Recently I read an article entitled Autism: A journey of recovery. The article was about a young man who received a diagnosis of autism at a very young age, and now at 13, appears to be a normal teenager with no traces of autism. The article reminded me of many things we need to keep in mind when trying to convey ideas to those that may not respond or relate to our normal way of communication.
The first thing that sprung to mind was the boy’s age when treatment began— he was around 2 years old when first diagnosed. When working with dogs, how often are we reminded that training and socialization should start they day a new puppy comes home? How much easier it is to teach new behaviors later in life when the communication link is established early on?
The mother of the young man in the article decided that any treatment used would have the weight of science behind it. She didn’t choose a treatment because she saw it on TV— or because Hollywood stars use it— or because it has a multimillion dollar advertising campaign— she chose the treatment based on the rigors of science.
Because the boy was unable to communicate at first, it forced his teachers to find methods to communicate with him and to find a reward that he was willing to work for; they did not just assume he would understand what they wanted— or that just any old reward offered would be motivating to him. Repetition, reward, patience, and persistence were all used to bring about understanding between teacher and student.
When we work with our dogs, it is our responsibility to make sure that we communicate in a language they understand. Using the science of positive reinforcement, early intervention, patience, persistence, and consistency, give us the best chance to get our ideas across to our canine companions.
As always we welcome your thoughts and opinions.