Canine Nation - Articles About Dog Training
Eric Brad inspires readers to change the way we relate to our dogs through modern training methods based on behavioural science and rewards, not punishment.
We have all seen those marvelous, wonderful dogs at the movies or in books. The ones who are the heroes. The ones who always obey their owners. The ones who are never the “bad dog.” We all sometimes wish we had THAT dog. The truth is, we probably do. We just have to see their potential and work with them a little each day.
Keeping our dog interested in training can mean offering up some interesting rewards for their good behaviours. But what if those rewards are so distracting that your dog isn’t really learning much? Balancing your dogs motivation and distraction can be the key to helping them learn effectively.
Part of training your dog is teaching them a cue or command for their behaviours. You would think that it’s a relatively uncomplicated thing to put a name or signal on something like “Sit” or “Down.” In practice, it’s more complex than you might realize.
How can dogs be stupid and smart at the same time? How can they have less intelligence than humans and still control our households? For all our intelligence, we humans certainly find our reasons to claim to be both inferior and superior to our canine companions when it suits us.
It’s funny how people will prepare themselves for months, even years before bringing a new child into their lives but can stop by the shelter on a random Saturday and pick up a new dog. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that caring for a dog is anywhere near as complex as raising a child. But owning and caring for a dog is not the same as picking up a new refrigerator either.
There is a lot of talk about “balance” in dog training these days. But balance might not be as easy as just mixing equal parts of rewards and punishment. A lesson from hight school science class shows that equal numbers do not mean equal value. Sometimes balance means finding the right proportions.
For more than two and a half years I have made a regular practice of sitting down and thinking about dogs. And I share my thoughts in these Canine Nation articles. I look at different perspectives and information. I try to see the larger contexts of our dogs and lifestyles with them. There is a lot to see. So I write.
Watching the recent Summer Olympics was one of those guilty pleasures for me. Sneaking off to catch a look at kayaking or track and field is something I only get a chance to do once every four years. It’s inspiring to see the best athletes in the world competing in their chosen sports, win or lose. To develop skills to a high enough level to compete at the Olympic Games is more than most of us can hope to achieve. But strip away the human drama and the athlete’s story and what you have left is learned behaviour whether it is sprinting, paddling a kayak, or performing the high jump.