How We Train

My love for dogs doesn’t cloud my desire to help people. My mission is to keep dogs with the people who love them and to teach both about a healthy relationship based on common sense, clarity and consistency. I want to help you make your dog better.

How I got here

I had been training dogs for over 10 years when I had the first big snag within my pack. Things started to unravel  between my reactive dog and my high drive puppy.  I had done all the “positive only” training for my reactive corgi, Brees. I read the books, watched videos… did the work. I never considered myself a “purely positive” trainer, but stayed in my comfort zone of  working thresholds, desensitization/counterconditioning and management. 

My female Malinois puppy hit 7 months and quickly outgrew Brees. She is confident, and in her adolescence became a bit of a punk. Brees’s reactivity meant that he had a knee-jerk reaction to stimulus so for every action she made, he would react, which would result in a fight. The fights started to increase in intensity. She was getting better at pinning him and things were starting to get real. 

I was tightening my management skills, incorporating muzzles, and using long lines and rewarding for calm behavior. I had two dogs who had high fight drive, low food drive and the  grudge between them was intense. 

I was torn… sad… exhausted… and felt helpless. I loved these dogs but was afraid I was going to have to give up Lumi to ensure everyone’s safety.  

But luckily for me, I had a trainer friend who offered help. She was an experienced e-collar trainer who offered to help me with Brees’ reactivity prior to this happening, but due to my ego and fear of fallout from the positive training circles, I kindly declined. But now, she was the only one who offered a solution. 

We worked with Brees first, addressing his reactivity, recall and heeling. Because he had such a wonderful foundation in positive training, he immediately understood the YES or NO the collar provided. It changed his mindset. He became kinder… happier… more relaxed at home and in the real world. Soon I could walk him, in a perfect heel, down busy streets and take him on off leash hikes. He met new dogs with a soft waggy tail. He no longer worried about the world. We were unstuck and I was so excited to have this happy, funny dog as my new sidekick. 

As for Lumi, we also worked her recall, and her behavior cues to Brees. I now had a non-personal way  of correcting inappropriate behaviors of stalking, posturing and prolonged staring and rewarding her for softness. There was no yelling, pulling her away (although we started on a long line for safety), I could be still, observe and give information as needed.

The timespan of training with each individual dog went fairly quickly, however I went much slower when working the pack. Lumi started with a muzzle for group trainings and slowly worked them together off leash, always watching and rewarding for calming signals (sniffing, shake offs, lip licks, etc). As the pack relaxed, the muzzles came off, but the training never ends. 

Both  dogs are now accountable for their behavior. My house found peace, order were everyone understands the rules. When my dogs are together outdoors, they all wear their remote trainers even though  I rarely need them. I  institute rules to group play that includes a lot of breaks where everyone must lay down and relax. Indoor rules are “place” training and waiting at thresholds. I cannot stress enough how the instant  accountability for behavior and rewarding  good choices made on my pack dynamics. There is no yelling, no conflict. 

It was this experience, and meeting a network of like-minded trainers along the way,  that has made me an advocate for the responsible and humane use of electronic training collars. It changed me as a trainer and in a strange way, has made me more relaxed, open to new ideas with a crazy renewed desire to really help those who want it. 

So HOW do we train?

We start by  looking at the whole dog, including temperament, drives, genetics based on breed, history, and discuss the problem behaviors with the owners.

Now… I am going to get a little science-y here, so bear with me.

We then use   classical conditioning and 4 quadrants of learning theory to teach dogs the desired behavior we want or eliminate a behavior we don’t want.

For most dogs learning foundation behaviors, we start with classical conditioning  pairing food with the “secondary reinforcer” which is either a word or a clicker. The marker will communicate to the dog of correct behaviors. As training progresses, the marker in itself makes the dog feel as good as treat.

We use luring, shaping, targeting and management tools (like a leash or a long line), to show the desired behavior. We use toys, play and food as a reward. We want the dog to buy in to the training. Create a dog who wants to work and enjoys it. 

As balanced trainers, we use tools based on the dogs needs, and the behavior we are working on which can range from clickers and food to e-collars. 

The e-collar

As the dog is understanding the picture of behavior, we start to condition the dog to a LOW stim remote training collar.

The collar is what gives the clarity of YES and NO. For example, as I am teaching a recall, I use the collar to teach the dog that all the “doors” are closed except the one coming back to me. I use a long line to show the direction, rewarding the dog when they arrive. I eventually fade out the line once the dog understands the direction and has worked under many types of distractions. The collar helps ensure that the dog will come back every time.

Below is a video of Zoey’s recall session. This was done with private sessions, and the video was made three weeks into her training. This training was done using thoughtful steps and she is is off leash and coming back with mild distractions. As the dog is successful, the distractions increase. Every dog’s success timeline  will be different and and is dependant on past  recall history. We don’t rush the process.  

Remote trainers can help with many behaviors, however, they are not magical.  There are rules for those using them as these are delicate tools not meant for emotional training. 

Bottom line: We believe that dogs are most successful when information is given in a clear and consistent way. We are always fair to the behavior and we use tools that create fair learning. We want to see dogs have a wonderful quality of life with the people who love them. Please feel free to contact us to talk further about our training, methods  or services.

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