There are infinite Truths about Dogs, just as there are infinite Opinions about Dogs…The opinions spring from the minds of humans, and they tend to be possessed of “viewpoint jaundice” . Some of the crazier opinions are spouted by individuals that are wholly dependant on (and very self-possessed) of the fact that they are “educated”, and have degrees to hang on a wall to prove it to the rest of mankind. They never cease being impressed with themselves mostly.
Some of the more profound conclusions have come from grizzled old geezers that depend on a pack of mongrels to guard their junkyards. “Them dawg’s ‘er in muh brain…he ‘kin do ever’thing here but run the cash register…”
I’ve learned a lot from both…and I won’t ever let that change. I’ll always listen, even if I’m just being courteous.
One Truth has presented itself however, over and over again, in my Canine enlightenment. It applies in many situations, but I’m being subjective here, as it fits my purpose. “If You Want To Know The Truth About Dogs, Ask the Real Expert…Your Dog!!”
The Communicative Approach to Training Theory, (C.A.T.T.) was born somewhere in it’s middle. Much of what I learned has developed, in either a backwards direction, or more forward. And the truth of the matter is this: I didn’t really understand it until I figured out how to listen to my dog, Hans. I had to abandon the natural (If egotistical) inclination to approach him in the attitude of, “I’m the superior intellect here, and you shall listen to me and submit to my training.” If you believe that approach works in more than the grossest of manners…You’re absolutely, positively, and utterly wrong.
Most of us need a rethink of the definition between what “Training a Dog” means, and what” Educating a Dog” means. Training a Dog can mean anything from choke collars, E-collars, and Food deprivation, to plastic clicker toys, Positive Reinforcement, and many other methods. It requires a book of instructions, and perhaps a seminar or thirteen. (Depending on the business sense the Instructor or Franchise owner has. Return customers are Vital to most, and they will do their utmost to make you dependant on them. It’s A Symphony of Turnstiles!)
People that rely wholly on Training their dogs are answering to the shallow end of the pool, the Physical dog. If the dog sits on command, and has a good recall, these sorts are satisfied. The problem is this…Many rely on the Physical to carry their dog to the next level. Such “trainers” begin at the mistaken idea that their dog is inferior to the human aspect, and can only be expected to do so much, as it is just a dumb animal. A dumb animal waiting to be “Shaped” or “Coerced” into the behavior desired. Such a process is dismissive and often denigrating to the marvelous living, four-legged being beside you…I refer to this as “Dis-honoring the Dog.” Interestingly, this same sort of behavior takes place with human beings, often in the same Universities that crank out Phd’s everyday. A young man with extraordinary ability to carry a football or slam-dunk a basketball is treated to the finest “Training Regimen” the school can provide… in the aspects of his sport. His education academically, though available, is given a much lower priority. The school then produces an illiterate hero to the masses. Hopefully, he makes enough cash in the future to pay someone to run his life, because he’s incapable. That’s Physical Training.
But Educating a Dog is something very different. The dog is treated as though it is a fellow sentient being, (Not Human, but certainly aware.) The dog is treated as though his own abilities are not limited because he’s “just a dog.” Instead of being shaped or broken down into a behavior, the dog is allowed to make use of his own thinking faculties. Accomplishing this, puts many more demands on the dogs human owner. YOU must be observant, patient, humble, instinctive, and open to new learning! I can hear the clicker people out there screaming at me “If it’s NOT “Purely Positive” training, then I’ll have none of it!!” Well, relax folks. Not only is the Communicative Approach, positive for the dog, you’ll also find that this way of thinking will make you a better person. Because it’s an attitude changer, and the goal is to make the emotion emanating from yourself, more positive! At least that’s what my dogs have told me…
Every time you approach your dog, whether it’s during training, while you’re looking for an affectionate nuzzle, or while you stagger down the hallway in the middle of the night headed for the bathroom, you are putting out a signal of energy to your dog. Your energy might be telling the dog, “Stay. Wait for my Signal.” It might be permission to approach for a belly scratch. Or it might be saying, “Your Dad is half asleep and stumbling toward you in the dark. Get out of the way or he’ll step on you…” I like to picture it this way: