Saturday, September 18, 2010

The intake form reads....

"Used shock collar, didn't work. He would yelp and continue bad behavior."

"We've tried everything and used a shock collar for many months."

"We use electrical invisible fencing for our dogs."

Gulp. I am usually the last resort for those using pain devices. The dogs bond closely when they discover I am consistent in how I treat them...no pun intended. Treat as in reward and treat as in what they can expect from me. Positive reward-based "hands-off" training for the owners seems to be harder than pressing an electrical button, jerking on a prong or hanging with a choke.

Yesterday's dog had all of the above in play. Several times I heard my voice say - stop jerking, try this. Luckily, this owner is a quick study and was amazed at the results we got from a dog who would pay no attention to her, to one who was quite attentive and relaxed in a mere 1.5 hour session. Imagine what consistency of application would do.

A dog with two or three homes can be unstable to begin with and add electricity to the mix and you can change behavior, but you might not like it. A clicker gets faster results and longer lasting compliance, and positive reward-based training and behavior modification provides a safe atmosphere for the dog.

I think people listen to all the nonsense out there about positive training and about treats. Positive, of course, is not permissive, there has to be guidance, education, teaching, rules, boundaries. People have been led to believe a team of weenie throwers are on their way and without treats the dog will do nothing for them. On the contrary, rewards are a motivator, a paycheck for a job well done and who doesn't deserve that?

Yesterday's dog was shocked for looking at and lunging, barking at dogs. Guess what? The behavior became stronger, more intense. Dog = pain. Now we've got our work cut out because dog = pleasure, reward, and "oh look there's a dog"....irrelevant. People feel they've tried everything, but everything is an elusive word because where knowledge ends aversion seems to take flight. Positive reward-based training is changing the way people interact with a species, changing communication patterns from negative to positive and assuring positive is ok.

That's a day in the life of a behavior trainer.

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