You already know that my obsession in training is to focus on making things simple, and understandable to anyone that reads my little tomes. You also know that people and disciplines, (Scientists and Dog-Trainers especially), that enjoy clouding their methods in big words, catch-phrases, and so-called “scientific” jargon are a special annoyance of mine. We’re training dogs here folks, not building a starship to Alpha Centauri. Knowledge should be usable to everyone that has a dog, not just people who have a Master’s Degree in Applied Behavior. These people conduct what I call, “Subjection by Obfuscation.” As a Canine-Handler from rural Michigan, I call it, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with Bull…”
(With acknowledgement and Thanks to Stephen R. Lindsay, Author of Applied Dog Behavior and Training)
The difficulty that I now have before me is this: I find myself in a position that necessitates I write a post using big words, scientific protocols, linear-reasoning, and the mind of a trained Scientist. But I promise you this, anyone that reads this will understand what I’m postulating, (Don’t start with the big words) I am going to make this simple, direct, and user-friendly. I want, more than anything else, for my method to be useful. I want it to be worthy of someone saying, “That’s just common sense!” Here we go…
The Communicative Approach to Training Theory that I’ve been developing and writing about here for several months, is a mind-set that can be used with any method of training. It is merely approaching the whole thing with the attitude of wanting to develop a deeper relationship with your dog. The approach finds what motivates and enables your dog to truly enjoy training, playing, working, and living with you. It is an evolutionary step forward for Operant Conditioning, Clicker-Training, or any other method. It recognizes that every dog, troubled or not, is a unique individual, and needs individualized teaching methods. It takes time to develop the approach, as it is as specialized to you and your dog.
At times, I have felt that I was working in a vacuum. I’ve found several Trainers that agree with what I’ve written, and they have all been practicing it without knowing it. That’s been encouragement enough to keep working at it…Outside support from professionals in the field. People that I respect…That’s a nice feeling, and I’m grateful.
What I have been calling the “Communicative Approach” to dog training, actually has a scientifically established name! While digging obsessively thru several research volumes and books in the Ohio State University Veterinary Sciences Library recently, I stumbled over a word that persisted in arising. That word is “CYNOPRAXIS”…
The word itself is of Greek origin, “Cyno” meaning “dog” and “Praxis” meaning “To Do”. What’s interesting about the word praxis is the root meaning. It refers to using a specific theoretical knowledge to accomplish a goal. Praxis does not have a preference how that goal is accomplished, but is instead referring to the attitude of the practitioner of said method. Simply put, I quote myself : “I don’t care what type of training method you use with your dog, as long as it fulfills the dogs need for a relationship with you.”
Cynopraxic behavior is best nurtured within a close family arrangement, i.e a “Pack”. (Don’t run away Pack behavior deniers, please! There’s more!!) The most important goal of Cynopraxis is to create a nurturing atmosphere that enhances good behavior, fulfills your dogs emotional needs, and builds the relationship between the two of you. It thereby enhances your dogs desire to bond with you, and also improves the dogs quality of life. While based on sound scientific findings and observation, Cynopraxis also emphasizes something that many methods of contemporary dog-training seem loth to embrace…That is, the individuality and uniqueness of each dog! Again, simply put, “What works for one dog, doesn’t necessarily work for another. Therefore, try something else! It’s alright to stray from a militant allegiance to one method!”
Cynopraxic practice, although used within a close-knit group or Pack, emphasizes The Individual uniqueness, and those needs specifically. Each and every dog will be evaluated by association, and protocols will be used. Every dog will receive personal attention, playtime, training time, discipline, and even nutritional help.
A favorite quote that comes from my research is from the book “Myths of the Dog-Man” (1991) by David G. White.-
“Ultimately, the Dog, with its ambiguous roles and cultural values, its constant presence in human experience coupled with its nearness to the feral world, is the alter-ego of man himself, a reflection of both human culture and human savagery. Symbolically, the dog is the animal pivot of the human universe, lurking at the threshold between wildness and domestication…There is much of Man in his dogs, much of the dog in us, and behind this much of the wolf in both the dog and man.”
I will be writing much more on Cynopraxic Training in the coming weeks, as I have voluminous notes and half-written posts. You may find that I will intersperse the Communicative Approach title in place of “Cynoplaxic” increasingly, as they are indeed one- in- the- same.