Dog Training - History - The War Years

The War Years

Konrad Most began training dogs for police work in Germany, and was appointed principal of the State Breeding and Training Establishment for police dogs in Berlin, where he carried out original research into training dogs for a broad range of service tasks. At the outbreak of war in 1914 he was charged with organising and directing the use of dogs to further the war effort. He headed the Experimental Institute for Armed Forces’ Dogs during the Second World War, and afterwards ran the German Dog Farm, a centre for the training of working dogs, including assistance dogs for the blind. He played a leading role in the formation of the German Canine Research Society and Society for Animal Psychology. His 1910 publication Training Dogs: A Manual emphasised using instinctive behavior such as the prey drive to train desired behaviors, advocated the use of compulsion and inducements, differentiated between primary and secondary reinforcers, and described shaping behaviors, chaining components of an activity, and the importance of timing rewards and punishments. The book demonstrated an understanding of the principles of operant conditioning almost thirty years before they were formally outlined by B.F. Skinner in The Behavior of Organisms. While publishers of the 2001 reprint warn that some of the "compulsive inducements" such as the switch, the spiked collar and the forced compliance are unnecessarily harsh for today’s pet dogs, the basic principles of Most’s methods are still used in police and military settings.

Marian Breland Bailey played a major role in developing empirically validated and humane animal training methods and in promoting their widespread implementation. Marian was a graduate student under B.F. Skinner. Her first husband Keller Breland also came to study with Skinner and they collaborated with him, training pigeons to guide bombs. The Brelands saw the commercial possibilities of operant training, founding Animal Behavior Enterprises (ABE). In 1955, they opened the "I.Q. Zoo" as both a training facility and a showcase of trained animals. They were among the first to use trained animals in television commercials, and the first to train dolphins and whales as entertainment, as well as for the navy. Keller died in 1965, and in 1976 Marian married Bob Bailey, who had been director of marine mammal training for the navy. They pioneered the use of the clicker as a conditioned reinforcer for training animals at a distance. ABE went on to train thousands of animals of more than 140 species. Their work had significant public exposure through press coverage of ABE trained animals, bringing the principles of behavior analysis and operant conditioning to a wide audience.

Konrad Lorenz, an Austrian scientist who is regarded as developing foundations of ethological research, further popularised animal behaviorism with his books, Man Meets Dog and King Solomon’s Ring. Lorenz stated that there were three essential commands to teach a dog: "lie down" (stay where you are), "basket" (go over there) and "heel" (come with me).

In 1935 the American Kennel Club began obedience trials, and in the following years popular magazines raised public awareness of the benefits of having a trained pet dog, and of the recreational possibilities of dog training as a hobby. After WWII, the increasing complexities of suburban living demanded that for its own protection and its owner’s convenience, the pet dog should be obedient. William Koehler had served as principal trainer at the War Dog Training Center, in California, and after the war became chief trainer for the Orange Empire Dog Club at the time the largest dog club in the United States, instructor for a number of breed clubs, and a dog trainer for the Walt Disney Studios. In 1962 Koehler published The Koehler Method of Dog Training in which he is highly critical of what he calls "tid-bit training techniques" based in "the prattle of 'dog psychologists'". Amongst the training innovations attributed to Koehler is the use of a long line in conjunction with a complete absence of oral communication as a way of instilling attentiveness prior to any leash training. Koehler insisted that participants in his training classes used "emphatic corrections", including leash jerks, throw chains, alpha rolls, slingshots and electric shocks, explaining that tentative, nagging corrections were cruel in that they caused emotional disturbance to the dog. Vicki Hearne, a disciple of Koehler’s, commented on the widespread criticism of his corrections with the explanation that it was the emotionally loaded language used in the book that led to a number of court cases, and to the book being banned in Arizona for a time. Despite the controversy, his basic method forms the core of many contemporary training systems.

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