Why We Train

Why we train

The forces of nature and nurture have been at work for many thousands of years, underwriting an evolutionarily process of mutual benefit and opportunity between humans and dogs. This evolutionary process, perhaps even a co-evolutionary process, provides an extraordinary opportunity to forge an uncommon bond – a bond enabling both dogs and humans to live, grow and thrive together.

Training your pup helps to perfect and strengthen this evolutionary bond. Training also enhances the mutual appreciation and respect between human and dog. Training your dog enhances your ability to relate to one another, thus improving your pup’s quality of life under the pressures of domestication.

When your pup learns to reliably come when called, walk together with you on a leash without pulling, mind his manners when a delivery arrives at the front door – your dog is rewarded with increased liberties, a safer and happier home-life, as well as a multitude of other useful and critical behaviors that will help him to better cope with life’s inherent adversity and uncertainty. 

There is no other activity you can perform with your dog that will offer your pup a better chance at an improved quality of life – than training!

Your dog’s close social interaction with you, your family and your friends require that she learn to accept certain limitations, rules, and boundaries in her daily routine. She will need to learn to respond consistently to basic commands and exhibit behavior conducive with cognitive and emotional stability and harmony.

For your pup to be a good member of the family, he needs to learn the house rules. Aside from knowing the rules, he needs the ability to obey them. The ability to obey your commands and abide by the rules often requires your dog to have the ability to say “no” to his instincts, impulses, and desires. This ability at self-control is often maldeveloped in a misbehaving pup.

Increasing your pup’s ability to reason, use self-control and restrain his impulses – is at the heart of every training exercise. A dog’s ability to learn to defer and comply with your commands is essential to their ability to become a successful companion. 

To live comfortably with humans, dog’s need the ability to adapt to life’s challenges and disruptions and respect the family’s limits and boundaries. Without these boundaries and limitations, a healthy relationship is not possible.

When your pup defers to your boundaries and assertions of authority, he is engaging in affectionate voluntary cooperation.
Affectionate voluntary cooperation is a key pre-condition for responsible and effective pack leadership and social dynamics. When you do training exercises with your pup, you are promoting affectionate voluntary cooperation, and are teaching your dog that deferring and following your direction – increases their ability to obtain reliable and timely comfort and safety. 

As your pup learns to follow the rules, conflicts are reduced, and a pack-leader/follower bond based around communication, affection and trust is allowed to form. This bond is essential to the development of a healthy human-dog relationship.

If you remember one thing from this article, remember this…

Predictability are controllability are the keys to success.

They are the keys to effective dog training and even more importantly, are a necessary precondition for a dog’s sense of safety, confidence, happiness, and well-being. An inability for your dog to predict and control significant events in her environment, is precisely what gives rise to her distress, often expressed in the form of anxiety, frustration, and unpredictability. 

In small amounts, anxiety and distress can be an instructive tension conducive with learning, adaptive success, and growth. However, when a dog’s ability to predict is impeded, often his ability to adapt suffers and wanes. Excessive and persistent social conflict, or unresolved emotional stress can impede a dog’s ability to adapt and your dog’s ability to function will deteriorate and break down over time.

Dog’s living under stressful and inescapable conditions of social disharmony, disorder and adversity are highly vulnerable to developing a wide range of behavioral mal-adjustments and emotive disturbances.

There is a constant unrelenting tension at play between you and your dog. Throughout the day, you stand between your dog and her ability to obtain of a variety of highly valued rewards and engage in a multitude of potentially destructive pleasures and liberties. 

Owners often spend an inordinate amount of time and energy responding to poor behavior by engaging in active and passive aversive control strategies.

Aversive active control strategies are generally ineffective, and at times, regressive to the vary behavior one is trying to attenuate.

This is because these techniques are often not joined with demonstrating to the dog how to obtain the gratification he desires – in an appropriate and acceptable manner. 

Restricting the dog’s behavior thru aversive passive control strategies such as tethering or crating, in the absence of constructive training, can also be harmful to both the human-dog bond and to the dog’s overall quality of life.

In instances of active or passive aversive control strategies, your dog’s ability to establish predictive control over his environment and the social rewards it contains as well as build upon his own self-control, is blocked. 

Discouraging your dog’s ability to obtain certain rewards (e.g., barking, jumping up, chewing, pulling, mouthing), without also teaching your dog more acceptable behaviors that produce equal or better reward opportunities, will likely facilitate ever increasing conflict and tension between you and your dog. Conflict over your dog’s desire to obtain rewards and his perception of you either as partner in achieving success or conversely, as an obstacle to overcome to obtain a reward.

From the point of view of a behaviorist (and a Dog Gone Smarter LLC perspective), these described conflicts and tensions are contrary to interactive harmony, well-being, and mutual appreciation, and, as such, represent the specific behavioral target areas where therapy efforts should be focused. In fact, these conflicts and tensions precisely define the social and biological needs that were not adequately being met thru the human-dog relationship. 

Essentially, all training activities facilitate attention and impulse-control, while simultaneously developing useful and necessary behaviors.

The overall impact to your dog is reduced adverse anxiety and frustration thru the improved cognitive and emotional expressions of competence, confidence, and relaxation.

Resolving these conflicts thru these science-based training strategies can offer an improved quality of life for both you and your dog. As a result of effective, constructive training, dogs appear to adopt a more focused, secure, and trusting attitude toward their social and physical environment, helping them cope more effectively with conflict or emotionally stressful situations.

In addition to all these wonderful benefits to your pup, owners gain from the time spent training their dog.

Owners learn how to better observe and interpret their dog’s behavior, to better understand their dog’s emotional and biological needs, to communicate more effectively, and to develop a more informed estimation of their dog’s cognitive capacity and behavioral limitations.

All of this leads to a stronger and deeper human-dog bond, reduced conflict and tension, a more aware and thoughtful pup, while facilitating in you a more constructive and optimistic attitude about your relationship with your dog and your ability to attenuate your pup’s behavior in a smart, constructive a sustainable manner. 

Authored by,

Erik Muenker BADC RPDT
Dog Behaviorist

Owner, Dog Gone Smarter LLC

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