The cornerstones for a happy, well-behaved pet involve 4 key elements. It’s my goal to set my clients up for success by helping them implement these elements into their lives with their dogs.
Training. I am committed to using scientifically sound, rewards-based, and force-free training methods. ‘Scientifically sound’ training methods are based on the science of animal learning theory and canine behavior – it’s how all animals best learn. These methods are lawful and scientific, tried and true, and they provide long-lasting results because they address the root cause of the animal’s behavior. ‘Force-Free’ training methods encourage the dog to offer behaviors using Operant and Classical Conditioning. These methods are 100% humane, so you will feel good about using them with your family pet! Your dog will respond incredibly well, and he/she will love training. Finally, I only use ‘Rewards-based’ training methods (the giving and taking away of stuff the dog wants) to encourage the dog to repeat desirable behaviors, while extinguishing undesirable behaviors. Rewards can be food, attention from humans, a ball toss, walkies, a round of tug, a belly rub, or anything else that your dog finds rewarding. Behaviors that are reinforced will be repeated because dogs do what works.
Management. A large part of training and behavior modification involves managing the dog’s environment so unwanted behaviors cannot be learned, practiced or reinforced. Many times, a dog’s behavior can be completely modified by simply managing his environment. However, most behavior change comes through a combination of managing the dog’s environment, exercise, enrichment and teaching the dog new behaviors. I’ll work with you to implement effective management strategies so your dog cannot continue to practice unwanted behaviors.
Enrichment. A key, but frequently over-looked, part of any dog’s well-being is environmental enrichment. Before dogs came to live in our homes with us, they spent the majority of their waking hours scavenging and hunting for food. When they came to live indoors with humans, and all of their food began appearing in a bowl once or twice a day, they lost their primary outlet for this natural hunting and scavenging instinct, leaving them with a lot of time to fill and energy to burn, which can be a bad combination for a predatory animal living in our home! We can fill this void for our dogs by throwing out their food bowls and implementing a work-to-eat program in our homes, via rewards-based training, food stuffed toys, puzzle games, scent games, and any number of other activities that will let dogs tap into their innate needs to hunt, scavenge, use their noses to work for their food. It will not only be fun and satisfying for our dogs, but will help burn their excess energy, too. All training and behavior modifications will address enrichment.
Exercise. The average household companion dog receives far too little exercise, contributing, not only to obesity and health problems in many pet dogs, but to many behavior problems as well. For most dogs, a leash walk is not exercise! It’s a nice social outing, especially if you allow your dog to sniff and meet lots of dogs and people, but it only counts as exercise for geriatric and low-energy dogs. The best forms of energy burning exercise include dog-dog play, swimming, hiking off leash or on a long line, jogging and fetch.
Aversives include, choke chains, shock collars, prong collars, physical punishment such as yelling, hitting, kicking, ear pinching, kneeing a dog in the chest, holding a dog’s muzzle closed, or anything else that a dog may seek to avoid because it’s painful or scary to the dog. Well, the truth is, aversives (often) do work in the short term by suppressing an animal’s behavior. If they didn’t work, trainers would have stopped using them a long time ago. However, aversives come with some pretty nasty side effects, including fear and aggression, as well as damage to the human-animal bond. Additionally, suppressing the outward behavior, without addressing the underlying reason for the behavior, doesn’t provide lasting change. Just like in people, if we suppress the outward behavior without addressing the underlying cause, the behavior will likely manifest in other ways.
It’s all about Relationship. What kind of relationship would you like to have with your dog? If you consider your dog to be a beloved family member and you would like a relationship built on trust, mutual respect, communication and understanding, than scientifically sound, rewards-based and force-free training is for you!