If a child hums in class or is disruptive, as a teacher, you should be thinking and asking yourself some “why” questions:
- What is motivating the child to hum?
- Is the child in pain or feeling unwell?
- Potentially something has happened in the child’s wider environment.
- Am I engaging enough as an educator?
- What can I do to support that child?
- Does that child need to learn in a different setting?
Not wishing to anthropomorphise however transferring these questions and applying them to your dog, your learner, is a logical and common approach.
- What is motivating the dog to bark or be disruptive?
- Is the dog in pain or feeling unwell?
- Has something happened in the dogs wider environment (trigger stacking)
- Am I engaging enough as an educator for my dog?
- What can I do to support my dogs learning and emotional wellbeing?
- Does my dog need a different form of stimulation/reinforcer to get the results?
As educators, regardless of the species of our learners we have a duty of care to ensure that learner feels safe, supported and able to reach their full potential. A learner that feels threatened, intimidated or ill at ease is not a learner that is able to have sensible thought processes and make rational decisions.
Some science: Dopamine boosts drive, focus and concentration. When learners achieve things and are rewarded dopamine is released making the learner feel confident and empowered. When learners feel empowered and in control of their emotions they are able to make the right choices.
Learning theories are difficult to transfer without anthropomorphism however there are similarities in a canine learner that are commonly seen in a human learner. Children learn best through play and exploration, allowing them to take risks and make decisions empowers them as learners. Praise and support gives them confidence to widen their knowledge.
These practices are transferable teaching methods. We see dogs learning through play and exploration. Praise and support gives dogs confidence to make the right decisions and actively seek to do the right thing in a human world.
Dogs that are punished or aren’t engaged with their owner/trainer will shut down or become disruptive. A child who is constantly told it’s doing the wrong thing or isn’t engaged with the teacher becomes shut down or disruptive.
We talk about transferable skills in dog training all the time. Teaching a dog to transfer the skills it’s learnt to different settings is an essential part of its life journey. It is therefore worth thinking about learning in the wider context and transferring your skills as humans to a different setting, use those skills within your dog training to empower your dog and give it the confidence to make the right choices. Answer those “why” questions and be the best educator you can be for your learner.
Praise is far more powerful than punishment.
Ali Charnick, Editor. @ecologydogs