On Psychobabble, Dog Training, and Laboratories

By Lynn –

Found a day off, but I wasn’t wishing for one where I’d be home with a temperature. Oh well, whether I would have asked for the day off or this, I’m not being paid for hours I don’t work. Darn.
Anyway, before I found a second job and upped my work time to 55 hours per week, I’d spend a day just relaxing on the internet. It seriously is the ADD’s nightmare, as one thing can lead to another, and before I know it, it’s dinnertime and then the alarm goes off that tells me “Get to bed, you lazy sod!”

One of these day, I stumbled across some YouTube videos showing the fallout of pure-positive training by the APDT people in the UK. This guy was very straight-forward, even a bit scathing of pure positive, and introduced the dog, a 14-month old chocolate Lab, to a prong collar from a no-pull harness and got immediate results. I also found videos of him working his Doberman and other dogs on the remote trainer. I was intrigued with this man and the fact that he could get away with such things where OMG TRAINING COLLRS IZ CR00L runs rampant. So I went to his website (well, more forum-site) where he had posted some very real past abuses of the APDT, mostly in the UK.

Very interesting stories, he had.

And then, I made the mistake of Googling the guy’s name.

Mistake, you say? This man was doing such a wonderful job working with the dogs that I wanted to know what the general public thought of him.

I have never entered such a word of backstabbing and psychobabble-analysis as that of the Internet Forums for Dog Training Radicals. If someone’s not right, they’re wrong to the seventh level of Hell; if someone is even a little bit right, the person who admits that is then sent to the same circle; any mention of training tools (mostly collars) is to the point where they’re either the way to get to Heaven or said seventh level of Hell; ad hominem ran more rampant than unchecked rabbits in season; all debate in the name of reason was thrown out in the name of cruelty, coercion and abuse; and Skinner’s 4-tier reinforce/punishment radical behaviorism theory was analyzed short of saying what letters they were spelled with, and how those letters came into existence!

Dog training is not that difficult. In fact, the introduction of the [positive/negative] [reinforcement/punishment] scale makes it that much MORE difficult.

Sure, every living thing can follow the rules of behaviorism&in a lab. Seriously, if living in a cold, sterile environment is your current situation, being place in a box that has a lever, a bar, a strange floor, maybe has a small divider to jump over, and dispenses sugary treats of bliss is THE highlight of your day. You’ll just respond to just about darn near anything, and you’ll do it just as it’s been predicted. Why? Because you’re an animal kept in a lab, which is a rather boring environment. You’re not a pet, so you don’t have all those fun toys like wheels and balls to run around in; you don’t have a choice of seeds and nuts to choose from in your food; you aren’t given the option to chase anything or go on long walks; you can’t have scratching posts or plastic balls with bells in them to stimulate the mind. There are no dangers, no cars rushing by at high speeds, no packs to enforce structure, no raptors swooping from the sky. During an experiment, there is also little human interaction, no gentle petting, or scratching ears, or commanding in a firm voice. The almost-sacreligious part? There is no communication in the animal’s natural language. Posturing against an electric shock is useless, wagging the tail does nothing to make that treat any better, baring teeth and hissing is no use against loud noise or bright lights, and freezing is a more useless defense mechanism.

Oh boy, this makes me appear hard-set against animal testing. Well, I’m not. I’m just against some of the hard-set, “scientific” results that people have taken to heart in the name of progress. Does this mean that I don’t take any results from animal testing seriously? Of course not. Perhaps if we just didn’t use them as the be-all end-all of how things work.