Thanks Victoria Stillwell!

I sent the following response to Victoria Stillwell’s post:

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Thank you, Victoria Stilwell. You are my heroine. The doggie angels in Heaven are barking for joy to thank you. In the Tellington TTouch© training we have been using full sentences and please and thank you for decades. In Dr. Masaru Emoto’s Messages From Water there is a vial of quick frozen water with the words written on it, Let’s do it, and the frozen water has a beautiful crystalline form. In contrast, the vial of frozen water with the words, Do it have absolutely no crystalline form. Since our cells are composed of more than 70% water, I believe using a command (cue) as opposed to an invitation can affect the health and well-being of the dog as well as the person at the end of the leash. Actually, there is much more reason to support the use of sentences when communicating with our dogs. including the effect of mirror neurons, heart coherence, and more. Thank you for this gift of awareness.

Why did I write to Ms. Stilwell? It was because of her blog post on No Cue November. Here’s what she says:

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The latest research is … showing us time and time again that it’s the bond, not the perfectly delivered cue/reward, which actually influences our dog’s behavior. Changing my view of traditional behaviorism cues was really hard for me! However, in the face of the latest research as well as the anecdotal evidence found in my own very large behavior practice; I realized we had to make a change. So we did and the results were pretty extraordinary.

We began by throwing out all traditional cue/reward scenarios. The new protocol: all cues must be given in complete, open ended, sentences. For example: “Sit” was replaced with “Would you like to sit down?” “Let’s go” was replaced with “Would you like to walk to _________ with me?” “Tug” was replaced with “Would you like to tug on this?” Each of the new cues was followed by showing the dog a few times and encouraging mimicking. The brilliance of this concept is that if the dog fails to perform, it’s completely acceptable. We also stopped worrying so much about rewards. Food, play, praise, and social interaction were all freely given without much thought of the traditional behaviorism reinforcement system. You know what? It worked! Not only did it work, but we also discovered some pretty amazing things that happened.

First, the dog’s compliance skyrocketed!… Questions are much more relational than commands. Secondly, by demonstrating behaviors we wanted, rather than playing the “guessing game” of traditional shaping, we found faster learning as well as significantly less anxiety. Let me be clear, our dogs weren’t “anxious” in the negative sense of the word, but they were so eager to earn our cue/reward system that they were always on alert, always waiting for the next opportunity to earn their reward, to hit the next jackpot, and to please us yet again. …We found that our human clients were much happier. What we had inadvertently produced was a human client that was much more empathetic to their pet’s emotional needs. With that empathy came better expectations for their dog as well as higher compliance from their dog. The human’s empathy to their dog’s emotional needs had produced a higher secure attachment bond which, in turn, created a dog who was more likely to follow their human’s social cues.

Don’t you find Ms. Stilwell reinforcing the notions of appealing to the parasympathetic nervous system of the dog? Once her trainees are settled in a calm, peaceful state they are fully able to learn with no stress. I was so delighted to read her blog post and wish with all my heart that all humans at the end of the leash might adopt this strategy of talking to their dogs.

© 2015, Linda Tellington-Jones. All rights reserved.

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