Do You See What I See? The Benefits of Keen Behavioral Observation
“Be a good student of behavior.”
-- Ken Ramirez Scientist
George Schaller says that to understand behavior, you need “thousand-hour eyeballs.” Trainers can have 10,000-hour eyeballs and still never really know what an animal is experiencing.
The scientific position of attributing human emotional states to animals (anthropomorphism) as being inaccurate, is steadily becoming obsolete. Ethology has taught us that animals are designed to convey their internal states of affect by all kinds of non-verbal movements and gestures, from hunched shoulders and raised hackles, to relaxed body posture and bright, alert eyes. Reading behavioral signals accurately requires giving up assumptions. One must pay attention to objective observations without immediately attributing subjective judgment.
Individual dogs differ; study your own dog. Can you recognize the tension lines in the sides of the face when stress levels get serious? How about respiration rate? Are you aware if your dog sighs? Do you notice that widening of the eye?
Clicker training demands that you develop exquisite observation skills so that you can anticipate when to click. Behavioral observation is a fascinating area of study that is likely to enlighten, and open your eyes wide. Kay explains how and where to focus your tactical behavioral observations.