“Difference between Training/Conditioning and Relationship / Bonding and Communicating”

There is a big difference between these two concepts that are usually misunderstood or completely unknown even among some professional dog trainers.

1.-   Training / conditioning  means teaching your dog human language and cues to condition your dog to obey certain commands like sit, stay, down etc – usually  with treats and positive reinforcement or sometimes with punishment. (This is based on Pavlov and Skinner´s theories ): “If you do this : “sit”, you get this: “reward” or if you do this : ¨unwanted behavior¨ you get this : ¨punishment¨.

2.-  Relationship/ Bonding and communicating with your dog means using energy and body language to communicate espec, trust, love, and boundaries – usually in silence. What you establish here is basically three things: 1.The relationship you have with your pup  2.The way you communicate with your dog.   3.Acknowledging your pups state of mind

Your dog can be highly trained with conditioning and training techniques and yet still have a lot of behavioral issues. I see this happening more often than not.

Any given human can have very sharpened skills or even be a genius at maths, law, or computer programming but still struggle with social behavior, boundaries, manners or simply adapting to an environment. Acquiring a specific and sharpened skill doing something doesn´t mean you are social adaptable to an environment.

A simpler way of seeing this is thinking of Relationship / bonding / communicating as social behavior skills, such as good manners, respect, trust and boundaries and thinking of training/conditioning as going to Harvard or MIT , where you can learn very specific skills.

You don´t need to be a genius or go to Harvard to be successful with social behavior and you don´t need to be successful with social behavior or balanced  to be a genius. You can have one or the other, both or none.

The one that will put you or your pup in trouble is the lack of social / behoavioral skills. This has to do with Respect, Boundaries, Rules and Limits. In animal world this has nothing to do with being ¨good¨ or ¨bad¨, it has to do with being ¨in control¨ or ¨out of control¨.

In other words you are not gonna go to jail because didn´t go to Yale, but you will go to jail if you destroy Yale.

Most of my clients did already a lot or some dog training. They took their pups to obedience class or taught them a good amount of commands and skills like sit, stay, leave it, off, lay down, bring me a beer etc  you name it. Wether they used positive reinforcement techniques or punishment to teach them it doesn´t really matter. (Although I don´t recommend punishment).

The fact is that even after being successful at training all those commands, the pup is still having behavioral issues. Why? Because the lack of Respect, Trust and Self Control.

There are several reasons for this:

1.Your Relationship with your dog. If your pup doesn’t view you as their ¨parent¨ or decision maker then he/she will expect you to listen to him or her. An example of this is when I hear the dog owner saying:  ¨My dog only listens to me when he or she wants to¨ or ¨My dog only listens to me when I have a treat on my hand¨.

2. The fact that your dog learns the meaning of a certain human word  (ex: sit)  doesn’t mean that your pup is actually going to obey when you say so. The same way you can know the meaning of a Speed Limit Sign and yet you decide to drive faster 😉

3. Your pup learns to listen to your reward (treats, toys etc) not to you.

4. If your pup is in the wrong state of mind, no matter how much training and conditioning you´ve worked on, your pup wont´t listen. Any animal on fight/flight state of mind will not listen to anyone unless you force them. And forcing does not create acceptance it creates resistance. BTW by any animal I include humans!

Knowing when and how to use and integrate this two different approaches (Training/conditioning and Relationship / Bonding and Commnicating) is key in order to create and to maintain a harmonious relationship.

Usually when you want to add a behavior you use positive reinforcement (Conditioning and training) and when you want to remove a behavior you use boundaries, limits and rules (Relationship, Bonding and Communicating).

© Gabriel Riesco, NYC,  November 2017