Dog’s Eye View: Continuing education
August 18, 2017
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
— Albert Einstein
This week, I started retaking an eight-week continuing education class about learning and behavior change taught by Dr. Susan Friedman, of Utah State University. The class is titled Living and Learning with Animals. I keep retaking this course, not only to be refreshed on the rather lengthy and involved course material, but also because the study of behavior is a science, and an important thing to remember is that science is self-correcting.
Researchers use public peer review and independent verification. They do this because, though they employ the most reliable information available at the moment, things can change.
Remember when the news reported that certain foods might not be good for us? Then, we heard these foods actually had properties that may not have been harmful after all. I won't go into the particulars of these studies, but rather than thinking we are being pushed about by the whims of someone else, we are actually being informed by more recent studies with more current information.
I really like the quote by Albert Einstein. It helps me remember that the skills I learned as long as 40 years ago might not be applicable in solving problems that I am presented with today. And, yes: Some of the methods we used years ago in dog and horse training did not solve unwanted behavior problems and may actually have exacerbated these problems.
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Some time ago, I wrote, "What Started It All," a column about my first dog, a male dalmatian I had as a young teenager. He ultimately became very aggressive and seriously bit all the members of my family, and I'm certain the knowledge and practice of dog training at that time only served to escalate his biting behavior.
I have no doubt that, given the same dog, but using the new knowledge and skills I've learned through the years, that sad story would have had an entirely different ending. The best outcome is that I made a promise to myself that I would never let that happen again and would learn how and why it went so wrong.
Conventional wisdom can stand in the way of clear vision. We sometimes rely on labels such as, "He's stubborn," or, "She has selective hearing." We sometimes fall back on, "That's what everybody says."
A book that should be in every dog owner's library is "How to Behave so Your Dog Behaves: The Art and Science of Animal Behavior, by veterinarian and behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS.
Don't let the word "science" throw you off. It's all about clarification and understanding.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training, LLC with more than 30 years of experience.