Monday, October 10, 2011

Philosophy of Behavior Training Part I

Over the last three years, I have been making a transition from a methodology of dog training to a philosophy of dog training and rehabilitation.  This morning in going through the blogs that I follow, I stumbled upon what someone called a problem solving tool.  I realized while reading it, that it, and all the other "tools" for rehabilitation that I had read anywhere, in any book, video, blog, or website, was all about the mechanics with a tiny bit of "why" those mechanics work. I also realized that the tools are there, but no where was there a step by step approach to rehabilitation.

The mechanics are mostly simple to do and simple to teach, which is probably why the discussion of them is so prevalent and the discussion of why we do these mechanics is mostly missing.  But having only one side of the equation does not allow one to truly handle the issues that dogs have because of our bumbling attempts to train them to live by our rules.  I think that is really why there is very little discussion of why - most humans are more interested in exerting control then they are in actually living life.  Life is hard, life is unpredictable and life changes constantly.  Control and predictability become two of the most important aspects of living.

Therefor, our dogs must conform to this.  They must be under control so that we can always predict what they will do.  But it's a prediction based on human values and human control and the aversion to change that most humans seem to have - not on what nature has created within a dog. A dog's view of life is very different then a human's.  Humans think about things, relate the things of now to the things of the past and the possibilities of the future.  Dogs live now, this moment and predict only based on what works and what doesn't.  Humans contemplate the future, dogs live in the present.  Living in the moment is not a based on whether dogs remember the past, it is based on dogs not thinking about or planning for the future.

So this morning, I started quantifying how I take a dog from reactive to social and why I have the humans and dogs do the things they do in the order they do them.  On Facebook, I put up the first synthesis of this quantification.  The six steps to rehabilitation: Attention, Alignment, Awareness, Activity, Application, Assignment.

These six steps totally ignore most of what I've learned over the years about dogs, wolves, dominance, operant, classical, Pavlovian and Premack conditioning, Skinnerian psychology, psychology in general and the mechanics of teaching a dog sit, stay, come, heel, and down.  These six steps fly in the face of conventional dog training and behavior modification no matter which quandrant you normally work with.   Almost all that I learned about dog training and behavior modification is about conditioning - you condition the dog to respond to commands, you condition the dog to have a different emotion about a stimulus, you condition a human to give the proper commands and you condition a human to manage a dog's reactivity. 

There is only one philosophy that actually addresses what a dog truly is, what a dog really does, how a dog is designed to respond and think by nature, and that is Kevin Behan's Natural Dog Training.  And there is only one philosophy that is truly a philosophy and very little "conditioning" happening and that is Cesar Milan and his psychology of dogs.  But neither philosophy gives a step by step process whereby the average person can actually rehabilitate a reactive dog. 

Cesar talks about being the packleader, creating calm submission, exercise / discipline / affection, and calm assertiveness, but no where have I found step by step explanations of how to achieve these things - and I have all his DVD's and books.  In my practice I've found that 80% of the people I deal with cannot be a calm assertive leader, it's just not in them.  I realized a long time ago that just like in the dog world where only a small percentage of dogs are actually true alpha dogs, it's the same in the human world.  Most people are content to just live life and enjoy the fruits of their labor.  Very few people have the personality and skills to be a true leader.

Kevin's Natural Dog Training is much more comprehensive and explains so much of why a dog does what he does and why we respond the way we do.  The problem is that Kevin uses $150 words and concepts that the average human would go unconscious trying to fathom.  Neil Sattin and the other Natural Dog Trainers help but they haven't translated more than the basics of what Kevin teaches. 

So, in the following weeks, I will present my philosophy, the pattern of what I do to rehabilitate a dog who is off the rails into a social companion.  Hopefully I can explain things so that others can duplicate what I do and be just as successful.  I will be mentioning Natural Dog Training a lot as what I do aligns most closely with this philosophy.  I will also mention other training methodologies and philosophies as what I do is a blend of many ideas, practices, theories and methods because each dog and human team is different and will respond differently and may need just a slight adjustment to a proven method.

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