On Wednesday’s Fresh Air on NPR, Michael Schaffer was interviewed. Schaffer is the author of the new book One Nation Under Dog: Adventures in the New World of Prozac-Poppping Puppies, Dog Park Politics, and Organic Pet Food. To read an excerpt from the book, visit this NPR Page: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102594087
One interesting thing that came up in the interview was the changing schools of thought regarding dog training. The number of animal trainers in the U.S. tripled in three years from 2003-2006, with dog training becoming the accepted thing to do as a responsible dog owner. Schaffer says that the first dog trainer was from the Prussian police, and when dog training started it was very militaristic in style, if the dog doesn’t behave in the right way, jerk it’s chain. This continued for most of the 20th century. There was a pedagogical revolution in the 70s and 80s among trainers with a drastic shift towards positive enforcement. The idea with this school of thought is to reward as quicky as possible after he does what you want him to do-. They say the dog doesn’t realize why you are punishing him, but he will repeat the behavior that gets him treats, etc. positive This was the prominent school of thought until the appearance of Caesar Milan and The Dog Whisperer. Ceasar Milan’s idea was qute different. He said that there is a natural order of things as existed in a pack of wild wolves- there is the alpha dog and subordinate dogs. The way to shape behavior, according to Milan’s techniques, is to remind that you the human are it’s alpha, but to a lot of the positive trainers the way he gets to that are considered cruel or at least impractical. They see all this talk about nature as a return to the dominant top down approach. Schaffer himself hired a woman who had a kind of alpha approach, feeling that this is what will make the dog feel better- any behavior problems has to do with anxiety over who’s the boss- the dog’s not scheming to become boss, but needs a secure order. Schaffer commented how this is very similar to the debate over how to raise children, which ties back in to what Schaffer talks about regarding the evolving relationship of humans and dogs over time and how now many are considered as children, or at least as a part of the family.