Pavlov and Picasso

I am sure that both the above names need no introduction… and some would use the word ‘genius’ to describe their contributions to their respective fields…

Picasso was a world renowned artist, his legacy being his distinctive style and unique talent.

Pavlov, the mind that identified the phenomenon of classical conditioning, and underpins everything that we do, our behaviour and actions.

One an ‘artist’, one a ‘scientist’.

Both brilliant, both genius. Both revolutionary.

But it would appear that in dog training, there is a distinct divide between the ‘science’ of training vs the artistry of training.

Like most things, be in raw feeding vs kibble, or vaccinations vs no vaccinations… there is almost a tribal mentality to both banners. Yet the irony is, neither is entirely right or entirely wrong.

As a professional dog trainer, and someone who deals with behavioural issues, the ‘science’ offers me a blue print from which to ‘cheat’ the ‘solution to a problem’, yet the artistry allows me to ‘go off the beaten track’ and try something totally different.

There have been countless times, when I have discarded what I ‘should do’, and allowed instinct and ‘feel’ to take over.

And there have been countless time, when a well thought out, strategic plan, and identifying the patterns of behaviour and reinforcement, have provided a solution.

If we look at both Picasso and Pavlov they both understood the necessity and importance of being a ‘scientist’ and an ‘artist’.

Pavlov’s observations connecting his dogs salivating, was ‘an accident’ and his findings shaped so many walks of life. He knew not to ignore this ‘off the beaten track’ moment.

Picasso’s unorthodox style and unique perspective, was a result of not being afraid to go against the current. He wasn’t afraid to be uninhibited.

In so many ways fear, steers our decision making process.

Its fear that causes so many to defend their beliefs and ‘tried and tested’ ideologies, and decree those that differ.

We see this in all walks of life, but when we strip it back to its core, its fear that is at work.

In dog training, behaviour and all matters related to canine well being, we see these distinct ‘tribes’, those avidly adhere to science and data, stringently recording data and analysing the outcome, and those that ‘paint’ and draw using instinct, trial, error and ‘feel’.

The irony is that both approaches have more in common then we realise and the key it to embrace both ‘personas’. Whilst I regularly video my training sessions, and make mental notes on what I see, I am mindful of not over analysing to the point of self deprecation.

Science gives us the lines to follow, the dots to join, and the colours to use…. artistry tells us when to mix them, go outside the lines and sign our individuality over the piece.

A good trainer will have a sound understanding of the methodology, awareness of mechanical skills and impeccable training. A Great trainer will make it look effortless, as though they are reacting entirely on a deep connection between them and the subject.

Developing your insight into how, when, what, where and why to take an approach takes time, effort and commitment

There are artists, there are scientists.

We need both. Dogs need both.

3 Replies to “Pavlov and Picasso”

  1. Art and Science, like everything on the planet are inseparable, brain and body, insects and human survival, everything is interelated.
    Very insightful words – we all need to be clear that everythworld world wide, as hard as that is to take on board, affects everything else
    worldwide, nothing exists in isolation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As an artist Picasso was classically trained and was a superb draftsman. It was this grounding in observational drawing and understanding of the figure in it’s classical anatomical correctness that freed him to reject the classical in favour of his own vision and interpretation of life as he understood it. This approach, in my mind, parallels your approach to dog training. Understand the science of learning and behaviour and then you can be truly creative because you have the structure upon which to build.

    Liked by 1 person

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