Within the Mainstream Dog Training World many terms are used to define "influence" which align with the appearance based learning narrative. These terms include "physical force, corrections, aversive, dominance etc" while also being associated with certain devices such as remote and prong collars. The confusion, debate and ultimately the misrepresentation of the role of influence, whether intentional or otherwise, comes from a lack of depth and insight into the dog and human relationship. Further the current established Mainstream Dog Training community has become not only comfortable but antagonistic and hostile to "outsiders" who challenge the popular learning narrative.
The ability to understand, reconcile and define the context of influence and its role comes from moving beyond the learning narrative. The consistency of the break down points within this narrative highlights the social relational influence with how a dog's decision making process is governed. The Mainstream optics regarding influence via certain interactions merely adds confusion and controversy to a already distorted issue. While the back and forth debate continues between trainers these bad optics are often used to validate the Mainstream learning narrative. While some trainers promote leadership while incorporating influence within the parameters of the process it often fails to align properly. Further the negative role that the learning narrative plays acts as a counter force to the balanced approach. How influence aligns with creating change between dog and owner must be specific and intentional within the process itself while at the same time removing the learning narrative from the equation.
By Dale McCluskey
If you have ever experienced a behavior issue with your dog you will most likely relate to the fact that there doesn't seem to be any shortage of opinions regarding how the get your pack member back on track. Go onto youtube and do a search for dog training and hundreds of thousands of videos with a wide range of tips and advice will begin filling your screen. Terms such as "balanced training" and "positive reward" will leave you attempting to navigate the confusing world of dog training. Watching dogs moving around and responding can certainly appear impressive at least from first appearances. The issue of appearances and problem as it connects to this very popular learning narrative is simply something you will not hear any of these Mainstream Dog Trainers talking about. Sure you will see Balanced Dog Trainers via social media attempt to call out other trainers who are not using a "balanced approach". You will see "positive" trainers attempt to call out balanced trainers as abusive. What you are not seeing however is a trainer calling out the learning narrative as the real issue and problem happening in the dog training world. The reason for this is the fact that 99 percent of all dog trainers are invested in this learning narrative at some level. To understand the problem is to know that more is happening when it comes to dogs responding within this very popular narrative.
Mainstream Dog Training has aligned itself with the interpretive script that response represents a like minded state. To understand the issues associated with this appearance based narrative is to understand dogs as the social animals they really are and the depth of connection they share with us via nature and the pack relationship. To use an example of the deception that can happen via this approach one only needs to look no further than a parent and child relationship. The picture of a parent needing professional help dealing with a very selfish child with a professional stepping into the home environment to get the relationship on proper course. In this scenario the professional employs a motivator to get the child to do certain things so that a picture is painted for the parent that good things are happening in the relationship. The only problem is that the child isn't actually changing based on the fact that the professional is working off selfish motives rather than fixing the core problem between parent and child. Within the dog training world this same flawed tenant is built into this mainstream narrative and the majority of trainers are not even considering the issue. Dogs often hold onto control even as they go through the motions of training. The default position for the majority of trainers when this relational disconnect happens is to blame the dog. Simply removing treats from the equation does not always remedy this issue based on the fact that control itself can become a motivator for a dog to response once the motives of the dog have already gone sideways.
The solution is to remove the learning narrative instead and approach training for what it represents....a relational changing process.
By Dale McCluskey
Dale McCluskey is a published author with 20 years experience in the dog training field including numerous awards, distinctions and achievements. Dale uses a one of a kind relational approach which offers hope for all dogs and owners.