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By Published On: April 8th, 2013

imagesThere are no secrets to dog training, or weight loss, despite the endless amount of spam trying to sell both.

Good dog trainers who understand how to train dogs are like bad poker players grinning like fools and showing their hand with all the aces to the people sitting beside them. We want people to know how to change their dog’s behavior and can’t keep this a secret no matter how hard we try.

Many of us have chosen methods to do this that use little to no force or coercion. Some choose these techniques because ethically they think it’s how we should interact with animals in our care. Others choose them because they understand how effective they are. I work with a population of dogs that offers me little choice in the matter. Using force, pain or the threat of either with these dogs is contraindicated and counter productive in the long run.

I am not saying that either dog training or losing weight are without their challenges. The professional trainers I know, spend a lot of time and money learning how to deal with the challenges that arise with dogs. They learn to look for physical or medical causes for a behavior, no sense punishing a dog for not sitting when asked if their hips ache or if they can’t hear or see well. We explore ways to motivate dogs and identify what components of a dog’s life can be changed to increase the chances that we’ll get more of the behaviors we like and less of the ones we don’t.

You don’t need to be a dog psychologist to understand why dogs do what they do. There is no need to come up with either simple or elaborate stories, as interesting and compelling as these may be, to explain why dogs do what they do. If we keep seeing a dog perform a behavior we know they are doing so because they are being reinforced for it. If they are unwilling or reluctant to perform certain behaviors we know it is because they have been punished for performing the behavior. This, if there is a secret to sell, is it. It’s not always simple to tease apart the reinforcers and punishers in a dog’s life, but if you’re going to pay for anything, find a professional who can.

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