Q: What is your training philosophy?
A: I consider myself a “Positive First, Balanced” trainer…
But I am pretty sure I made that term up. 🙂
There is a lot of philosophical debate going on in the dog training world these days. Rather than jump into the fray, I prefer to use the methods and tools that I have found through experience to be both humane and effective.
A Relationship Based approach seems self-evident. I base my training on these basic principles:
I do not believe there is one right way to do anything. I believe that unique circumstances and conditions can have an effect on what methods or tools will be the most effective – and each dog and situation should be assessed individually.
To encourage desired behavior and reduce unwanted behavior, I rely on a combination of:
- Operant Conditioning
- Behavioral Shaping, AKA Successive Approximations
- Relationship-Based Training / Learn to Earn
- Counterconditioning & Desensitization
I use inter-species communication methods such as environmental controls (crates, tethering, “puppy proofing”), a system of rewards (food, toys, verbal praise), and gentle corrections (verbal and/or physical feedback), with an emphasis on building a strong bond between dog and handler.
I keep the use of tools to a minimum – preferring to cue dogs with voice commands, hand signals, and luring – but I am not opposed to using tools such as a clicker, prong collar, ultrasonic trainer, or e-collar when strictly necessary.
Some dogs respond very positively to modes of communication that provide more clarity.
If a tool supports better understanding of handler intent, I’m all for it! But I also believe in completely phasing out tools whenever possible…
Ideally, dogs learn to follow their leader because they are simply accustomed to doing so and love to work with us – NOT due to fear of punishment or bribery with treats.
In a nutshell?I love facilitating the joy of using socialization and training to establish off-leash reliability – and a happy life – for all dogs.
Q: Can you help with an aggressive dog?
A: That depends.
Is your dog reactive on leash (lunging or barking at other dogs or people)? Does she bark at the UPS man through the living room window, or chase passing cars? If so, then YES, I can likely help!
Sometimes dog lovers accidently “reverse train” our dogs without meaning to. Often, there are simple solutions for changing the patterns of behavior. By gaining a better understanding of your pup’s aggressive behaviors, the reasons for them, and any contributing factors, you will learn how to train her to be a Social Dog.
However, I do not work with dogs with a serious bite history. If you need more help than I can provide, I will refer you to a trainer with experience in rehabbing true aggression.
Q: What is your #1 training tip?
A: Love your dog.
Seems obvious, right? 🙂 Let me explain what I mean by that.
Honor her dog-ness by giving her what she really needs.
Dogs by their very nature want to follow the leader. And fur parents sometimes forget their canine companions aren’t actual babies…
So, when raising a dog, it’s important to remember you are sharing your home with an opportunistic predator.
All dogs, regardless of breed or size, have:
- Prey drive
- 42 teeth in their skull
- Digestive tract indistinguishable from that of a wolf
And, despite what some trainers may claim, all canines – wolves, coyotes, jackals, and dogs – are so genetically similar, they can interbreed.
That doesn’t mean dogs are exactly like their wilder brethren… but they’re pretty close. 🙂
So what does this mean for you, the dog lover living with one of these fascinating creatures?
For maximum JOY with the least amount of conflict:
❥ Learn to “speak dog”
❥ Respect their genetic heritage
❥ Give them what they need to feel secure!
Returning to the parenting analogy for a moment, similar to raising a human child we shouldn’t just give our dog what she wants (that’s spoiling), or do whatever is easiest for us (that’s selfish).
As loving stewards, we must provide dogs with the things they actually need to feel secure:
1) Purpose (AKA work)
2) Boundaries (AKA discipline)
3) Commitment (AKA time & effort)
This is the way to truly help fur babies live their best life.
Training IS Love. 🐕💕