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History of Dogs and Humans -- Dogs have evolved together with humans for about 12,000 to 14,000 years. As a result, they are able to understand us very well. While they don't understand human language, they can read our intent in our voice, our touch, and our body language or posture and movement. They can associate sounds or movements with behaviors, and they can use those behaviors to earn rewards and be in relationship with us.
Sometimes (a lot of times) when people bring their dog for training it's because the dog is not doing what the human wants.
Does the dog understand the desired behavior? Is the dog able to produce the desired behavior? Can the dog associate the behavior with the command? Does the desired behavior earn a better reward than other options?
If you were offered a job that payed better, payed more often, had better working conditions, greater chances for success, and more interesting and meaningful work, wouldn't you take it? And what if you were paid in cash?
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At a job site some years ago I met someone with two Border Collies who were frantic. They were running around as though they were having an anxiety attack, looking for anything they could make move. The first time I saw them focus on anything was when an airplane flew past. And the dogs tried to herd it, too. The fact that the airplane did not comply with their direction appeared to add to their distress.
I asked the owner what was happening and he replied, "Oh, that's just the way they are, they're a little crazy."
What can we communicate and how?
Dogs communicate a tremendous amount of information to other dogs through scent and sound, but we as humans still don’t know how to use that effectively. Human language can be expressive (stub your toe, nobody in the room) or communicative (giving instructions), the observable behavioral language of dogs is both.
“Discipline” is a scary word for some people. Given the experience some of us had with public education, and in the workplace, this is not surprising. In those cases, it’s likely that “discipline” meant something a lot like “punishment” but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
In this case, it’s about being able to exercise a sufficient amount of control to produce socially appropriate and desirable behaviors. One of the immediately apparent implications is that discipline is a given -– the only choice we have is whether it is self-imposed or externally imposed.
Dogs are at once surprisingly complex and simple; they live in a rich world, but if we satisfy some basic needs they tend to do quite well. Dogs are social creatures, and right after food, water, and shelter, their social life is crucially important. Many of the behavior problems I see are the result of inappropriate social structure.