September 20, 2016
Positive Training Was A No-Brainer For Me
As dog lovers, we often feel like science is way behind when it finally proves that dogs understand what we're saying or that dogs recognize human facial expressions. We knew that already! It's obvious when our dogs seem to instinctively know when we need some extra comfort after a bad day, or when we have to spell certain words (it's w-a-l-k and t-u-g and f-r-i-s-b-e-e around here). As an advocate for positive training, I am constantly referencing the science and studies that back up my training philosophy, but the truth is, science had nothing to do with my choice.
I've taken the Myers Briggs personality test many times over the years, always landing solidly as an INFJ. This is supposedly one of the rarest types and stands for Introverted - Intuitive - Feeling - Judging. Interestingly enough, this personality type is known as 'The Advocate.' Sometimes it's hard for me to put into words why I feel I way the do - it's just a gut feeling - but I'm also a glutton for facts and research. I didn't choose reward-based training because of reading countless scientific abstracts, I chose it because I don't want to hurt or scare my dogs, end of story. I don't want them to do what I say because they're afraid of what will happen if they don't, because I'm the "pack leader" or the boss or the alpha. I want them to feel safe and sure that the lines of communication are always open. I want them to be my playful partners.
I've written before about my positive training journey and the many mistakes I've made (and continue to make) along the way. A large part of positive training is patience and forgiveness, including patience and forgiveness for oneself. Making a change might mean admitting that you were wrong, and that's a hard thing to do for a human. As often as I'm discouraged by outdated training methods still being used, I'm confident that the tide is changing. Recently a tech brand released a new version of a shock collar that can be controlled via a smart phone app and I was relieved to see it met with overwhelming backlash from the dog community, including trainers and veterinarians. The science is out there, and the voices of positive training advocates and professionals is getting louder. I only need look into Ruby's imploring amber eyes and Boca's gentle milk chocolate gaze to know that what is right for them is right for all the dogs who trust us with their joyful, generous hearts.
P.S. This is a late entry into the monthly Positive Pet Training Hop but please check out all the other great posts accessible through my co-host Tenacious Little Terrier.