Like a lot of interesting things that came out of war and the military, dog training was one such thing. Colonel Konrad Most published a book in German in 1910 called Training Dogs Manual. Considered by some as the father of modern traditional dog training, Most’s approach to dog training was used for military training worldwide and is still used for many police, military and service dog training programs today. His training techniques are considered rather heavy-handed and aggressive as they relied heavily on collar corrections and punishment.
His technique for dog training spread as his students and followers left Germany to visit other countries. Two such men, Josef Weber and Hans Tosutti, opened dog schools in Philadelphia and Boston respectively. It was, in fact, Tosutti who started the New England Dog Training Club in Boston, which is the oldest existing AKC member obedience training club in the country.
Blanche Saunders, who wrote The Complete Book of Dog Obedience (1954) and The Story of Dog Obedience (1974) was one of Weber’s students and joined up with Helene Whitehouse Walker to begin the AKC Obedience Trials. They traveled the country together, sharing the idea of companion dog training with everyone. Many of the renowned trainers of the 1950s and 1960s were Saunders students.
In the early 1940s, Marion Bailey and Keller Breland started Animal Behaviour Enterprises, which was a company that provided training of animal species for commercial purposes. Breland was the first dog trainer to use a clicker, referring to it as a bridging stimulus when training field and herding dogs. The clicker may very well have become more popular amidst dog trainers had World War II not happened, causing Most’s military model for dog training to become the preferred method.
William Koehler another military dog trainer like Most wrote a book called The Koehler Method of Dog Training and was, and may still remain, the best-selling dog training book of all time. This only succeeded in solidifying this form of training for practically all dog training from about the mid-50s through to the 70s. It could be argued that Koehler was the first dog trainer to encourage dog owners to bond with their dogs. Before Koehler, dogs were still very much considered working animals. Koehler’s method of training resulted in these working dogs converting into loving pets. Koehler initiated the use of leads and collars, explaining to his students their importance and functions.
In 1984, Karen Pryor wrote the book Don’t Shoot the Dog, which was ultimately a guide about human interpersonal relationships. It was the books title which got the attention of the dog trainers. Karen then met up with a professional dog trainer by the name of Gary Wilkes and they did seminars across the country which encouraged and explained the uses of clicker training.
Today, clickers are used in many cases, not just with dogs, for training purposes. Dog schools are everywhere and the traditional methods of dog training have taken a step back and allowed psychology and animal behaviourism to take precedence, allowing for positive reinforcement and more gentle methods of training.
Article by Delaney Carpenter