Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Power of Positive

I am currently reading a wonderful and inspirational book on animal training called ZOOmility by Grey Stafford. I like that he states  "training should be about helping animals succeed, not boosting our egos. Zoomility -a combination of humility and positive reinforcement-never punishment. Each day for our dogs is a struggle to gain reinforcement and avoid punishment, whether it comes from the handler or the environment." I like that he says PUNISHMENT does nothing to communicate what behaviors the trainer really wants to see- but it somehow makes us feel better right? This is where the ego comes in...
Reinforcement trainers should try to think in terms of requesting behaviors NOT commanding it!
Reinforce more, request less, and punish NOT at all!
We must learn how to communicate effectively to dogs and if we do request less but reinforce more we will get the behaviors we want.  I remember when I went to Spain to lecture to a room full of Spanish speaking trainers  I had an interpreter because I could not speak Spanish and it was easy for me to get my points across. The hard part came when I would sit down with my colleagues for dinner and then try to communicate on my own without an interpreter- and I found I could get some points across by using my body much like charades or draw pictures- or the tendency is to speak louder or shout-thinking if I talk louder they can then understand my English- and this often reminds me of how our tendency is to SHOUT the command at the dog if they do not hear it the first time- like somehow they will understand it better if we shout it? Dog's do not speak English  so we must learn how to communicate effectively to them through visual cues and reinforce the little things we like. So let go of the ego and learn how to communicate effectively to your dog through positive reinforcement. Punishment trainers REACT to mistakes whereas Reinforcement trainers RESPOND to successes.
Build a relationship with your animal based on mutual trust not fear and you will get the behaviors you want- no lets go train!

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