International Positive Dog Training Association
Setting The International Standard For Humane Dog Training
The History & Science
Blueprint To A Happy Dog
By Norma Jeanne Laurette & Greg Ceci
Foreword By Dr. Stanley Coren
When it comes to training and managing behavioral problems in dogs, things have changed quite a bit over the past century or so. The traditional methods for instructing and controlling dog behavior came out of Germany, and were really designed to create police dogs and military service dogs. The person who can probably be called "The Father of Traditional Dog Training" was Konrad Most, who ultimately rose to the rank of Colonel in the German army. He established the school for training police dogs in Berlin, and eventually was responsible for training the military dogs that Germany used in World War I and World War II. His 1910 book Training Dogs: A Manual virtually became the Bible for all dog trainers up until the mid-1940s.
The techniques that he described as the best methods to train dogs reflected the attitudes and procedures used to train human soldiers during that era. These procedures were based upon strict discipline, supported by force if necessary. Thus a military dog trainer’s tools included a leash that was braided and made rigid at the loop end so that it could be turned around and used as a whip if the dog failed to obey. These coercive methods seemed to work and became the standard that the rest of the world followed well into the 20th century. Only later were scientists able to show that more than one third of the dogs subjected to such training regimes would break under the pressure and eventually fail, leaving them emotionally scarred and uncontrollable.
Konrad Most understood the importance of rewards and punishments; however he believed that ultimately the best motivator for dogs was their desire to avoid punishment. Although a word of praise or occasional petting might be useful, choke collars, spiked collars and occasional whipping were the mainstays of his training methods. Data published in scientific journals over the last few decades have now confirmed that even among those dogs that succeed under this form of instruction, a sizable percentage are likely to be plagued with tendencies toward either fear or aggression for the rest of their lives. So why were these procedures used so often and over such a long period? They were used because they appeared to work, that is to say these methods produced dogs that could do the required work most of the time (at least when their handler remained close to them). They were also used because in the historical era when these training procedures were developed the mental and emotional state of the dogs was not considered to be important — the only thing that mattered was the dog's performance.
It is likely that the beginnings of the "Positive Dog Training Movement" can be formally traced back to 1946 when Blanche Saunders published her book Training You to Train Your Dog. By today's standards her methods were still somewhat harsh but they were much more balanced than those used before her time. She wrote, "Dogs learn by associating their act with a pleasing or displeasing result. They must be disciplined when they do wrong, but they must also be rewarded when they do right." She prided herself on the fact that she never struck a dog, however she did use chain choke collars, which could cause discomfort when tightly pulled in order to control the dog. The technique, which she taught to her students, was "Command! Jerk! Praise!" However she did recognize the value of rewards, noting that "A tidbit of chicken as a reward can often overcome problems that other methods cannot." Perhaps the core philosophy that she wanted to convey was summarized when she said, “It is important that you know that kindness will accomplish much more than harshness and cruelty. A dog has a wonderful memory and he won’t forget your attitude toward him.”
Saunders went on to become the most popular dog trainer in the 1950s and 60s and since then controlled scientific research by experimental psychologists such as B.F. Skinner at Harvard University, has shown the effectiveness of positive training. Positive dog training can be defined by the use of selective rewards and the avoidance of strong punishment. The data are quite clear in demonstrating that the more positive the training methods the faster the behavior changes and the less likelihood that you will end up with a dog with emotional problems. Discipline-based training techniques often produce a dog that will work and obey commands, but only when the trainer is close to them — close enough so that the dog knows that its behavior can be immediately punished thus compelling him to obey or suffer the consequences. The evidence shows that positive methods produce a dog that will work reliably even at a distance from its handler, and this dog will work cheerfully and for a longer period of time. A side benefit of these methods is that positive training produces a strong affectionate bond between the trainer and his canine companion, and also much lower stress levels for the dog (and the trainer).
Unfortunately in recent years there has been somewhat of a return to the use of discipline-based methods of controlling dog behavior. This is because several popular television dog trainers have been using force-based methods as a means of behavior modification on their shows. As someone who trained dogs on a television series for a number of years I can tell you that the quickest way to change a dog's behavior is to use compulsion. That can give you a dog that appears to be under control for long enough so that the cameras can record what looks like a successful outcome of training for broadcast. I never used such harsh methods on my show because I concluded that it is not really a useful or ethical way to go. The problem with force and compulsion is that the unwanted behaviors will quickly return, and the behavior problems may even be more severe a few days or a week later. But of course that is after the cameramen have filmed what was supposed to be the "triumphant and perfect completion of training". What happens after the cameras leave the location is not important in the eyes of the television broadcasters. However the real truth can be found in the fact that the National Geographic channel runs a "don't try this at home" warning before each episode of the most popular of these shows, which uses discipline and coercion as the basic tools for controlling dog behavior. The telling thing about this disclaimer is that it demonstrates that what makes good television doesn't make good dog training practice.
The book that you are holding will show you how to apply the best and most recent positive dog training methods. These techniques can be used to change the behavior of your dog, and can solve most of the common problems that people encounter with their pets. The approach and procedures given here are based on the best available current scientific data, but also upon the experience of the two authors: Norma Jeanne Laurette, who is the founder and chair of the International Positive Dog Training Association and Greg Ceci who is the association's co-chair. Between the two of them they have taught thousands of dog obedience classes and have rehabilitated many hundreds of dogs, which had been plagued with emotional and behavioral problems. They both recognize that an important aspect of modifying the behavior of dogs involves knowing something about the dog's mental state, and its emotional responses. It is only in that way that a practical plan of action can be designed. With that information in hand they can truly provide you with a "Blueprint To A Happy Dog".
Dr. Stanley Coren, Phd, DSc, FRSC, Vancouver, Canada – World-renowned scientist, professor of psychology, author of over 30 best-selling books including: How Dogs Think, The Intelligence of Dogs, and How To Speak Dog. He is a dog trainer, radio and television personality and host of the “Good Dog!” television show.