Why is it so difficult to teach humans a new trick?

Are people slow to learn new tricks? It seems much easier to teach an old dog a new trick then getting people (or some dog trainers) to change their ideas about why dogs do the wrong thing, or the right one for that matter. Dog owners and trainers who base their training approach on dominance, alpha dogs or pack behaviour are using outdated and disproved theories. The original studies upon which the alpha theory were based are seriously flawed.

It is a mystery to me and other positive trainers why some dog trainers and dog owners just will not let go of the dominance myth. It seems people are more interested in finding reasons to use punishment then trying to figure out why the dog is doing the wrong thing. Dogs do the wrong thing because we reward the wrong behaviour. The classic example is jumping up. The dog jumps up, you push it down, the dog jumps up, you push it down. The dog thinks it is a game and will keep on doing it.

I always say in the human-dog team the humans are the ones with the analytic brain, or at least we would hope so. So if there is a problem it is our responsibility as trainers and owners to figure out why our training is not successful and why the dog is failing. Punishing the dog for our own shortcomings is just not an option and jerking on the leash is punishment and can seriously damage the dog’s physical well being (and his or her relationship with us).

Modern training methods apply the laws of learning which very simply state: A behaviour that is rewarded will be repeated, a behaviour that is ignored will go away. If necessary environmental management will go a long way.

This approach also builds a strong and positive relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Dogs trained this way will offer behaviour and engage mentally to figure out what the owner wants. Dogs that are punished verbally, jerked on a leash, pushed into position will not engage with the owner or calm down but shut down.

Dog training should be fun and not a chore and it should promote a life long positive bond between humans and their dogs. And while you are at it teach your dog a new trick and have some fun.

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