Why is this dog training with a difference?
Training is of course important, but so is your and your family’s relationship with your dog. Training should enhance this rather than jeopardise it.
Training will focus on giving your dog the life skills they need to be part of the family using reward based, scientifically proven methods, it certainly isn't magic or mysterious. Training should be accessible to everyone, regardless of ability.
Why are you always plugging positive reinforcement?
There’s just too many advantages to using reward based training to cover all of them here, not only does it mean you and your dog are a team, but it means your dog retains their new learning, enjoys working with you, feels confident to offer behaviours that we like and feels positive about you, your family, your home and their environment. Like us a dog needs to feel secure before they can learn, there may be changes to the environment that need to be made before your dog can take on new learning.
Well there are other ways to train a dog, right?
Sure there are other ways to train a dog that may be advocated by other trainers, like rattle cans, water pistols etc working on the premise you startle the dog out of doing a behaviour or punish the dog for exhibiting that behaviour. This may stop the outward behaviour but it doesn’t address the underlying emotional state of the animal, the reason why they were showing that behaviour in the first place.
Well what’s the problem if it stops the behaviour? Using punishment has been shown to increase the likelihood of your dog showing aggression, it certainly doesn’t communicate to your dog what behaviour we would prefer them to do, it’s like putting a bandade on a bullet hole. You may stop the bleeding with the bandade but ultimately the underlying damage is not repaired and will cause further complications later on. To put it another way its like shaking a fizzy drink, all is well while the cap is on, but if the cap is removed, it makes a mess.
Coercive training methods are also a quick way to dissolve any relationship you have already worked on between you and your dog, it breaks the trust, you become unsafe from your dog's perspective, there are so many situations we need our dogs to trust us and feel safe with us in our confusing human world.
Won't that mean my dog will only follow a cue of a treat?
You might be thinking that all sounds well and good but what if you just end up with a dog that only follows a cue if there’s a treat in it for them? For me it’s really not the end of the world, if it means my dog jumps in the boot of the car when I ask him to then I definitely can cope with the odd treat in a pocket that ultimately goes through the wash with a stray poo bag. My dog is awesome, but large and me lifting him in does neither of us any favours.
Yes, of course initially your dog will need a reward every time when teaching a new behaviour, remember behaviour is communication, you giving your dog a reward is you communicating that they have done it right. Once they have got it, then you can phase out the treat and use other reward methods like play, or other ‘life’ rewards. However don't be in a rush to do this, it takes time for behaviours to become established and once your dog is following cues well, you'll probably find rewarding their efforts pays off in dividends.
We ourselves like to feel our efforts are rewarded and appreciated, we like to be ‘paid’ whether that be our pay check at the end of the month or even if we do voluntary work, we are getting a sense of self fulfilment. We like to feel appreciated by our partners, by our children, by our friends, this may be in the form of a thank you, a hug or a nice gesture. The animals we share our lives with are no different. A dog doesn’t necessarily appreciate a thank you card, unless they like shredding cardboard, so we need to show them in other ways that they find rewarding.
There are some situations I will always continue to ‘produce the goods’ in, like with recall, if anyone has attempted to suggest a child stops playing on their Xbox and come do their homework, its much the same if your dog has found something AMAZING to sniff, roll in, eat, or are playing with their best mate. Unless you have practiced recall in similar situations during training and have a good positive reinforcement history of the recall being rewarded, you are unlikely to be successful and may resort to plain old bribery, coercion, frustration, threats or abandoning the cause altogether.
It's important to note that dogs will be motivated by different things, therefore some dogs prefer food, while others prefer play with toys, fuss, free time off the lead, opportunity to sniff, opportunity to play with another dog, chase games, tug games, hide and seek, find it games etc.