Working for 25+ years in NYC, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in offices high up in skyscrapers. I don’t really think about it much except under two circumstances: when there’s a long wait for an elevator or when there are high winds.
Skyscrapers sway in the wind because as they get taller they loose rigidity. If they didn’t, the wind could eventually weaken the foundation and topple the building. Some of the older buildings, such as the Empire State, sway less because of the massive amounts of masonry that brace them from the wind, while newer bulldings, built with lighter, stronger, and cheaper materials, sway enough that people have complained of motion sickness.
At some point, depending on the foundation, the building materials, and the shape and size of the building there is the right amount of “give” for the specific circumstances. Too rigid, the building will fail. Too flexible and the building is unusable.
A Real Man recognizes that this “happy medium” needs to be found and maintained in his relationship with his dog.
(There’s that “R” word again. I think the post on that subject may be next week.)
Finding the right mixture of firm leadership and loving kindness (as the Dalai Lama puts it) really isn’t that hard. It’s really just a matter of deciding what you want and then finding the most effective way of communicating it to your dog, while creating an environment that makes it easy to succeed and hard to fail.
The key is deciding what you want, as opposed to what you do not want. As I explained when I discussed brains vs. brawn and stopping jumping up the shortest path to eliminating an unwanted behavior is often training what you want instead.
Let’s look at a practical application. Which list looks easier to implement?
- Dogs are not allowed on the furniture.
- Dogs will not jump on guests.
- Dogs are not allowed to sleep in beds with people.
- Dogs will not rush doors.
- Dogs will rest or sleep on their beds during the day.
- Dogs will sit politely for greetings or “Say Hi”
- Dogs will sleep overnight in crates.
- Dogs will wait nicely at doors.
Would you rather strictly enforce a list of “don’ts” or firmly insist on a list of “dos”? This is, of course, the essence of using positive reinforcement to get the results you desire. Rather than punishing away the things you don’t want, you figure out what you do want and reward them so they occur more frequently.
One of the most persistent dog training tropes I see and hear is the stereotype of the overly permissive “treat trainer” that never disciplines his dog and is constantly using food as a “bribe.” Nothing could be further from the truth. A trainer that understands how to use treats for training is using them judiciously to reward what he wants while manipulating the environment to reduce the frequency of what he does not want.
It’s not permissiveness. It’s benevolent dictatorship.
Photo Credit: Bamshad at Flickr.