If looking at the technical side of animal (dog) training, the important components can really be boiled down to just a few key concepts (think things like “timing” and “rate of reinforcement” just to name a couple)…there are actually not that many individual concepts that will affect the technicalities of training, however, one of the things that sometimes (or often?) gets forgotten, is the ability to see the situation and circumstance from the animal’s point of view. I think we often forget about this part. We get wrapped up in today’s “agenda”, our plan, our goals and what we want to accomplish or things WE want to do – and sometimes forget that there is another individual and living being at the other end of the leash.
We tend to forget not only that there IS someone at the other end – but sometimes also forget that there is an INDIVIDUAL. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the words “But my last dog used to…(fill in the blank)…why does this dog not?”
or “But I want to…(fill in the blank again)…with this dog. It is part of my lifestyle, so why is the dog being… (choose one: reactive/ aggressive/ fearful/ too shy etc..). It’s part of my lifestyle to do “X”.”
How did we forget to consider the individual dog in those statements? Why is it that we do recognize individuality when it comes to humans so much faster and more readily, but often fail to recognize that the same individuality holds equally true for our dogs?
To really be truly in touch with your dog and develop a real connection and relationship that goes beyond just being a one-way street, you must embrace the thought of opening your eyes to see the unique individual you have in front of you. Not a “breed” or “generalized traits common for the breed or breed mix” – but the unique traits that make your companion just who he or she is.
Sometimes a “problem” could be solved by a simple shift in OUR way of thinking. Sometimes all it would take, is a change of our goals – or a change in how we do things.
Of course, all the technicalities of training have their time and place – what I am trying to point out is simply – that “training” for the sake of “traininig” should never overshadow the big picture and seeing the individual for who he/she is.
I would like to share a couple of my favorite resources if you’d like to read up/ challenge and expand your thinking on this topic.
One of my absolute personal favourite books (warmly recommended!) is called:
If a Dog’s Prayers Were Answered…Bones would Rain from the Sky. Deepening our relationships with dogs. Written by Suzanne Clothier.(2002). You won’t find another book quite like it!
If you are a movie-buff… Rent this one: Temple Grandin. (DVD, 2010) Fantastic true story on someone who has been the trigger for much change in how we see and treat animals today. This is really a different perspective on things. Temple Grandin herself is autistic and shares many of her insights through literally seeing things very differently than the neuro-typical human. She has also written several books. Animals in Translation, and Animals make us Human are two I have read and can also warmly recommend.
Finally, for the real keeners, a link to hear Temple Grandin speak about some of the change she has been part of creating in regards to how animals for food-processing are treated. The video is over an hour in length, and is a presentation-style speech. If you are more of a movie-type (rather than “listen-to-a-speech-type”) – rent the movie instead.