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Brief History of Animal Training and Canine Domestication

May 16, 2023
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Brief History of Animal Training and Canine Domestication

May 16, 2023

Understanding animals, specifically dogs, is rooted in their history as being hunters or hunted, and either social or solitary. Each different type of animal will behave differently according to where they fall in line with these categories. Dogs have evolved from social predators over the course of thousands of years and have changed dramatically over time due to domestication. These factors contribute to the way domesticated dogs respond to social cues compared to them being in a wild state (feral dog).

Prey animals, unlike dogs, are much more likely to respond to novelty with fear. However, if there is trust and a relationship with the handler, they are much more likely to stay confident and curious in the approach to said novelty. Working with heavily domesticated dogs, it is important to remember this as you train to not induce learned helplessness around new stimuli, even if they are predators naturally.

How a dog eats is another determinant of their train-ability: being omnivores and opportunists, they look for their own opportunity to feed themselves instead of being fixated on predator/prey instincts. This led to the earliest domestication of wolves over 15,000 years ago, but some may argue that wolves helped expedite the domestication of the earliest of humans as well. Early settlements of humans provided plenty of nutrients to foraging wolves who were confident enough to approach, creating the first social relationship between human and canine. Social omnivores have the perfect biological combination to become increasingly receptive to training in captivity due to their nature of having wide ranging behavioral patterns to secure resources, meaning you able to deviate from the norm to create behaviors you find useful.

(1.) Utilizing an animal's predisposed behavioral traits leads to a high success rate in training. Dogs, being pack animals descended from wolves, are incredibly reliable at retrieving. This is because it is biologically ingrained into their DNA to hunt and retrieve food for a pack. Domestication also creates a dependency on the pack (yourself) which allows you to manipulate food and shelter as compensation for behaviors in training. Understanding how food and shelter can be used to create value in social or pack drive is one of the basic fundamentals of pet training. The term to describe this is sometimes referred to as “no free lunch”. (2.) Removing a dog's need for finding food and shelter gives them ample amount of time to wander around the house, which in turn can lead to some rapidly learned behaviors, all of which are not healthy mentally or physically ex: digging, chewing, counter surfing. It is important that we find a healthy balance, using food as a valuable resource to train specific behaviors while managing all of that free time dogs have with some crate training. 

In This Article:  (1)Power of Rewards, (2)Crate Training

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