The world of dog training
somewhat parallels the world of child rearing. For years, children
were raised with the Victorian mindset of "spare the rod, spoil the
child." Then, in the 1960s, philosophies on raising children moved
toward "spoil the rod, spare the child." It was thought that we should
not reprimand children. Instead, we should let them be themselves.
Child-rearing theories have swung from one extreme to the other and
are now searching for a middle ground.
The dog world experienced an evolution similar to the one in child
rearing. Formal dog training originated in the military. Armies
trained their dogs with harsh and rigid techniques. As dog training
became more mainstream and moved into homes, it was fashioned after
militaristic training. If dog training was harsh, it was because
of its origin, not because that type of severity is required to
train a dog.
Behavioral science has revolutionized dog training. For the first
time, we delve not only into how dogs think but also into how dogs
learn. We finally have substance to draw from when shaping dog training.
We no longer have to think that strict domination of the dog is
the only way to get compliance from him. Behaviorists study how
dogs interrelate and respond to others in their environment. Research
has found that dogs' actions directly relate to what is important
to them. Pack and rank are at the top of the list. The second part,
animal-learning theory, looks at how dogs learn, which is primarily
via responses conditioned through positive and negative reinforcement.
The combination of understanding dog behavior and animal-learning
theory headed a new movement in training. Theoretically, we should
train motivationally, rewarding proper behavior and, in many cases,
ignoring bad behavior. Some trainers have interpreted this to mean
you should never do anything negative to the dog. It's imperative
to find a happy medium between the two in the same way people raising
children today seek to find a balance between the two very different