You know when I began training dogs it was all about forcing the dog to do what you asked. This was not for me so, I just had a good time with dogs. Most of the dogs I worked with were bigger and tougher then I was anyway. This gave me the opportunity to learn how to communicate with dogs and get them to do what I wanted w/o coercion or force. Then came the positive training model. There are a lot of great things that came out of the positive only training model and we use many of these techniques in Motley Dog Dog Training. We try to have several techniques for common dog training problems and Many of the positive only techniques lend themselves to communication and secure attachment that is the foundation of Motley Dog Dog Training. So, a natural question that arose from all of this experience is, how do dogs learn and communicate in nature.
When I was in grade school I wrote a seven page report about wolves just for fun. later in life, I realized that dogs are not the stupid creatures that these training models made them out to be. Well, I reviewed this wolf stuff and compared it to dogs.. now dogs are not wolves. To explain, one study concluded that we share 95% DNA with our canine counter parts now I have spent so much time with various canines that I maybe one but, you get my point. (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-does-the-fact-that-w/
(Apparently, this study is about comparing our DNA to Chimps but, hey it is analogous. The point is that small variations in genetic structure creates very different things.) Here are some entertaining posts to look into.
These are just for fun, hope it points to the idea that we really have no idea how related one species is to another (Between Groups) think human to Bear. This gets even weirder when we start comparing within groups … canis this compared to canis that. Not sure what this has to do with dog training? If you are an expert you have have to know this stuff.
What I noticed is that all of these aforementioned learn by communication, example and experience. We have also discussed why there is a lot of evidence that dogs have memory and make decisions. Ever seen a wolf hunt. Based off of years of exploration & the study of various disciplines in psychology, I concluded that the best method of training a dog is to use these abilities. This is the foundation of Motley Dog Dog Training. So, you guessed it, developing comms with your dog is step two.
When a wolf pup or dog pup, is very young they goof around, explore and mom, the other puppies or the world either, reinforces their behavior, corrects or outright punishes the pup. I know, I know… sounds like conditioning to me. That is were the idea came from but, in nature the wolf pup that is punished and get into the most trouble is highly likely to become the leader or to be broken and exiled from the pack. Where as the quite one who seems to always be rewarded is likely to remain in the middle or bottom of the natural selection heap. The effects of reinforcement, is based on phenotype and the individuals personality and perception of their experiences, not conditioning. so, get to know your dog and encourage them to explore “think” based on their personality and character.
Now if you have done your attachment exercises correctly then you should notice that the pups area of exploration is expanding. The pup will look back to you for direction when a challenge arises but, gain confidence by facing challenges on their own as opposed to needing your protection or guidance. (all Motley Dog Dog Training stuff.) When we hit this critical period of development we start working on getting our dog to think this is something human psychologist have been studying for the past decade or so, very interesting stuff. The point is that I have studied animals, psychology and various scientific disciplines as long as I have been alive so, Good or bad… it is 1000% original Motley.
In summation, dogs learn by exploration and play, so encourage them, when they do something you want don’t just reward them but, make doing it for you and greatest thing in life. They learn by experience find new experiences for them guide them with your your demeanor and non-verbal comms and reward them when they follow your lead. Basically, dogs start to learn everything though play… have fun and when playing with your dog, use it as a teaching opp. When teaching them something, remember it is about both of you paying attention to each other and communicating. Dogs, are far better then we will every be at decoding non-verbal communication so, use this to your advantage. Now when we give you thought exercises they will be designed for you and your dog. Not all dogs are motivated by the same things so, there is no one size fits all here. Be creative enjoy your time together.
Did you know you can influence your dogs behavior simply with your body posture or how fast or slow you move. Something to think about as we learn comms with our dog. Never… Never get into a ritual of repetition, there will be times that rituals are great and we will cover them but, because dogs likely remember things is a movies like format you want to avoid this when training your dog to think. You dont want your dog to only perform the behavior if you are in one place and you use the same body posture and gestures that you have constantly and likely unconsciously tied to the little movie in their heads.
A note on emotional states and thinking. If your dog is excited, anger and/or scared and aggressive or just scared, just like you and I … you are not thinking. You have to practice situational awareness get out in front of these situations and lead the team. You will earn trust and respect and your dog will look to you for guidance. When shaping a behavior you want you and your dog to have 100 percent focus on each other, so no distractions and do not “tell the dog the answer” encourage, motivate and reward the small victories but, let the dog discover the answer. Just like with people, if I just tell you something you are far less likely to remember it but, if you have to work to figure it out you are learning something. Dogs work the same way.
when you teach a dog how to navigate a new situation. you want to:
- break the situation down into parts.
- you want to move slowly and deliberately making cues for the dog obvious and clear.
- Your goal is to make a little movie in their head with cue for each step in the procedure
This is the job of the leader not the dog. The more obvious and clear each cue is to the dog the better they will understand the process.
Get that dog thinking..