THE THIRD WAY of dog training (developed by Chris Bach of Training the Third Way) is very concerned with the dog’s emotional state during learning. Chris says, “If training fails, it is the training process, not the dog. If a relationship has problems, the dog is not to blame. The person's approach to the relationship is the culprit."

This reminds me of a song I heard by Don White*, a folk comedian/singer. He has a new CD out called “Live in Michigan”. One of the songs, “She Sings Me to Sleep with Laughter”, talks about his teenager daughter’s persistent laughing while talking on the phone with her friends while he was trying to catch up on much needed sleep. He thought to himself how to handle the situation. He considered his dad personas and “dad #1” came to mind, who would rant and rave at his daughter and order her to hang up the phone. Then “dad #2” came to mind, who would whine and complain to his daughter hoping to get her compliance to hang up the phone, reminding her how hard he works to put a roof over her head. Then suddenly, a “dad #3” appeared and told “dads 1 and 2”, what they were failing to understand was that the noise wasn’t the problem; it was the way they were choosing to hear (perceive) the noise of laughing. “Dads 1 and 2” replied, “oh great, dad #3 is a philosopher!

“Dad #3, continued on by saying, “quiet” is what results when you are alone in the house and be careful of what you wish for. Dad #3 then repeated his statement, “the noise is not the problem, it’s the way you choose to perceive the noise.” The dad then was lulled back to sleep by listening to his delightful daughter’s laughter.

Now this isn’t to suggest that we allow our dogs or our daughters to do whatever they please. However, I do think it is helpful in restructuring our thought patterns, that the dog shouldn’t be blamed for behaviors we find unacceptable. Dogs are perfect at being dogs. It is our perception of their behavior that often times prevents us from working towards a solution to the “problem behavior”. Instead of blaming the dog, we as our dog’s trainers need to restructure the training program so the dog can be successful in displaying the desired behavior.

Therefore, THE THIRD WAY’s three touchstone questions are crucial in changing a dog’s behavior:
1) What behavior is the dog showing (emotional state)?;
2) How is the environment affecting the dog positively or negatively?; and
3) How is the handler affecting the dog positively or negatively?
Being able to answer these three questions, the trainer is able to change a dog’s behavior without blaming the dog for its behavior.

By Michael Burkey CDBC, Copyright, All Rights Reserved, 2005

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