Men in Training – Part Two

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.


Men in Training – Part One

Men in Training – Part Three

Men in Training – Part Four

12 thoughts on “Men in Training – Part Two

  1. Another wonderful article(s).

    I’ve found that male clients respond well to scientific data. When I’m teaching this “kindler, gentler” way of training, I certainly do not refer to it as such. Instead, I compliment their strengths by saying something like “You’ll appreciate this, Bob, because men are very linear thinkers. You do A and You get B. Plain and simple.” Most men nod with great pride to this statement.

    When it comes to the high-pitched vocal requirements, I’m at a loss for suggestions. What could you recommend this estrogen-laden dog trainer offer male clients as an alternative?

    • True Erica. We do like to read the manual and know that bolt A goes into slot C. And if it doesn’t we tend to use two methods to make it fit. We either have the patience to double check our facts and then use the proper tool to widen the slot so it fits. Or we don’t have the patience and use a hammer to make it comply.

      All kidding (semi?) aside we do expect that type of instruction.

      As for the vocal requirements I believe we are capable of that as well but at a modified level of enthusiasm. I actually think that clicker training is excellent way to get men involved because the clicker becomes our voice and we don’t have to worry about inflection. “Yes that right there is what I want and I am so happy about it you’re getting a treat!” All with a simple click. Then it becomes a matter of observation and proper timing.

      • Oo-oo! That’s a good idea to use that as a selling point to male dog owners.

        I was actually thinking about when working on a dog’s latency or pumping up the dog’s enthusiasm w/ behaviors such as the recall. I’ll often advise (women) clients to squeal in a high-pitched voice, “puppy-puppy-puppy!” This immediately makes my male clients uncomfortable, I can see their faces drop as soon as I mention it. So, I point out to the men that they can use clapping, etc. But have you found any other advice to be particularly helpful?

        I enjoy finding different ways of getting the men involved in the training, so thanks for your discussion!

        • Well I think recall can almost be seen as a game of tag. The thing is that you should be the tagee and not the tager. Running away from your dog as if you’re trying to steal a base in baseball.

          Kind of a good defense is the best offense type thing. Sports analogies are usually not lost on us. 🙂

  2. You are not alone! I get upset too and it shows in the tone of my voice. I guess I’m “silly.” But, one thing I can say is that I rarely express my anger and frustration outwardly, including my tone of voice, with Sadie. I just go quiet with her. Hmmm. Maybe I should try that with people. You know, count to 10 and all that.

    • I generally do well holding my anger and frustration when I am dealing specifically with my dogs. However, I will blurt out a few choice words from time to time in response to various things. While not aimed at my dogs (or any animate object sometimes), with four dogs in the house with me they pick up on the fact that I am angry.

      That was the situation I was describing to the trainer in the article. I wanted her opinion on how best to let my dogs know that my character flaw had nothing to do with them.

      I know that this is a problem I have that has been established over a lifetime and will not dissipate overnight. I wanted to know how to best desensitize my dogs to my occasional outbursts.

      • J has this “characteristic” and it has a strong effect on all living beings in the household. He’s certainly not “scary” but the air gets thick and the dogs start to seek cover…

        I’ve worked on desensitizing them to this by offering play and treats when he’s cussing out a malfunctioning power tool. 😉

  3. A dog trainer insisted I should make “silly” moves and “high-pitched” sounds and give Kenzo hugs and kisses. And the female part of the class does excell at this. I would also if it worked for us, but we are much better to play some tug or something else rough, as a reward. Kenzo recognizes the excitement in my voice, even if it doesn’t qualify as “high-pitched”. It is a two-way-street, and Kenzo can feel what is genuine and what is not. He needs me to mean it, not act.

    Although she said we would never make it, we passed the exam and went up a level once more. Ha! Yet it is disappointing to see, for each level we come up on the ladder, the amount of male classmates declines. My guess is, some men just block. They refuse to make the “silly” sounds but as a result give up training as a whole, instead of finding out what works for them … us.

    • I’m sorry, because I’ve recommended this before. :0( I knew it wasn’t hitting the target per se but I had no other point of reference.

      Thanks for helping this dense dog trainer out! ;0P

  4. Absorbing all this like a sponge my friend. I just want to congratulate you for writing it. Ok, enough with the flattery.

    Constructive Criticism: I’ve described my “conversion” to the methods I now you 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. (change “you” to “use” twelfth word in paragrah.

    And finally, I’ve found men really wrap their head around teaching the dog “in motion sequences” – i.e. obstacle coursework, agility etc. Things the dog can show off their intelligence, stamina and physical energy. So I’ve used that in privates and classes and I’ve found incremental increase in attendance. You are really getting me to thinking this through!!!!

    Thank you!


    • Thank you for your comments Diane as well as your critiques. I find I am my own worst editor. 🙂

      The idea you convey about “motion sequences” is a good one and I think one that appeals to men on many levels. It involves the types of activity that reach the “competitive center” of our brains and allows us to become very focused on accomplishing a goal.

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