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Our Dog Training Methods & Philosophy
This probing and being unsatisfied with results in training, whether at a high level or basic level, is what sets the professional apart from the enthusiast. Like any other profession, this type of reflection creates the standard for others to follow. A great trainer researches and experiments, creating better ways to communicate and to gain the understanding in our dogs. By constantly looking under the surface of the how’s and why’s, questions become answered as new ones become harder to answer. This is the quality of an innovator regardless of profession.
John Soares believes that a lot of what is not being considered by professional trainers and enthusiasts alike is domestication. Domestication is the fundamental concept in John Soares’ training methods. This outlook is based on personal experience and theory as well as practical training with different breeds, in different areas of work and disciplines.
What facilitates domestication is “paedomorphism”. This refers to the ability to retain juvenile characteristics. By interrupting the growth and maturing process, paedomorphism stops or prohibits the completion of an adult cycle. Paedomorphism brings about changes mentally as well as morphologically. By retaining juvenile characteristics, our adult dogs look like young adults compared to their wild counter parts of the same age. In other words, a four year old dog would resemble an 18 month old wolf. Also mentally our domesticated dogs have a retention of play which extends well into their later years whereas adults in the wild grow out of this behavior. Experts believe that this ability of retaining juvenile characteristics is what gave us the opportunity to domesticate dogs. Most animals do not have the ability to become domesticated.
Domestication of Aggression/Defense
It should be noted that along with understanding of predatory sequence another factor in domestication is aggression/defense. These terms are often thrown around without much regard. The perception is that aggression and defense is bad, that such traits should not exist in the domesticated dog. What should be made clear is that aggression and defense are fundamental in a healthy animal (human included). In the wild, a hurt animal is a dead animal. So the instinctive actions such as marking, establishing territory etc. all stem from aggression. The signals or annunciations an animal makes is all within the framework of survival. Aggression is a survival instinct based to a great extent on ritualistic behavior to avoid contact. Aggression instincts allows the animal to take the necessary steps to annunciate and provide the signals for harmony to take place within the area they live. We call this role “active aggression”. We also have defense which is reactive. Defense is usually associated with the fight or flee response. If cornered, surprised or if there is an intrusion of space defense will cause a flight response or fight behavior. Defense does not initiate action; it is a reaction to situation or action.
The way in which aggression and defense works is directly dependent on space or distance. Space or distances are very important to animals. They do not have the perception of a world or a universe, their world is limited to their immediate area.
Personal Distance is the immediate area of the animal. Within this area only animals of great familiarity which pose no threat are allowed (the very young, opposite sex etc.).
Paedomorphism, which breaks the cycle of growth and maturing gave man the possibility to genetically produce certain types of dogs to do certain types of work consistently with high rate of predictability. Paedomorphism is to domestication as predatory sequence is to predictability.
Predatory sequence is the sequence that a carnivore goes through in hunting. This sequence is deeply rooted in the genetic makeup of hunters. Although carnivores can get some of their nutrition from plant life the need to satisfy these hunting-innate impulses serves a neurological purpose. Even when remains are available from previous hunts the biological need to satisfy these impulses often takes over. The steps to predatory sequence are:
Stalk ￫ Chase ￫ Pounce ￫ Bite ￫ Kill ￫ Dissect
These six steps are essential to a successful hunt. Each of these six steps must be fulfilled. If one of these steps is unsuccessful in being fulfilled, the hunt will stop. This process is deeply rooted into the genetic makeup of the animal. Successful hunting has to do with the completion and maintaining the order of predatory sequence. Paedomorphism allows the interruption of this deeply rooted response to prey. Because paedomorphism retains juvenile characteristics (breaking the cycle of maturing) predatory sequence was able to be manipulated. So for example:
- The first two steps of predatory sequence-Stalking, Chasing or Chasing, Stalking has been the traits used for our hunting breeds.
- The first four steps of predatory sequence-Stalking, Chasing, Pounce  and bite has been the traits used for our herding breeds.
- The predatory sequence of -Stalking, Chasing and Biting has been the traits used for our retrievers and so on.
Through domestication, succession of predatory sequence was interrupted and (whether by accident, breeding or combination of both) these deeply rooted sequences produced dogs with the predictability to serve and work for man. Most of our domesticated dogs do not show the killing or dissecting steps of predatory sequence. Though some of our terriers do exhibit these steps as part of their vermin hunting and controlling farm pests.
Social Space is a bigger area where a pack is free to roam. Here, opposing members may pass each other but tension at this distance exists.
These distances are also deeply rooted into the genetic makeup of our domesticated dogs. These responses, coupled with the responses of predatory sequence, give us a complete functional domesticated dog. For example:
- The reason a hunting dog that stalks and chases prey but refrains from making contact has directly to do with maintaining space stemming from aggression.
- The reason a retriever will stalk-chase and bite the prey soft mouthed (this inhibition is brought about due to defense).
- The reason a herding dog is able to manipulate a flock of sheep through ritualistic movement also derives from aggression, distance.
John Soares has studied and developed his training methods based on these instinctive qualities. Distance and space, when used properly, influences behavior instinctively. It can be seen as a pressure point which induces learning naturally. This consideration benefits the trainer’s communication and meets the dog half-way in the process of learning. Our dogs are caught living in two worlds: one which draws from their ancestors (wolf, coyote, wild dog etc) and second which humans have brought them into through domestication. This unique method of training capitalizes on the individual dog’s outlook.
In high level dog training, John Soares believes that this consideration is what sets him apart from his competitors. The harmony of movement is a quality a professional, as well as novice, can value. The picture of dog and handler working as one is the goal. John Soares’ training methods utilizes the natural behavior of movement (predatory sequence) and ritualistic movement (distance and space) to produce behaviors we can all compete and live with.
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