Saturday, October 03, 2015

Mirrors, Frames, and a New Set of Glasses

For those interested, this was my presentation at the International Association of Canine Professionals (PDF of PowerPoint with notes).

The basic point was that people have pet dogs, in large part, because they are a mirror that reflects a positive image back to their owners.

When it comes to dog training, the frame -- the way people understand the world to work -- is far more important than the facts.  Facts are rejected if they do not fit the frame, and the frame is there, in large part, to support the mirror, which tells the dog owner they are caring, competent, smart, and good, whether that is true or not.

Dog trainers often come to the table thinking it is mostly about either the dog, or about the training (method or person), when in fact the real issue is the dog owner who has to continue with the training for a lifetime.  If the training is not supported by an accepted and understood frame, and if that frame does not support a mirror that makes the dog's owner feel that he or she is caring, competent, smart, and good, and if the dog owner cannot explain the frame when challenged at the dog park or at home -- then the whole thing falls apart.

All of this has to occur even when the dog owner is dumb as a post, ignorant as a sack of flour, ugly as a warthog, and as narcissistic as Kanye West.

People who have never owned a dog are often quite sure they understand how dogs think and that all problems are solved with the same tool, the same technique, or a magical incantation.

Adding confusion to the mix are competing dog trainers, many of whom are only marginally competent, or who may have trained dogs in only one particular arena (bird dog trainers, agility trainers, schutzhund trainers) whose techniques do not necessarily translate across sectors, problems, or even breeds.

Finally, we have the fact that dog owners come to dog trainers as full-formed adults with their own bag of emotional scars, phobias, and rewarded bad behaviors.

How can a dog trainer start down the road to presenting an adult dog owner with a new set of frames that supports what that dog owner wants to see in the mirror?

For those interested in listening to a podcast, Chad Mackin (Pack to Basics), Jay Jacks (Next Level  Dogs) and Beau DeCourcy and I had a conversation that discussed a bit of this.

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