PHILOSOPHY

 

At K9ology we understand that one size does not fit all. Luckily, an understanding of various methods and teaching approaches allows us to help you based on your dog’s needs.

From Charlotte - The training methods I use...

 

My first choice of training is definitely positive reinforcement, or reward-based training. Using praise, play, food, treats, social contact, and access to the world, allows training to be fun, motivational, and empowering for both dog and human. This is a great tool when teaching new behaviors, practicing rusty manners, and working on social skills. To make communication even stronger while learning, I also use a “yes” marker to further assist the dog in the learning process (just like clicker training without the actual clicker). It’s important to remember that anything can be a reward, which means sometimes even unwanted behaviors get accidentally reinforced! What most owners don't realize is that true positive reinforcement is not bribery! It's about having the dog earn and learn for rewards!  

 

My next favorite method is negative punishment. Those words, especially when together, seem so ... well... negative. In scientific terms, however, negative punishment means you simply remove your dog (or something they want or like) in order to stop a behavior you don’t want. I love to use negative punishment as a way to extinguish newly developed unwanted behaviors. It works great for things like attention barking (remove social contact so the barking stops), or mugging for meals (remove bowl if dog jumps in excitement.... thus the dog learns food things go away for being rude). Negative punishment is necessary when working on impulse control and when training in new environments. It is a minimally invasive training strategy that introduces the dog to consequences while learning. 

 

Negative reinforcement simply means something unpleasant, uncomfortable, or stressful is removed once the dog behaves in a desired way. This method is popular in horseback riding - the pressure of the bit is removed as soon as the horse complies. This method can be extremely effective, but more experienced handling is required. Negative reinforcement is used when working on loose lead walking with a training aid. When the dog pulls, pressure is exerted; as soon as the dog complies with a loose leash, pressure is removed. Tools commonly used with negative reinforcement include gentle leaders, prong collars, front clip harnesses, and e-collars. Negative reinforcement is great if your dog has a solid foundation using positive reinforcement. This method is highly effective when working through distractions or on duration of a command (like stay, wait, and recall). A critical part of negative reinforcement is giving the dog the option and choice to avoid the negative consequence. This is what I use (with positive reinforcement) in advanced and off-leash training. By using positive and negative reinforcement you are giving the dog more information as tasks get harder, while still rewarding good behavior and responses. 

 

Positive punishment is least likely to be used during training as the intention is to cause pain, harm, avoidance, and fear. Positive simply means you add something the dog finds unpleasant to stop (punish) unwanted behavior. Positive punishment could easily result in a dog who exhibits extreme avoidance in only a few repetitions. It may be a necessary tool for dogs which chase livestock, inspect a poisonous snake, or put themselves otherwise in harms way. Unfortunately, there are many potential side effects, such as: the dog associating the wrong thing with the punishment, the dog generalizing and now avoiding the area of punishment, mistrust in the owner and insecure behavior, fear or lack of confidence, and frustration. Timing is absolutely critical whenever this method is used.

 

In addition to the 4 main methods of training, I use classical conditioning (think Pavlov and the bell), desensitization, and other science-based methods to achieve results, especially with dogs who are shy, fearful, or lacking confidence. 

 

I firmly believe that training begins with the human and ends with the environment. Owners often seek quick fix solutions and are sometimes unwilling to put in the time, effort, discipline, and energy to get the results they want or need. My job is to get you started in whatever your training endeavor you have and manage expectations based on both short- and long-term goals.

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