Your Dog is Your Teacher: Contemporary Dog Training Beyond Radical Behaviorism

In: Society & Animals
Michał Piotr Pręgowski Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences, Warsaw University of Technology Poland

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Contemporary dog training and the ongoing changes within this field, particularly ones related to perceptions of dogs and their roles, are interesting topics for academic inquiry. Present practices generally rely upon either the pack-and-dominance concept—leading to top-down, discipline-heavy treatment—or behaviorism and operant conditioning, where great emphasis is placed on positive reinforcement. The “positive” approach underlies state-of-the-art training programs of the second decade of the 21st century. Authors of such programs go beyond the limitations of behaviorism, embracing up-to-date information about the emotional and cognitive abilities of dogs—something that trainers strongly attached to behaviorism are prone to overlook. Such a new approach to dog training does not oppose critical anthropomorphism, and it challenges prior understanding of the dog-human relationship. The relationship in question ceases to be unilateral and becomes a bond of mutual benefit, where a force-free, reward-based method of training is in unison with advertising the self-development potential for humans.

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