Please help me welcome Rae Renzi who’s latest release is “Dog Daze”, and please feel free to check out her website and her other books!
Why Training a Dog is Easier than Training a Man (or Woman).
In my newest book, DogDaze, there are scenes that deal with dog training. While writing them, I naturally thought about the difference between training a dog (with which I’ve had some success) and training a human (with which I’ve had no discernible success).
From my point of view, training a dog is easy if you know his motivation and how his brain works. The motivation part is simple—nothing is more important to your dog than pleasing you. All you have to do is tell him how.
This is where the brain comes in. A dog’s brain works best when a single line can be drawn between cause (stimulus) and effect (response). The desired situation is for you to make a request (like “sit”), your dog to immediately respond with the appropriate action (dropping his hind end onto the ground), thereby incurring your pleasure.
To accomplish this, you only have to remember the cardinal rule for training: one command, one action, no variation. People go astray when they muddy up commands with other irrelevant words, like “come on, damn it, sit!” which forces the dog to try to sift through the words to find the right one. Possibly worse is using a different string of words each time for a single command. A dog will have trouble understanding that “Buddy, sit!” means the same as “Come on, sit, you mangy mongrel!” or “Sitsitsit!” A similar problem on the other end is mapping the words to the action. At any given moment your dog is wagging his tail, panting, whining, dancing around or, possibly, sitting. He can’t know which one you want unless you make it clear. In the dog’s case that means showing him what you expect immediately after making the request (once!), and doing so consistently.
The most important point here, in terms of relationships, is that you probably have no expectation that the dog will sit unless you tell him to. That is (and this is key), you have no expectation that your dog will read your mind, no matter how brilliant he is.
Not necessarily the case with humans. We tend to forget that we are animals, too. Just like in dogs, the human brain responds best when there is a clear and reliable link between cause and effect. Like dogs, we like it when there is no ambiguity in the request, no expectation of mind reading, and an immediate reward for the desired response.
I’ve had more than one baffling experience of communication and expectation going astray, but one of the most memorable was when my boyfriend (who was in medical school then, and busy much of the time) became upset because I’d seen a particular movie with my sister instead of waiting to see it with him. This, in spite of the fact that he’d never mentioned the movie to me, and seldom wanted to see movies. His complaint was that I should have just known that he wanted to see the movie. Essentially, he expected me to read his mind. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t.
Dogs can teach us a lot about relationships, and not only about unconditional love, for which they’re famous. We’re all, dogs included, just a collection of stimuli and responses. It’s worth noting that we’re governed behaviorally by many of the same rules, and if we pay attention to that, life just might be simpler.
Rae Renzi is the author of the award-winning novel RiverTime, and a brain and behavior scientist. Her newest book, DogDaze has just been released at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other bookstores. When she’s not writing or delving into the mysteries of the mind, she enjoys gardening, bike riding and seeking out graffiti/street art. Visit her at www.RaeRenzi.com.
Ditsy Tarkington, a feisty, modern-day British aristocrat, thinks family ties are tantamount to slavery, but the love of her life, Nocona Wiley, a former soldier with unknown parentage and uncertain ancestry, holds family sacred. Assaulted by cultural prejudice and family responsibilities, the lovers are torn apart, but a pair of canny canines, a coveted job opportunity and the terrifying fallout of a drug-running scheme bring them back together to learn that where there is love, there are no barriers.