I’ve become fascinated by how much dog training has changed in the last 40 years. That is the last time that I did serious dog training—including taking my miniature poodles up to Championship status in Obedience Competitions.
Fifteen years ago I trained my standard poodles—and after 14 years, finally got them to walk without pulling me off my feet by using a constant treat technique of giving them a treat more or less every 10 feet—I call it the Pez technique. This latter technique of almost persistent rewards and positive interaction is the new way of training dogs.
This year, I was given a crash course in positive interaction when I took my Labra doodles to class. The most notable changes in the class were not the dogs, but the approach to training. No longer was “jerk (on their collar) and release (the negative tension)” considered the best training method.
We used praise and treats to motivate our dogs to learn and man, did it motivate them.
When I started pediatrics 30 year ago the new approach to child rearing was logical and natural consequences with lots of “time-in”. Positive parenting concentrated on what your child was doing right and redirected them when they needed to substitute a bad behavior for a good one. This system was in contrast to the old approach of “spoil the rod and spare the child”. The acceptance of an approach to positive discipline for children has been much slower than that of dog trainers. We still hear the concept of what is wrong with children is that they are never told “no” or given a spanking.
We are told that we need to scare juvenile delinquents “straight”. But research has repeatedly shown the children who misbehave the most have been treated poorly—spanked or yelled out. Most juvenile delinquents have been subjected to abuse and neglect not coddling–not taught the logical consequences of their actions, nor shown a more positive approach to living.
Both children and dogs need discipline—but effective discipline is consistent and loving and involves teaching better behaviors. Limit setting such as time-outs or loss of privileges works if those disciplines make sense. When a child is being aggressive or destructive they need to sit by themselves and calm down. When a child can’t remember to wear their bike helmet, they need to loose the use of their bike for a defined period of time-a few days or so until they again get the opportunity to make a better choice.
Modeling good decisions and behaviors is the best way to teach your child or “be the person you want your child to be.”