Just like a therapist can best help someone by venturing inside their mind, we can guide our dog toward excellence by understanding how he thinks. This form of “training” is helpful primarily for us, adjusting the way we think based on how our dog reasons (or we think he reasons), rationalizes and justifies his behavior.
We humans can think in more than one dimension, plan ahead, reason, debate alternatives, and consider abstract concepts. Dogs, for the most part, string thoughts (actually, probably more like reactions than thoughts in the human sense) in a linear pattern. “A” is followed by “B,” and then comes “C” and so on. If you work with phone company call centers often enough you may not always agree, but in general humans have much more experience with life – and learning – than they do.
I’ve also noticed that dogs think literally. Here’s the classic example: my guys watch me enter the shop across the driveway from their yard. They spend much of the next half hour staring at the doorknob, willing it to re-deliver me to them. I went in that way, I will come out that way (they think). If I exit from another door, they are baffled. A cruel variation is the hide-the-treat game, sneaking it from hand to hand behind your back. Again, they saw it in one hand … it must still be there, right?
Time and again I’m also reminded that dogs truly live in the moment. Their actions, desires, and needs are right now, right here. Unlike the abstract thinking humans utilize (excepting some in-laws) canines are all about NOW. Look up “immediate gratification” in the dictionary and there will be a picture of a dog.
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