< A version of this article was published in the February 2017 issue of Down East Dog News>
If you were to ask three people to define dog training, you would probably get as many different answers, even if those people were professional dog trainers. The fact is individuals have various views on what training a dog entails. Some believe training is only for competition or working dogs and is not necessary for a pet, or companion dog. Others see training as nothing more than teaching a dog to sit and walk nicely on a leash. In my mind, dog training entails everything we need to do to ensure that our dogs can be included in our lives as much as possible and that they can have a long, enjoyable life free of fear, force, and pain.
For years our definition of dog training at Green Acres has been “Dog training is a process where we motivate our dog to offer a specific behavior when given a specific cue while having fun.” As I look at that definition today, I recognize that while accurate, it is incomplete, only addressing a small part of what training entails.
In my estimation a complete description of dog training would be:
“Dog training is a process where we teach our dog not only to respond reliably to cues but to live free of fear in a human-centric world. Training also involves managing the dog and its environment to prevent behaviors we dislike. As we get to know our dog we need to learn to accept them for the unique individual that they are. To optimize our dog’s ability to learn, we create teaching scenarios where they are setup to succeed and are motivated to offer behaviors we like. We reward them for desirable behavior, eventually teaching them to perform a specific behavior when given a particular cue, all while having fun. All of this is accomplished without the use of pain, force, fear or intimidation.”
First and foremost is the importance of recognizing that training a dog is a process made up of many steps that all take time. The length of time will depend upon several factors, including the dog, the environment and the handler. Typically the trainer that is the most patient will be the most successful and will have the happiest dog.
Equally critical is the acceptance and appreciation of dogs as a unique species with very different needs and understandings about what constitutes normal and acceptable social interactions. When dogs enter into our families, we have a responsibility to help them learn to live in our homes as well as our hectic world, free of fear and anxiety. That starts with socialization and habituation with a young puppy and may involve months of gentle, tolerant rehabilitation with a rescue dog.
Managing a dog to prevent undesirable behavior is just as much a part of the training process as teaching a dog to perform the desired behaviors. From a behavioral perspective, the more a behavior is practiced and rewarded the stronger the behavior will become, whether we like it or not, prevention is critical.
The actual act of training a dog requires certain skills and knowledge. There are as many ways to train dogs as there are to teach children arithmetic. Taking the time to acquire this knowledge and these skills and then consistently implementing them can make the training process go much more smoothly and quickly. This allows for the effective and humane teaching of our dog’s certain behaviors they need to know to be successful in our human world. One of the best ways to acquire these skills and knowledge is to work with a certified, professional dog trainer. Read “How to choose a dog trainer.” for tips on what to look for in a professional dog trainer.
Last but certainly not least, make sure the training process is fun and enjoyable for all. Isn’t companionship one of the major reasons humans choose to have dogs in their lives? Studies and common sense tell us that if we enjoy something, like training the dog, we are more likely to do it and more likely to be successful.
Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)
How to choose a dog trainer – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/08/how-to-choose-a-dog-trainer/
Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2006/02/01/no-pain-no-force-no-fear-green-acres-kennel-shop-position-statement-on-pet-friendly-force-free-pet-care/
Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2010/07/01/no-pain-no-force-no-fear-green-acres-kennel-shop-position-on-the-use-of-dominance-and-punishment-for-the-training-and-behavior-modification-of-dogs/
How science and reward-based training have pulled dog training out of the dark ages – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/21/dog-training-how-science-and-reward-based-training-have-pulled-dog-training-out-of-the-dark-ages/
Dog Training: A Holistic Approach to Dog Training (Parts 1 & 2) – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/02/01/dogs-dog-training-a-holistic-approach-to-dog-training-parts-1-2/
Dog Training – What Is Clicker Training? – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2007/02/01/dog-training-what-is-clicker-training/
Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Myth – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/20/dog-behavior-dominance-reality-or-myth/
Dog Training – The Four Essentials For A Great Dog – Part 1 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/02/02/dog-training-the-four-essentials-for-a-great-dog-part-1-knowledge-relationship-management-training/
Dog Training – The Four Essentials For A Great Dog – Part 2 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/02/28/dog-training-the-four-essentials-for-a-great-dog-part-2/
A Rescue Dogs Perspective to Dog Training – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/04/dog-training-a-rescue-dogs-perspective/
Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying, and Coping with Canine Stress – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/11/01/canine-behavior-understanding-identifying-and-coping-with-canine-stress/
The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2013/08/05/dogs-the-unintended-consequences-of-shock-collar/
Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)
<Click on the title to listen to the show>
Selecting A Pet Care Provider – How to choose a dog trainer – Kate, and Don discuss what to look for when choosing a dog trainer and dog training class, as well as what to avoid. Dog training and recommended approaches to training a dog have changed dramatically as we have learned more about canines. As a result, we now know that some long-standing methods used to train a dog in the past, are in fact detrimental and can cause serious, long-term harm to your dog. Learn what to look for so that you and your dog have the best experience possible.
The benefits of training your dog and 2017 Training Classes at Green Acres – Kate and Don discuss why training a dog is so beneficial to all involved; the dog, the dog’s immediate family, and society in general. They discuss the advantages of working with a certified professional dog trainer so that you have someone that can coach both you and your dog when things are not going as expected. Additionally, they discuss why choosing a trainer that is committed to pain-free, force-free and fear-free training is so important. Lastly, they discuss the training classes that will be offered at Green Acres Kennel Shop in 2017.
Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic – In this week’s show Kate, Don and Dr. Dave Cloutier of the Veazie Veterinary Clinic discuss the American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) new guidelines on behavior management for dogs and cats. This groundbreaking document represents the first time that a major veterinary organization has addressed pet behavior. According to the guidelines “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” Tune in and learn why behavior is so important and why a behavioral assessment should be part of every pet’s annual wellness exam.
Dr. Cloutier, Kate, and Don discuss reasons for an increase in behavior problems, and how these problems can best be addressed. Dr. Cloutier explains changes he and his colleagues have made to work towards free-free visits for their clients. We address serious behavioral problems such as separation anxiety and aggression as well as nuisance behaviors like jumping, barking, and counter surfing. We address how veterinarians and dog trainers can work together and why it is essential to focus on rewarding desired behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors. Lastly, we review the guidelines recommendations on refraining from using any training methods that use aversive techniques such as electronic shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, alpha-rollovers, and other things that work by causing fear, intimidation, force, discomfort or pain.
Canine Behavior: Myths and Facts – This is a follow-up to our show of March 12 when Kate and Don discussed the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic. In that show, we discussed how behavior issues have become a significant issue and how many of those behavior problems have been caused, at least in part, by people’s misconceptions about canine behavior. This week we examine what people think they know about dogs and where that information is coming from and how reliable it is as a source of facts. We then discuss several myths about canine behavior and counter them with what science has shown to be the facts.
Myths examined include: dogs are wolves, dogs are pack animals, people must be dominant, or Alpha over their dog, punishment and aversive tools are necessary to train a dog, dogs should work for praise alone, growls are bad, all dogs like all other dogs, crate training a dog is cruel, all dogs need a job, getting a second dog solves behavior problems, dogs do things to get revenge, dogs know right from wrong, and dogs and kids go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Facts that we bring to light include: dogs respond very well to benevolent leadership, dogs benefit from training, food rewards work very well for training, wolf packs are about families cooperating, dogs only form loose association with other dogs, growls are a beneficial way for a dog to communicate that they are feeling threatened, you are not a bad owner if you do not take your dog to daycare or the dog park, dogs are den animals and hence most love their crates, dogs need both mental and physical stimulation, behavior problems can be contagious, dogs know safe from dangerous, and dogs and kids are lots of work.
The Four Essentials to A Great Dog – Don and Kate discuss the four essentials to a great dog. In their experience most great dogs are the result of time and effort by both the person and the dog, which is exactly what that they teach students in Green Acres Kennel Shop’s Basic Manners classes. The four essentials are; Knowledge, Relationship, Management, and Training. Tune in and learn how you and your dog can become a great team and best friends for life.
Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 1 – Dr. Hanks interviews Don and Kate about their experiences as professional dog trainers. He asks Kate and Don about how training has changed in the past 26 years since Mark began his practice, why training a dog is important, the importance of training for mental enrichment, how breed effects training and compatibility with a family, how human intervention has adversely effected health and behavior, researching dogs before one decides what dog and breed to get, making temperament a key decision when picking a dog, what we typically teach a client and their dog, Green Acres holistic approach to training (husbandry, nutrition, body language, ethology, and training), inadvertent reinforcement of undesirable behaviors, the continuing necessity to refute antiquated and inaccurate myths about canine behavior, the optimal age for starting training, the structure of Green Acres training classes, Green Acres program to help parents find the best pet for them, how family lifestyles have changed and how that affects time for a dog, knowing when to wait before starting a group training class, and how they deal with special needs rescue dogs.
Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 2 – Dr. Hanks asks Kate and Don about: Green Acres holistic approach to training (husbandry, nutrition, body language, ethology, and training) and how we work with families to understand their dog and the importance of having a good foundation of education so people can better understand their dogs, how some students may attend class without their dog either because their dog is sick, in heat or simply because the dog learns better at home, private training options at Green Acres, the critical period of puppy socialization and habituation, why socialization needs to be actively planned and implemented by owners – it doesn’t just happen, what do you do you when want your puppy to be a therapy dog, the difference between therapy dogs, service/assistance dogs, and emotional support dogs, the fake service dog epidemic, can you teach an old dog new tricks, how do you deal with constant barking, and how do you deal with clients that need the dogs behavior changed tomorrow.
Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 3 – Dr. Hanks asks Kate and Don about: dominance, pack hierarchy and alphas and the current science which indicates wolves are a cooperative social species, the benefits of kind leadership as opposed to coercive based leadership, the myth of dogs doing things just to please us, temperament and personality in dogs, the importance of knowing parents because of the genetic role in temperament, “stubborn” dogs versus under-motivated dogs, epigenetics and the possibility of mental health disorders in dogs like autism and PTSD, and temperament as a continuum and nature versus nurture.
The Dominance and Alpha Myth – Don and Kate discuss the concept of dominance, alpha dogs, pack hierarchy, and how this whole construct is a myth with both dogs and wolves that are not supported by science. They discuss how this has led to a punishment and compulsion based system of dog training which is not only unnecessary but is often counterproductive. They discuss the importance of leadership, boundaries, management and the use of reward-based training as a smart alternative to the dominance approach. You can learn more by reading these articles: http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/20/dog-behavior-dominance-reality-or-myth/ and http://www.greenacreskennel.com/dog-behavior-and-training/position-on-the-use-of-dominance-and-punishment-for-the-training-and-behavior-modification-of-dogs
First Air Date: 21MAR10
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.
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