Dog Training Jargon Confusion – I Can Hardly Control Myself!
I’ve joined the Facebook 🙂 and for the past two weeks have been enjoying the interesting, touching, wacky, and in some cases downright stupid, musings of fellow “posters”. See, I’m picking up the jargon already (LOL).
Jargon is great, if you are one of the cognoscenti, but might be less than helpful if you aren’t. You see, the purpose of jargon is insular. It is words or phrases used as a sort of short-hand by the in-crowd of any group or profession, but can cause confusion when misinterpreted by those not in the know (like when David Cameron thought LOL meant “Lots Of Love” – you can just see the text… sorry to hear you lost your job, LOL, Dave).
Dog training is stuffed with jargon, because a lot of the words and phrases come from learning theory and behaviourism. Using words like “reinforcement” and “punishment” between those who have a common understanding of what is meant by them is great, because it saves explaining ourselves each time, but meaning doesn’t always transcend the knowledge gap that exists in places like Facebook. Jargon doesn’t always translate easily.
The whole of the internet is changing the ways in which people gather and understand information in many wonderful and useful ways, but because people at so many different levels of competence and understanding readily discuss complicated concepts there is the potential for the underlying meanings in jargon words to fall through the cracks. Then there is the descent with modification genetic aspect of the meme – by which I mean that each time something is repeated there is the potential for some of the information within it to be lost or changed (but of course you knew that because you understand the jargon, don’t you?)
Take for example the behaviourists’ use of the word “control” in relation to behaviour modification. How could a simple word like “control” be jargon? Surely everybody must know what it means? But no, to my dismay I find that “control” of a dog has recently become a dirty word, WIGTTFOOS! (Well I’ll Go To The Foot Of Our Stairs – did you not know that one?) Apparently some trainers relate it to alpha rolls, leash-jerks, attention-withdrawal and other less enlightened “methods”. In their jargon, “control” of a dog is oppressive!
Well, I want my jargon back please. All dogs benefit from control if the method of control is appropriate – otherwise they would be out-of-control. It is the methods used that are questionable, not the desirability of control.
So what do I mean by “control”? Simples (insert your own Aleksandr-meerkat noise here). “Control” means: taking control of the circumstances so that you arrange for your dog to want to do what you want her to do.
It doesn’t mean yanking her head off with a check-chain, it means her walking with you because she wants to be with you. It doesn’t mean turning your back on her when she jumps up because of the maxim, “Ignore behaviour you don’t like” (DEGMSOTO!! – Don’t Even Get Me Started On That One – don’t you know any of these?), it means her sitting to greet you because that’s what gets her the attention. It doesn’t mean banishment to her bed when she barks at the door, it means her jumping onto her bed when someone comes to the door because she knows it will earn her a reward. It means her backing off and offering deferential behaviours rather than barging and grabbing, because they lead to the outcome you both want.
It doesn’t mean correcting her when she has got it wrong, it means pre-empting what she wants and arranging for it to happen according to what you want. It means arranging your life together so that she exerts self-control to get the result she might otherwise push for; guiding her in the right direction and rewarding her.
Forget the punishments, banishments and push-me-pull-yous of the DBs (Dog Botherers– surely you knew that one). Let’s explain the jargon and put the “self” back into “control”.