I happened to come across a Facebook post today that completely blew me away. I am an intense advocate for positive reinforcement training(+r) and have often found myself on the end of a heated argument/conversation battling folks on why the “old school” method is no good. But these arguments do little to change anyone’s mind. When I saw this post,who was writing it, and the perspective from which she was writing, I knew I had to share it. Hearing from someone who used to train in the “old school” and who has since converted to +r is such a valuable resource. Make sure you “like” her page on Facebook! (Listed below)
Here’s a little table of insights as to what hindered my personal transition and what helped it. (This is based on my experience / perspective before and after crossing over; this may not apply to all crossovers.)
As you’re reading, understand that the aversives I was using “worked” (i.e. I got what I wanted from the dog, risks be darned). And because it “worked,” I was accustomed to getting my way with physical and verbal harshness. You taught the dog a behavior until you decided they should know it, and then you made them do it. This kind of “power” really gets to your head and can really blind you to the logic (and genius) of many positive approaches.
TO FAIL at converting someone…
— Say nothing, or only “I used to do that but now I don’t.”
— Emphasize ignoring bad behaviors
— Present management immediately as a solution
— Tell them their way is mean/wrong/bad
— Talk about letting dogs choose what they want to do
TO SUCCEED at converting someone…
— Give specific examples of instantly gratifying drills
— Emphasize that positive is not permissive (and explain what this means)
— Act like you just discovered an exciting new way to teach a behavior and share it with them
— Mention resources for them to check out in private, when they’re not feeling defensive
Bottom line: DON’T GIVE UP ON US. Please. We care about dogs or we wouldn’t be working with them; we want to do better, but you have to show us how. And to do that, you have to be able to reach us. Don’t alienate, mock, attack, or condescend to us. Transcend our pride and ego (which is probably just masking our anxiety) and guide us to the light.