Most of my clients are completely new to using certain training tools, like prong collars and e-collars. Many clients feel nervous about using these tools, because they are unfamiliar with how to use the tools and they are understandably concerned about physically or emotionally hurting their dog. There is a lot of fear-mongering around the use of different training tools, and horror stories about dogs being abused or coming out of training programs traumatized sadly do exist.
My programs are designed specifically to create reliability while supporting the unique spirit of each dog. This is why my programs are results based and longer than other companies'--I refuse to rush dogs through speedy, compulsion-based training programs, which are often really stressful for the dog and may ultimately break the dogs' spirit. My goal is to use the least amount of force required for owners to have safe, secure dogs. Some trainers and animal rights advocates try and argue that forcing dogs to do anything is abuse. I strongly disagree with this. Dogs, like people, need clarity in their lives to thrive. Clarity requires an understanding of what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable behavior. Unpleasant consequences for unacceptable behavior is necessary for people and dogs to learn.
It is true that both people and dogs don't "enjoy" receiving consequences for unacceptable behavior. A common analogy I give to families is the response they may get from their child when they've instructed their child to go clean their room. Of course, most children are not going to happily skip off to their room to clean and make their bed--they would rather play instead! The annoyance or sadness a child might express when they are forced to stop playing and go clean their room is not because what is being asked of them is unfair or abusive. Parents try to teach their children housekeeping skills to cultivate a sense of responsibility in their child, and so that someday their child may be able to take care of themselves and maintain a hygienic and peaceful living space. As adults, we all do things that we don't want to do because we know they are best for us, and because we have practice prioritizing safety and long-term interests over short-term satisfaction.
This same logic applies in our relationship with our dogs--using training tools gives dogs clarity by way of teaching dogs what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, helps dogs develop impulse control, and improves the relationships that owners have with their dogs. Dogs, like children, don't inherently know how to practice self-control and safety. Reward-based-only training cannot succeed with the majority of dogs out there who will refuse the highest value treat in order to do something else, like greet another dog or person, chase an animal, follow a scent, etc. Because we can't reason with our dogs verbally into listening, nor "ground" our dogs for misbehavior, there is simply no way to teach and compel our dogs to do things they don't want to do unless we use force by way of training tools like the prong collar and e-collar. Using training tools and creating clarity for our dogs not only keeps our dogs safe and more mentally stable, it also improves our relationship with them. Our dogs learn to trust us as reliable, fair and clear partners and leaders who keep them safe. Using rewards and providing safe outlets for our dogs to rehearse their genetic desires, in conjunction with the use of training tools, brings joy and fulfillment to our dog's life and our partnership with them. This is why I heavily support the use of rewards in the way that best supports each dog, and I try to teach owners how to give their dogs safe outlets for their dogs' genetic predisposition--this might look like letting dogs use their nose to scent as a reward, rather than giving them food, and teaching owners how to play fetch or tug with their dog, etc.
I never judge current or potential clients for their comfort or thoughts about training tools, and I will never force a client to use training tools they aren't comfortable with. My goal is to educate and give clients and potential clients clear expectations around what results are possible with different training methods, and to help my clients achieve their training goals with their dog.
If you have any more questions about my methods or different training tools, feel free to reach out!
The doorbell rings, and your dog starts barking and charges the door. You somehow manage to get them out of the way, and put your hand on the door nob. Before you open the door, you turn to your dog: "Sit! Sparky, sit!" Sparky slowly moves his way into a sit...that is...until you open the door. You are frustrated, because you KNOW Sparky knows how to "sit." Nonetheless, you give up, not wanting to leave your guest waiting while you train your dog, and you resort to "plan B" -- apologizing to your guest for the jumping and barking, and encouraging them to come in anyways.
Many dog owners feel confused and frustrated because they think that their dog ignores basic commands that they know.
Here are two reasons why this might be happening:
1.) Your dog doesn't REALLY know exactly what the command means
Let's continue with the same behavior as above, "sit." You probably think, "sit" is SIMPLE, I know my dog knows what that means! I tell him/her to sit before I feed meals, and when I give treats. I even say "sit" before I throw them the ball. Sure, maybe your dog knows that "sit" means to put their butt on the ground. But, for how long? When can they get up from their sit? Do you let them get up and walk away after they take their treat, or after you ask for a high-five? Do you say "sit," chuck their ball, and let them go run and get it without releasing them? If so, there's a good chance that your dog thinks "sit" is a temporary position, and not something that they need to stay in until you tell them to.
2. Your dog hasn't generalized the command
What does generalization mean? Let me briefly explain generalization using an example that us humans can easily understand:
Let's say you are at school, and learning what 2+2 means. You see 2+2 on the whiteboard, the projector, and the book in front of you. When you go home, you take out your homework and see it on the paper your teacher gave you. You know that 2+2 on any surface and at any location is the same thing.
Well, a dog would have a difficult time with this. And not just because they aren't natural mathematicians. Dogs do NOT naturally understand that "sit" when you are holding their food bowl above their head is the same thing as "sit" when they are barking their heads off because FedEx is at your door. Your dog may "sit" perfectly in the house, and even stay in a sit at the house, but when you are outside of Pete's coffee and another dog walks buy, your dog doesn't even seem to HEAR you speaking to them. This is not "disobedience," and your dog is not "blowing you off." Your dog simply hasn't been trained to perform the same obedience commands in different, especially difficult or exciting situations!
So, before you scowl and yell at Sparky for blowing you off, remember there are multiple reasons why your dog may not listen to a command you give them, including the two common ones described above. Don't stay frustrated, simply get more training!
Imagine if your kids only went to school once or twice a week. 😳 Sounds awful—right? Now think, what type of education or stimulation is your dog getting every week?
Many clients ask me why going to day-school for the full week over multiple weeks (M-F), or doing overnight boarding camp for multiple weeks (M-Sun) is better than one or two days a week of training?
I like to compare this question to my academic experience learning a foreign language. When I was in college at UC Davis, I took a few quarters of Spanish class. Every day, for a good chunk of time and in a small class setting, I had an immersive experience in Spanish. My Spanish skills rapidly improved, and I felt confident in my abilities. Had I been taking only one or two Spanish classes a week, the development of my language skills would have taken much longer. Had I been living somewhere where I was surrounded by Spanish 24/7, my skills would have improved even faster!
Dog learning and behavior excels in an immersive, school-like program that is tailored to the needs of the individual dog. Enjoy a well-behaved dog or puppy, with less work on your part, and in less time than private or group training.
Let me know if you have any questions, or would like to hear more about my most common day school and overnight camp programs!