Sunday, February 6, 2011
We Have Cookies
While this model has been around for 40 or 50 years, it’s no longer sustainable, either economically or socially. Our services are expensive, so the state is looking for cheaper options, and parents want a more normalized work experience for their children. The current trend is moving towards independent community jobs, which my co-workers and I find ridiculous; while our system may not be perfect, many of my clients really don’t have the ability to work alone. Independent job placement might work for some people, but it will never work for ours.
I've always believed this, and in fact, never even questioned this line of thinking until last week. I had this conversation at work, and then went home and posted an entry about people who say positive training can’t work for certain kinds of dogs. Talk about a moment of cognitive dissonance! Here I was, professionally stuck in the very same box I was arguing against.
I’ve never experienced anything other than positive methods. When I first got Maisy, I didn’t know anything about dog training, so while I was committed to having a well-mannered canine citizen, I had no idea where to start. I signed up for a class at the first place that I found, and it was simply by chance that it happened to be clicker-based. I could have just as easily ended up somewhere that used more traditional methods.
I’m glad I didn’t. I have found that positive-reinforcement training is not only effective for a wide variety of issues, but it is also easy, fun, and most importantly, emphasizes relationships and teamwork. I simply couldn’t understand why people would want to inflict pain on their best friends if they didn’t have to.
Then I realized that in my professional life, I am the traditional method. Like traditional training methods, the model I work under is effective for the vast majority. The idea that there is something else that might work equally well, if not better, is hard to swallow- we have a long history of success. More than that, people I respect and admire believe in the way we do things. Thanks, but we’ll just stay over here, doing what we know works, while other people try out new things that may or may not pan out.
So, not only do I have a new-found understanding for the position of people who are using traditional training methods, I am also in awe of the courage it must take to cross over to positive methods. That is a huge leap of faith which requires a radically new mindset and a departure from everything- and everyone- that is familiar.
For my readers that are traditional trainers (if I have any), I think I understand you a little better now. Sticking with the familiar is comfortable and easy, and there's no incentive to try something new if what you're currently doing works. I’m certainly not looking to leave my job just because there might be a better method out there. However, I think you should know that we have cookies.
For my readers that have crossed over, I'm proud of you- and impressed. I'm sure that was a hard decision, and I’d love to hear your story. Did you have a dramatic experience that changed you forever? Or was it a number of little things that convinced you when they were all added up? Or did you just hear that we have cookies?
For my readers that are like me, who have always trained with positive methods, I have a challenge: avoid judging the others. I know how defensive I feel in my professional life when my company is criticized for the services we provide. I’ve been told that I don’t care about the people I work with, that I’m being exploitive and segregating them from the community. But I do care- I just don’t know how to do this differently. The system is set up to maintain the status quo, even while railing against it.
So, while I’m not sure what I will do professionally, I know that personally, I need to strive for kindness in my criticism, for tolerance in my teachings, and above all, I need to remember that a positive trainer is as nice to the people around her as she is to her dog. We need to share the cookies.