Science is basically an inoculation against charlatans. — Neil deGrasse Tyson
I’ve been a student of the sciences for over twenty years. And for almost every one of those years, I’ve engaged in arguments about the best way to train a dog. I argued passionately. I know what science says about how we (all things with a brain) learn and I fervently want people to understand that force isn’t needed when teaching dogs. Oh, the hours I’ve wasted!
I’ve railed against charlatans who’ve coined phrases and developed “systems” based on nothing. I’ve been in the trenches fixing up the dogs who’ve been ruined by the shallow promises of frauds. I’ve spent too much time trying to “engage the enemy” which actually took time away from those people who already understood the science and who wanted to learn more.
Karen Pryor, a behavioral biologist, a pioneering dolphin trainer, and an authority on applied operant conditioning — and who wrote the unofficial “bible” of operant conditioning dog training, Don’t Shoot the Dog, was asked: “What do you say to those who think training with corrections is faster?” Her answer was simple, succinct, and fabulous: “Bye!” Read a detailed account of the conversation and some in-depth insights into Karen’s answer.
While listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s podcast, StarTalk, I heard him say:
“Science is true whether you believe it or not. We [the scientists] just move on.”
Those quotes pretty much sum up my outlook.
“Humans aren’t as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others, be they humans or other animals on Earth.” — Neil deGrasse Tyson
I train with positive reinforcement because science says it’s efficient and effective. I also train with positive reinforcement because I empathize with the feelings and thoughts of the dogs with whom I work. Hearing both of these influential scientists saying pretty much the same thing has led me to my inevitable epiphany: Stop arguing! Stop. Stop. Stop.
I know I can get the job done with positive reinforcement training.
Pretty philosophical stuff for a dog trainer, yeah, I know. I’m excited about what I do. I work with people and their dogs because I know I can help both ends of the leash. And I know I can do it without force. I’m tired of arguing about the “toolbox” and how some things work with one dog but not another. In the words of NdGT, starting today I’m leaving the arguments behind — there’s no time for arguing when there’s so much science to read! Get on the force-free bandwagon if you choose, we’re going places!