It’s Labor Day 2013, and as always, the internet chat rooms and Facebook are lit up with the most popular subjects du jour from the world of Dog training. The bad news is, it’s a tired, redundant, re-run of the oldest and most contentious subject out there…I have been avoiding it, but I suddenly found something worth saying about it. Again. And I get to use fancy, long-haired, english lit./poetry and contemporary low intelligence activities to make my argument, so strap yourself in LuluBelle and enjoy the ride!
“Ladies and Gennemum!! Welcome to Madison Square Garden and the Always Simmering Heavy Weight Battle of the Ages Between Positive Reinforcement/Operant Conditioning Dog Training, and Practically Everybody Else in The Civilized World! In THIS Corner, weighing in at 58 Tons, made up of More Useless Phd’s than you can swing an axe at, and coached by a cadre’ of seminar holding know-it-all’s, is “OPERANT CONDITIONING, fashionably seated in an outsized Skinner Box, wearing Pryor-Pink trunks!” (A small section of the crowd rises to its feet and begins clicking small devices as loudly as possible.)
“And in this corner, weighing in at whatever everybody else weighs when combined, The entire rest of the Dog Training World!!! Lets have a clean fight…no name-calling, no internet flaming, and no cursing….Arrreeee Yoooo REDDDYY too Rrrrrummmmmbbblllle???????!!!!!!”
Sorry, but that’s how the argument is beginning to sound to a lot of us, many of who took part in previous engagements. Ridiculous, dramatic, and so corn ball that even Andy Griffith would shut it out…
This latest foray into the battle started because a young lady posted that she was scouring the internet for video or stills of “Non-Positive Trainers abusing dogs with leash pops, ground rolls, and the like.” She is planning on making a film that proves positive training is the Only Method, and she wants to enter the film in the Cannes film festival. (Yeah, Best Wishes for THAT…) Well it started another forest fire of posts, re-posts, erased posts, ugly posts, and the usual litany of back-and-forth twaddle. Well, I abandoned ship as quickly as I could.
“There seems to be space on THIS lifeboat, Mr. Titanic Deckhand!!!”
“Right! Off you go then, mind the brain-numbing water and Thanks for sailing White Star Lines!” (Aren’t my delusions always cheerful?)
I intended to go right something useful and informative after going AWOL, and I opened up my unfinished posts. There before me, were written a quote from Robert Browning, an English author (1812-1889) from his poem “Paracelsus”. I won’t trouble you with the details of this 1835 work, but suffice to say, Browning had a singular view of life. Some of it was opium, other parts were awash in absinthe…But this quote hit pretty close to home when it comes to people of the second decade of the 2000’s. And even closer to understanding the true nature of the dog. Stay with me here, there’s beer at the end!
Robert Browning: Paracelsus, paragraph 35:
“TRUTH is within ourselves;
it takes no rise From outward things, whate’er you may believe.
There is an inmost centre in us all, Where truth abides in fullness;
… and around, Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in, This perfect, clear perception—which is truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh Binds it, and makes all error: and, to KNOW, Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendour may escape, Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without. endquote
Great insight Mr. Browning…Lets first examine this missive from the viewpoint of canis familiaris, the Dog. We’ve imprisoned that which can allow the dog to be great. We’ve incarcerated his possibilities in our own human thinking…All of this arguing and bickering is nothing short of brick wall.
Inside each and every dog, is the innate ability to be something wonderful. A companion, helpmate, hero, protector, gatherer. No matter what the human does to stifle or smother it by his clumsy attempts at training, science, or brutal discipline. In all who would take up with the dog for whatever purpose, there is a bright center of that which is true about the dog, and hidden from the suppositions of people with eyes tightly closed around their methods for the dog. The dog is confused by most of them, but follows because it is his place in the divine plan to follow Man. No matter the damage or confusion of the dog from beatings, coercions, or conditioning of the mind, by his master. What should be our goal in training a dog? Looking for a way to make that bright, hot, core of possibilities to flow from our dogs freely, without interrupting the flow. It’s a hard concept for the scientifically rigid mind to grasp, a secret really, because it stems from the divine source of our Creator and it dovetails with his original plan for dog and Man as companions. We’ve only perverted it because we think we’re smarter than God.
And that was my point. I’m thru arguing and bickering over these inconsequential ways and means of Training a Dog. I’m going to do things as I see fit…If someone disagrees. Fine. There’s a bus station after the next paragraph. If someone finds something compelling in my work, then I will certainly share as a colleague first, and only in a limited way as a teacher. We are both still learning, and we will gain ground faster as a team.
From now on, I’ll find the ways to release whatever is in the dogs spirit and mind to perform. I’ll help him have a smooth flow of energy and emotion as befits a creature of his dignity and position. The fighting over methods starts stopping right here…No more prison wall.