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What is Science-Based Dog Training?

A very popular term inserted in many dog training claims is “science-based dog training.” Science-based dog training should represent the best dog training approach to help your dog become the dog of your dreams. But, an important question to ask is “What is science-based dog training?” Have you ever asked yourself which sciences are included in science-based dog training? Does it really matter? Yes, of course it does.

This is one of my favorite topics to research and discuss. I spoke recently on this topic for the Asheville-Buncombe Technical College (AB Tech) STEM Friday lecture series. The presentation was recorded and will be linked to Lucky Dog Training Asheville website as soon as it is available.

The very broad term “science” includes a vast array of disciplines or fields. Science fields that apply to dog training include Psychology, Biology, Veterinary Science, Physics and Nutrition. Although the others are important, research in Psychology and Biology contribute the most to science-based dog training, but in very different ways.

Psychology research by Freud, Pavlov and B.F. Skinner represent the foundation of Learning Theory. Results of their research are the Pleasure Principle, Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning. Their research started over 100 years ago, with the bulk of research conducted between 1900-1930s. Learning Theory is the foundation upon which dog training tools and techniques can be incorporated to achieve specific training goals.

While psychology research is often referenced as the basis of science-based dog training, contributions from biology should be weighted equally, if not more so. Early biology contributions were limited to studies in wolf biology under captive situations. The 1995 release and subsequent research of wild wolves in Yellowstone National Park in the Western U.S. has made monumental contributions that change the foundational understanding of wolf and dog biology. And, with technological advances, contributions from neurobiology allow us to observe how the dog’s mind functions and how it compares to the human brain. Rather than making inferences about how dogs think, research in neurobiology allows us to see how dogs think, and the results are fascinating. Dogs really, truly love us!Dogs really, truly love us! Click To Tweet

Details about the different scientists’ research and their contributions to science-based dog training are more fully explained in the taped lecture (A-B Tech’s STEM Friday Lecture Series). Please contact Lucky Dog Training Asheville if your group or organization is interested in scheduling a presentation. The content of the lecture, with expanded discussions of training topics, will be available in The Dog’s Perspective book revision.

Kathryn R. Gubista, PhD is an evolutionary biologist, college biology instructor, former zookeeper, author, and certified professional dog trainer with Lucky Dog Training Asheville. She has over 30 years of dog training and human teaching experience. The Dog’s Perspective is a training philosophy based on how dogs think, the title of the book series and blog.


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