THEORIES OF BEHAVIOR AND LEARNING
As canine professionals, we all are familiar with learning and training practices that are primarily based on Classical and Operant Conditioning and follow a top-down approach. This happens under the presumption that behaviors are directly linked to the environment and have a trickle-down effect to the lower areas of the brain.
But did you know that dogs (just like small children) are a lot more "emotional" than adult humans, since they have a less complex neocortex?
And did you know that thanks to this emotionality, they meet their environment emotions first, rather than in a rational way, which is why their behaviors are driven by bottom-up emotions rather than top-down reason.
Did you know that dogs, when given the chance, can not only desensitize themselves but do it very effectively and in a way that makes sense to them and helps shape their brain more naturally?
Did you also know that when dogs "act out", they are typically looking for connection, which will help them cope with triggers in THEIR ways?
And did you know that walking away from said triggers together when the DOG is ready strengthens the dog's trust in you, and thus the dog will be more likely to look for you in future stressful situations? (L.A.M.B. - Look at Me Buddy)
Then what happens after stress ... did you know that by giving CARE (comfort touch, cuddles), then engaging in some Free PLAY helps the dog shift into a positive state, which ends the stress event on a good note and makes it less scary the next time around?
Did you know that Free PLAY (roughhousing, chase, rolling, digging, etc.) is more educational and fulfilling for a dog than structured play such as fetch? Free PLAY is the kind of play activity that doesn't seem to have any specific purpose; yet, it is the most meaningful form of play, as it teaches social behaviors, amongst many others.
Did you know that interrupting, stopping or suppressing a behavior DOES NOT stop the underlying urge that triggered the behavior in the first place? Behaviors are driven by neuro-chemicals, and there is no magical off-switch for these chemicals.
Did you know that Classical and Operant Conditioning happen naturally in form of trial and error (associative) learning; and that habituation and sensitization are also forms of natural learning?
Can you imagine what would happen, if you would meet your dog on an emotional level, rather than cognitive? The bond you would build, the trust you would share ... relationship building before training? The foundation you would lay for future learning?
And last but not least, did you know that learning paired with an emotional event is faster and more solid and effective?