Scientific Dog Behavior Modification or Archaic Dogmatism Touted by the Masses???


Do you have dog behavioral issues you are dealing with?  Many do and that stems in part from a large failure on the part of the dog training world as a whole.  Let me explain.

I spend almost every day of my life behaviorally rehabilitating dogs with real issues such as aggression, fear, hyperactivity, and severe anxiety and that’s just to name a few.  I do this with fantastic success.  I do not do this with the methods most of the trainers and behaviorist tout as the best or newest “scientific” method for animal training or behavioral modification!

Science is ever changing.  Science is also sometimes wrong and yet often accepted as the best way or the right way until the newer or better invention or discovery comes along and makes the old one look archaic and obsolete.  Did you know most people living prior to the 1600s believed that the sun rotated around the earth and not the other way round?  We now know thanks to guys like Copernicus and Galileo that our solar system is heliocentric and not geocentric.  The fact remains that for hundreds, possibly thousands of years mankind believed the earth was the center of the universe!  Turns out they were dead wrong.

Real science should be about seeking the truth, testing the method with trials and experiments.  The results should speak for themselves!   The truth needs no defense!

When considering dogs, their training, and their rich history partnering with us- isn’t it unfair to classify them with other animals?  Shouldn’t we consider domestication and the effects it would have on behavior?  Shouldn’t we look deeper into the social bonds between man and dog?  No other animal in the world lives as closely to man as our dogs do.

Delve a little deeper. Be specific about the animal you are working with. Don’t ever train your dog like you would your dolphin!

In today’s “modern” dog training many behaviorists have taken the scientific work of Burrhus F. Skinner and blown it way out of proportion.  This is the major problem with almost all training companies.  They think there are only two ways to work with a dog!  Typical trainers cite Skinner’s work as the, “end all-be all” of animal training.  Believe me, they get extremely dogmatic and close-minded about any other methods which is exactly the opposite of real science!  I’m not saying animals don’t prefer “positive reinforcement” to “negative reinforcement.”  I’ll readily admit you can train many different animals using both positive or negative reinforcement.  And, obviously, any being would prefer treats to electric shock.

Burrhus Frederick Skinner himself is quoted as saying, “The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount.”  This means stop excessive bribery and constant high pitched praise for any and all decent behaviors from your dogs…it’s too much!  The trainers and behaviorists have gone way too far!  They have combined what Burrhus discovered with the idea that they can make a lot of money selling treats to consumers to the point that most trainers are now so far gone they spend a majority of their time stuffing treats down the poor dogs throat instead of using calmness, firmness and play to work with your dog like mother nature teaches!

Are you bribing instead of building a strong relationship with your dog or pup?  Are you exciting instead of calming them down like mother nature teaches her young?  Is the trainer or behaviorist you are using getting you excellent results or are they just another cookie-cutter zombie who have no answers when the treats and excitement do not work?

Here’s a rat in a “Skinner box”…I’ll take real life over a box any day of the week and I’ll rehab your dog’s behavior faster than B.F. Skinner could have dreamed! And I’ll do it all with calmness and building a healthy relationship based on mother nature’s ways!


What I’m attempting to share with you is that there is something Better than positive or negative reinforcement! There is something much better!  This something can only be discovered when we really seek to understand and learn.  Dogs have been domesticated for 10,000 – 20,000 years and we should be seeking a much deeper relationship than what some scientist cooked up in his lab.  Most dog professionals have missed the whole point!  Our society needs to have an awakening and discover that dogs are more than lab rats.  

Real life is more than just science.  It was recently Valentine’s day.  Did any of you give your sweethearts a card filled with the science of how your brain releases more oxytocin into your body when they are around?  Did you mention how your cortisol levels are on the rise?  Did you mention how your testosterone is lowered if you’re a man and raised if you’re a female?  Did you get all technical and then proceed to make said “science” the main point of your relationship and hammer that home over and over to prove you are in love?  NO – you didn’t.

Image result for science of love

A wise lover doesn’t get too technical when wooing. Let the senses and instinct take over in your training and get all the “science” out of your head. This will be hard for you to do because it has been hammered home so much by the status quo.


Please don’t make the same mistake if you’re a trainer or behaviorist!  If you’re not a trainer or behaviorist please don’t hire a trainer/behaviorist who consistently makes the same mistakes in their training methods year after year after year!  Search out something better.

Focus and develop a real relationship (not based on “positive” bribery or “negative” punishment). Emulate the model of parent dogs with pups.  Please don’t diminish the excellent relationship available to you and your dog (the real communication, the use of energy control, the amazing domestic partnership) just because science told you there is only two ways to work with your dog or pup.  There is a whole new world of possibility open to us when we take a real look at real life with our dogs!

Stop focusing on “science” and the status quo and start focusing on your dog.  Forget training.  Instead look at how dogs move, how dogs are experiencing the world. Take note of when the behavioral issue is occurring and attempt to do something before the unsocial or rude behaviors happen.  If you do I promise you’ll start to see how and when to interrupt or intercept unsocial energy.  You’ll prevent problems just like the mother or father dog can.  You’ll learn how to adjust the dog’s body posture into more peaceful, social language.  You’ll discover they are not just rats in a Skinner box waiting to be bribed with treats or punished and shocked!  You may just find a real relationship with complex communication and… you may just find your best friend!

Need Help?   call Garrett Stevens at 253-653-4890



4 thoughts on “Scientific Dog Behavior Modification or Archaic Dogmatism Touted by the Masses???

  1. Jean Curely

    A great perspective that I believe completely with. I see the big difference when you have a dog as possession and one as a friend to enjoy and spend time with. They are far more respectful and responsive. However, I do have a problem that I’m hoping to not use my mini pinch. I haven’t had the need to use this method, How would you stop an older dog , an Irish Terrier about 4 yrs old, from jumping up while walking off leash freely in my yard. He doesn’t enjoy tugging much, but rather I carry a soft pull toy in my hand so he won’t bite at my hand or arm. He will enjoy pulling it as we walk together, therefore, I can help him express his energy and not bite at me. When he is done tugging and free in the yard, he can come out of nowhere and literally leap straight up to greet me. He has touched my nose. We just started agility and he loves it! He truly enjoys the challenge but his excitement is very high. He barks while we run the course and he tries to bite a my hand. We are still so new, so I have alot to learn and teach. He is a sensitive, gentle dog. Your input would be great.

    • Thanks so much for the comment. We appreciate any feedback! I would practice more walking calmly on leash in the yard. And do the type of free walking where the dog is allowed to basically do almost anything (except get pushy, jumpy, mouthy, etc) Basically you are laying down a rule that he can do whatever he wants in the yard provided it’s not jumping up or mouthing you. After doing that for a couple days then walk out in the yard with your dog off leash. As soon as the dog starts to get foolish or make the wrong choice by mouthing or out-touching you or jumping up and not respecting your space you want to go right into his! And go into his space firmly and seriously. Remember, your issue (like so, so many others out there) is Not an issue of training! It is an issue of how to calm the dog! It is an issue of how to get the dog to respect you. It is an issue of personal space. More sits, downs, heel, stays, etc will Not help. Forget training and behavior modification…instead continue to build your relationship using naturally calming methods that line up perfectly with mother nature’s ways.

  2. Madison Elisabeth King

    “Focus and develop a real relationship (not based on “positive” bribery or “negative” punishment). Emulate the model of parent dogs with pups. Please don’t diminish the excellent relationship available to you and your dog (the real communication, the use of energy control, the amazing domestic partnership) just because science told you there is only two ways to work with your dog or pup”

    This passage not only discourages people from the plethora of real and dependable science that has often been neglected in these readings but additionally, ignores the genetics of domestication. Like domestic animals, our relationship with dogs is NOT like that of a parent dog with pups, but a unique bond that based on social-communicative principals has been shown socially, in practice, and through genetics, that dogs depend on humans as references. Rewards are often a way of communicating with a dog rather than an incentive. Dogs will actually prefer to FOLLOW human communicative gestures over food reward.

    Also, alpha and omega do not exist in wolf packs. This idea is outdated and was analyzed using man-made packs of foreign wolves. Alpha typically just refers to the parent wolf. Our relationship with dogs’ is not one of parenting, but a unique byproduct of domestication where they depend on us for information. The majority of training mistakes are communication issues and there’s is debatable proof of the intentionally manipulative properties of animals.

    • Thanks for commenting. And, YES, I am most definitely discouraging dog owners to ignore much of the so called “real and dependable science” that, in reality, often just devolves into dog trainers and behaviorist and dog owners constant bribery and foolish high pitched excitement (which does not aid much in quality relationship between owner and dog and certainly does NOT aid in the prevention or removal of serious behavioral issues) Of course dogs depend on humans as reference (they outsmart chimps when they do it) however, to encourage dog owners to consistently reinforce be it positive or negative is one of the shallowest forms of relating to our dogs. And rewards are Not a genuine way of communicating and, if they are, it is the lowest rung of communication because they are extrinsic in nature. Maturity is so much better than motivation!
      At the lowest levels of relationship one needs to be consistently motivated – years ago I was motivated to go “potty” on the potty and was probably rewarded for doing so…these days…not so much because the behavior is average and expected. INTERNAL motivation (relationship, freedom of choice and autonomy, curiosity, etc) is a much more efficient tool than positive or negative External motivation and, as science has proven (search Harry Harlow and Edward Deci – two separate scientists at two different times studying motivation who were Shocked to find that performance and the subjects they studied actually declined in the long term once external motivation was employed) is the next/higher level of motivating intelligent social creatures. Basically, intelligent beings will eventually demand a “raise” over time (you’ll have to give a “higher value treat” or correct the dog harder which is unnecessary and foolish) if the relationship or performance are based in External or positive or punitive reinforcement. See Daniel Pink’s excellent book DRIVE for further info or my own groundbreaking book, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! Because our custom training methods are the calmest and most natural I’ve ever come across. Dogs and people love it because they are finally, finally free from shoddy External Motivation and can literally begin the path to mastery and maturity which is the highest level of relationship even above Internal Motivation.
      Why use a food treat when a simple movement from the human hand or body or face will suffice? Why use unnatural excess excitement when a calm and relaxed approach always works better, just as we observe in older social dogs, and is easily witnessed among well behaved dogs at any dog park, day care, kennel, or home environment?
      The truth is…most dog training is crap in 2019. The age old industry is still “training” dogs to perform frivolous tricks when what the vast and overwhelming majority of pet owners desire is trust and an excellent companion that is well adjusted to the modern world. And yet the majority of dog trainers and behaviorists are harping on and on about “work” and “giving the dog a job” and about positive reinforcement because that’s where dogs used to be/do for thousands of years. Humans have changed – why shouldn’t our dogs adapt with us? Calmness is now more desirable (in most households of today) than work from our dogs.
      As to your comment about “alpha and omega” wolves you really must read that chapter in Dog Myths if you truly care and aren’t just virtue signaling because your response there – about how it’s an outdated study (which everyone has heard ad nauseam) is what everyone has been saying for the past 15 or so years but – aren’t dogs domesticated wolves that exist In Captivity? I am well aware of the studies on both wolves and dogs and in my professional opinion, as I daily work behaviorally rehabbing dangerous, fearful, aggressive, hyper, anxious, etc dogs and pups (about 5 to 7 dogs – 6 days a week, I am convinced there are indeed alpha dogs out there and, by default usually due to their age and their advanced language skills, they are always Calm, Confident, Competent and Excellent members to have around the family group because they calmly interject their bodies in between the other dogs in order to calm some tension and they know precisely when to ignore the hyper pups and teach them to try and bring their energy down and conserve it. They know when to address spatially and when to ignore (this is what most dog owners know little about) Alpha dogs are the best communicators and they spread their messages of teamwork and greater sociability with the other dogs they encounter. They are great peacekeepers and leaders.
      You have said our relationship with dogs’ is not one of parenting but I say it could be and parenting can be so much easier than what you’ve been taught thus far about dogs their behaviors and our human behaviors surrounding them. As a father of four human children my job is to guide and not micro manage. My job is to prep them for the future (a future that one day I may not be there for) and in this way, genuine maturity is gained. Most of dog training and behavior mod is micromanaging and always giving the dog the answer and then we wonder why the dog is foolish or can’t even cross the street on it’s own! Dogs used to be able to do that before leash laws. They’ve lost so much real world wisdom because professional trainers keep them at the lowest levels of understanding (external motivation). There is so much more freedom to be had, so much more quality relationship (not just tricks and working) available to both owner and dog but it lies beyond the many “myths” that exist in the mainstream training realm. That’s why I wrote my first book Dog Myths. Please check it out – I think you might like it and we may find we are actually not too far apart on our methods. You are right about some of what you said concerning communication. (This is why we opened a Dog Language Center and not a dog training center because language and communication must come foremost for ideal relation). I encourage you and anyone else reading this thread to go back through the original article with an open and curious mind (bearing in mind that dogs are getting worse and worse behaviorally speaking – and all the stats verify that they are (aggression is on the rise, fear and hyperactivity and anxiety are on the rise – due to mainstream dog training and scientific behavior modification’s failure to adapt to see the dog language for what it is and how it functions. Most trainers and vets still train for performance and that has nothing or little to do with social skills and what all of nature teaches their young. Domesticated dogs should be especially easy to calm down and lead but the facts prove otherwise currently. When one examines mainstream training methods and the myths and misinformation that passes as “science” and is applied at every major dog training conglomerate and a multitude of the smaller businesses as well one quickly discovers the mediocre to poor results it offers! We’ve found a much better way forward and dogs and our clients love it!) Thanks, G

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s