Dogs Don’t Just “Live in the Moment”

To say that dogs only “live in the moment” is to insult their intelligence. It is scientifically proven that dogs are at least as intelligent as a 2 year old child and can learn as many as 250 words (1). A certain TV Dog Trainer, claims that dogs “live in the moment” and forget their past and while I can agree that dogs can move on and forgive much more quickly than humans, I disagree that they can’t remember previous experiences. Like all animals, they must learn from consequences or they would not survive.

Like humans, it takes time to change their emotional responses to things. On TV, the dog’s attitude may appear to change quickly, but there is a lot of editing and the dog does not actually change what it thinks. This TV Dog Trainer uses a kind of training that simplifies to plain intimidation. They appear to “move forward” so quickly because they are being physically intimidated with stare downs, rough touches, body pressure, and heel taps to the abdomen – who wouldn’t stop what they are doing right then and there?

Changing a dog’s emotional reaction requires a little more knowledge and time than that kind of bullying, but it really makes a difference in the long run. Real dog training is not about “quick fixes”. Classical conditioning, counter conditioning, and operant conditioning are important to having a well behaved, well adjusted dog. A correct knowledge of body language is also critical because if you are misinterpreting your dog’s communication, you won’t be successful.  For example, if you think your dog is being dominant when it is really insecure, the dog can become a hazard if it is corrected for communicating with you by growling, humping, or other insecure behaviors. Why? Because it will hide those warning signs.

Unfortunately, people (including me at one point) fall under the spell that the TV show has with it’s fancy back ground music, a self-proclaimed “expert”, and the misinformation it tells it’s viewers. If you are interested in learning about the most recent research and are tired of being fed information from the 1900s, check out these links:

Can I Train My Dog Just Like They Do On TV?

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statements

Debunking the Dominance Myth

Using “Dominance” to Explain Behavior is Old Hat



(1) Dogs as Smart as 2 Year Old Kids