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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is really random, but have any of you noticed how good dog trainers are with metaphors? Any dog training show I watch, the trainer always says something like: If I were to suddenly do this, for no apparent reason, you would be confused right? Well, that's how the dog feels. Okay, bad example, but anyway, I think they do it so that the clueless dog owner can be enlightened and see how their dog actually sees a situation. Like on the Dog Whisperer (yes, I watch the show, but I can't really say I agree totally with Cesar Milan and his methods) he is always trying to get people to understand about "energy" and on It's Me Or The Dog Victoria Stilwell always gets her point across about the dog's perspective.

Agree, disagree, think I'm crazy, mad about wasting your time reading this?

A random thread is born from a night and morning of musing.
 

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I know what you mean. I think it's important for them to try to make it as clear as possible by equating dog behavior with something more human (even though it all pretty much falls under learning theory, some things makes you just say, "ohhh, I get it now"). I like it, and it's a good skill to have.
 

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Well, dominance theorist (CM) need some sort of magic to reinforce their theory. "Energy" is one lumpy word to bottle a whole bunch of magic. To a learning theorist (VS), "energy" is an antecedent change. So even though two trainers may be talking a different language, they both, really, can be talking about the same thing.
 

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We often ascribe human-like emotions to dogs. Discounting the cranks who think dogs are "just like people", it is usually done to communicate a dog's mental processes in a way the people can understand it. When we talk about a dog "respecting" his handler, or "loving" his owner, we really have no idea if those are the emotions he is feeling. To be fair about it, we don't really know if people are feeling those emotions, either. Dogs can't talk and people are frequently dishonest. So if a dog acts in a way that suggests love or respect, that's close enough to name it. Same-same for all the other analogies, metaphors, and similes we use.

Many times, euphemisms are too freely bandied about. Many times the objections to euphemisms are invalid. "Punish" may be technically more accurate than "correct", but the former is a highly loaded word and does not really communicate the desired meaning. "Correction" may always be punitive, but its connotation is closer to neutral. "Punishment" implies something harsh.
 

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Well, a good dog trainer is by definition a good teacher. He/she has to be able to teach both the dog and the owner. I've found good teachers are always good with metaphors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Wow, some really good points to think about here. Thinking about it more than I expected, actually, :p They really do help explain a point, and it's always fun to see the owner's face light up with understanding. :D
 

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I think it's also because learning theory is surprisingly applicable to humans as well. A lot of people just don't realise it; they think that because dogs are of a different species, they think in completely different paradigms. The truth is that though dogs do think in different paradigms, they aren't wholly separate from ours... there remains a slight overlap. This is why it sometimes helps to explain canine behaviour in human terms. Unfortunately, it's also the reason why anthropomorphism is so rampant.
 

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Well, dominance theorist (CM) need some sort of magic to reinforce their theory. "Energy" is one lumpy word to bottle a whole bunch of magic.
I believe Milan uses "energy" (yeah, it makes me crazy too) to describe a true phenomenon. I always assumed he developed his spiel through working with the dogs of the Beverly Hills set, and used all the New Age-y squishy nonsense because that's what his clients (people) understand. When he talks about "energy", he seems to be referring to the fact that dogs can read our attitude and they react to it. Give the man credit for what he does know. The more sensitive dogs appear to have the ability to read their owner's thoughts.
 

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I have always found that the owners aren't nearly as open-minded as the dogs. I keep getting the "my pup/dog is so stupid" retort as they believe they have to explain to me that it's all the dog's fault never theirs. I do have to dumb down the instruction DVD. I guess that's why I have completely eliminated the class/lesson program a long time ago. But since there are many things in life that are a mystery to me I'm not in a postition to judge harshly anybody else's shortcomings.
 

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What I've noticed from watching both shows is that they spend the majority of the time training the owners rather than the dogs. This isn't surprising - for the most part, the owner is the most important thing in the dog's life, and almost everything they do is in response to the owner.

I think CM gets a bad rap on these boards because of what other dominance trainers do, rather than anything he does himself. A lot of people equate dominance with aggression, and wind up creating nervous, stressed out dogs because they shove their faces in front of their dogs, yelling & screaming over the slightest infraction.

Watching the show, though, I've never seen CM even raise his voice, and he makes a point of being patient and waiting for the dog to calm down before proceeding to the next step. A lot of CMs techniques seem consistent with Patricia McConnell's techniques of controlling space with your body; what he calls 'energy' is exactly what she describes with regard to dogs reading cues from your body language and posture. I remember watching a couple episodes where the owner says he read CM's books and tried using his techniques, then they cut to video of him throwing his dog around bodily while yelling and panicking.
 

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Give the man credit for what he does know. The more sensitive dogs appear to have the ability to read their owner's thoughts.
Jean Donaldson was once asked at a seminar for dog trainers why a client's dog behaved in a certain way. To paraphrase, she replied:

"I don't know and neither do you. I wish I did. Do you want more of the behavior or less of it? In either case I believe I can assist you."

I think CM gets a bad rap on these boards because of what other dominance trainers do...
CM subscribes to the dominance hypothesis.

...rather than anything he does himself.
From his show I've seen him kick dogs, jab dogs in the neck, grab them by the scruff, force dogs on their back, and hang a dog on its leash. How much more do I need to see in order to criticize him?
 
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