Advice For Parents and All Leaders: Learn From Dog Trainers

Going To The Dogs: What You Can Learn About Leadership And Communication From Dog Trainers
by Gene Griessman, Ph.D.

When I  found “Beware of the Dogs” by Burkhard Bilger in The New Yorker, I recognized that this article contains powerful insights that can be used by all leaders, and especially by parents.  So we decided to share our discovery with the community.

You probably already know that dogs are being used as never before for surveillance, bomb detection, and as helpers for the blind.  But what you may not know is that there is a revolution taking place in the way dogs are trained.  One of the biggest reasons for the change is what psychologist B.F. Skinner learned about behavior modification.

(I spent two days with B.F.Skinner some years ago,  and conducted an exclusive interview  for my book “The Achievement Factors.”  I still use Skinner’s concepts in my presentations and consulting on leadership and communication.)

Skinner said, “Give me a child, and I’ll shape him into anything.”   He used four basic concepts: positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative reinforcement,  and negative punishment. If you want to read more about how these concepts are used in canine training, take a look at the entire article in The New Yorker, February 27, 2012.

The reason dogs are so well suited for behavior modification is their intense desire to please, and their love of a game. You–leader, parent, manager, supervisor–can tap into these same impulses in people.

Here is a great quotation that will help you understand the idea–from Michelle Pouliot, Director of research and development at Guide Dogs for the Blind in Oregon.

“You used to wait until the dog did something wrong, then corrected it. Now you’re rewarding a behavior you like before it goes wrong…If a dog loves squirrels, you have to find something that excites him so much it overpowers the squirrel instinct…If you’re constantly on top of him–punishing, punishing, punishing–that behavior is not going away. You have to get that dog to try to figure out what you want….”

Try it.  This concept really works

–Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and consultant. His video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, contact us at 404-256-5927, 404-435-2225, or Learn more about Gene Griessman at and

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–Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and communication strategist. His book “The Words Lincoln Lived By” is in its 25th printing and “Time Tactics of Very Successful People” is in its 43rd. His training video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, call 404-435-2225.

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