We believe that training must be balanced using both motivational and corrective techniques. Amateur and hobbyist dog trainers are nice people who love dogs and train them by acting submissive around them.
Professional Dog Trainers/Behaviourists who use both positive motivation and corrective methods in balance according to your dogs personality type, will have the most success with training not only the fearful and submissive dogs but the more challenging dominant dogs as well.
A balanced trainer will have you commanding your dog to perform a task and it will be doing it because you said so, not because it is going to get food or fear of being punished.
In all of our courses, each individual dog is assessed and put on our scale of 1 to 10.
A #1 on my scale meaning a very fearful and/or submissive dog. A #10 on my scale meaning a dominant pushy dog. Each dog will be trained differently depending where it is on our scale. By putting all dogs on our scale it helps to clarify to the owners what the dog truly is rather than where they think it is.
There is no one training method that works on all dogs. A professional can quickly and accurately assess your dog to determine its personality type and how it relates to the real world. From this assessment, the trainer will choose the appropriate training method that fits your individual dog. In our experience, many dogs and owners are mismatched in their personality types. It’s up to us, the professionals, to advise the owners which training techniques are necessary for their particular dog and instil a confidence and trust that our methods will get them to where they want to be. At times we will need to make the disciplinarian of the family more motivational and the softie in the family more of a disciplinarian. It’s a balance of both ends of the leash.
There are many different training tools available to trainers. Common tools used by professional trainers include clicker, flat collars, martingale collars, choke chains, prong collars and electronic collars. Some trainers are more comfortable using certain tools over others, depending if they fit their training philosophies and methods. Trainers will often disagree with training tools that they claim are “cruel” or “inhumane”. At the other end of the spectrum are the trainers who refuse to use any motivational tools such as food, toys or praise in their training. There is a dog out there in society that requires each and every one of the recognized professional training tools.
Whether trainers agree with the tools or not, they all have been proven successful with one dog or another. For a trainer to limit themselves to only the tools in which they are comfortable is doing an injustice to those dogs that require these methods and who are now being labelled “behaviour issues” rather than “training issues”.
The Use of Punishment
Dogs should never be punished. If you are feeling frustrated or angry with your dog a time-out is required…for YOU…not the dog. Time-outs are for humans only. A harder correction is not a better correction…it just makes you feel better. In the end it deteriorates the trust you’ve built with your dog and diminishes the confidence your dog has in you as a leader. Leaders don’t punish…respect is earned.
The Use of Food Rewards
Food rewards are used to teach the dog what it is we want him to do in the beginning stages of training. All dogs require 10-15 repetitions a day using food rewards to teach what is expected and are continued until the dog fully understands the command. It is not fair to eliminate the food rewards and move to correction if your dog does not understand what is expected. A strong foundation using food rewards is the most important component of the training. The use of food builds a positive experience for your dog in the initial training stage.
Once the behaviour is learned we will eliminate the food rewards and replace it with praise and affection. A dog properly transitioned from food rewards to praise from the handler will work more effectively and reliably, in the real world, rather than using constant lure rewards to keep its attention.
Food rewards used inappropriately can reinforce negative behaviours. Food rewards should never be used with dominant dogs displaying any type of aggression. The aggression must be fully under control and respect and focus given to the pack leader (handler) before food is to be initiated in the training.
There are dogs that will not accept food rewards due to stress in dealing with the real world. A balanced trainer works to find a method that will motivate your dog to work for you without food if need be. In our experience we have come across true life stories of owners ready to euthanize their dog because they were told by trainers that “because their dog would not accept food their dog could never be trained”. A dog who does not accept food is never considered untrainable.
The Use of Correction
Once the dog has a solid foundation using motivational methods to teach the commands, we now move to correction and praise. If the dog now understands the command but chooses not to do it we must present a consequence to ensure reliability in the real world under distraction.
For example, if your dog runs away from you after spotting a squirrel, your waving around a food reward is not going to make him come back to you immediately on command. If, however, he has been shown that there is a consequence to ignoring your command his reliability in responding will be where you need it…100%.