If traditional training methods focus more on the control of the dog, the dog education with a cognitive approach focuses instead on the development of the self-control of the dog. Here’s what it means and how working on self-control to educate the dog.
Why is important to develop self-control?
The cognitive approach to dog education aims to allow the dog to develop skills, rather than inhibit behavior. These skills will help him to be more integrated into the human world, to be more educated. This means that to solve a behavioral problem or to prevent it, we can give the dog the abilities to solve it or to avoid it, learning what is the right behavior in a given situation; we won’t try to eradicate it or repress it with force or with reinforcements (both positive and negative). Basically, it’s like giving a person the tools to understand a particular problem so that he can solve it himself. The concept of self-control, in which the dog develops all the skills that allow him to be able to maintain control in situations of potential reaction, is included in this view.
When do you need self-control?
There are a lots of situations during daily life where self-control is essential. For example, every time a dog has to leave one space to enter another: whether he’s leaving the house, a public place or the car, the ideal would be for the dog to come out in a calm and controlled manner. We can therefore teach him to understand that under certain circumstances, it is good to keep cool and avoid to act like a spring. And, hear ye, hear ye, we can do it without using the force and without stuffing him with food! Hooray!
To begin to educate the dog working on self-control, we can use the door of the house: we stand at the door, with the dog on a leash or free, and open it gently. If the dog tends to throw himself out, we close the door (taking care not to crush his snout, of course). No need to shout “NO” or pull the leash: the mere fact that the door will close, will make him understand that he’s doing something wrong. He will continue to make mistakes until he’ll realizes that the right way to cross that door is to calm down, control himself and ask for our help / permission looking at us. When he’ll looks at us, then we can invite him to follow us, crossing the doorstep.
WARNING: this type of exercises is not recommended for very fearful dogs. A frightened dog struggles to take initiatives and an exercise in which one of his actions is blocked may cause him further problems. Always be guided by a dog educator or a behaviorist to determine the pedagogical path suitable for your dog!