When you think about dog training, we are fortunate to be living in this time. Even before the internet brought us together in a variety of new ways, veterinarian Dr. Ian Dunbar, dolphin trainer Karen Pryor, and others were doing things that would have massive effects on how people think about dog training. Now, positive dog training is turning up everywhere.
Dr. Dunbar has gone on to create an outstanding line of books and DVDs, including one of my all-time favorite DVDs, Sirius Puppy Training. (That link goes to my review of it.) He founded the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, which describes itself as a “professional organization of individual dog trainers who are committed to becoming better trainers through education.” Not only do they have a website, but they also put on annual meetings with cutting-edge speakers and programs. He has a website with good articles, Dog Star Daily.
Karen Pryor and others have made clicker training a significant part of the conversation on how best to train your dog. Her site Karen Pryor’s Clickertraining is another must-read, as it is a treasure trove of clicker training information for dogs and other animals. There are blogs… see the most recent blog posts here. And Pryor’s Clickertraining Expos, two a year, have been described to me by a friend as life-changing events.
In the publishing world, this golden age is enhanced by the numerous books and DVDs that Dogwise has been bringing out since 2001. Here’s a link to the page where they list all the dog books and DVDs they publish. These books, by so many thoughtful and creative dog trainers and others, bring a huge amount to the table! You may know them as an online dog bookstore, or may have seen them selling books at a dog show, but this publishing arm shows how important they are in extending the world of dog training. Kudos to them! And kudos to the increasing number of positive dog trainers.
Excuse me for a moment if I am preaching to the choir here, but let me describe positive dog training: it’s training that is based on positive reinforcement. In other words, you reward the dog for doing what you want him or her to do, and you don’t punish him in physically painful ways for doing what you don’t want, though you can certainly tell him no. This kind of dog training is science-based, drawing on work done with dolphins and other mammals. Luckily for us and for our dogs, it’s also way more fun that the older approaches.
Back to the Golden Age idea. That’s a term that was used by Greek and Roman poets to describe an era when humanity lived in utopia… when there was a flourishing of creativity and culture, when great things were achieved.
Well, I sure feel like that shoe fits modern dog training. Take the internet alone. When I was training my Basenji puppy, back in the early 90s, I was thrilled to be on a listserv about Basenjis. (I loved its motto: “Where it takes 100 people to outsmart one Basenji.”) Now we have thousands of dog websites, blogs, forums, and social hangouts online. Of course, it can be a task to find the best, but dog training online is certainly flourishing! And it means that no matter where you live on this ever-smaller planet, you have access to good dog training information. (I used to have a world map which tracked locations of readers on the homepage of this site. It was thrilling to see the little dots as readers from East Africa and Central Asia came to the site, as well as the more expected North America, Europe, and English-speaking world. I took it down when so much of the planet was covered in dots that it was hard to see the underlying geography.)
I rest my case: this is a Golden Age of Positive Dog Training.