Condemnation Prior to Investigation
Several times a year, I have workshops for the dog trainers that I have close working relationships with. They come here to Delaware and stay in a house that we own, mostly for this purpose, and I invite members of the community with “challenging” dogs, to bring their dogs out for FREE behavior consultations and training sessions. (During this past course, I had a Connecticut Dog Trainer, a North Jersey Dog Trainer, and a Philadelphia Dog Trainer, in the course, among others) This is a great opportunity for the trainers to gain some new perspective, and it’s awesome for the dog owners, many of whom wouldn’t normally be able to afford what (used to be) my normal training fee. (Which I could easily charge, but find unfair to do, since I’m using the opportunity as one for training and development for the trainers.)
Today, I’m fuming. A woman and her daughter brought their 2-year-old rescued Jack Russell Terrier mix out for some training. I knew some basic background about this dog. He was “hyper”, he had bitten both the woman and her daughter, was dog reactive, and completely unmanageable. Since this is the profile of our typical client, it was a perfect dog to have out for training. Continue reading
What Exactly is Reward-Based Training?
I work with a national network of professional dog trainers, all of whom are the most successful in their communities. They have an incredibly high success rate, and all of them commit to working with their clients until they accomplish all of their training goals.
The trainers I work with have all taken my Professional Dog Trainer’s Course at some point in their careers, and all of them offer reward-based training. Often, however, we are asked exactly what this means, so I thought I’d take the opportunity this blog gives me to explain what that means to our trainers and their clients.
These days in dog training, people think that there’s just two ways that dogs are trained. There’s the old, punishment-based style of training where your dog encounters some form of punishment whenever he does something wrong. Usually people think that this is an extremely harsh method of training that is associated with old school, military style trainers. (In reality, even trainers who claim to be just the opposite employ, and recommend to their clients, this type of training.)
How this common dog training command can actually make your dog unreliable!
Typically, the dog training command “Leave it” is used by dog owners when they are walking their dog, and their dog tried to get to something. A piece of food on the ground, another dog they might be walking past, a person, etc. They will be walking their dog, their dog loses focus to go after something, they will say “leave it”, the dog’s focus will return, then they sometimes reward the dog, and move on.
My 14-week-old Labrador Retriever puppy, Marco, demonstrates “Stay” vs. “Leave it”.
When I hear someone use a “Leave it” command, it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me, because in my opinion, using this command just teaches your dog to be unreliable.
Of course, “leave it” is used in other contexts as well. Sometimes it’s used in place of a “drop” command, for example. But, when it’s used after a dog has lost his focus, what you’re really doing is teaching your dog to expect another command, instead of maintaining the command you’ve already given, like “heel” or “stay”. To make matters worse, if you subscribe to the theory that after you give your dog a command, you should reward him/her after they do it (which you should!) then once your dog does “leave it”, theoretically, you should reward them for doing so. So, in this scenario, your dog is heeling. Don’t you think that you should instead, reinforce the “heel”, since that’s what your dog was doing in the first place?
Strays found on the streets of Houston, Texas now enjoying New York City life after being failed by so-called “modern” dog training techniques!
I met Natasa when I was in New York City looking for a dog trainer for one of the businesses I work with, Gotham Dog Training. I was interviewing both experienced dog trainers, and people who were interested in training to become a dog trainer and working in the Five Boroughs, and had just finished setting up a dog training business in Boston.
Natasa is a dog love, and an entrepreneur who had moved to New York City from Houston, Texas. She and her boyfriend live in Midtown Manhattan with their two dogs, Nano, a Newfoundland mix, and Kairo, a Shepherd mix. They had found both dogs as strays on the streets of Houston, Texas, just before moving to New York.
I met Riley who is a 5 year old Coton De Tulear a few years ago, but his story stays with me because he is one of several video case histories that I use during my Professional Dog Trainer’s Course.
Riley’s people called me because Riley had been exhibiting some rather strange and severe anxiety behaviors which, besides the common behaviors of complete pandemonium when someone would knock on the door, and hysterical barking and carrying on when he would see another dog, included a few other interesting behaviors. One of these was barking and charging down the hallway at full-speed whenever someone would go into the bathroom, and another would be barking and charging out the rear sliding glass door whenever it would open, then tearing around the yard barking until someone could finally catch him. This behavior had been going on for a while, but since getting Riley, his family had grown to include two small, often napping or sleeping, children, so these frustrating problems had become more of an issue. Last, Riley had been growing increasing less tolerant and aggressive towards the children, especially when he would have a bone.