I must say that this thread has take a very interesting turn for the better with some deeply insightful thoughts.
I always follow posts by both Eug & Colonel Milner as I find them to be very well thought out & interesting. I also happen to appreciate the traits the British gun dogs are evaluated for and wish that our Hunt Test programs reflected some of them more. Since I agree w/ them on so many issues, I'm intrigued by their statements on this one.
If the dog does not have the capability to disobey a known command, doesn’t he also lack the ability to obey one? Do you ascribe to the theory that all organisms (us included) are merely responding to a stimulus and therefore aren't responsible for our actions?
I’ve considered B.F. Skinner’s Radical Behaviorism theory but it simply does not match up with my own experiences with dogs (or humans). I know that I see dogs make decisions very often in training. Of course, training sessions should be designed to utilize the tools of Operant Conditioning to thoroughly teach a concept before you can hold them accountable, but I just don’t believe it’s all there is to it. I think the conditioned response to a "whistle sit" for example accounts for a large percentage of the reason the dog's butt moves toward the ground, but it is clear to me that there is often a "decision process" going on that keeps him there. (or not;-))
If I believed my dogs were merely predictable responders to stimuli, and all I need to do is build a big enough “Skinner box” to train in, I wouldn’t have pissed away all the time & money I have over the last 30+ years being fascinated by them.