Our Training Methods
At Kindred Spirits we believe in:
- praising and rewarding good behavior
- interrupting unwanted behaviors
- replacing unwanted behaviors with good behaviors.
We believe that teaching dogs what to do gives us, as dog owners, more opportunities to praise and reward our dogs. Most trainers today use a much more positive method than those used many years ago. Trainers have found that the more compulsive training techniques, which were forceful (“You WILL do it!”) and used leash corrections and a harsh verbal correction when the dog made a mistake, weren’t much fun for dog or owner. The dogs usually disliked the training sessions and, as a result, were rarely compliant or cooperated out of fear. Of course, owners rarely enjoyed the training, either. Today, there is a wide variety of training techniques, but the three most prevalent ones are:
- Positive training. Some trainers use what is often referred to as purely positive training. No corrections at all are used, and the dog is helped to do the right thing and then rewarded for it. Most positive trainers use a clicker, and all use either food or other motivators, depending on the dog.
- Compulsive training. Usually forceful. The dog is taught to avoid an uncomfortable or even painful stimulus by performing the correct action or command.
- Balanced training. Balanced training uses select techniques from both sides. Balanced trainers feel the positive techniques can be powerful training tools and use them eagerly, but that dogs can also learn from making a mistake. Letting the dog know that he has made a mistake may range from withholding a treat and praise to giving a verbal correction or a snap and release of the leash. After any “mistake”, we believe in trying again and helping the dog make the right choice.
The experienced trainers at Kindred Spirits believe and teach using balanced training. We teach the dog using positive training, but we will also set limits using force, if needed. One of our mottos is “caring, common sense training.” Our training is designed for the person who wants to teach their dog how to be a good companion.
No matter what techniques are used, trainers agree that dogs need to be taught what to do rather than simply be corrected for bad behavior. When a dog knows what acceptable behavior is and is consistently rewarded for doing it, he no longer needs to do the “bad” behavior. For example, dogs jump on people out of excitement and to greet people face to face—a very natural behavior for dogs. They don’t understand, however, that jumping on people ruins clothes and knocks people down. A dog can be corrected in any number of ways not to jump up, but if he is only corrected, he will continue to jump up because he doesn’t know what to do to get the attention he wants. In addition, with the corrections, he will become more and more anxious. However, if he is taught to sit and is greeted and petted in the sitting position, he no longer needs to jump up. The jumping will disappear.
Discipline Is Not a Bad Word
Many dog trainers and owners who embrace purely positive training techniques seem to feel that discipline is a bad word. But behaviorists and psychologists agree that discipline is not about punishment, and it’s not about withholding rewards; instead, discipline is about leadership. Your dog needs a leader, and that leader must be you.
You, as your dog’s leader, should have a vision of how you want your dog to behave. Do you want him to sit for petting instead of jumping on people? Good! Do you want him to walk nicely on the leash? Wait for permission to go through open doors? Lie nicely on his rug while people eat? That vision can then be broken down into smaller, short-term, achievable goals. Good leadership is all about high expectations and good communication. With those things in mind, you help your dog help himself.
For example, a long-term goal could be that your dog will not jump on people. You then can teach him to sit for petting and praise. When he jumps up, use your voice: “Ack! No jump!” and help your dog sit. When he sits on his own, you praise and reward him. Your body language, voice, and eye contact all convey to your dog that you have expectations for his good behavior and you expect him to comply. That’s leadership and discipline.
Reinforce with positives everything you want your dog to do again. That means, praise your dog, pet him, offer him a treat or toss him a ball when he does what you would like him to do. Things that are reinforced with good things from you will happen again in the future. Teach your dog what to do. Yelling at him, “No, no, bad dog!” shows him that you’re mad about something, but it doesn’t teach him what to do instead. Show him what to do, help him do it, and then reinforce it with positives.
Prevent bad behavior from happening. You cannot correct bad behavior after the fact; it doesn’t work and your dog won’t understand. Instead, prevent bad behavior from happening. Think about when and why your dog does it, and then do something about it. Interrupt bad behavior when you catch your dog in the act. Use your voice, “Acck! No jump!” or a similar verbal interruption, or use the dog’s leash and collar, or use a squirt bottle. Follow each interruption by teaching your dog what to do instead. When your dog knows what to do instead, he’ll be less likely to repeat the bad behavior.