The importance of clarity in methods and tools

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to post as the first blog post of my new training company’s website. I thought about posting something related to the common issues dog owners struggle with. Something about loose leash walking, teaching a solid ‘leave it’ cue, and the all important recall. But then I realized the most important thing I should post about first: what training methods and tools will dogs be exposed to at Stoked Dogs. Why do I think it’s important? I’ve seen dog trainers who have hidden their methods from owners before. I’ve seen them promote the use of ‘tools’ without ever stating what those tools are. Worse yet, I’ve seen trainers promote the use of tools and methods ‘humane’ when they are anything but. So I’m going to be upfront about what I use, which is something that every professional dog trainer should be doing.

What do I mean by “methods”? Methods, in dog training, can refer to procedures to accomplish a particular goal. We have lots of options for methods in dog training. With the four quadrants of operant conditioning, we have methods that utilize positive punishment, positive reinforcement, negative punishment and negative reinforcement. All of these methods can be applied with different tools. We also have classical conditioning options such as sensitization, and desensitization.

For tools, we’re talking about what we will use along with the methods. Tools can be food, toys, leashes, harnesses, kongs, shock collars, prong collars, even loud sounds and spray bottles.

So what methods will you see used at Stoked Dogs? The main method that we will use, is Positive Reinforcement. Positive Reinforcement training is often referred to as reward based training and science-backed training. Why? Because it utilizes rewards to teach your dog skills, which is the method that behavioural science studies have found to be at least as, if not more so, effective than punishment based training, and does not have the potential negative fallout of punishment based training (punishment based training methods involve typically the use of tools such as shock collars, prong collars, and techniques such as pinning and hanging the dog).

Buffy and Cody demonstrating some of the tools regularly used including: high value treats, toys, a long line, muzzle, enrichment toys and a dumbbell for obedience training.

The tools that will be utilized at Stoked Dogs include treats, management of the environment, praise, toys, enrichment plans and items, games, and play.

So, to be crystal clear, at Stoked Dogs, you will never be asked to use a shock collar, a prong collar, a choke chain, collar pops, alpha rolls, hanging, helicoptering, or yelling. Instead, you will be taught to use the most effective and humane methods by using rewards, management of the environment, education, and compassion.

The goal in training isn’t to control your dog. The goal is to understand your dog, meet its needs and find humane ways to alter or eliminate problem behaviours so that you can develop a life-long happy relationship built on trust.

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