The Importance of ‘Why’ in Dog Training

One of the most important (and potentially annoying) questions children ask is,”Why?”

Why is a powerful question in learning and performance. “Why does this work?” “Why should I do this?” “Why is my dog doing this?” “Why won’t my dog do this?”

These questions are often not asked, at all, by dog trainers because the trainer is too busy finding the solution to the problem or fixing the behavior.

Asking or knowing why is required to find your solution and to properly define your problem. Dog trainers, like most adults, often see “Why” as some kind of detour or navel gazing. “It’s a waste of time. Just give me the solution.

“My dog drops when I want, so who cares?”

This is the answer of an adult, one who is done learning. It is the application of knowledge. A child, a voracious learner seeking and developing knowledge, needs to know why. If one just needs to get the job done,”Just give me the steps.”

I know, from personal experience, that not knowing why (or how) a technique actually works can be the only thing keeping you, or the technique itself, from being successful.

I write long training pieces and about the intricacies of canine behavior to give the reader an explanation of “Why?” If you know why we do something, or why something works then you’ll be much more likely to successfully implement the how and what.

Why Am I Doing This?

As adults, we don’t care for why too much. “Just tell me what to do and how to do it.”

If you need to adjust the carburetor on your car, you can look online and get a tutorial, but for the instruction to be successful, you have to know why you are adjusting the carburetor.

Are you making the adjustment to create more power? Or are you trying to get more fuel efficiency? Are you trying to get the car to start? To hold an idle? Clearing up black smoke? Passing emissions?

Why comes before how. Asking why you are working the behavior often changes the process and methodology dramatically.

Asking why before how makes for deep and flexible understanding. It can save a dog and handler much time and stress when solving problems and creating behaviors.

Why Does This Work?

Why something works is another idea that should get your attention.

There have been several techniques over the years that I thought were total BS that are now standard tools in my dog training toolbox. The reason I wrote them off was because I didn’t understand why they worked.

I didn’t care about a cued Drop back in the day. Why would I? My dog dropped pretty much when I wanted. There was no dropping problem. But that carry thing? Sheesh! If only I could get my dog to carry the disc.

When I learned that a cued Drop under stimulus control requires the dog to be carrying an object, I found out why I needed a cued Drop and why the cued Drop is key.

Why cue the drop? To ensure that the dog carries and holds an object and can drop it anywhere on the field.

This simple realization of “why you need a Drop cue”, a topic about which I’ve written tens of thousands of words, completely changed my understanding of behavior and completely changed my disc dog training regiment.

It is the key question that allows me to solve all kinds of disc management issues.

Why Are You Writing This?

I am working on a solution to Premature Ejumpulation, and it’s based on a technique that I learned more than 10 years ago. But I didn’t understand why it worked. “OK, that’s great, but it doesn’t really work for me.”

I didn’t know why the techniques worked. I thought I did, but I got to my answer so quickly, or knew what I wanted to do and how to do it that I didn’t have time or a reason to ask why these other techniques worked.

Now that I know why these techniques work, using them to solve my problems is elementary.

If you understand why you are working on a skill, and why the technique works, you, and the technique, will be more likely to be successful.

If a technique doesn’t work for you, it might not be the technique, it might be your understanding of it.