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.