Dog’s Eye View: ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Fortunately or unfortunately this statement applies to me in many aspects of my life. What immediately comes to my mind is the world of computer technology. It’s an ongoing study for me; sometimes daily. Fortunately I have trustworthy experts who can sort out the problems I usually create by my lack of knowledge.
Some months ago I was listening to a friend describe a problem she was having with her cats. Yes, I sometimes help kitties in distress. I have a rather long history of working with them at our veterinary clinic and my dog behavior work crosses over to other species of animals.
My friend has two cats that recently started to potty outside of their litter box. She was trying to solve this problem with her own considerable history as a cat owner. As a renter, she was becoming quite distraught about the possibility of damage to her home. I asked her to describe the situation then talked about some of the most common reasons for this change in her cat’s behavior. Subsequently, I recommended a particularly good book about problem cat behavior, “Starting From Scratch,” by Pam Johnson-Bennett.
In the end, after some months, I happened to see her and she said that things were getting better. She also said to me, “I realized that there’s a great deal of current knowledge about cat behavior available to anyone. You don’t know what you don’t know.”
I’ve thought about this same situation many times over the years. Often when people call for help in resolving a dog behavior problem, they’ve been using conventional knowledge, hearsay or their own experience with perhaps one or two dogs to try to solve a problem. This is natural. Why throw away experience gained over the years?
But sometimes all of the old experience may not be the best way. As a teacher, I’m always trying to improve my knowledge base and teaching skills. I’m open to rethinking something if I find a better way. This is what set me on the path of positive reinforcement training years ago.
A book “The Thinking Dog — Crossover to Clicker Training,” by Gail Tamases Fisher tells the story of one dog trainer’s journey away from purely punishment training to positive reinforcement training. The word “crossover” is the key. Her journey is similar to mine. I crossed over from using a choke chain and collar corrections to the more gentle, effective and cerebral way of working with dogs many years ago. My dogs are happier and believe me, so am I.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training LLC with more than 30 years of experience.
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