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In Praise of Emotion

Communication is complex between people. We all tend to have our own agendas and focus on the point we are trying to make. Opening yourself up to another point of view, especially one you are certain you will disagree with (because you always have done so) is difficult.

Recently I became involved in an online discussion with another trainer who uses shock collars to stop certain behaviours. He was adamant that 'positive-only' training doesn't work. Interestingly I explained several times that I don't even think 'positive-only' training is possible, yet he seemed determined to keep arguing a point I wasn't even trying to make.

I suspect that clicker training/ positive training/ call it what you will/ became popular because people were using emotion so badly in their training. Clicker training makes it possible to use no emotion at all in training sessions. This can be useful, but it's also possible for the trainer to simply behave like an impassive treat dispenser. For the social dog, this can be quite stressful.

I've recently begun rereading 'The Dog Vinci Code' and in it, John Rogerson discusses the value of using emotion in training. I think Ian Dunbar encourages it too.

Interestingly avoiding emotional displays also seems to be a facet of current dominance training. Think about Cesar Millan. You pretty much see him punishing or ignoring dogs. He poses with dogs with a smile on his face and perhaps holding them, but how often do you see him stroke a dog or offer it a treat? When did you last hear him praise a dog? Physical punishment may be best delivered unemotionally, but if a dog receives minimal (if any) attention for the right behaviour and lots of attention for the wrong behaviour, how is that healthy for a relationship?

I see no point in having a dog I can't stroke, praise, play with, have laughs, spend time with and generally be my mate. Emotion is surely a critical part of building and maintaining our bond with our dogs.

Perhaps as JR and ID are saying, rather than setting it aside, people need to recognise that emotion is a communication tool and learn to use it a whole lot more clearly and accurately.

Original post here.


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