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Training Articles

Articles, Videos and FAQs about Dog Training

What is Positive Reinforcement? 
Positive reinforcement is anything added to the dogs environment (such as a treat or praise) which increases the likeliness of a desirable behavior happening again. For example, saying "Good boy!" when your dog sits nicely to greet you will increase the likeliness of your dog sitting to greet you again in the future.

What is Negative Reinforcement? 
Negative reinforcement occurs when something the animal finds unpleasant is discontinued when a desired behavior is performed. The intent is to increase the likeliness of the desirable behavior being repeated. For example, a dog stops pulling on a choke collar, discontinuing the choking sensation. This makes the dog more likely to not pull in the future. Negative reinforcement and punishment based training has been linked by Hiby, Rooney, & Bradshaw (Anim. Welfare) with an increase in occurrence of problematic behaviors in dogs. Research suggests that dogs trained using negative reinforcement and traditional training methods associate punishments with the owner/handle as opposed to with the undesirable behavior and tend to exhibit an increase stress and anxiety related behaviors when training around their owners (Schilder et al 2004).

How long until my dog is trained? 
Training time depends on your personal training goals. The benefit of offering private, in-home training is that our trainers can customize your program to meet both your and your dogs needs decreasing the time necessary to learn new behaviors. If you would like a more detailed assessment of how many session are needed for your situation please feel free to contact us anytime to set up a free in-home consultation. A consultation provides the opportunity for you to meet our trainer and get a feel for our training style and allow our trainer to access where you are in relation to your training goals.

How much are your fees? 
Our fee schedule can be found here. If you would like more information on training specials or discounts please contact us anytime and we will be happy to discuss any discount you may qualify for.

What is the "Alpha" Myth? 
Did you know domestic dogs don't form packs? The myth has it's roots in research done on captive, unrelated, adult wolf populations following WWII. By the time research starting coming out on the social structure of domestic dogs in the 80s and 90s, the "pack" concept had already taken root in popular culture. What scientists found when researching dog social structure is that domestic dogs, when left to form their own social units, don't form any type of stable social grouping at all. This means that being "dominant" or acting as an "alpha" is very unnatural when dealing with domestic dogs. In fact, dominant type behaviors, including "alpha rolling," ruff grabbing, shaking, and other physical corrections have been shown to increase aggressive and undesirable behaviors in dogs.

Do you use treats in training? 

Yes, if your dog is food motivated we may use treats to teach new behaviors. However, we feel that dogs should not be depended on the presence of treats to perform a behavior, therefore we wean the dog off treats as soon as the new behavior is established. Building a strong, solid relationship with your dog makes treats largely unnecessary for training.

What type of training gear will I need? 

You will need a regular nylon or leather collar and 6ft non retractable leash. We do not allow the use of choke, prong, or electronic collars in training as these have been shown to increase the frequency of aggressive and anxiety related behaviors in dogs. You will not need any extra gear beyond the nylon/leather leash and collar.

Ever wish your puppy had an off switch? Learn how to turn your puppy "on" and "off" on cue! 

Medical or Behavioral? 
by Lindsey Hein, KPACTP
As a dog trainer and a veterinary assistant, I see both behavioral and medical issues everyday. Sometimes these issues can overlap or get mixed up. Many times owners believe their dog has a behavioral issue, when in reality, there is an underlying medical cause. Below is a list of some common issues that could also be caused by a medical condition. If your dog is displaying any of the following behaviors, or has any behavior problem that has occurred suddenly, please take your dog in for a thorough check up by your veterinarian before trying to address it as a training issue.

Inappropriate house soiling- This is one I see most frequently misunderstood in dogs. I always recommend that any dog with house soiling issues be checked by a veterinarian first, especially if the dog is an adult and has been reliable with house training in the past. There are several medical conditions that could cause house soiling; this site by the ASPCA has a very informative list.

Aggression- Aggression of any kind is a serious problem that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. There are several medical conditions that should be ruled out first when dealing with aggression. Hypothyroidism is a leading medical cause of aggression and other behavioral changes in canines. Hypothyroidism can be diagnosed by a blood panel and is easy to control through medication. Other possible causes of aggression include hydrocephalus, encephalitis, head trauma, brain tumors, epilepsy and Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.

Sensitivity or aggression when being handled or touched- These issues may indicate that your dog is in pain somewhere. For instance a dog that snaps when you reach towards his ear may be hiding a bad ear infection. Arthritis is a common cause for older dogs to become suddenly defensive to being touched and handled.

Reluctance to perform behaviors such as sit or down; refusal to jump- These could also be signs of pain or discomfort in your dog. Any dog who is reluctant or slow to sit should be checked for hip dysplasia, a common and debilitating condition, especially in larger breeds. Refusal to jump or perform other similar behaviors could also be a sign of hip problems, as well as back, spine, or leg injuries.

These are just a few of the health problems that can be mistaken for behavior issues. Please have your dog seen by a veterinarian first if you notice any abnormal or unusual behavior.
Click here for more articles on dog training by Lindsey.
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