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Don’t Shoot The Dog!

1 Aug 2011

Don’t Shoot The Dog!

Don’t Shoot The Dog!

The New Art Of Teaching and Training (Revised edition 1999) by Karen Pryor

It’s not about dog training!

I read this book some years ago when I’d just started competitive obedience training with my dog. I thought it was about dog training.

The truth is it’s about changing and shaping behaviour. Whether it be people; partners, children, students, yourself, or animals; dogs, cats, elephants, fish, dolphins, you name it, you can use the principles and techniques in this book to improve relationships and behaviours as well as to train specific skills.

Karen Pryor’s work is based on the work of BF Skinner who was a Harvard Professor and largely credited as being the father of behavioural psychology. Pryor’s book, however is not some dry theoretical textbook. It’s lively, entertaining and with many and diverse examples to inspire you to try out these techniques. It pushes the boundaries of behavioural conditioning (anchoring in NLP terminology) and what you can do with it and applies it to just about any context you can think of; from the way international governments relate to each other, to getting your teenager to keep his room tidy, to teaching a seal to talk! (Yes, really)

A philosophy

Pryor explains the philosophy behind the techniques and answers any questions you might have about ‘why’ positive reinforcement works better than punishment in the majority of situations. While it isn’t a step-by-step manual, I gleaned enough to teach my parrot, Shaggy to go to a box, pick up a stick, run through a tube with it and then deliver it to my hand. You can see a video of him doing this here as well as a couple of videos of my puppy, Ragz who is also being taught with these methods.

Pryor has created tables for the eight methods that can be used to get rid of a bunch of undesirable behaviours and explains the pros and cons of each one.

It might be tempting, reading this review to think that the book is about manipulating people or animals. People attempt to manipulate others’ behaviour anyway, often unsuccessfully by yelling, punishing, negative reinforcement or ignoring the behaviour (and seething inside!) The information in this book provides you with methodologies that make sense and that you can use immediately to achieve rapid results.

I highly recommend you read it, put the principles and methodologies to use and notice how quickly the relationships improve with the people and pets you have in your life.

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