Influential Dog Trainers and Their Contributions- Part 3

Pfaffenberger, Scott, Fuller, Reynolds

Trainers for decades have understood that there is more to training canines than a set of procedures, or simple applications of principles, no matter how sound.  A trainer must be patient, and an astute observer of the canine’s body language.  The best trainers all have one thing in common, they know how to read the dog.

Effective trainers understand the entire dog.  It cannot be denied that learning theory is important or that behaviors can be increased or decreased with reinforcement or punishment.  However, breed or species differences and genetics are an often overlooked part of the equation that determines how well a canine is trained.  A Labrador or Golden Retriever would be a much better choice than an English Bulldog for work where picking up items is important. Understanding the breed goes a long way in determining the training procedure.

Clarence Pfaffenberger was responsible for screening and evaluating canines for the Guide Dogs for the Blind and Dogs for Defense organizations.  In 1963, he published The New Knowledge of Dog Behavior, a work that underscored the importance of genetic knowledge when breeding canines for specific uses. Pfaffenberger developed some of the earliest behavior and temperament tests.

Dr. John Paul Scott and his colleague Dr. John Fuller have spent in excess of twenty-years doing research on canines.  Their work focuses on the role that heredity assumes in the development of canine behavior.

Scott and Fuller published Genetics and the Social Behaviors of the Dog, which is considered by many to be the Rosetta Stone of canine behavior.  They are also credited with the discovery, and identification of the critical socialization periods of puppies.  Their research showed what many trainers have always suspected; there are significant differences between breeds when it comes to motivational characteristics and a lot of those are related to breeding practices.

In relation to breeding in dog sledding, Dr. Arleigh Reynolds is a balancing act of action, access and admiration. Many people want access to Reynolds. Dr. Reynolds is a canine exercise physiologist and nutritionist and he is lucky enough to mix his love of sled dogs, research, and teaching into a job that he adores. Reynolds is one of the most renowned mushing researchers in the field. He holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and a Ph.D. from Cornell University. He is also a breeder of some of the best sled dogs in the sport. Reynolds is a line-breeder. Line-breeding procreates pups using the same or closely related ancestors on both sides of the pedigree. The purpose is to foster dogs that are increasingly similar in size, temperament and uniformity, which is important because a higher percent make the team.

Clarence Pfaffenberger worked closely with Scott and Fuller, and was given credit for his “real-world” testing of Scott and Fuller’s laboratory generated theories. Dogs breeding for the sport of mushing is very similar to the work of these researchers.


Dr. Robert Forto is the training director for Dog Works Training Center, a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner, and the host of the popular Dog Doctor Radio Show