The “How?” and “Why?” question in dog training.

Two such small words, but so important when you are training with your dog, or with a trainer or behaviourist. People are often quite surprised when I explain the ‘why’ of everything I do with their dogs, (or ask them to do).

I am a huge believer in transparancy and informed consent. Rather than just say to you do “X,Y, and Z” I believe it is more likely to be effective if I explain why what I am asking you to do works.

A really simple example came up in puppy socials last night, we were talking about biting (no surprise there :0), I asked how many people had read or been told to squeak if their puppy bites them, it was quite a few. They looked at me a little suspiciously when I said it maybe wasn’t the best idea! I then went on to explain why, well I asked a simple question which did the same thing – “What is in nearly every toy we give our puppies?” – the answer of course is something that squeaks – by squeaking if our puppy bites us, we can, in their eyes, become a big interactive squeaky toy ! I saw several lightbulbs go on amongst the owners and lots of nodding heads and smiles.

By explaining why and how things work owners can make an informed decision as to whether they want to interact with their dogs in that way.At the other end of the spectrum are some of the tools that can be used (not by me of course :0) – things such as slip leads / e collars / prong collars – I think if people asked how and why these things ‘work’ they would think twice about using them (if you don’t know already they work by causing pain, and in some cases fear, the idea being that our dogs will stop doing a certain behaviour to avoid the pain – would you use something if someone told you it was going to hurt your dog ? or would you ask if there was a better way ?).

Even if someone has lots of great reviews, or calls themselves an expert keep asking why? and how? – a good trainer or behaviourist won’t mind in the slightest and will probably welcome the opportunity to wax lyrical about the science behind things. If someone tells you it will work quickly and won’t hurt ask them how ?