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Education vs Training: Making the Mental Shift

Dog training has its history. Over the years there have been movements and philosophies varying from punitive in nature to balanced trainers to purely positive. Training has in my opinion the connotation and implication of working towards a specific goal. Weight training, Olympic training, protection training and various occupational training typically refers to the action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior. It is too simplistic, reductionist and doesn’t quote cover the interpersonal and depth of what working with a dog for life encompasses.

Life is by far our biggest lesson and we share our lives with our dogs. We should not want to just train our dogs. We should want to teach him, him teach us, learn from each other and with each other. Listen and be listened to. An intrinsic rhythm that overtime we develop from our time together; a connection that is rooted in respect, choice, communication, love, kindness, reflection, dedication, and consistency. We all have the potential of having this type of relationship with our best friends.

Shifting the words from dog training to canine-human education, shifts the mind set and suggests it is a long term process, as it should be, and that the dog is not the only one to be taught. It is all too easy for people to blame the dog or blame a trainer for behaviors they want changed that go unchanged after paying for training. It is a scary precedent to blame a dog for “bad” behavior because then there is no accountability for the person to also be responsible for learning. But that is exactly why thinking of dog training in the traditional sense sets up dogs to fail and does more harm than good. Because it implies there is only one of us that needs to be helped. That the dog is in the wrong and it is up to someone to “fix” him. Educating both ends of the leash is where long term behavioral change will happen.

Empowering people through learning how to communicate clearly, understand their dog’s individual needs, setting up joint work, a partnership that supports development, progress, and a foundation in which the human and canine can relate to each other in a profound and rewarding way. Canine-human education builds the relationship and the relationship builds the canine-human learning paradigm.

When you make that mental shift from traditional training to canine-human learning then you realize that within the canine-human relationship we should always be working with our dogs, we should always be investing in their temperament and perceptions, we should always be present and engaging, mindful and purposeful with our four legged counterparts; rather than a specific goal or competency achieved resulting in being “done” with training. Making this change in our own mentality of what “training” our dogs means should bring on more responsibility. We are responsible for teaching our dogs; and what a privilege! When we are open to teaching rather than training we become receptive to also learning. When you work with your dog you can see what motivates him, what challenges him, where his behavior struggles or excels, how to communicate more clearly for better results, what environments change his behavior and how. Through all of this you are gathering more information so we can teach more effectively. We must be mindful of our own behavior too so we can notice what we are inadvertently teaching because our behavior has implications for our dogs behavior as well. Reflect on your relationship and choose a purposeful, holistic, choice centered, heavy reinforcement connection because you are in the teacher-learner relationship whether you realize it or not.

“In learning you will teach and in teaching you will learn”
Phil Collins

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One response to “Education vs Training: Making the Mental Shift”

  1. Lin Becker says:

    Great article about changing our mindset to change our behavior. Our dogs teach as much as they learn, they teach us about love and respect, in fact they teach us about our own humanity.

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