The Missing Element in Training

Since my post about Cesar Milan a while ago, and the comments I received on it, I wanted to post again. Not about Cesar… really. But about one of the comments (maybe more than one of them).

Someone said that Cesar is more a dog psychologist than a dog trainer. I have said, for as long as I have been around dogs… okay for as long as I’ve been around dogs as an adult.. since my early 20s, that whenever I am with a dog, I am training that dog. And from what I understood, it seems a number of people believe that dog training and dog psychology are mutually exclusive.

I beg to disagree. I think that they are intertwined. So much so that you cannot have one without the other when you are dealing with dogs.

Sure you can teach a dog to sit, down, stay, heel… you can teach a dog obedience, agility, flyball, herding, tracking… and any of the other dog sports out there. And this is all training. However, if you want to really have a good working relationship with your dog, and you want a dog that performs well and likes to work, you have to understand that dog’s behavior. The dog’s psychology.

On the other hand, you can understand a dog’s behavior up the wazoo, but in order to get a well mannered dog, either a house companion or a working dog, you have to incorporate training into the interaction you have with the dog.

I have done agility for over four years now. I am just barely starting to do serious obedience training. If you have followed my training with Chase, my border collie, you’ll know all about the trials and tribulations I’ve had with him. He knows all the agility contacts. He knows his job. He knows how to jump and how to weave and how to run through a tunnel (he especially knows how to ignore me completely and head for the tunnel all the way on the other end of the course). But a very huge piece of his ‘training’ was missing. And that was the behavioral part. Knowing why he does what he does… his drive, his motivation. Knowing that he lacked drive shaping and focus, and that he has a high sex drive, these things are critical when training him.

It seems to me that many, many people in competition events nowadays don’t understand the behavioral aspect of training. Understanding your dog, your individual companion and partner, is critical to the training experience. Having a dog that can think, and listen to you, and focus on his job.. these things are so important that I cannot express it in words. Without the behavior piece with Chase, without understanding his psychology, we never would have restarted our forward progress in dog training. Even in socialization, as he tends to not be good with some other dogs.

So really, to say that Cesar is a dog psychologist and not a dog trainer is something I disagree with. I believe he is both. I still don’t like his methods, though.

I look at dogs completely differently than I did only a year ago. Instead of just looking at their training I look at what their person has done, or hasn’t done, to shape their behavior, too. It’s fascinating. I love it. I want to spend more time doing it. Maybe after I retire I will be able to.

I want my dogs to have every opportunity to succeed. And, of course, I want to succeed, too. And now I have many more tools with which I can do this. And it’s fun!

22 thoughts on “The Missing Element in Training”

  1. You are so very right!! I am not an expert but I am really good at observing animal behavior and figuring out what they are thinking. Until you understand an animal all the training in the world won’t do much good. Whenever I have problems with my dogs (or birds) I always stop and think, “what am I doing that’s wrong?” Because animals are animals and as such fairly predictable. I’m usually the one giving off the wrong cues causing the undesirable response. I am constantly getting compliments on how well behaved my dogs are. I haven’t done anything special with them but I do understand them and have trained them to behave the way I want them to but on their terms. Animals are unbelievably intelligent and fascinating and I almost prefer them over people ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. You are so very right!! I am not an expert but I am really good at observing animal behavior and figuring out what they are thinking. Until you understand an animal all the training in the world won't do much good. Whenever I have problems with my dogs (or birds) I always stop and think, "what am I doing that's wrong?" Because animals are animals and as such fairly predictable. I'm usually the one giving off the wrong cues causing the undesirable response. I am constantly getting compliments on how well behaved my dogs are. I haven't done anything special with them but I do understand them and have trained them to behave the way I want them to but on their terms. Animals are unbelievably intelligent and fascinating and I almost prefer them over people ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Like Flo, I myself do prefer my pets over people friends. Once you understand an animal you can see the potential for a real friendship.

  4. Like Flo, I myself do prefer my pets over people friends. Once you understand an animal you can see the potential for a real friendship.

  5. I agree with you 100%!!!! People always ask me why I train my dogs… since I don’t show.. the answer is that it’s good for their mental health and helps them learn how to live within a human society. Isn’t that all that Cesar is doing?

    Things like stay come in very handy.. one day I was walking Targ and there was a loose dog running amok. I was able to put Targ on my friends open porch (this happened right in front of her house), Tell him to STAY and go help corral this dog. He didn’t move. If I didn’t have a good solid Stay, he might have been attacked by this dog (who almost took a chunk out my neighbor, I might add)

    And because I had “dog psychology” I was able to convince this dog I wasn’t there to harm him and walked him back to his house.

    Fuzzy Logic’s last blog post..Mitt Romney does not love dogs

  6. I agree with you 100%!!!! People always ask me why I train my dogs… since I don't show.. the answer is that it's good for their mental health and helps them learn how to live within a human society. Isn't that all that Cesar is doing?

    Things like stay come in very handy.. one day I was walking Targ and there was a loose dog running amok. I was able to put Targ on my friends open porch (this happened right in front of her house), Tell him to STAY and go help corral this dog. He didn't move. If I didn't have a good solid Stay, he might have been attacked by this dog (who almost took a chunk out my neighbor, I might add)

    And because I had "dog psychology" I was able to convince this dog I wasn't there to harm him and walked him back to his house. <em>Fuzzy Logic's last blog post..<a href='http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/sacredpaws/IZsb/~3…rel="nofollow">Mitt Romney does not love dogs</a></em>

  7. I agree with you 100%!!!! People always ask me why I train my dogs… since I don't show.. the answer is that it's good for their mental health and helps them learn how to live within a human society. Isn't that all that Cesar is doing?

    Things like stay come in very handy.. one day I was walking Targ and there was a loose dog running amok. I was able to put Targ on my friends open porch (this happened right in front of her house), Tell him to STAY and go help corral this dog. He didn't move. If I didn't have a good solid Stay, he might have been attacked by this dog (who almost took a chunk out my neighbor, I might add)

    And because I had "dog psychology" I was able to convince this dog I wasn't there to harm him and walked him back to his house. <em>Fuzzy Logic's last blog post..<a href='http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/sacredpaws/IZsb/~3…rel="nofollow">Mitt Romney does not love dogs</a></em>

  8. Pingback: Dog Obedience Advice
  9. Well I’m not an expert in dog training i.e. I don’t make my living from training dogs. But I was around the dogs most of my life, I have a dog and, if I may say so, I think I know a thing or two about dogs. Your post is spot on as far as I see it-training and psychology don’t go without each other. Together they make relationship you have with dog complete. Actually I can’t imagine how could anyone train dogs without understanding their behavior and incorporating that knowledge to make training better and more efficient.

  10. Well I'm not an expert in dog training i.e. I don't make my living from training dogs. But I was around the dogs most of my life, I have a dog and, if I may say so, I think I know a thing or two about dogs. Your post is spot on as far as I see it-training and psychology don't go without each other. Together they make relationship you have with dog complete. Actually I can't imagine how could anyone train dogs without understanding their behavior and incorporating that knowledge to make training better and more efficient.

  11. Hi Flo! Very cool, it sounds like you have a great touch with the dogs and really understand how they think. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Hi Vic, thanks for your comment. I don’t make my living training dogs, either, but have lived with them since I was 7 years old.

  13. Hi Flo! Very cool, it sounds like you have a great touch with the dogs and really understand how they think. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Hi Vic, thanks for your comment. I don't make my living training dogs, either, but have lived with them since I was 7 years old.

  15. >>Instead of just looking at their training I look at what their person has done, or hasnรขโ‚ฌโ„ขt done, to shape their behavior…

    This statement rang oh! sooooo true to me. Part of the psychology of a dog is their ability to “read” us and our behavior. I encourage people I meet all the time to get involved in “dog training” because their dog is learning all the time and by understanding dog “training”, they will have some ability to control what it is the dog learns. Dogs will learn and without our understanding and input into that learning process from us, they will inevitably learn things we don’t want them to know and display behaviors that are not desirable to us. That is what I believe is at the heart of behavioral problems in dogs.

    Christine’s last blog post..Teaching “Catch” ….Dead Ball Retrieve

  16. &gt;&gt;Instead of just looking at their training I look at what their person has done, or hasn’t done, to shape their behavior…

    This statement rang oh! sooooo true to me. Part of the psychology of a dog is their ability to "read" us and our behavior. I encourage people I meet all the time to get involved in "dog training" because their dog is learning all the time and by understanding dog "training", they will have some ability to control what it is the dog learns. Dogs will learn and without our understanding and input into that learning process from us, they will inevitably learn things we don't want them to know and display behaviors that are not desirable to us. That is what I believe is at the heart of behavioral problems in dogs. <em>Christine's last blog post..<a href='http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/FlyballdogTag/~3/2…rel="nofollow">Teaching "Catch" ….Dead Ball Retrieve</a></em>

  17. &gt;&gt;Instead of just looking at their training I look at what their person has done, or hasn’t done, to shape their behavior…

    This statement rang oh! sooooo true to me. Part of the psychology of a dog is their ability to "read" us and our behavior. I encourage people I meet all the time to get involved in "dog training" because their dog is learning all the time and by understanding dog "training", they will have some ability to control what it is the dog learns. Dogs will learn and without our understanding and input into that learning process from us, they will inevitably learn things we don't want them to know and display behaviors that are not desirable to us. That is what I believe is at the heart of behavioral problems in dogs. <em>Christine's last blog post..<a href='http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/FlyballdogTag/~3/2…rel="nofollow">Teaching "Catch" ….Dead Ball Retrieve</a></em>

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