It is often said that dogs are man’s best friend. However, it may be more appropriate to say that dogs are man’s best helpers. Dogs have been working alongside humans for thousands of years. Humans began training wolves somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago. Since then, dogs have been trained to help humans fight wars, hunt for food, live with disabilities, and many other activities.
Nobody is exactly certain how man began interacting with wolves. One theory states that wolves saw man as a source of food, and began to look at us as friends. Another states that men would steal wolf cubs and train them from an early age. Whichever way it happened, the bond we now have with dogs was not easily formed. The history of dog training hasn’t always been positive, but we have come to a place where training is positive for both dogs and handlers.
Dogs have been working with humans in a variety of ways for a long time. They worked to guard homes, herd animals, pull carts, and hunt games. Unfortunately, the method of training was based on dominance and not ethical like it is today. Some people even believed dogs were not capable of experiencing pain. This led to dogs being forced into submission. Luckily, science came along and taught us how to get our pups to work with us using positive strategies.
Psychology to the Rescue
We have psychological principles to thank for our now amicable relationship with dogs. You may be familiar with the name Ivan Pavlov. He is responsible for what is known as Classical Conditioning. Classical Conditioning consists of pairing neutral stimuli with one more significant. Around 1890, Pavlov used a bell (neutral stimuli) with bringing in food (powerful stimuli). This created a neurological connection between the two unrelated things.
Then B.F. Skinner came along and added to the research. Skinner wanted to examine the reasons animals and people do things, so he created what he called “The Skinner Box”. Pigeons were put inside a box. When the pigeons accidentally brushed against one of the walls, they received food. They learned to associate pushing the wall with the reward of food. This became known as Operant Conditioning. Humans learned that they could get animals to cooperate a lot easier by consistently rewarding the desired behavior.
Where We are Today
Trainers today are familiar with the benefits of Positive Reinforcement- rewarding good behavior. This technique creates a positive relationship between dog and trainer. Science has provided trainers with a combination of techniques and tools that create success, these include treats and clickers among other things. Trainers are sensitive to a dog’s need for fun and their need to relax when overstimulated. This is why a well-trained dog is a happy dog.
2 Paws Up Inc. hopes that you found this history lesson as interesting as we did. Dogs bring such joy to our lives. Training brings structure and fun into theirs. Please give us a call and let us help you and your dog start the training journey.