Another day, another sermon to the choir from proponents of positive dog training. If you are not in the dog world, the furious dialogue is probably unfamiliar to you: dog trainers who apply Pavlovian and Skinnerian theory to their craft have harsh criticisms for trainers who rely upon (and teach to their clients) training and handling methods based on pack theory.
Let me be clear: I get that pack theory has been debunked as an explanation of domestic dog behavior. So, why has it won mind share? And what can positive dog trainers do to counter it? A recent article from the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors illustrates how not to make the point.
Like almost every article I’ve read on the topic, this one comes across as a condescending scold. Therein lies the problem.
Declarations and insinuations that positive trainers are “more scientific” and better educated than their readers and opponents are not effective as persuasive language. “Pack theory” is rich with metaphors for relationship dynamics that people experience with other people and believe they understand. Whether or not the concepts explain human-human relationships accurately, they evidently do not apply to relationships between human beings and dogs.
The case is strong for spreading the gospel. The messaging, right now, is weak.
What’s the story?