Dog training is all about forming a cooperative relationship with your dog. I want you to have a dog who is polite, easy to live with and fun to take everywhere with you, and most importanly, have a desire to listen to you and do what you ask.
All of my training is reward based. I believe in teaching dogs what we want them do to, not punishing them for what we don't want. The concept of "don't" is difficult for dogs to understand, as it's an abstract term and doesn't provide the dog with any direction. Teaching dogs what we want and motivating them to want to do what we want them to do, is very clear for the dog. We provide black and white rules for what we want. The result is a dog who is confident and happy because he or she knows exactly what is expected.
Training is something that should be fun for both the owner and the dog. It shouldn't be a chore that you or your dog dreads. When you ask your dog to do something, your dog should perk up and look excited!
While I have a few foundation exercises I teach all dogs, I don't use one fix-all method for dogs. All dogs are different, and I will tweak my method based on the individual dog's personality and problem. I believe in using science to train dogs. This means I have studied learning theory, I have researched many different ways of training dogs, and I have experimented with different ways to implement training for different dogs. I use whatever the individual dog requires, and I apply all methods in a way that is proven to work according to science.
Studies show that dogs trained mainly with rewards for good behaviour learn faster, want to obey, and have a stronger bond with their owner. The basis of all training is to show the dog what we want it to do, using rewards that the dog loves.
Dogs are instinctively selfish creatures. The driving force in a dog's life is its desire to do things that make them feel good. Dogs never do things to make you feel good. Dogs have no sense of higher purpose or ethics to tell them that they should do something because it's the right thing to do. Once people truly understand and accept that, they are on their way to becoming a better dog owner and trainer. A dog has two reasons to obey a command: He wants the reward, or he wants to avoid the punishment.
Famous dog trainer Susan Garrett summed it up pretty nicely in this quote: "...dogs do what is reinforcing. That is it. Dogs are either trying to earn reinforcement from you, anticipating the next reinforcement, creatively working out a way to get the reinforcement easier or earlier, troubleshooting a challenge to bring out reinforcement, or chasing after that which is reinforcing."
We never punish our dog in obedience training for things he doesn't understand or that he hasn't been trained to do. The first step in teaching a dog any skill is to show him what we want him to do through setting him up to succeed and rewarding him for being successful. Only when we know that he knows what is expected do we introduce punishment for non-compliance, in the form of collar grabs, increased response cost, removal of privileges or similar*.
If the dog makes a mistake, it's usually the trainer's fault for not clearly communicating what he or she wanted the dog to do. When possible, the dog should be set up to succeed. If the dog does make a mistake, we simply re-set and try again. Punishing a dog before it knows what's expected, is like punishing the dog for our bad training.
You will never hear me use the words "dominance" or "be a strong leader", as this simply isn't necessary to train your dog. Click here to read more about the dominance theory myth.
*I never use harsh punishment in obedience training. Harsh punishment includes yelling, smacking, leash corrections, time-outs, among others. I never want a dog to fear what his owner might do to him. The purpose of using punishment is to teach the dog that "that behaviour will not benefit you, try again". Because dogs are selfish creatures, they will choose not to repeat a behaviour which didn't pay off.
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