Archive for the ‘Karen Pryor’ Category

Do you know what happens to books that I wish I’d written?  I cut off their spines and punch holes in them.

That’s right…it makes ring-binding them possible.  And that has become my new shortcut to knowing which books I use as constant reference material or just find enjoyable to read.  Once ring bound, books can be kept open while studying them, or  left open flat for ease of reading.  I use them a lot, and I want their words easily accessible.

“Think Like Your Dog, and Enjoy The Rewards” by the Daughter/Father team of Dianna Young and her co-author Robert Mottram is truly one of those books.  And I know you’ll find it just as valuable.

Chapter 1 is entitled, “A Fundamental Truth.” and it’s a truth that way too many in the dog world would call a myth.  To quote:  “In every Dog/Handler Team, without exception, There is a Leader, and there is a follower.”  In the current atmosphere of “ignore bad behavior…” training methods, this is practically heresy, BUT SOMEBODY NEEDS TO SAY IT, TEACH IT, AND EXPLAIN IT.  “Think Like Your Dog” does just so simply, and with conviction.  The explanation of “Rank” and “Leadership” are among the best I’ve seen in writing, and are sure to raise eyebrows within those that need to read this book the most.  If you don’t believe that dogs crave a social hierarchy, then you’ll miss the very best parts out of “politically-correct” bigotry.  My advice is to read this book, and use your power of reason.  That is the true strength of this book.  It uses Reason too explain the truth, and that is all to uncommon.

Dianna and Robert  had a clear aim with their book.  They never mention or criticize other methods of training, or particular Trainers.  They don’t need too, as they are trying to assist dog owners, rather than professionals.  Although any professional has as much to gain from the book as any first-time pet owner.  The tone of the book is warm, inviting, and yet pointed.  The authors are obviously talented, capable trainers, but their strength comes from an ability to teach others with empathy, and foresight into how dogs react.  You never are made to feel that you are being spoken “down to” from a pedestal, and that to is rare.

Chapter 4 is a treatise on Canine Temperament.  Too many dogs are given the description of “unsound” by the failed methods of some, and many of those dogs are euthanized.  “Think Like A Dog” establishes ways to change behaviors that cause these tragedies, and throws the “neo-positive” failures a loop in their doctrine.  What Dianna and Robert write here will save lives of troubled dogs.  Or even better, it will start your family pet, or prospective working dog, onto the best practiced way to raise, train, and live with your dog.

A very balanced discussion of training methods is taken up in the book as well.  No sides are taken in the training method maelstrom, so no one need fear that they are reading in a hostile atmosphere.  In fact, the reader is invited to choose whatever works for them, after due consideration of the differing choices.  The foundational statement of the book is found throughout, often worded differently.  This quote from page 96 embodies that ideology.  “The idea is to structure a relationship of trust and mutual respect between handler and dog, teach the handler how to assume the leadership position in that relationship, and then demonstrate to the dog what the handler-Its Leader-desires from it.”   

Without further guilding this lily, I’ll invite you to add this book to your library.  Have it bound so that you can use it.  There’s a lot more here that will offer a new line of thinking on some old topics like equipment, Obedience, and performance.

One final suggestion:   Chapter 20 is entitled “Going Forward.”    Read it carefully and thoughtfully.  Read it again and highlight key phrases that touch you.  Keep it open there and refer to it often.  It is the catalyst that will make you Use the previous 19 chapters with purpose, intent, and joy for you and your dog…   http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_19/184-6455469-4164567?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=think+like+your+dog+and+enjoy+the+rewards&sprefix=Think+like+your+dog%2Cstripbooks%2C218

thinklikeyourdog

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Once again I tread the minefield of turning our dogs into little human beings.  I promise you that I won’t, but there are good, demonstrable reasons to include “Love Your Dog”, into the process of the Communicative Approach.  Let me start with the axiom, “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Done To You.”

That’s right, the good, old-fashioned “Golden Rule”.  In case you are unaware, that was originally written in the Bible book of Matthew chapter 7 verse 12, about 2000 years ago.  It’s origin sometimes gets lost these days, but it’s good Life-Counsel no matter the source.  I just happen to believe it important to recall the words of Jesus Christ in this context.  No translation of the scripture says, “Do Unto Just Other Human Beings…”   Nope, they all say some derivative of “Others”, allowing for the conclusion that it applies to all living creatures.  Okay, Bible lesson finished…(That didn’t hurt a bit did it?)

All of the separate parts of the Communicative Approach, could technically fall under the umbrella of “Love Your Dog”, but there’s more detail to each and every one that I feel is important .  Therefore I’m using Love as a separate feature.  I know, as I develop this further that you’ll understand why.

First of all, what is your definition of “Love”?  Just think it over for a bit, as there are many ways to describe love.  For my purposes here, I will define Love as, “A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a friend…the benevolent affection of Man for his charges …A strong, warm, personal attachment.”    This is not romantic ,love, nor is it the love of Principal.  No, it just simply means that you are trying to treat your dog as you would like to be treated if you were a dog!

Okay, now imagine that YOU are your dog.  See the world thru his eyes, smell thru his nose, hear thru his ears…

From the day you brought your puppy or rescued dog home, he looked to you for nearly everything.  You were the source of food, water, play, care,  comfort, and (hopefully) leadership.  Loving your dog means giving these things freely and in proper amounts.  Making your dog know that you will always provide these things…Being prepared and willing to provide the best of these things that you can is part of loving your dog.  Does your dog spend most of his time locked in a crate, or small room alone, because you’re busy??  If your dog becomes sick, do you make sure that you consult a Veterinarian?  Do you carefully make decisions regarding vaccinations?  (This is a touchy subject, as some common vaccinations are actually dangerous and unnecessary)  This requires that you make informed decisions…Will you take the time???  Will your dog find itself tied outside to a post or tree in cold, heat, rain, or snow left to create a path where it paces alone wondering where his pack is???  Referencing the Golden Rule, would YOU enjoy that???  Your dog has a sophisticated and active mind.  Will you fulfill his mental needs with active play, exercise, and stimulation?  And 15 minutes a day is NOT enough.  Most behavioral problems have their source in boredom, inactivity, and lack of leadership.  Loving your dog means fulfilling these needs, and it takes TIME.  Maybe more time than you realize…Never let it be more time than you are willing to give, for your dogs sake.  This is a big reason why shelters and rescues are so busy and filled with dogs.  (Or should I say “Inmates”?)

Is your dog an “At Will” employee?  Meaning that you can “fire” him for whatever reason at whatever time?  Some dogs are gotten rid of when they become an “Inconvenience”.  Some of these are even “Euthanized” because they become more responsibility than the human wants.  Let me re-phrase that so you get the full impact.  SOME PEOPLE HAVE THEIR DOG PUT TO DEATH BECAUSE THEY NO LONGER WANT THE RESPONSIBILTY.  I grieve at the lack of “Love” that human beings are capable of demonstrating.

I believe you probably understand what loving a dog entails.  Time, effort, money, resources, more time, research, a bit more time…But the end results are MORE than worth the efforts!!!

You will always find that “Love” is a part of every facet of communication.  It is simply putting yourself in your dogs paws and asking yourself, “If I was a dog, and my owner did that to me, how would I feel?”

Next, we’ll dig into “Live With Your Dog.”   Thanks for reading, and please feel free to FOLLOW German Shepherd Adventures by pushing the FOLLOW icon at the top of the page!!!!

 

I’m never going to get rich from dog-training.  It would be wonderful if I was able to develop a bullet-pointed, annotated, technique rich, program that I could take on the road as a way to make a living.  Karen Pryor has her Clicker Expo.  Cesar Millan has a road-tour.  Michael Ellis has well attended seminars all over the country.  Roger Abrantes is known globally for his speaking engagements.  And there are lots more…

"I already know how to learn!  Now it's YOUR turn!"

“I already know how to learn! Now it’s YOUR turn!”

If  I developed such a speaking tour, each date would probably last less than 15 minutes, and my audience, (If they showed up at all) would feel as though I owed them more time for their investment.  I can give you the foundation of the Communicative Approach in just about 5 minutes, with 10 minutes left over for audience questions and a friendly meet-and-greet.  Write an entire book on the subject?  Five or six total pages does not a book make…The reason for this anti-marketing of myself and the Communicative Approach is simply this:  YOU alone are responsible to define, develop, and practice your communication with your dog.  The steps leading to that goal are straightforward, self-revealing, and they come from within YOU…Not a long-winded seminar, not a book, and not a DVD.  Not that I’m criticizing those talented trainers out there with something concrete that enables them to produce an actual “Program”, or  “Training System”.  They are certainly out there.  I recently reviewed Angie Winters new “3 Dog Days” dvd and it was wonderful…I love the Michael Ellis DVD’s produced thru the groundbreaking Leerburg company…and there are others.

But the Communicative Approach to Training Theory (C.A.T.T.)  does not make that approach possible.  The Heart cannot be fully instructed externally.  Your heart could NOT sit in a classroom and be taught to love,  develop relationships, or empathize with other living things in a meaningful way.  That comes from within you…That’s why this post carries the title above and this warning:

“Do Not Attempt This Technique Without Consulting Your Motives and Commitment. “

Many people “own” dogs.  Some because it’s a status symbol to have a cute little dog in your shoulder bag. (Think Paris Hilton)  Others because the dog is used as a tool to achieve some dubious and highly questionable honor or personal glory. (Think Michael Vick)  A few don’t think having a dog thru with any understanding. (“Hey…A cute little puppy!  That would be a great Christmas present for the kids!  What breed is it??”)  Others have the wrong motive entirely.  (I want me a dawg that’ll attack anybody that comes around my house or property!)Granted, perhaps Paris Hilton takes good care of her pup.  Or pays someone to do it for her.  I’m seeking evidence that her Chinese Crested is more than just another Helsburg Diamond to her.

But there also those owners/trainers that do pursue good training for the dog, and for themselves.  Yet something it missing.  I’ve seen them at schutzhund, agility, and formal dog shows.  The dog is incapable of socializing properly with people and other dogs, so they spend the balance of their time in a crate,often covered with a blanket to keep the dogs world insular.  The dog’s life is simply to perform when commanded.  They are trained as little robots…Thankfully, these types are not common.  Most Dog people at least try to develop a relationship that fulfills their dog.

So now I’m going to give you the only bullet-pointed list that goes with the Communicative Approach to Training Theory.  I will expand upon each of them in upcoming posts, but I hope you can think about each of them, and come to your own conclusions.  They work with  formal training methods, not replacing them.  You still need to learn about training.  But go beyond them, and embrace these attitudes, and you will  find success beyond your expectations!  (Note: These are NOT in order of importance.  That order can change and be adjusted every day)

* Love Your Dog

*Live With Your Dog

*Listen To Your Dog

*Learn With Your Dog

*Learn About Your Dog

*Learn Your  Chosen  Method Well

* Prioritize Play With Your Dog

There you go…The foundation of the Communicative Approach.  Next up, I’ll expand on each of these.  I believe that if we all practice these attitudes, our dogs will be better, our training will be better, and you just might learn something about yourself…Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to FOLLOW us!!!

*

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.

“German Shepherd Adventures” was first published on the ubiquitous Facebook.  As my posts became longer, and more photo-centric, I moved into the wonderful world of WordPress.  I love my online home here, and I am ever so thankful that this well-run, and easy to use site exists.  WordPress you are THE BEST!!!

Recently, as Facebook has become more of a mind to make as much cash as possible, or gather as much  information about its users as possible, they are making it more and more difficult to publicize and share my blog there.  At times, I have received messages from FB stating that I am writing SPAM, and will be prevented from posting for as much as 15 days at a time.  I do NOT sell anything on “German Shepherd Adventures”, I do not espouse political or religious views, but rather, I write a very positive blog that most dog lovers seem to enjoy.  Why “German Shepherd Adventures” has suddenly been branded  as SPAM by the FB people is beyond my understanding.  I can no longer depend on them as a conduit to spread information that helps people and their dogs.  It’s apparently okay to spread other “unsavory” sites featuring puking, drunkenness, violence, and foul language, but not stories and information about German Shepherds.  So be it.

That’s why I’d like to invite as many of you as would like to Subscribe to “German Shepherd Adventures” by hitting the “Follow” button at the top of the page.  If you don’t like my posts, you don’t have to do anything.  I suspect that perhaps someone on FB has labeled “GSA” as Spam enough times to make some computer somewhere take this action.  If you don’t want to read something you disagree with, I’ve never forced you to do so.  I’ve survived other attacks on FB over training methods, and perhaps one of those knuckle-draggers has something to do with this.  I don’t know…

So, please, if you enjoy my blog, come on over and subscribe.  I promise you it will be free, and I’ll continue to do my best to entertain, enthuse, inspire, and help you out with every post!   Thanks for your support!!   Robert Vaughan

http://dogingtonpost.com/beware-of-trainers-who-say-dog-should-do-for-me/

 

When the nice lady Muse that helps me write descends, she’s normally very friendly and quite amiable.  To just about everybody…But ocassionally, she’ll have a raging migraine, PMS, or her bunions will be bothering her.  Then, she provides me with ideas that rarely see the PUBLISH button activated here.  Mostly because I pass these pre-posts pass my designated Voice Of Reason, or VOR .  My VOR’s name is Kimberly, and while possessed of a sharp and subtle wit, she seems convicted to keep me out of trouble with certain corners of society.  Like the idea I developed about re-writing the Wizard of Oz using dog people that I know as the characters.  The Wicked Witch of the West was played by a certain famous Clicker Trainer (who shall remain nameless), and the Winged Monkeys were played by a bevy of the drones that follow her ideas with militancy.  It wasn’t meant to be mean, but it was wickedly funny, and I enjoyed writing it.  Kimberly would have burned my house down if I had published it.  She’s good for that…

But the following piece came together so quickly and fluidly, that it had to be written.  The situation reminded me of scene #5 from the classic Monty Python film, “The Holy Grail”.  Therein, Sir Bedemere has been approached rather boisterously by a gaggle of medievel villagers.  They have detained a young woman that they have accused of being a Witch.  (A fairly acceptable occurrance in those times.)

The Militant Witch Hunters…

Bedemeres first question to the haranguing mob is, “How Do You Know She’s a Witch?”

The response is both simple and profoundly revealing.  “She LOOKS like one!!”

The accused woman then pipes up and says, “I’m Not a Witch! I’m Not a Witch!” to which Bedemere responds,

“But You LOOK like a Witch…”

“THEY dressed me up like this!”  And the mob had indeed given her a pointed hat, and a long carrot as a nose, which was attached by a string around her head.  The script continues:

WITCH:  And this isn’t my nose, it’s a false one.
 BEDEMERE:  Well?
VILLAGER #1:  Well, we did do the nose.
 BEDEMERE:  The nose?
VILLAGER #1:  And the hat — but she is a witch!
CROWD:  Burn her!  Witch!  Witch!  Burn her!
 BEDEMERE:  Did you dress her up like this?
CROWD:  No, no… no … yes.  Yes, yes, a bit, a bit.
VILLAGER #1:  She has got a wart.
 BEDEMERE:  What makes you think she is a witch?
VILLAGER #3:  Well, she turned me into a newt.
 BEDEMERE:  A newt?
VILLAGER #3:  I got better.
VILLAGER #2:  Burn her anyway!
CROWD:  Burn!  Burn her!
 BEDEMERE:  Quiet, quiet.  Quiet!  There are ways of telling whether
she is a witch.
CROWD:  Are there?  What are they?
 BEDEMERE:  Tell me, what do you do with witches?
VILLAGER #2:  Burn!
CROWD:  Burn, burn them up!
 BEDEMERE:  And what do you burn apart from witches?
VILLAGER #1:  More witches!
VILLAGER #2:  Wood!
 BEDEMERE:  So, why do witches burn?
[pause]
VILLAGER #3:  B–… ’cause they’re made of wood…?
 BEDEMERE:  Good!
CROWD:  Oh yeah, yeah…
 BEDEMERE:  So, how do we tell whether she is made of wood?
VILLAGER #1:  Build a bridge out of her.
 BEDEMERE:  Aah, but can you not also build bridges out of stone?
VILLAGER #2:  Oh, yeah.
 BEDEMERE:  Does wood sink in water?
VILLAGER #1:  No, no.
VILLAGER #2:  It floats!  It floats!
VILLAGER #1:  Throw her into the pond!
CROWD:  The pond!
 BEDEMERE:  What also floats in water?
VILLAGER #1:  Bread!
VILLAGER #2:  Apples!
VILLAGER #3:  Very small rocks!
VILLAGER #1:  Cider!
VILLAGER #2:  Great gravy!
VILLAGER #1:  Cherries!
VILLAGER #2:  Mud!
VILLAGER #3:  Churches — churches!
VILLAGER #2:  Lead — lead!
 ARTHUR:  A duck.
 CROWD:  Oooh.
 BEDEMERE:  Exactly!  So, logically…,
VILLAGER #1:  If… she.. weighs the same as a duck, she’s made of wood.
 BEDEMERE:  And therefore–?
VILLAGER #1:  A witch!
CROWD:  A witch!

“How Do You Know She’ a Wich?”

As silly and seriously funny as I find this interchange, and grand example of Circular Reasoning run amuck, it reminded me of a post I read by a Professional Clicker-Trainer not long ago…It was written by a young lady at the website, Dogington Post.  The article is no doubt the result of a fairly new and inexperienced trainer, that has been swept into the mob of Positive Trainers, and thoroughly drank the Kool-Aid that convinces them that “If you don’t Click, You make me Sick!”

Okay, the point is this. In the movie, the accused woman is a Witch, because the small but loud mob SAYS she’s a Witch.  They even go out of their way to put on garments and accessories that demonstrate she’s a witch.  This is what Positive/Operant Conditioning/Clicker trainers have done to EVERYBODY ELSE that doesn’t practice Pryorology.  We are BAD, and Old-Fashioned, or even cruel and brutal, because THEY say so!!  I’m going to list several quotes from the article below, as well as the link to the site, that demonstrates the attitude I’m pointing out.  “Your WRONG because WE say so!!”

http://dogingtonpost.com/beware-of-trainers-who-say-dog-should-do-for-me/

“Why should old-fashioned trainers come to the positive side? Because positive training works!” –  Apparently NOTHING ELSE DOES…

“… it won’t deteriorate the human animal bond, it will not cause negative stress or physical pain to your dog through the use of force or pain, and it’s totally supported by science and the laws of learning just to add a few reasons.” – I’m weary of being told that I’m causing my dog pain or stress when we train using Relationship Training.  And, I’ll put our Human/Canine bond up against ANYTHING you can demonstrate!

This next quote demonstrates the addled thinking of the writer.  She’s actually making my point for me…and she doesn’t even know it. – “There’s always more than one way to reach the top of the mountain. Being closed-minded and adamant about what they don’t understand can create dogs that lose their homes and family and possibly their lives. Shouldn’t the goal be to help in any way possible that will aid the dog in its understanding of what the owner is looking for from that dog?

The next quote is more of the same…- “Is it not our role as the allegedly intelligent species to understand our dogs and find a way that works for them rather than forcing them into a one-size-fits-all mold. (You mean like Militant Clicker Training?) When you’re forced to do something, do you enjoy it? Of course not, so why should dogs enjoy being pushed into downs and manipulated into sits, jerked by the neck in the name of training? ( You assume that non-clicker users hurt their dog to achieve obedience!  And you are WRONG.) 

“How Do You Know He’s Cruel and Mean to his Dog??”

“Because we say so, and the Laws of Learning and Science prove it!”

I’ll allow you the chance to read the rest of Ms. Sarasin’ post.  It goes off on a directionless path that merely mirrors what certain Trainers TELL her is true.  There is no accounting for the uniqueness of each dog.  No opportunity to learn about the individual mind in that single dog, and shaping a training program suited ideally to that dog.

Thankfully, many of us are seeing beyond Positive Training/Clicker Training zeitgeist, and incorporating them into something even better.  Aiming at developing a Relationship within the Canine/Human team.  Yes, We ARE positive trainers, we do NOT hurt our dogs, we do not stress them.  That’s only been the rumor because They have said it’s true.  Look beyond the methods and build something WITH your dog that fulfills his needs as a dog.  He doesn’t care about the science.

 

 

Several well-intentioned readers have questioned me regarding publishing my book on the Communicative Approach to Training Theory.  And yes, I have interest from a small publisher on assembling what I’ve written into a book form.  However, for the foreseeable future, I don’t plan on doing anything about it.  My reason for this literary sloth became crystal clear to me when a reader of this blog messaged me with several questions.  Her inquiries revealed to me that she had a mis-understanding of what the Communicative Approach was intended to accomplish.  The exact details aren’t important at this point, but here’s why I’m not in a hurry to publish a book. 

Working from a blog-centered format, I was able to immediately respond to her and clarify several of her misinterpretations.  We had a wonderful conversation, and I believe that a friendship has been formed.  She is more comfortable continuing her chosen method of training, with the enhancement of “relationship-based” attitudes of the Communicative Approach.  If she had been working from a formal “Book”, or an “E-book” format, she would have gone away with an incomplete understanding.  I was able to help her immediately and with a personal touch.  Customer service is still King! 

  The other consideration that I have before me, is the inspiration I receive from my readers.  I sincerely feel that writing in a vacuum, without input from supporters and detractors, is egotism of the highest order.  And while I have a solidly formed outline for what I write, understanding of other opinions is important.  Understanding my readers is important.  When I take a controversial position, I’m better equipped to enter the fray of debate without being snarky or dogmatic.  That’s how you teach, and how you convince others, that you are worth reading.  I will always consider my Consumer here at “German Shepherd Adventures” ,   without compromising my beliefs.

I’m not going to reprint Ms. Clarkstons e-mail here, as it was quite lengthy, and some of it was superfluous to the subject at hand.  Our subsequent conversation was similar, in one respect:  It was absolutely riddled with the “scientific” vernacular of a particular style of training.  It required a very specific understanding of the vocabulary, and an in depth knowledge of the short-hand terminology used by adherents to “Operant Conditioning/Clicker” training.  Here is a short compendium of the words my new friend presented.

Variable ratio  –

Premack principle    –

(R+)   which means  Positive reinforcement

Rate of reinforcement

Target

(P+) which means Positive punishment

(NRM)  which indicates No Reward Marker

(R-)  which means Negative reinforcement

(P-) which means  Negative punishment

Habituation

Environmental reinforce

Differential reinforcement

Counter-conditioning

Conditioned stimulus

Chaining

Back-chaining

Bridging stimulus

Conditioned punisher

“Wow,”  I thought as I read her e-mail, “So much technical hoo-ha to describe something which has a simple baseline to understand.”

Our conversation was equally strewn with the landmines of “Techno-E’s”, except that things were usually referred to in the vocal shorthand of the enlightened.  I’d repeatedly  heard references to (spelling here is phonetic, as I heard them) ” Are-Neg,” “Pee-Neg,”   “Are-Poz”,  “En-Are-Em”, “See-Stim” and a bunch of others that I allowed to dissipate into the ether.

After thoroughly examining the now hard copied e-mail, and engaging this nice lady in conversation for an hour, I stopped her and asked the simplest of questions.  “What are you trying to accomplish with your dog?”  Her reply was tentative and measured.

“I want him to be obedient, and protective of my family, respectful of our home.  I want a happy and eager dog…and I’m using all the latest science of behavioral studies to make him that way.”

“Okay, that’s a wonderful goal,” I replied.  “But why are you making it so hard on yourself, and complicated for Bruiser? (her dog)”

“What do you mean?” She asked, as though I had bitten a chicken’s head off in front of her.

“Well, you have such a technical program laid out here, that you’re forgetting to have a communicating relationship with the big-boy.  He’s a German Shepherd, and what he really wants is to play ball with you.  You spend all of HIS time, clicking at him, and looking for scientific support for what he’s doing, or NOT doing.  Understanding, and Listening to your dog tell you what makes him happy has to be done in Dog Language.  YOU have a great understanding of the language of Operant conditioning, but your dog doesn’t care.  Your timing is a bit off with him, and that creates problems, but what you really need is to start learning to incorporate a positive relationship with him, and assure him that you are trying to understand him,instead of insisting that he understand you.  That’s the trap of being insistent on using Operant Conditioning exclusively to train a dog…Unlike whales and dolphins, dogs live in our homes, with us.  That’s a next-level relationship, which has a far different responsibility.  To use your terminology, OC is a successful way to teach a dog various things you want him to do.  But it only scratches the surface of having a relationship that makes the dog comfortable in his own skin.  He wants to know that you are there to provide “leadership”, “protection” and “fulfillment”.  A Clicker cannot give those things.  When you depend on treats to insure your dogs compliance, you will eventually have to re-train him off some behavior.  When your dog recognizes your kind and gentle Leadership, he’ll make you the center of the galaxy.”

“I’m not quite sure I understand all that…the books I’ve read, and the seminars are more “science”.  I’m an RN, and I like  that type of precision.”

“Precision is great.  Keep using OC and you will have a precisely trained dog.  But there’s so much more that he wants and needs from you.  All of the fancy phrases and acronyms, and the jargon mean exactly “squat” to him.  They’re designed to impress other humans about your education and I.Q.  If you want to impress a Dog, prove to him that you can provide the Leadership that he instinctively looks for everyday.  What’s more, when you master the presence of being a leader, other people’s dogs will be drawn to you.  Especially if they are unbalanced by lack of leadership.  It’s not degrading to your dog, and he doesn’t feel abused.  You don’t beat him into following you, you prove to his brain that you will care him.  The Communicative Approach is an enhancement of your method, not a replacement for it.”

“That makes sense, because I’m convinced that  OC is the best method of training, but it is missing something that I can’t define…But it’s difficult to understand why “science” is’nt  the whole answer…and most Trainers are so supportive and convinced  of OC and clicker training.  They can’t all be wrong…”

“I never said they were wrong.  250 jumping whales can’t be wrong.   But they are incomplete.  Let me explain it this way:  If a human parent raised their children purely by scientific methods, ignoring “manners” , “social behaviors”, and the subtleties of everyday life, how would they turn out?  Like little, unfeeling robots.  They might be obedient, but they wouldn’t have any idea how to be “Likable”, they would lack the ability to be “nice” because science teaches survival of the fittest.  Get yours before somebody else does.  Which is kind of what we see today to a degree in people who were raised without the proper “Leadership”.  Permissiveness doesn’t create success.”

“Well, I hope you’ll help me understand how to train this to Bruiser.  It’s not as well laid out or defined as clicker training.”

“That’s the wrong approach.  Do you “Lead” people at your job?  You’re an RN in an Emergency Room…Do people recognize that you are there to help them, maybe even save their life?”

“If they don’t at first, they pick up on it fairly quickly…It’s an attitude I take when I’m doing my job.  I care about them, and I want to help them…”

“Did you learn THAT from a book?”

This finally set the siren off in her head.  “No…” she started slowly, “I’ve always just wanted to help in the best way I can…”

“Bingo! You understand the foundation of the Communicative Approach.  You can learn all the anatomy and physiology and chemistry and technical parts of medicine, how to help a person heal a sickness or wound.  But if you are an emotionless person, with terrible bedside manner, your patient will still not like you.  But a caring, comforting nurse, with little knowledge is still valuable.  Understanding that truth, a Caring, Comforting nurse with great technical knowledge is a treasure!!!  Be that “nurse” to your dog.”

That I understand…”