Inside Out: How Understanding Emotions Makes for Complete Training
From “capturing calmness” to “building drive,” the training goals we set for our dogs often have a strong emotional component attached. We want relaxation at home, and focus in the ring. We hope to raise confident puppies, and strive for joyful engagement when we train. But what does “teaching for emotional fluency” look like in practice? Is it even accurate to say that we can “capture” an emotion, or “build" it with reinforcement? When we achieve fluent behavior, such as a consistently flashy finish, or a solid relax on a mat, do emotions come along for the ride, or are they, in fact, driving the bus? When an emotional response appears to change, what is really being learned? And does drool equal happiness anyway?
Come explore these questions, and many others, as we refine our understanding of how emotions affect both what and how we train. Learn to swap vague emotional labels for observable criteria, how crucial cues are as conduits of emotion, how to elicit the emotions that will best support your goals effectively, and how to use the power of operantly shaped behavior to change emotions from the outside in.