Q: How do we start our training process?
The start of any dog training program begins with our trainers working to get your dog to trust and want to engage with us. Our certified trainers use a combination of operant and forward classical conditioning to guide the dog with clear signals. This allows the dog to learn with confidence and retain information. Our trainers are fluent in using various methods of training to teach the dog (and owners!) in a way that best suits that dog’s particular needs. We create a learning environment to build momentum and fully engage the dog through experience and practice.
Q: What happens after we build trust with your dog?
At some point in the training, we will hit a stage when the dog needs to perform behaviors in the presence of competitive reinforcers (distractions); we use different reinforcers to show the dog the value of doing the correct behavior and introduce a conditioned cue that signals the dog that they performed an unwanted behavior which may or may not be followed by a penalty. That penalty can come in different forms depending on what is best for the dog but can fall into negative reinforcement (-R), negative punishment (-P), or positive punishment (+P).
Q: What is positive reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement is a brilliant approach that should be used whenever possible; however, there is the obvious condition with +R is that the dog finds your reinforcer more valuable than competing reinforcers. The problems and limitations with positive-only training become apparent in the unanticipated moment when the dog has found something to do that is far more compelling or self-rewarding than the treat or toy that the handler is holding.
- Q: What about compulsion training?
Important Note from our trainers:
We 100% DO NOT agree with compulsion training at Maximum Canine.
However, we do need to address the topic and answer the question, as we are often asked about this type of training methodology.
On the other end of the spectrum from positive reinforcement is the compulsion based, “old school” methods where the trainers tend to believe that training is getting into a battle of wills with the dog. The initial problems with this combative frame of mind is that the trainers are unable to create a proper environment in which the dog can learn and the inability for the handler to convey to the dog the objective for a particular session.
This is a matter of education of the trainer and the ideas that they bring to the training session: if the dog is not obeying a command the trainer is convinced that the dog is solely being defiant, willful, stubborn, or dominant. While this is occasionally the case, it is largely the lack of understanding or disconnect in the relationship that causes this behavior.
When using compulsion only and/or escalating levels of compulsion the dog will sometimes become conditioned to this training approach and begin to accept this as the way communication is supposed to occur.
- Q: What are some other training methods?
“Balanced training” is the third division of training which society defines as an approach that uses both reward-based and aversive methods to shape behaviors. Other methods used today such as Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) this is another force free method, based primarily around systematic desensitization and closely monitoring your dog’s body language and reactions in order to avoid flooding or reaching over their threshold.
Science-based training is another evolving method , much like balanced dog training, seeks to understand the connection between all four quadrants of operant conditioning, in addition to classical conditioning, sensitization and desensitization vs. flooding, and modifying psychological associations in dog training and how they interact with the canine psyche.
This school of thought is quite new and frequently changing as scientific knowledge grows through research projects and experiments. Mirror training is basically a ‘do as I do’ style of training, where a handler tries to get their dog to copy them, or mirror their actions in order to learn. Dogs are great social learners, but this method is very time consuming and works under limited conditions.
Relationship Based Training combines several different training methods , but focuses on a more individualized approach for both dog and human. It is the relationship between dog and human that drives everything . This method strives to meet the needs of the dog and the handler, to foster communication, and to strengthen their bond. Basically it's about being mutually beneficial and working as a team.
- Q: Do you use specific training tools?
Tools are NEVER required during the training and may be recommended on a case by case basis but it is ultimately up to the owner to make the final decision as to how they want to proceed with the training.
A dog that has a trusting relationship with the handler and truly understands the markers that were taught will have minimal stress and recovery time from penalties and will understand how to escape or avoid those penalties to gravitate to the constantly available value of teamwork and play.
- Q: What are the benefits of negative and positive reinforcement?
The use of positive and negative reinforcement is key to the success of any living organism: avoid something uncomfortable and go toward something comfortable. During the time puppies are with their mother she builds incredible value and trust by feeding, comforting, playing, protecting, cleaning, etc; she also gives penalties for inappropriate behavior and they can handle that because of the bond she has built with them.
I don’t feel that any person or training system can train a dog better than other dogs, no matter how smart we feel we are. I think the division among dog trainers and what approach you believe in is the biggest problem in the dog industry; I also strongly believe that if you pigeonhole your ideas into one box you are limiting your chances of success in training and the chances of your dog being a successful member of society. I have been training dogs my entire life and have experienced the trends and styles that have worked their way through the dog training world.
This allows me to adapt to each training situation individually and make adjustments where needed but I am always clear with the signals given and truthful with the reinforcers. As a dog lover and family man I understand that the biggest problem we face when living with dogs is the breakdown of communication between dogs and people so making that communication clear is our overall objective. I believe we all love our dogs!