In my previous article Men in Training – Part One, I attempted to explain the types of instruction that I believe a man of my age and experiences is familiar with. I further speculated how a man trained using those methods might behave both as a student and as a teacher. In a closing paragraph I asked the following question…
Yet even with all of my history I made the transition from training dogs based mostly on corrections to training dogs using positive rewards. So why haven’t others?
I would like to have a mulligan on that. There are certainly many different ways to train a dog. Some I agree with and some I don’t. But speculating on reasons why others haven’t transitioned to my way of thinking is presumptuous. What I would like to do instead is describe what I perceive are barriers & misnomers that may prevent men in general from exploring the type of positive rewards based training I now embrace.
I’ve described my “conversion” to the methods I now use as having some qualities of an epiphany, but the reason I progressed from curiosity to curator is the way in which I was introduced to it.
I was lucky enough to meet a person that did what they had to do to get my attention. If you’re thinking 2 X 4 between the eyes you’re not far off. But they followed the attention getter with a lesson given in an earnest and pragmatic way.
By removing emotion and presenting their idea as a sound, well thought out alternative, they allowed me to view myself as simply uneducated in this method of dog training and encouraged me to do my own research.
Fortunately for my dogs and me, that lesson struck a chord. However, had I not met this person I might have ended up with some of the same problems that I think face many men when entering the rewards based training world.
Barrier One: Ebullience Negative
Put a group of men together and send them to a sporting event and they will do just about anything you dare them to do. But take away our pack mentality and place us in a classroom situation and we tend to dial it down a bit.
As I said previously, many of us are used to no frills instruction where praise is sparse, matter of fact, and low key. More than a few of the classes I’ve attended included using verbal encouragement two octaves higher than I am capable of and done in a very animated fashion. I know there is nothing wrong with that type of praise and encouragement, but it’s not something that is suited to many men’s personalities. We may not run from the classroom screaming, but we may not make it back for a second class.
Barrier Two: Sexism Works Both Ways
To start with let me issue the disclaimer that I am aware that women have had to put up with far more sexism than I would ever face in a thousand lifetimes. Be that as it may, I’ve experienced it and it’s still a barrier to overcome.
In a class I once attended, I tried to explain to the instructor that I have a temper. Not in the sense that I resort to violence instantly; but I do tend to raise my voice from time to time and its inflection is a very good indicator of my mood. It’s a product of the type of instruction that I’ve received in the past and practiced over a lifetime. The instructor’s advice to me was “Men get frustrated like that and it’s stupid. You choose to act that way so you should simply choose not to. It’s silly!”
While this is an extreme example I don’t believe it’s an isolated one. This was not the only class where I felt marginalized because of my testosterone level. I imagine my experience is similar to what a woman faces when she wants to be instructed a predominantly male activity.
The barrier here is that you really have to want the knowledge and skills being taught in order to endure being put out of your comfort zone.
In part three of Men in Training. I will continue to describe a few more barriers I believe can keep men from exploring positive rewards based training.