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When you consider that the old proverb claims that dogs are man’s best friend, we humans have managed to build an impressive case of abuse against our faithful canine companions. Of all the aspects of our relationships with dogs, the history of training is the telltale chronicle of cruelty, but if you draw the right conclusions out of all that pain, it is also a profound tale of the most humbling symbiosis in the history of homo sapiens. If you want to find out more, here is a brief history of dog training.
The story was long overdue.
We know that the signs of our symbiotic relationship with dogs can be traced back as far as 12,000 years into the past. However, a concept of formal dog training didn’t begin to take shape until the 19th century. During this time, it was common practice to use dogs as replacements for pigs in truffle hunts, simply because pigs tended to eat half the truffles before the hunters could get their hands on them. While this practice has proven that dog behavior can be modified to an extent, the true potential of this was not immediately as apparent, and there was still a long way to go.
The Humble Beginnings
It is only during the final decades of the 19th century that we have seen true efforts to consolidate certain practices which encourage dogs to adopt preferable behaviors. S.T. Hammond, a famed writer for natural magazines, wrote a book Practical Training in 1885, which distinctly instructed dog owners to praise and reward their canine pets with meat treats if they want to encourage specific actions.
Unfortunately, this was also the time when most people resorted to violence to beat their dogs into submission, but people like S.T. Hammond, Montague Stevens, and Edward Thorndike managed to popularize the reward method, at least to an extent. Their work has started an avalanche that brought positive changes over the next hundred years.
The Turning Point
The true turning point came during the first few decades of the 21st century. In 1915, Baltimore police started using dogs for street patrol, and Edwin Richardson started training canines for the war in the same year. While this was a particularly harsh time, for the dogs as well as their fellow humans, they proved to be quick studies and effective companions during the conflict, especially the German shepherd—which was later reflected in the legendary "acting" abilities of a former war pup Rin Tin Tin.
However, throughout the period that follows world wars, dogs were predominantly trained with "old and reliable" tools such as beating sticks. While leashes, dog tags, and prolific veterinarian practices signified some sort of progress during the following years, only the last couple of decades would see the true boom in the dog training department.
The Brave New World
It goes without question that, these days, you can apply an impressive assortment of cutting-edge technological tools that have been specifically fashioned for dog training and protection. We’ve come a long way from a blunt beating stick to the extremely sophisticated E-Collar Technologies, with an exceptionally balanced arrangement of features.
However, the advances in dog training methods and technologies have gone way beyond gadgets and literature. Over the last couple of decades, dog training and rehabilitation shows, on a variety of cable networks, are seeing a rise in popularity. While these shows do not reveal anything new about the conditioning methods and intricate knowledge of dog behaviors, they have actually done a lot of good by spreading this knowledge in an accessible and effective way.
As we all know, these shows and instructive videos are moving to streaming platforms like YouTube with blinding speed, and the never-ending trend of watching constructive video diaries about dog training only goes to show that people still find so much hope in their relationship to the noble creature we have come to call the dog.
If the history of dog training has taught us anything positive about human nature, it is that we strive to do better in spite of the faults that keep dragging us down. The sharp turn in training methods over the last few decades, and the application of new tech in the field, give an especially encouraging outlook for the kind and mutually beneficial future of the relationship between people and dogs. Reward based and positive training techniques with a kind approach are reaping incredibly productive results.