For me, "positive" is emphasizing the good, the desirable, the valuable. Spending more time encouraging what should be done than correcting, cautioning against, resisting, or attacking.
When I analyze any dog/human social or training interaction, I find that it is sometimes harder to find what the human is doing right than it is to find what the dog is doing right! So why bother? Positive dog trainers know the overwhelming effectiveness of finding, emphasizing, reinforcing what is right. Overlooking, minimizing, replacing unwanted behaviors. What's good for the dog... well, if it works to teach a simpler mind, it will definitely work for the more complicated! Whether teaching dogs or humans, good practice is good practice.
Most humans tend to be motivated by genuine attachment to their pets, even if they are at a loss as to how to elicit the behavior that is essential for the dog's participation in human society. Most people inappropriately using prong collars, e-collars, yelling, hitting, choking, and other harsh tactics get sucked into the idea of "combat" with their pets; these owners are not hateful monsters! By demonizing individuals, we create their resistance to our advice. And, if what we say is true, that those tools aren't going to work when mistakenly and inappropriately used, those individuals will sooner or later be receptive to what we have to say.
As positive trainers, we know that an attitude of combat creates resistance. Listening without judgment, demonstrating alternatives, encouraging good decisions, and supporting our clients is the human equivalent of our approach to dogs. Although we'd like to steer both away from making bad decisions, establishing our role as supportive partner is critical to making the changes we'd like to see occur in general dog training practice. Trainers make mistakes. Owners make mistakes. Dogs make mistakes. Fortunately, all of us are capable of learning from our mistakes.
Focusing on the right answers is the key to creating receptive, willing, cooperative, and non-resistant partners, no matter what their species. Teach humans like you teach dogs!
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- ▼ February 2010 (9)