their wall.  Choosing between “Higher Education” and “Experience” is a no-brainer in something like dog-training. I’ll take the word of experience every time.

Tackling a discipline such as Dog-Training, (Yes, it’s a Discipline.) should be an individual pursuit for every trainer, and every dog.  No two of either species are exactly the same, and therefore have different individual needs.  I encourage every single one of my readers to question everything you read here, and everywhere else.  Find what works best for you, and your dog.  Do so without fear of being chastised, mocked, or otherwise removed.  Dog training should be about The Dog, not the “Scientific Method” of the trainer.  And this is where I feel that “Operant Conditioning” and/or Clicker training” is not the complete answer.  It relies to much on the Human-factor to deliver a stimulus to the dog performing natural behavior.  Operant conditioning was developed to train Sea-Mammals to perform stunts on cue.  I cannot fathom that these large, intelligent creatures have any desire to live among humans, have a relationship with them, or love them.  They are in fact, better off living in the deep-blue where-in they were placed.  Dogs were meant to be with humans.  The facts (and, oh yeah…the daily news!) seem to indicate that even a “trained” Orca will still kill a human trainer as nothing more than a finless snack.  Using the same techniques with canines, who seem to have a symbiotic relationship with humans, badly short-changes the dog as an intelligent creature.  Yes, Operant Conditioning, and even the annoying ‘snap-snap-snap’ of a clicking-device are successful ways to “shape” or “train” a dogs behavior.  “Marker Training” has wonderful results as well.    BUT THEY ARE NOT the End-All-Be-All of dog training.  But ANY training method that cannot stand up and survive being questioned, is not a good method.  Can’t Clicker-Training find a voice that will reasonably discuss the positive and negative aspects of the  practice?  Such discussion is rarely, if ever accepted by it’s practioners.  Many aspects of it are defensible, and even practical.  But it’s not successfully engaged in by those who have accepted it without question.  The only way to defend O.C/Clicker-training is to shut down those voices that WOULD question it. 

This will not end the controversy  in dog training.  Both sides have dug in, and some have barricaded themselves in with books about the “Science” of dog behavior, or the “Spiritual” side of dog training.  My wish for the future of our canines, is this:  Be Open-minded to all types of training.  Train Yourself to the methods you choose when working and communicating with your dog.  If the trainer doesn’t understand his method, then the dog is certainly not going to understand it.

That’s probably the biggest reason for the “Xenophobic” attitude of some Clicker – Trainers.  I don’t believe that they truly understand the mind of a dog.  They refuse to see the dog as a thinking creature.  They don’t attempt to understand the native and natural “language” of a dog.  Therefore the methodology is INCOMPLETE,        *NOT *         WRONG!!!   Just, unfinished to this point.  I encourage clicker trainers to keep working on your research and make it everything it can be.  The research is’nt finished.  IN ANY METHOD.

There…I’ve finally put into words why I feel about Operant Conditioning/Clicker training the way I do.  It’s simply “Incomplete”.  I’ve not expressed that before out of respect for people that follow the method religiously, people I respect.  The part they miss is to Keep-Going, BEYOND what Operant conditioning can do!!! 

THAT is the only way that we can arrive at something better.  Allowing our experience to wed together things that seem disparate.  Calling each other names, mocking terminology and just generally being ornery will do nothing for the dogs.  Shutting down the voices of those who question or express something beyond dogma (LOL!) is not the answer.  That’s what the group in question did.   Refusing to allow, accept, or build understanding between the camps will surely cause good people to abandon ANY training because they are afraid to choose either.

Therefore, It will be my goal to continue to listen to every well-reasoned method.  I will question, and Call-into question, all of it.  I May get kicked out of a group or two, but I know I’ll be doing whats best for MY dogs.

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Comments
  1. Well said. I would love to share an article I wrote about 2 years ago with you. I think you would enjoy it. It seems we have a similar way of thinking when it comes to dogs and training.

    • Robert says:

      Terry…I would love to read your article! In fact, I’m gathering content (AND Writers) for Dog Adventures Magazine! Do you have a link to it? Or e-mail me a copy at randc@freeway.net Looking forward to hearing from you!!! Robert

  2. Hope Lozzio says:

    sorry this happened Robert… totally unfair.

  3. Beth says:

    Thank you for your words. I think that there are a great many wonderful dog groups on Facebook. That being said, these groups are made up of many peoples each having their own opinions and likes and dislikes. I, too, come from a training background. I have found that every dog is different and responds to different cues, methods and both positive and negative consequences.
    If I ever have a group…you are welcome to join! I learn from the questions of others!

  4. Well said! Since the welfare of my animals (horses, dogs, cats, budgies, the natural wildlife around my home) is of major importance, I have always been non-accepting of 100% of any method; or dog food or horse supplement, etc. Nor do I run my preferences and methods down anyone’s throats. I have always taken the practical and good, discarded the unnecessary, inefficient, and seemingly dangerous and potentially harmful (in my hands). One size indeed doesn’t fit all. And it MUST fit my animals’ temperment and my comfort level of use with my lower experience level. While I’ve not been removed from a page for gently questioning something, I have left pages for their treatment of others who dare differ. I came upon this particular post on fb, and have now subscribed to your blog. Thank you for such an insightful and aptly stated article. I’m so glad to have stumbled upon this!

  5. Julie Leoni says:

    Robert, I am a fan of clicker training in young puppies to simply utilize the synapsis of their brains in pavlov’s theory of conditioning behavior. I have been using clicker training for 12 plus years in small puppies 6 to 12 weeks of age. After that I slowly wean them off the clicker and we move on to more difficult tasks. The clicker is simply to mark a behavior. IT is not the enemy. Of course training is not and should be considered “finished” just with clicker training. For me puppies who have been clicker trained “correctly” have a very powerful base from which to expand upon in future training.

    • Robert says:

      Thank You Julie! And I applaud you for finding a method, using it diligently, and fulfilling your puppy! I am not in any way against “Clicker-Training”, “Markers”, or any “Positive” methods. I utilize various parts of them myself in my own work everyday. What my post means is that each and every dog has unique and individualized needs that we as trainers/handlers/owners need to be mindful of as well. So many people will consider themselves “purists” in one method and put down anyone that disagrees. You are obviously looking beyond just “Clickers” and forming a bond with your dogs, and I congratulate you! If you haven’t yet gone back thru my blog, please read the continuing series on The Communicative Approach Theory of Training (C.A.T.T.) I think you will find more in depth analysis of what I am developing. Thank you for reading, and please feel free to subscribe! I love feedback from my readers and look forward to reading more from you in the future!!!

      Robert

  6. Valerie Chardon says:

    Excellent response Robert – Valerie

  7. LindaBloom says:

    Yes, every dog is different. I recently lost my GSD, but I just told him what I wanted and he did it, he wanted to please me. (Sometimes I think he was smarter than I am). My goldens, on the other hand are more food-motivated (and more “blond”). My “training” worked far better than the prong collars used before I adopted them.

  8. I totally agree! Well said.

  9. Kim Atwell says:

    That group no longer has ‘around’ 35 people in it. SOME people have silently removed themselves from the group because of the removal of others who did nothing wrong. 😉

  10. Dharma Gsd says:

    Robert, two comments. First, as stated by Winston Churchill, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Second, I was banned from a Yahoo group because I had the temerity to speak my views regarding vaccinations, which went against the moderator’s views. But, in the words of the late, great Groucho Marx: “I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.”

    • Robert says:

      LOL! Thanks Jerry! Anytime a great social commentator such as Groucho is included in these comments, it elevates the entire atmosphere!

  11. Evelyn Brugh says:

    Their loss…a well thought out and accurate response.

  12. Robert, I love you!!!! I

  13. Diane Spriggs says:

    Amen !