One of the statements I often hear in regard to training both fearful and non-fearful dogs is that someone used a particular technique with their dog and it ‘worked’. I have to assume that what they mean is that they were able to change their dog’s behavior to meet their needs. ‘Their’ being the owner’s. This is important of course, dogs won’t last long in a home if they are not able to meet their owner’s expectations, but I usually have two questions.
1. Did it also ‘work’ for the dog?
2. What does ‘working’ look like?
I may be able to get a fearful dog to sit while a child comes over and pets him/her. This may work for me, but if the dog is afraid, it sure isn’t ‘working’ for them. It may tragically end up not working for the child if I’m not careful.
If merely getting compliance from a dog is what counts as success, I may disagree with the assessment that something has ‘worked’. A dog who appears to be calm and nonplussed by a situation may in actuality be stressed and zoning out. This doesn’t qualify as ‘working’ in my opinion.
When I want to know if a training method worked I don’t just ask the owner, I ask the dog.
I’m participating in Blog-a-thon 2011 to help raise money for homeless animals at the Nebraska Humane Society.