There are many different training methods to use. Sarah and Angela are not one dimensional trainers, which means that they use many different training methods to help dogs learn because the brain learns many different ways. Sarah and Angela do not believe in any form of training that emotionally or physically harms dogs. Current studies on the dogs brain has helped us better understand our canine friends, and their brain is compared to a 2 or 2.5-year-old child brain. Have you ever felt like your dog never grows-up and that you are always having to train them? That is because their brain is underdeveloped and it is doing the best it can. No matter how well-trained your dog is your adult dog is always going to be a toddler. This means training and parenting them is forever! Our expectations are always the same as we would have for a toddler no matter how much training we have done on our dog. Dogs, however, are animals and even thought the dogs brain is underdeveloped dogs are built for survival. They have instincts that are far stronger and more advanced than a toddlers. Dogs also go through all the stages of growth and puberty that adults go through. Even though their brains are limited other aspects of them evolve, grow, and mature like an adult, If you have ever been confused by how your dog can be so intelligent, self reliant, defiant, and powerful one minute but then you scold them and they look at you like a little kid and it breaks your heart and yet they turn around and do it again, this is why. We take great pride in knowing that with our education and the training techniques that we use are not unethical or harmful to the dogs. But the proof is really in how the dogs respond to us and our training. Dogs are happy, motivated, and most important they love us because our training works for them. This is not to say that sometimes learning is stressful and uncomfortable because sometimes it needs to be for the brain to change and adapt to new information, but the process is never more than the dogs can handle and we give the dogs time, support and the space to learn. We always have the dogs best interest at heart and our training is always to help them learn, grow, and get to the next level. Dogs always leave us better than what they were when they came to us and that is what our clients love the most about us. When it comes to the dogs learning, we get out of the way and let them learn. Below is an overview of different training methods and how they fit into our philosophy and training.
Your relationship is the most important part of owning a dog, which is why we teach relationship-based training techniques, Training should begin with the relationship between you and your dog because if this is not right nothing else will be right. But, training needs to be bigger than your relationship because your dog has a life outside of you and they need training for that, too. This is why we also teach you how to learn with your dog but to not rely on your relationship in the processes. When it comes to you and your dog though, they should be your best friend and the best part about having a dog is the relationship that you get to have with them. Our training is designed to foster the communication between dogs and human, to strengthen the bond.
It is important to us, that your training is equally beneficial for you and for your dog. We focus on a individualized approach for both you and your dog and help to build a bridge that will mend the gap between you and your dog because you are individuals. Your relationship with your dog should drive everything! Nothing should be more important to you than your dog, and nothing should be more important to your dog than you. When you can achieve that training is no longer a challenging task. We put a lot of focus on the relationship you and your dog have because if your relationship is not right, training may not be achievable. Many people unintentionally cause damage to their relationship with their dog especially when trying to train them around distractions or when trying to socialize their dog. Our training repairs this damage and we show you how to avoid that problem.
While we feel relationship-based training is very important for you and your dog, we do not recommended that anyone only trains their dog through their relationship because this will not help your dog in other relationships or when you are not around and they must depend on their own choices. If you train this way you should not ever be away from your dog unless you have given the training and skills to make good decisions without your help. We teach you how to use other training methods so that you can prepare your dog for situations where your dog cannot depend on your relationship for help and support.
Alpha. Pack leader, Dominance Training
We do NOT do this form of training. We believe this form of training is outdated and dangerous to anyone that is not able to be an alpha, pack leader, or dominant over your dog the way that you are. If this is the kind of training you believe is best we will not work with your or your dog because it will put us at risk and your dog won’t respond to our training.
We do, however, believe that dogs can be Alpha, Dominant, and desire Pack Leadership. We recognize and see this in dog-to-dog interactions all the time. Therefore. we do discuss this a lot in our training when we are talking about dog relationships with other dogs. We feel it is important that people understand how dogs train one another because you will see the hierarchy is important in the dog world. A lot of dog fighting can be prevented simply by people understanding pack mentality and training. A lot of trainers believe that this does not exist, and they are more comfortable labeling dogs as aggressive and not talking about this, but we believe by talking about it we can learn how to keep dogs safe and social. We are not dogs and we have other ways to train a dog than to do it their way however sometimes it is necessary to meet the dog in their world. We must take this stuff into consideration when we are dealing with dogs and we do need to add some form of this into our training program to get respect from the dog. How we show our dogs that we are their leader is unique. We do believe in leadership with dogs and we teach you how to be a good trainer and leader to your dog. The training will help your dog when they are dealing with humans and leadership will help you when you are dealing with your dog.
When you are the Alpha, dominant. pack leader your dog depends on you to always be there to keep them suppressed and controlled. This is why we do not do this kind of training, do not work with dogs trained this way, and we do not recommend you train your dog this way. Most people need to trust their dog to make good choices with out them so that they can leave them with family, daycares, and for boarding. Suppressed behaviors are very dangerous when they get a chance to resurface and this is why a lot of dogs attack when they are with someone other than their owner. Very dangerous.
Model-Rival or Mirror Training
Dogs learn by observing others. Dogs natural instincts is to operate socially by mimicking behaviors. Dogs will do this with other animals and with humans, too. We tap into this in our training because it speeds up the dogs learning abilities. Most people do not realize it, but dogs mirror us all the time and they try to get us to model them, too. Think about how your dog runs from you when you try to catch them. They are trying to get you to mirror that action by you chasing them. A simple way to fix that is to switch roles and have them run towards you instead of you towards them.
We follow behavior science very closely. Dogs have been being studied for centuries but they were being studied in way that benefited and help humans but were inhumane for the dogs. Sarah and Angela had the opportunity to train dogs that came from laboratory study and it was heartbreaking the trauma these dogs were dealing with. Training the dogs was so unnatural that helping these dogs was so heartbreaking they cried because they had to meet the dogs in such an emotionally dark place.
In just the past decade the studies on dogs has been so we can learn and help them better. Sarah and Angela keep up on all the most recent studies and heavily consider what is being learned in their training approach and we educate our clients as well.
In your free consultation we discuss the dog’s brain and how dogs are mentally compared to a 2- or 2.5-year-old human child’s brain. We also talk about their front and back brain and how thinking and natural behaviors are processed in different areas of the dog’s brain which do not work simultaneously. Which is why when your dog is chasing something or doing some other doggy-like behavior they do not listen to you. It is not selective hearing or a disobedient dog. It is just the part of the brain the dog is functioning in. The dog’s brain is also why many dogs should never be trusted or given the so much freedom that you cannot physically influence them.
When we are dealing with behaviors and emotions and teaching new things, we are using scientific training methods.
Dogs are operant learners, which means that they learn by the consequences of their choices and behaviors. When a dog makes a choice and behaves the response that follows is either going to produce a reward or a punishment for them (be good or bad). If a reward or something good happens then the dog will repeat that choice and behavior in the future. Take for example, a dog getting into the trash. If they find something yummy or they have a fun time taring up the trash then that behavior will be repeated in the future if they have another opportunity to get into the trash.
A reward in behavior science, is anything that increases a behavior. Reward does not mean what you think the dog should like. The dog decides what is a reward, not the person. We do not get to decide what is rewarding to the dog but we can teach a dog to value the rewards we want to use the most in our training. We must learn to understand what our dog likes in comparison to their choices and behaviors they are making because that is what we are competing with. We are asking the dog to care less about that and more about what we have to give them if they do what we want. The reward is not always going to be the same in every situation. The better you learn your dog, the better you can predict what kind of reward to use in different situations. You will need to have multiple rewards for your dog so that they do not become bored with your rewards, and because different rewards have different values to the dog. You are always competing with something else that the dog wants, and if what you have is not more valuable than your dog will not invest in your rewards by changing their choices and behaviors.
if a punishment or something bad happens then the dog will not repeat that choice or behavior in the future. If the dog goes to get in the trash and the lid falls onto their head and it startles them that might be enough to frighten them away for the trash can (depending on the dog). A punishment in behavior science, is anything that decreases a behavior. Punishment does not mean punitive, pain, anger, or emotional or physical harm. The dog decides what is punishment, not the person but we can teach the dog to respect us when we punish their behaviors so that they will listen even if the punishment is mild. We do not get to decide what is punishing to the dog. We must learn to understand what our dog does not like in comparison to their choices and behaviors. The punishment is not always going to be the same in every situation. The better you learn your dog, the better you can predict what kind of punishment to use. You will need multiple ways to punish your dogs choices and behaviors because you do not want your dog to get desensitized to your punishments, and because different punishment's have different value to the dog, You are always competing with something else that your dog wants and if your punishment isn't enough your dog is going to continue to do what they want and they will not invest in having stimulus control and not doing the things you do not want them to do. You could give the behavior a replacement behavior (one that is rewarded) and in most cases need too, but if a dog really wants to do what they want to do then they often will continue the behavior despite having learned another behavior. For some dogs, this just means they have two behaviors to chose from. And if the replacement behavior does not pay off they will do the other behavior still. After a punishment, once the dog is doing the right behavior, you must give them rewards. Always, ALWAYS end on a positive. So many people struggle with this because they allow themselves to get upset at the dog and they think if they reward the dog for the good behavior then they are rewarding the bad behavior. This is NOT true. Dogs live in the moment. Whatever happened 1.5 seconds ago is in their past. IF they are being good that is all they are thinking about and if that good behavior does not get them a reward then negative attention is positive attention and they will be bad because at least it gets them your attention.
When we are talking about behavior science, we are also talking about dog emotions. When it comes to dog emotions, we do classical conditioning, counterconditioning, desensitization and other science-based techniques to help the dog change their emotional state.
When it comes to teaching new behaviors we also use science-based methods such as lure, shape, pressure and release, and marker training.
Clicker and Electronic Training
We are clicker to ecollar trainers. A lot of trainers think these two training methods should never meet, and that ecollar training is bad, but when you are at the level of training that we are you can make the two become a beautiful match, and ecollar is only bad if you do not know what you are doing. Please do not use an ecollar or any other collar without knowing what you are doing.
Clicker training is part of positive reinforcement training, and is also known as marker training. We teach marker training to all our clients. We cannot make people do it, but we never stop talking about it or teaching it to our clients. A clicker is a device that makes a clicking sound. While it is a much clearer way to do marking training for the dog, it can be more difficult for the human to have to carry the clicker around with them. Therefore, we also use a YES word in place of the clicker. The clicker/YES marks the exact behavior that you want to capture in the moment it happens, so that when you reward the dog they are clear that the reward is because of that behavior. A reward must come within 1.2 seconds after a behavior for a dog to make the connection that the reward is for that behavior. If any behaviors happen between the desired behavior and the reward the dog will think the reward is for the second behavior. Here is an example, your dog sits, you reach for a treat. It will probably take you more than 1.2 seconds to get the treat. Your dog might look at your hand as it reaches for the treat. Your dog is no longer thinking about the sit. Now your dog thinks it is their ability to see your hand moving that is earing the treat. Many dogs sit and abusively watch their owners hands because they think it is the hand moving that is what is important. This might be a neat thing in the beginning because the dog is watching the owner, but it makes teaching the dog or getting the dog to engage in other behaviors very frustrating and difficult. As you grab the cookie your dog gets excited and stands up and you hand them the treat because you are so proud of them for sitting. Unfortunately, your dog did not earn anything for the sit in this context. Your dog thinks watching the hand makes you reach for the treat and standing up is what earned them the treat because those are the behaviors that the dog connected to the treats. The sit is part of the chain, and the dog will sit, but the dog is not going to be motivated to stay in the sit if this is what they are learning. These dogs will sit and immediately look for the treat and eventually they will only sit if they know you have a treat on you. No treat, no sit because the only thing the dog is learning is about getting a treat. Or sit, and immediately stand up because standing up is what makes the treat come faster. Clicker/YES marker training fixes these problems.
Electronic collars are best known as shock collars or electric stem collars (ecollar). We do not use shock collars and we do not do shock therapy. These collars are designed to feel like a hotwire fence, and they hurt. Ecollar or electric stem collars are designed just like a TENS machine that humans use. The ecollar acts as a distraction to the brain and helps break the focus of the dog so that they can refocus on correct information. It is used on a low-frequency that does not hurt the dog but rather moves their brain off of what they are thinking about or doing which helps them tune into what you need them to be thinking about or do what you need them to be doing. An ecollar is not a magic wand. It is not something you just put on the dog and start using. There is a lot of training and conditioning that you must do to program the dogs brain so that it will respond to the ecollar. The ecollar does have a low, medium, high, and even a pain frequency and this makes the tool very important because it has multiple uses for dog training. If your dog is aggressive and will jump your fence or run away from you if they see a dog or human then you are going to need to do some level of pain-punishment to stop that behavior or your dog will end up euthanized. The ecollar is a safe and humane way to deal with this kind of training, if done correctly with the help of a professional or us. . If your dog jumps fences and runs in the street they could be killed by a car so you medium-high level of correction for jumping your fence is going to be needed to stop that behavior. The ecollar is a safe and humane way to punish that behavior, if done correctly with the help of a professional like us. The ecollar is also gentle but clear information when it is on a low frequency so you can use it to train a dog before they get to the point of needing a high-punishment. For example, that aggressive dog, you could use a low-frequency to get them to listen to you when you ask them to sit, down, or come to you when a stranger is nearby. Or with that fence jumper, you can use a low-frequency to train your dog to move away from the fence so that they learn not to go near the fence when they are in the backyard. Lots of people talk to their dogs in a normal tone but then when their dog is bad they yell at them in a very threatening and negative way. The ecoaller is the same concept except for it has a touch rather than a sound. Not all ecollars are made equal. I am describing the Dogtra brand of ecollar which is the only brand we use. We do not allow you to bring your already bought ecollar to us for your training. If you do ecollar training, we expect you to do it with the human ecollars that have been made for negative reinforcement training. These collars are often used on a level that humans do not feel. Ecollar training also should ALWAYS be used to help your dog get to a rewardable behavior. The tool is not used for punishing bad dogs, The tool is used to help dogs become good dogs by helping them learn to move through their own decisions in a way that is meaningful to them and makes sense to them.
Positive Reinforcement Training
If we only cared about obedience and behavior modification training then we would be positive-only trainers because we love positive reinforcement training. However, dog training is bigger than what we like to do. It is also about what the dog needs to learn. Dogs need more from us than what we want to do. Dogs have a brain and the brain functions in different ways and needs to learn different things. Dogs need to receive positive information but it is very unhealthy for the brain to have to much of one thing. You cannot live off of ice cream. You need to eat veggies, too. There is a dark side to positive training, too. To much positive reinforcement will create an entitled, spoiled dog that lacks confidence or the ability to cope with stress and make good decisions when presented with negative information. There is also a dark side to achieving purely positive training. Dogs are starved and denied access to things they want, They are often confined and removed from the real world for extended periods of times. I've seen people take their dog to the park only to have to take them home because the environment was too distracting for the dog. These dogs miss the opportunity to be out of their house and learn coping skills. Positive-only trained dogs are denied the ability to learn from their own actions and to learn about danger and consequences, therefore, they have a false impression of the world. When the world throw a non-positive curveball at them, neither the dog or the owner can catch it and control the ball.
Owners also suffer from purely positive training. Sarah has trained with some of the best positive-only trainers and these trainers can not be away form their dogs and their is no flexibility in their lifestyle with their dog. Sarah has been hired by positive-only trainers to pet sit their dogs because they have never been able to leave their dog because they could not trust other people to know how to care for, manage, and reward their dogs. The management part was more than even Sarah could handle. Schedules and routines are extremely important. Once she had to lock a dog in a create, inside a locked room, inside of another locked room because the dog sometimes could escape. In other situations, Sarah had to rotate 6 dogs from room to room and cycle them outside one at a time because the dogs were aggressive with one another so the owner had to live with baby gates and dogs separated in every room of their house. Sarah has also gone to dinner with trainers that adhere only to positive training methods. Sarah had to stay in the car with the dog while the trainer went into the eating area to find a safe location for the dog. Sometimes this meant moving tables or even leaving and finding a better place to go. Sarah has had to sit with the dogs while the trainer ordered their food because the dog could not handle the stress of the waitress coming to the table. She has also been on walks where they had to constantly scout for distractions and walk from one side of the street to the next dodging stimulations that were too much for the dog to handle. As a starting point of training this is appropriate, but for some people this is a lifestyle because the dogs have such low coping skills and are easily triggered and once triggered they lose focus on their rewards. Other dogs, might not be reward-motivated and they live their lives in constant management because the world is an unsettling place for them and it provides them nothing that helps them feel relaxed. Positive-only training does not relax a dog. It keeps the dog in a motivated-state-of-mind. Yes, it can lead a dog to learning to relax if trained, but when a dog is motivated and engaged they are in an reactive-state-of-mind. If you do no understand how to make relaxing a reward for a dog you can unintentionally train your dog to stay in a reactive state-of-being. It may sound like we are criticizing positive reinforcement training, but we are not, we just feel there is a time and place for it but it is not healthy for dog owners to only use this form of training. Maintaining positive-only training is a fulltime job and you can easily ruin a dog with this training just as you can any other training method.
You have a responsibility to not only help your dog learn about rewards but also how to learn about punishment's and dangerous situations, but you need to learn how to do this properly. This is why we are not purely positive. It is important that people understand this because the positive-only movement has caused a big divide in the dog world and that divide is not a good thing. I do not support anything that is bad for the dogs. This movement has benefited people more than it has the dogs. We however do believe that dog training needed to change and positive-methods needed to be taught. When Sarah first started learning dog training, She almost did not become a trainer because she felt dog training was too harsh and Sarah did not like it. Sarah and Angela have always been more positive than anything else. Sarah started her journey in training with horses and the training was barbaric and uncalled for. Sarah learned that horses did not need to be trained with a heavy hand or harsh methods. Horses respond better to kindness but you cannot let a horse walk all over you so respect is also important. Dog training is no different.
Positive Reinforcement Training has become the modern-day trend and it has taken the dog training world and turned it upside down. If a dog trainer is not using Positive Reinforcing Training methods, they are going to have a very difficult time in the industry and we do not recommend you use any trainer that doesn't use positive training as a primary method. Traditional trainers still exist today and they do inhumane training behind closed doors. You do need to be careful when picking a trainer. Many also disguise themselves as positive trainers but when alone with the dog they use abusive methods. If you cannot watch your trainer with your dog it should be a huge red flag. There is a lot of abuse in the name of dog training, but you will not find that with us, ever. We have no hidden training areas and we welcome our clients to come visit and watch us train any time they want. If there is a reason why they can not it is fully explained and you can send someone else in your place. For some dogs, the human causes the problems for the dog but in these cases we usually want you there. We may need to work with the dog without you for a short period of time though so the dog can focus and learn. That is different than when a trainer has a standard procedure that keeps you from seeing your dog. In most cases, this is because the dog is in transitional period where they are stressed and acting out from the shock of the training. The dog may also be showing fear or aggression towards the trainer because they are being to hard on the dog. These trainers often claim to transform dogs in 10 days or just a few weeks of training. Positive training takes much longer than punishment training.
We love Positive Reinforcement Training. All training should lead to a rewardable behavior. This should be the most used method of training in your training program. It is surprising how many dog owners refuse to give their dog positive feedback. We cannot make people do our training, but we harp on our trainers about adding more Positive Reinforcement than we do any other training methods because very few dog owners use Positive Reinforcement Training even when they say they are. Rewards are decided by the dog, not by you. So many people pet their dog thinking this is a reward for their dog, but in the moment it is not or is not enough of a reward. Meanwhile, they are holding the dog on a tight leash which is not positive reinforcing to the dog, and they are using a negative tone to make their dog listen to them which is not positive reinforcing to the dog. Saying your doing Positive Reinforcement Training and doing it are two totally different things. Positive Reinforcement Training is actually very hard to do. It takes a lot of thought, patience, and planning to accomplish it correctly. You can not do it on the fly. That is why we spend so much time teaching it.
Punishment Training and Behavior Suppression
Believe it or not, most dog owners do Punishment training as their primary method of training and they suppress their dog’s behaviors. Saying NO to your dog is punishment training and will suppress your dog. Behaviors that are suppressed will return and often worse. This is why by the time dog owner come to dog training their dogs are usually really bad and the relationship between the dog and the human is often broken. The term punishment in behavior science means to decrease a behavior and since most dog behaviors are inappropriate to humans lots of dog owners do a lot of punishment training because people want to decrease behaviors. When you do punishment training only your dog will develop a low self-esteem, stress, anxiety, and possibility frustration, aggression, and fear. These are the consequences of too much punishment even if the punishment is done with the best intentions or if they punishment was deserving. When things end on a punishment then the brain holds onto that negative energy as well and it festers because it has no place to go. Negative energy also attracts more negative energy, and therefore people get stuck in punishment training.
Behavior suppression is what you do when you stop a behavior without replacing it with a behavior that can be positively reinforced. The dog must know what it should do instead and that behavior must be reinforced.