A prospective client once said, “I have dealt with trainers before and was wondering what type of training method you use?” I thought to myself, “What kind of training method do I use?” I use whatever is fair to the dog. I don’t use any one method. One method doesn’t work for all dogs.
I shape and chain behavior using food, praise, and touch. I use continuous reinforcement when teaching new behaviors and then go to Variable ration schedules to create a high rate of response. I use operant conditioning; positive and negative reinforcement to increase behaviors, positive and negative punishment to decrease behaviors. For the novice, don’t get hung up on the terminology I use. The terminology is what the behavioral scientists use.
For the inexperienced, I use food to increase behavior, touch to increase behavior, take away something rewarding to decrease behavior and add touch to decrease behavior. Here are some examples. I use food when the dog’s butt hits the floor, then say sit and feed him. I stop tickling the dog when he stays on his sit. I tickle the dog to get him to stop jumping up. I remove food from the counter to teach the dog to stop counter surfing.
The difficult part begins when I’m teaching the client. Dog training is the easy part. Teaching the human that the dog is an animal and needs to be treated like one is more difficult. The dog is not your child. It’s an animal. Human psychology and emotions confuse the dog. You never see behavioral problems in wolves. That is because there is no human living with them to mess them up. They have their own animal way of communicating and learning the rules of nature. They survive by reproducing and working as a team.
I don’t get emotional when training dogs. I read their behavior, what they are telling me and work with the dog to get him back to a balanced state of mind. I use finesse to help him learn no jumping, no biting, loose leash, sit, place, down, and come. The dog learns to work for his keep. Once the lesson is done we play. We always end on positive note. When I am finished working with a dog, the eye contact and happy expression on his face says, “Thanks man. I understand your language now and can live a happy stress free life with my owners. “ That is the kind of trainer I am.