Welcome to Understanding Our Dogs LLC!
POSITIVE VS. PERMISSIVE
A common mistake is to confuse Positive with Permissive. As a positive trainer, I do believe in house rules and upholding dogs to a certain level of expectations. The difference is in which road to take to achieve it. We prefer the one avoiding conflict and coercion.
It is a misconception that training takes a long time. The golden rule is to have 5-10 five-minute sessions a day. The session can also broken up into 30-second increments. The success depends on the quality of the training plan, timing of your feedback to the dog and your observation skills.
As the Karen Pryor Academy graduate, I studied the Learning Theory (how canines and other species learn based on years of scientific research) quite extensively. I will teach you how to create a successful training plan. It sounds complicated, but it is not and should not require much preparation. We will simply take the goal behavior and break it down into manageable parts that are easy for the dog to understand.
IMPORTANCE OF OBSERVATION SKILLS
Knowing when the dog is relaxed, happy, nervous or anxious is very important to the success of training. When we were in school, we absorbed information the best when we were rested and relaxed. The same with dogs. Sometimes, dogs' body language is very subtle and easy to miss. I will be glad to share my knowledge with you. For example, did you know that if in the middle of your training session your dog starts yawning it does not mean he is tired or sleepy? It may mean that something is bothering him.
SIGNIFICANCE OF MOTIVATION (REINFORCEMENT)
A truly motivated dog will learn faster and work harder. Another misconception about positive training is that it relies on food all the time and every behavior is always rewarded. Not true at all. Once the behavior is performed reliably and without errors, we have a proven system of how to fade out the need for reinforcement.
Additionally, the reinforcer does not have to be food. Please follow this link to a list of 86 reinforcers that were identified by Steve White, a prominent trainer of police dogs for over 30+years.
UNDERSTANDING THE CAUSE OF THE BEHAVIOR
It is critical to understand the cause of the behavior in order to address it efficiently. It saves time and money for the owners. For example, the vast majority of aggression cases is due to anxiety and fear. If we address those two first, we will reduce the occurrence of aggression. After that, we can teach the dog the appropriate behavior. There is a significant increase of success if the dog's mental state is kept below threshold (before the outbreak).
PUNISHMENT AS A TRAINING TOOL
To who do we entrust the wellbeing of our dogs? Family, of course, and our veterinarians. American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) published a statement on "Use of punishment for behavior modification in animals." I hope you will have a couple of minutes to review the whole document. In summary: "...punishment (e.g. choke chains, pinch collars, and electronic collars) should not be used as a first-line or early-use treatment for behavior problems. This is due to the potential adverse effects which include but are not limited to: inhibition of learning, increased fear-related and aggressive behaviors and injury to animals and people interacting with animals."
"While reprimands might still occur during daily life, we omit punishment and avoid negative reinforcement as much as possible as an instructional tool" - Karen Pryor's Acceptance Speech: Annual Award for Excellence in the Media Association for Behavior Analysis, Chicago, May 23, 1997.
IS BAD BEHAVIOR CAUSED BY DOMINANCE?
Dominance is defined as a relationship between individual animals that is established by force/aggression and submission, to determine who has priority access to multiple resources such as food, preferred resting spots, and mates (Bernstein 1981; Drews 1993). Resources are not the main focus of our relationship with our dogs. In reality, many undesired behaviors are a result of being inadvertently rewarded. For instance, barking at the postal service employees is rewarded by them walking away. Some behaviors are self-rewarding and require more of the trainer's focus (ex., running in circles around the house - that is fun in itself).
Have you heard of alpha-rolls? Advanced studies of wolves show that: "In a pack of wolves, higher-ranking wolves do not roll lower-ranking wolves on their backs. Rather, lower-ranking wolves show their subordinate status by offering to roll on their backs". There is a dramatic difference from what we have been taught before.
Again I would like to turn to our trusted veterinarians for advice. Please follow the link below to read American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) statement on "Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals."