Basic principles of my everyday practice


I designed my small company in accordance with my own positions and values. Therefore, I can be authentic during my day-to-day work and I identify with what I do. I can advertise my products and services with a completely clear conscience and I experience my work as absolutely fulfilling and meaningful.

Here I put together my thoughts on my basic business principles.

This compilation is a kind of "draft version" because I am in a development process and these thoughts simply reflect my current level of knowledge and my current position chosen on the basis of this level of knowledge. I'm looking forward to comments or feedback on them and will keep dealing with these thoughts in order to develop myself further.

I have assigned my thoughts to two larger topics:

1. my position on sustainability

By building my small company myself, I can implement "the pursuit of sustainability" as an essential driving force in my business principles. Associated with this are general ethical values, on the basis of which I act during my professional activity, for example in the field of nature tourism, sales and dog care.

2. My position on the right training method

For me, the search for a suitable training method is inevitably linked to very important attitudes regarding the human-animal relationship . Helpful are, in some cases, my expertise from biological research, my experiences from everyday life or professional practice, or my views on ethical issues, which I have developed over many years.



1. My position on sustainability


Why I think a certain humility is appropriate and why I like cooperation and “togetherness” better than hard confrontation


Respecting people who, from my point of view, have an old-fashioned attitude towards the dignity of animals sounds like a great challenge to me as a passionate animal rights activist. Fortunately, however, I am capable of self-criticism to a great extent and very honest with myself. So I am aware that I have gone through a certain development here. As a young person, I orientated myself to more old-fashioned views on the dignity of animals based on traditional perspectives. Even today I do not always act in an ideal way according to critical standards.

For example, I want to buy almost exclusively environmentally friendly products. In our modern world, however, the production chains are sometimes very opaque. It is hardly possible for me to understand all the manufacturing processes and to be 100% sure when buying an item that the manufacturing process complies with my own ethical principles. Even with organic certified food there are sometimes scams. It is my ideal to consume completely eco-friendly, so I pay attention to the appropriate eco seals and awards to products I would like to buy. Nevertheless, I have no choice but to buy some products that I am not sure whether they correspond to my principles. Some people take the above-described uncertainty regarding "fraudulent labeling" for eco-friendly products as an argument not to buy with ecological awareness in the first place. But for me this uncertainty is no reason to give up my ideals. Here I can only get as close as possible to my ideal in daily practice, but in doing so I contribute "in a very small and individual way" to moving society in this direction. by the way: I like this way of advocating sustainability better than the actions that militant animal or environmental protectors take.

Fortunately, I myself am shaped in a way from an early age, that I accept different points of view and attitudes, even if I see them as absolutely wrong. It helped that my father was active in development aid (or more correctly today we say: development cooperation). I visited him several times during my childhood and youth in the regions where he worked and also lived with the family in Indonesia for a year as a young person. That gave me a valuable " view outside the box ".

Such experiences help to understand that the rules and traditions that we see as "God-given" are not that universal and in a way it makes you modest and humble.

To show real tolerance even in difficult situations, in my opinion, requires a lot of self-control and patience as well as a fair amount of Humility. I lived in Cologne for many years and I really like the so-called "Kölsche Grundgesetz" (constitution of cologne), especially one of the additions to the 11 articles: „Jede Jeck es anders.“ (Phrase in regional language, meaning "Every dude is different.") [Of course this “constitution” is meant humorously but has much inherent seriousness.] ...

Incidentally, a lack of tolerance can also be observed in the "hardened fronts" among dog trainers with regard to dealing with modern positive training methods. In the past few decades, this discussion has taken on an increasingly aggressive character, which I consider to be very regrettable. Under the topic "Training methods" (see below) I explain this discussion and try to find an explanation for why it is conducted with such great severity.


The ray of hope


The main features of the discussion about the various dog training methods correspond to the general differences between, on the one hand, animal and environmentalists who want to change something and, on the other hand, the more "conservative" people who are in favor of conventional methods. It is pleasing, however, that despite the rather hardened fronts a steadily change of consciousness in society as a whole can be observed. Many factors play a role here, in addition to the discovery of modern training methods, the increasing understanding is likely to be particularly involved that the industrial overexploitation of our environment and the reification of animals in the context of factory farming have led us to a bad dead end . In addition, findings from biological research show that animals are much more complex than we thought and that they are much more similar to humans than we thought.

The pork steak from factory farming on the plate simply gets an uncomfortable aftertaste when the person eating knows that pigs are extremely intelligent, highly social and sensitive.

As I said, my attitude is therefore to shop with a strong ethical awareness. However, I respect people who still choose to eat conventionally raised meat. For me, the growing awareness of the dignity of animals is a glimmer of hope here. But, as I said, we are only just beginning to implement this growing awareness of the need to protect other species and nature in our social practice. There are incredibly urgent reasons that we should change our path here as society as a whole as soon as possible. But I am deeply convinced that we can achieve more in the long term with positively motivating appeals than with negative means such as coercion, pressure, producing panic and anxiety, etc. For this reason, I promote ethical awareness of consumer behavior in a positive way, also through my own practice, which I present as an example, and, for example, through the product range in my company.

What is remarkable is that we have almost reached the end of the bad impasse mentioned above, from which we should absolutely and very quickly find a way.

To a large extent, our society today is characterized by ice-cold competition. In my opinion, the industrialization and the understanding of natural processes as a "struggle for existence", which is largely due to the Darwinist theory of evolution took an important part in this. Scientists such as Joachim Bauer, however, refute this focusing on self-assertion regarding the interpretation of biological processes today and point out that indeed competition is one of the principles of biology, but cooperation is a lot more important and plays a more essential role . There are also recognized and widely used economic models that propagate social commitment and togetherness as a promising and forward-looking basis for entrepreneurship.

We need development and change and, last but not least, climate change reminds us that major social changes are becoming more and more urgent . We need; - so to speak; - a revolution! - Or revolutionary change that fundamentally changes our society. But of course caution is advised here, because the term "revolution" alone should make one awake with a start and become vigilant ...

In this context fits the main statement of a current Speech by former US President Obama [Link refers to a PDF copy, unfortunately this article has now been deleted online at the Tagesschau, other articles ( with different political accentuation (!) ) on the topic can be found here: (Spiegel , Welt )], which he made on April 6, 2019 in Berlin in front of 300 young Europeans. The main topic of this speech was:" Change the world "- But in his opinion there is no such thing as" the perfect formula ", we will never get 100%, but we can take "what is possible" and build on it. But history also teaches us, in the view of the former president, that radical changes do not have any good after-effects.

With regard to revolutions, I therefore tend to take the position that gentle revolutions are better than warlike upheavals, because they claim too many victims. In addition, my attitude towards appropriate human humility makes me doubt that a more or less small selection of people has the ability to discover the one right path for society as a whole, which justifies a massive and artificially induced upheaval, perhaps even with the use of revolutionary force if necessary. That reminds me more of processes in totalitarian regimes and I am definitely in favor of more democratic solutions.

I am of the opinion that people should learn to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner in their private lives, but also at different levels of social interaction. In most cases, there are very good ways to do this. I like concepts here, such as the " Betzavta concept " from Israel.

A gentle revolution is more like a natural development. It facilitates that a certain path crystallizes out on a broad level as the right path to take together and this process is then more likely to be really sustainable. If that goes too slowly for you, you have to know that even gentle revolutions can happen quickly when appropriate events coincide and when social currents spread so strongly that a change in consciousness in society as a whole is possible.

If we get involved with that, we may run some risk that at a point it will be too late and that we will suddenly find ourselves at the end of the said bad impasse; - But maybe not; - Who can presume to judge that? In any case, the risk that a violent upheaval brings with it seems to be too dreadful and formidable to me and makes this a much less desirable event. The latter is an understatement, because such an event could destroy everything we fight for. All our efforts are aimed at protecting an equal, open and free society in which we can all live as earth citizens in harmony with the environment and nature. If we save a future but inadvertently abolish this open society, we will have lost from the start. Therefore, in my opinion, a major upheaval brought about by force and artificially is the wrong way out of the impasse and I very much hope that I don't have to experience something like that.

One of the schools of thought that I find helpful here is the idea of ​​sustainability and respect for our fellow creatures, as shown in the political objectives of the United Nations UN) (what I think of the current status of the implementation of these goals by the UN is a different topic), or in documents like the Canadian Leap Manifesto (A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another) .


For these reasons I try with all my means to promote an appreciation of nature and other essential aspects of sustainability in a positive way


Important is, that I'm not aggressively pursuing this. I don't talk to people in a bad manner, don't present horrific images of tortured animals and don't claim to be an angel compared to many bad sinners. Here, too, I choose a positive path and deliver arguments, try to convince and I practice forbearance and tolerance. I am of the opinion that I myself cannot nearly always and absolutely consistently implement my ideals and that it is nevertheless important not to give up these ideals, but to use them as motivation to continue. For me these ideals are very meaningful and life-enriching.



2. My position on the right training method


It is probably due to my training as a biologist that I like the CumCane® training approach by Dr. Ute Blaschke-Berthold so much. It is based on the positive training method . This, in turn, comes from biological behavior research and has established itself in professional training for decades. This training approach is the result of decades of research and well-founded empirical studies.

I don't want to be a dog trainer myself, nor do I want to be in the future, but as a dog sitter I feel very comfortable in the role of a service provider for dogs and their people. Of course, the dog care is always connected to learning and training situations and therefore in the past it was very important for me to use the positive approach as training method that best suits my preferences.

It should be noted, however, that there is no such thing as "the one positive training approach ". In my opinion it is important to distinguish between the following aspects:
1. the basic biological principles
of 2. the knowledge of these principles
and 3. the methodical application of this knowledge

The biological principles are, so to speak, the "truth", which we have not yet fully understood. There is already a very extensive and valuable wealth of knowledge on this topic. However, the researchers do not agree on all points, and there is still a great deal of research to be done in this field. So it will likely happen in the future that new insights will be gained that completely revise some previous assumptions. Of course it is still possible to take the best possible stand, but in a certain way it should be understood as relative. But just because science and its findings do not claim to have already found the "ultimate conclusion to the truth" does not mean that there are no reliable scientific findings. Presumably what can still be explored is gigantic, contrary to what we already know. But that does not mean that there is no knowledge with which "we can work", otherwise e.g. no Mars missions etc. could be carried out successfully. However, an area of ​​knowledge that is currently accepted as an all-encompassing and irrefutable truth, is certainly more of a dogma or belief and, in my view, has nothing to do with science.

To put it a bit dramatically: On the one hand, there are worrying tendencies to simply refer to well-founded scientific findings as "mummery" and a quite disturbing revival of worldviews is taking place that tend to be based on belief in magic or might recall similar rather unusual interpretations of reality. On the other hand, from my point of view, it is always appropriate in the research area to practice a certain "humility", because there is no such thing as "one knowledge", that applies to everyone. Seriously working researchers and professional trainers should therefore, in my opinion, forego any form of massive know-it-all and dogmatics. The "truth" can certainly not be assessed by isolated individuals. Only a joint effort with effective communication based on mutual respect for each other can bring us forward. And as we all know, this is also one of the essential traits of science, to gain knowledge, through consensus between different experts and numerous cross-checking of the results from different perspectives.

So, referring again to dog training (- and here I am also talking about some of the so-called "dog whisperers", for example): - because modern training methods shouldn't be a religion or belief, but claim to be based on scientific knowledge, there can be no such thing as “the one true and right training method”. In addition, the methods developed are used by different individuals and therefore experience a different, individually practiced design. Even within the modern positive training methods there are sometimes differences from trainer to trainer in the practical implementation that can be the subject of discussion.


Unfortunately, researchers and professional trainers alike do not always adopt a tolerant attitude as the basis for a factual discussion


Anyone who deals with the positive training method experiences in practice how important mutual respect is. I find it surprising how often people who work with the positive method implement this towards their training partners, but then completely give up this attitude towards other people by insulting people who do not want to follow "their beliefs". Some coaches who have not committed themselves to the positive approach have even received death threats and have been badly insulted. From my point of view, that goes too far and such actions are more likely to lead to war and achieve a “hardening of the fronts”.

However, the critics of the positive training approach are often not squeamish themselves and equate positive reinforcement with "bribery", "automatic feeder" and "lack of discipline and boundaries" or even express themselves strongly insulting, no less than some representatives of the other side.

In my opinion there is no real "good or bad, or false or true", but a variety of theoretical standpoints and implementations in practice. Similar to the missing simple recipe for parenting, there is also no "panacea" with animal training, because teachers / educators or trainers and pupils / learners or trained are equally unique individuals  The learning situation thus always has a certain amount of uniqueness and openness and requires a certain behavioral flexibility from all involved.

According to the current state of knowledge, it is not yet possible to map the learning situation in its entire complexity to a small extent, and only if this were to succeed as completely as possible, that would be requirements to be able to develop an all-encompassing methodology. We can only, so to speak, "approach the truth" and use better or worse proven methods. In this context, it should always be noted that the learning process always results from a development and from my point of view it is beneficial if the teachers also remain learners.


The basic biological principles of the modern positive training method


The modern positive training method is based on scientific research on the biological processes of learning, which was carried out with the research work of Skinner , Pawlow and Thorndike, began in the 19th and 20th centuries and is today the subject of various scientific disciplines, such as cognitive science and learning psychology. It is about mechanisms that generally run when living beings learn and are, for example, a fundamental part of education. This training method thus relates to such fundamental biological principles that it is very unlikely that the time when the positive training method was created can be limited to a certain moment in history. Shepherds probably worked with their principles many hundreds of years ago and it would be presumptuous if one person nowadays emerged as a general developer of the positive training method and claimed all of the methodical applications developed by him would be "his invention" and would have to be implemented exactly according to his specifications.

Despite my insistence on method complexity and individual diversity, a certain generalization naturally helps to exchange ideas on a topic. I want to summarize the various positive approaches that have emerged since the 1980s as a modern positive training method, because there are some fundamental aspects that can be described as connecting characteristics in the majority of these approaches:

Advantageous features of modern positive training

  • the positive training method goes far beyond mere "training with treats"
  • it is a form of training that is particularly appropriate to animal welfare and is nevertheless particularly efficient
  • With the positive method, not only "treats" or food are used, but there are a variety of other possible forms of reward
    • Food is one of the primary enhancers (the reaction to it is innate in living beings in order to satisfy their existential needs), so the food reward can be used in training without much preparatory work
    • Many of the alternative amplifiers that are used in positive training must first be learned (= trained) as such
  • The term "positive reinforcement" comes from the fact that a reward is used to reinforce desired behavior so that it occurs more often
  • the dog learns that certain behavior patterns (in contrast to others) are worthwhile and therefore they show them more often
  • The dog (as recipient) decides what is rewarding, not the trainer (as sender)
  • Compared to conventional approaches, it is a particularly sustainable, efficient and science-based method that is also very low-risk
  • Studies show that dogs become happier, more cooperative and gain in self-confidence and solution strategies through positive training, they also build a stronger bond and a stronger relationship with their caregivers
  • Moreover, most dog owners also gain confidence in their own abilities and in their four-legged friends through this method.
  • while more rigid and authoritarian methods, e.g. with punishments, can also work in the short term, they cause a myriad of possible negative consequences (frustration, compulsive behavior, aggression, etc.). These negative consequences are sometimes only visible with a time lag and are therefore not necessarily seen in connection with negative effects on the dog


The modern positive training method, based on clicker training according to Karen Pryor and other pioneers of modern positive animal training


One of the pioneers of the modern positive training method is behavioral biologist Karen Pryor. In the early 1980s, Karen Pryor published a small book on dog training with the title " Don’t shoot the dog ". It was about the basic principles of conditioning and positive reinforcement and how we can make use of them in dog training.

Initially, this book received mainly attention from dog trainers and in the following years it triggered a remarkable revolution in general training methods of a large number of professional animal trainers.

The approach described by Karen Pryor at the time has already undergone many years of development, has been taken up by various scientists and trainers and implemented in different ways.

In general, it can be said that starting from a few pioneers, the modern positive training method experienced an international spread at great speed. This was mainly due to their special character, namely their practically observable effectiveness combined with their promise of the greatest possible renunciation of violence and coercion (in my opinion the latter only works with cautious and correct application).

Arguments that are stubbornly opposed to the positive training method often refer to its alleged lack of effectiveness. Unfortunately, the training method, which works with coercion and suppression, is often very effective in the short term and requires less effort from the person performing it. The modern positive training method requires a learning process from the trainers, they have to acquire knowledge that enables them to understand the training partner. You have to develop the ability to empathy, as constantly as possible plan well and think ahead, always check your actions and self-reflection. You have to show a lot of self-control and patience and get involved in small-step and often arduous training sessions. But anyone who understands the advantages of the modern positive method is quickly ready to make this effort.


An attempt to explain the "hardened fronts"


The modern positive training approach is based on building a relationship with the animal and it works with voluntary cooperation on the basis of trust and respect.

To understand the revolutionary quality of this approach, we have to keep in mind what the attitude to the dignity of animals looked like back then, at the end of the industrial age. Animals were viewed to a very large extent as useful objects for humans. (Incidentally, the dignity of the animal was only finally and expressly anchored in German animal protection law in 2008.) At that time, for example, dogs were thought to have at command very little intelligence, they were often characterized as cringing and submissive individuals, and ignorance of their high cognitive performance made one conscious communication between dog and human almost impossible. But in the course of the 1968 revolution, another consciousness began to awaken, based on possibly somewhat glorified recourse to more primal relationships between humans and nature.

The training landscape at that time looked accordingly. For example, among the dog trainers there were on the one hand the old-fashioned " hardliners " who harassed their dogs on the training grounds using methods that were massively authoritarian and dominant, and often corresponded to sheer use of force . On the other hand, there were the " hippies " who let their dogs run completely unaffected , in the sense of " laissez-faire education ". Both methods often led to massive problems regarding human-dog and dog-dog interaction . Incidentally, trainers of other animal species acted similarly.

Whenever something revolutionary emerges in social practice, great resistance and conflicts arise. This is understandable also with regard to the resistance to the modern positive training method, because it is based on a rethinking of very fundamental attitudes to the relationship between us humans and our environment.

This new method called traditional attitudes into question. For many, more conservative people, this is a very unpleasant experience. Not everyone is ready to constantly question their points of view and principles and remain an eternal learner. But here I would like to note: Perhaps not everyone has to do this and perhaps conservative standpoints, "which preserve", are just as important for our society as revolutionaries, who "accept the deal" to combine the prospect of the great gain that the new can bring with the willingness to take a certain risk for its achievement?


Back to basics: Functioning communication is one of the keys: Learn your dog's language!


I've digressed a lot, but for me these thoughts inevitably belong in the context of the search for the right training method.

For the modern positive training method , communication is a particularly important foundation . As with the Babylonian confusion of languages, a very different language prevents the common achievement of a goal (I am aware that the comparison may be somewhat "limp" because, as is well known, according to Biblical exegesis, the Tower of Babel is about an intervention by God to end human hubris).

Cooperation is, in my opinion, only possible if the communication relevant to the common goal works in some way. Dog owners who want to acquire the appropriate training tools must first learn to learn the language of their four-legged friends at least to a certain minimum. One of the principles of this method is to give the dog the greatest possible choice. This method is also characterized by a perception of the needs of the four-legged training partner and this dimension has always to be taken into account during the training process. To make all of this possible, communication between both training partners is of course necessary. Thus, an important component in modern positive dog training is first of all learning the dog's body language and learning scientifically sound behavioral analysis.

At this point I would like to point out that the tools of the modern positive training method are very powerful and can also be used in a dubious way, which then has nothing to do with the principles of cooperation just described. Classic conditioning influences unconscious processes in the trained individuals, so to speak, and they cannot defend themselves against it. This is one possible dimension of this training method, which, if used incorrectly, can correspond to the massive use of force. Classical conditioning enables a kind of possibility for the abuse of power by the trainer.

If the conditioning is greatly exaggerated, from my point of view, an almost grotesque image of an animal acting like a robot can arise, willlessly submitted to the signals given by humans and unwinding an imprinted program in a fast chain of behavior, without being able to resist this urge.

For me this is the horror of modern positive training and I think that it is very important here for the trainer to be aware of the responsibility that everyone has who uses this training method.

That is not to say that I generally reject corresponding training directions such as trick training or medical training. I just think that the dogs' free will should be taken into account. There are, for example, good approaches to ensure that the animal retains a certain degree of control over the situation (e.g. bucket game).


To the extent to which the conditioning is applied, the different approaches of the modern positive training method also differ.


Accordingly, a positioning makes sense for me here. A comparison with the pedagogical situation towards children helps me. Here, too, if at all, I would only consciously use the methods of conditioning to a limited extent. All the time conditioning processes run unconsciously when raising children and they take place on both sides, with the teacher and the student. If the educator chooses to consciously use conditioning techniques, then educational action is probably associated with a greater imbalance in the power relation. This could be exaggerated to such an extent that this pedagogical action would rather maintain the quality of a dressage. In my opinion, a dressage-like training in the area of influencing fellow human beings would be unthinkable because it is associated with a violation of dignity. In fact, corresponding dressage-like methods are used in behavior therapy, for example in Treating Autism. I have not yet dealt with this topic in detail, but in my opinion dressage-like training for people is absurd. Therefore, conditioning should not be used in this form in dogs either.

The examination of the modern training method shows that the whole thing is quite complex and numerous topics that go beyond the mere training topic belong in the context.


Conclusions for my professional practice


The modern positive training method has many advantages as well as disadvantages. It is not an ideal path, but in my opinion it is the best possible path compared to the possible alternatives. My main arguments here are: Other training methods known to me all work with a different - but generally higher degree of negative impact on the animal. In some of these approaches, the needs of the dogs are completely ignored, the dogs are severely restricted and they have to follow the "master" or "mistress" completely. In addition, most of these methods are much less scientifically based than the modern positive training method.

In my daily practice as a dog sitter I strive to give the dog the greatest possible freedom, try to empathize as much as possible into my four-legged protégés and to meet their needs. I like to support the individual development of each individual animal, but limit myself to only taking corrective action when I consider it absolutely necessary. In my care, the dogs should be able to develop within the social group structure of their care group. I often give the dogs their own decision-making options and try to consistently provide an environment in which they can regenerate, reduce frustration and experience freedom and joy. I pay attention to an equated balance between rest and activity, I challenge and encourage and I’m eager to give the most suitable amount of attention each individual requires.

There are also situations for me that require to set limits in certain situations for one of my protégés. But with this I correspond to many of the modern positive approaches, which work with so-called "aversive" or "negative" means in very specific exceptional situations. For example, there are dangerous situations in which immediate intervention and interruption are necessary, which, depending on the level of training of the animals, may then have a negative impact on the dogs. However, a common feature of modern positive approaches is to choose the lowest possible level of negative influence in these special situations and this requires a lot of self-reflection, conscious action and thinking ahead from the person carrying out the work. I am happy to invest this effort, because I know how much I and my beloved four-legged protégés can gain from it.




Classic view