There have been books written, and careers made, discussing various training techniques for dogs. Positive reinforcement. Clicker training. Training with or without food. Training with toys ... or without them. Training you to train your dog. Training your dog to train you. The variations are endless and the choices are sometimes daunting, especially to new dog owners. Sometimes people just give up, figuring that they (and their dog) have missed some mysterious window of opportunity and that any hopes of training are futile.
An important thing to remember is that life, itself, is a learning experience. Puppies don't come into this world knowing what humans expect of them. They do, however, arrive with a genetic backdrop upon which life experience makes significant contributions.
The result of this melding of nature -- the genetics responsible for the dog's underlying temperament -- and nurture -- that part of the dog's behavior that is learned -- combine to make up its personality. The psychologist Donald Hebb is said to have once answered a journalist's question of, "Which, nature or nurture, contributes more to personality?" by responding, "Which contributes more to the area of a rectangle, its length or its width?"
With this thought in mind, it can be reasonably stated that learning is a lifelong experience influenced by ongoing genetic and environmental interaction. In neuroscience, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the brain is an even more mysterious, wonderful and flexible organ than was ever imagined. What this means is, your dog is never too old to learn new tricks -- and neither are you.
ANTIC, September, 2008
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