There is this myth that I really really loathe. So much so, and in so many ways, that this is going to be a two parter!
It’s the idea that positive, science based training is “emotional”, that people (especially women) who use science based methods are “bleeding hearts” who need to “get back to the real world”.
Us “cookie pushers” anthropomorphize and infantilize dogs, and tug on the heartstrings of owners in order to get them to sign up for training.
Not only is this insulting and thinly veiled misogyny (or internalized misogyny), it’s just not true.
(it’s important to note that this really is misogyny, internalized or otherwise. Things Women Do, i.e science based training, a field dominated by women, are almost without fail labeled as insignificant, frivolous and over emotional. See therapy and pop music)
It’s not true because modern positive training is based on science. We have decades of research showing us that these training methods change behaviour faster and more effectively than punishment based techniques. We know that they work across species (including humans) and that they are utilized by zoos on a variety of animals that are far less domesticated and far more dangerous than dogs. We know that they present less risk than traditional methods, both for the dog’s emotional and mental health and for public safety. These things are no longer up for debate.
It’s also not true because implementing science based training takes a lot of planning and dedication. It demands that people remain in a thinking, rational state of mind at all times when with the dog. It requires technical skills and a lot of problem solving.
On the flip side, I can’t even begin to count the number of “traditional” trainers who are reactive, not self controlled. The blame for a technique failing falls on the dog instead of the trainer. They label dogs as “stubborn” or “spoiled” when their methods don’t work, often doubling down and using force to iron out their own mistakes as a trainer.
Hardly dispassionate or rational.
There’s another component of this, the idea that it is both possible and desirable to be emotionless. The myth of pure rationality runs deep in our political and social discourse, and dog training does not escape that.
We’re going to dive into that in part 2.