Revolutionise Your Dog Training


April 18, 2022 Uncategorised 0

When I first started putting materials together for Lighten Up, I wanted to focus on dogs who struggled to cope in some way. Many of these were dogs who were having a hard time, as were their guardians.

What became obvious over the last five years of my work is that many of the dogs had the same kind of behaviours, yet a lot of those behaviours were rooted in very different emotions and driven by very different needs.

During the week, I asked my Facebook followers what they were struggling with and how they’d describe their dogs. Many of them said their dogs were reactive.

What that meant, though, was not clear.

If we’re going to use labels as shortcuts, it’s vital that there’s a shared understanding of what those labels mean.

From the way people described their dog’s behaviour, there was little in common behind it, even if it looked the same.

Humans love labels. We are categorical thinkers. Ever since we’ve been writing down our ideas for posterity, we’ve been putting things in neat little boxes. Plato and Aristotle did their bit, almost 3,000 years ago, to start sorting our messy and complicated lives into some kind of order. Philosophy in those days meant being a natural scientist as much as anything else. Last week, I listened to a powerful speech by post-humanist feminist philosopher Rosi Braidotti about what it is to be human. She was grappling with the same problems Plato was. What is a human? Plato said we were featherless bipeds. Ever dogged, Diogenes the Cynic brought a plucked chicken in to Plato’s forum, placed it before him and said:

‘Behold, your man!’

Featherless bipeds, indeed.

Aristotle spent many years in Lesvos looking at the creatures in the lagoon. He devised the first Scala Naturae as the result of this work. This linear scale aimed to categorise everything on earth into neat little boxes.

His work is not yet done.

Don’t, for instance, ask a taxonomist, a biologist and an ethologist what a dog is! Whether you get to stick a little familiaris after Canis lupus is still a hotly contended subject. Even if they can agree on that, don’t ask them where they’d put the dingo…

In fact, this is a very, very good example of why labels can be challenging. Dogs are one of the most populous mammal species on earth, with around 1-2 billion living largely where humans do. Wolves are arguably a species in need of conservation and protection. However you feel about dingoes, from a biological and ethological point of view, it’s fundamental to ensure they too do not go extinct. Yet if dogs, dingoes and wolves are all one species, creating conservation and preservation laws to protect their numbers is hard if they count in the billions.

Plus, dogs are not wolves, behaviourally and biologically speaking.

Even things that we think we really understand can be excruciatingly difficult to categorise. We might have lovely labels such as wolf, dog and dingo but that’s not to say we can actually define what they are very clearly. We tend to define things by their differences, which makes it very hard for us to focus on aspects that are the same.

I think we can all agree that we’ll probably disagree over the exactitude of a label and its precise meaning. That is especially true when we are considering reactive behaviour, whatever that might mean. This is a really good example of a behaviour that has lots in common with many others.

For that reason, I’m hesitant to say exactly who Lighten Up dogs are. We shun labels!

I didn’t want to be as precise as saying fearful or aggressive dogs. In any case, a lot of aggressive behaviour is driven by fear. Anxiety is a medical diagnosis for some, and anxiety is different from fear, as you’ll discover in later posts.

Neither did I want to use a label like reactive, because I knew that it does not mean the same to everyone. I did not want to exclude any dogs that would undoubtedly fit beautifully into the programmes just because their guardians hadn’t labelled them.

So who will benefit from the materials I’ll be sharing?

* Anxious dogs

* Fearful dogs

* Territorial dogs

* Reactive dogs

* Dogs labelled aggressive

* Protective dogs

* Frustrated dogs

* Impulsive & responsive dogs

* Predatory dogs

* Dogs who are addicted to chasing moving stuff

* Dogs who are addicted to novelty

* Dogs who are missing vital parts of their early learning

* Dogs who suffered a significant traumatic event

* Maladaptive ‘high drive’ dogsAfter several hours (ok, minutes) trying to find a label to describe my 5-10 minute short webinars, I settled on suminars. It was the perfect portmanteau for summary webinars. That seemed like a fitting end for a week on labels. If they don’t work, make your own! Each week, I’ll be sharing a short suminar that will help you better understand what’s going on with your dog.

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