Creating Trust Through Training
Times have changed in the world of dog training. Over the last decade many studies have been conducted that show dogs respond more favorably when treated with respect instead of using the Alpha theory that employs shock collars, prong collars, choke chains and other forcible methods for training dogs.
Today’s thinking says that the key is using scientifically sound learning principles to train and modify behavior in our companion animals—understanding how your companion learns and how to create change in their behavior by focusing on what you want them to do rather than using force, which has been known to result in fear and aggression. As a result of this shift in philosophy, dog training can be confusing as there are no real standards spelled out and agreed on by all who train dogs.
In Florida, cable installers and tattoo artists must be licensed, but not dog trainers. There are many words tossed about that lead to confusion and misrepresentation for those searching for a dog trainer. When looking for a trainer, look for some of the following: CPDT-KA, CPDT-KSA, CBCCKA,KPA, PCT-A or PCBC-A. This alphabet soup means that the individual you are considering meets certain criteria, passed an exam, worked with a mentor, and invested time and money to demonstrate that they have met certain performance standards set forth by recognized and respected organizations. Red flags to look for and avoid when searching for qualified trainers are words like: dominance, alpha, pack theory, or wolf behavior as applied to dogs. While we know that dogs have evolved from wolves, wild or captive wolves are not the same as the golden retriever that is lying across the room gently snoring on his dog bed. The point is simply that dogs are not wolves. They are domestic canines who evolved to work for and with us, to guard our livestock, herd our sheep, retrieve game, flush out birds, hunt rodents, and be our companions!
Using training methods that are based in and justified by wolf logic, dominance, alpha, and pack theory is not science based and is now viewed as dangerous and damaging to our bonds and relationships with our dogs. Once we attach the construct of dominance, our relationship with our dog becomes adversarial and gives humans license to use force, fear, and intimidation. Dogs do not engage in behavior to assert any status over other dogs or people. Dogs engage in behaviors that have been reinforced in the past and to get information about you or the environment. If your dog jumps on you when you come home, they are happy to see you and are engaging in a typical doggie greeting. They are not attempting to achieve status. Buddy wants to say hi and you reinforce this each time you greet him. So what kind of training is recommended?
Ann Waterbury of New Dawn Animal Behavior Center, Clearwater, Florida says this:
“We are trainers, but more importantly, we are behavior engineers. We seek to create change with our companion animals by focusing on what we want them to do and by replacing those behaviors we do not like with the ones we do. At our center we teach you how to “speak dog” by reading and understanding your dog and to resolving problems while enhancing the bond.”
Teaching your dog what you want him/her to do is the key. Provide lots of high value reinforcement (high value treats, play, etc.) and this in turn makes those behaviors much more likely to occur again and again. Consider this – would you go to work every day for free or if you were mistreated? All animals are similar and we tend to repeat those behaviors that are positively reinforced.