Wednesday, March 14, 2018

7 Reasons to Use Reward Based Dog Training

Seven Reasons to Use Reward-Based Dog Training

It’s amazing what we can do when we use rewards to train our companion animals. Here are some reasons to give it a try.

A happy dog waiting for a reward

Positive reinforcement is recommended by professional organizations

Many professional organizations have spoken out against the use of punishment in dog training because the scientific evidence shows that it carries risks.

For example, Dogs Trust recommend the use of rewards in dog training. “In order to be effective and to gain the best results, all training should be based around positive rewards. Positive reward training works because if you reward your dog with something he wants as soon as he does what you ask, he is far more likely to do it again.”

In their advice on finding a dog trainer, the American Veterinary Society for Animal Behaviour says “AVSAB endorses training methods which allow animals to work for things (e.g., food, play, affection) that motivate them rather than techniques that focus on using fear or pain to punish them for undesirable behaviors. Look for a trainer who uses primarily or only reward-based training with treats, toys, and play. Avoid any trainer who advocates methods of physical force that can harm your pet such as hanging dogs by their collars or hitting them with their hands, feet, or leashes."

Some organizations (such as the Pet Professional Guild and the APDT (UK)) and some dog training schools (such as the Academy for Dog TrainersKaren Pryor Academy, and the Victoria Stilwell Academy) have a code of practice that requires their members to use kind, humane methods instead of aversive techniques.

Read the entire article

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Dog Parks

By:  Drayton Michaels, Urban Dawgs, Red Bank, NJ
Urban Dawgs

Q - is it OK to take my dog to dog parks?

I do not recommend you take your dog to dog parks because they are fraught with potential disasters, let’s first discuss behavior.

You have a multiple dogs running around in play, what is known as “ritualized aggression” is in full swing and while there may not be a fear component to the “ritualized” aggression, it can turn really quick, especially because there’s lots of dog play which at times may be rough and very little if any proper human interjection with refereeing and shaping the play. The human refereeing and play shaping is what helps the play continue to evolve in a positive way.

There are millions of micro associations happening at the snout level when dogs are in play, dog parks are typically large areas where there is lots of space and while that helps play in some regards, it also makes refereeing and shaping the play more challenging. Dogs are not having the proper feedback from humans during the play at dog parks as many people subscribe to the mindset “the dogs are fine, they’ll work it out.

At any time a dogfight can break out and this is extremely dangerous to your dog as well as your safety.

Additionally, dogs may join in the fight even if they’re not involved due to the distress signals that they are hearing.

Then we have to factor in the potential for sickness whether it be other dog’s saliva whatever’s on the ground, and or on surfaces that your dog may lick.

I suggest socializing your dog with friends and family that have well socialized dogs and go to securely fenced backyard’s for dog play. That is safest.

If you do not have securely fenced backyard then I suggest fenced in tennis courts.
Make sure you shape and referee the play to keep things going well.

Dog play can be great and it’s a great way for dogs to socialize, expend energy and train around extreme distractions. Remember, make the safest choice for your dog, because that’s the smartest choice.
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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Growling Dogs

Don't Switch Off Your Dogs Growl!

by Niki Tudge

When a dog growls it is its way of communicating that it is uncomfortable, afraid or stressed. Dogs have a communication hierarchy that starts with subtle face shifts, lip licks and yawns. The growl is present when previous communication has failed and the dog needs to escalate its message.

Please do not think or feel “rest assured” that your dog will not bite. If it feels threatened and scared and previous other warning messages have not been heeded or ignored, then a dog’s behavior may/will escalate to a snap or a bite. Our four legged family members cannot ask for a family meeting, initiate an intervention or write to their Congressman. This is how dogs communicate, through vocal gestures and physical movements.

If your dog growls, snaps or shows any behavior that indicates fear or discomfort then please consult a qualified professional positive-reinforcement dog trainer or behavior consultant to help you and your dog understand what is triggering the fear so it can be resolved, helping everyone co-exist comfortably together. After all is that not what families are all about?

Under no circumstances should you punish your dog for growling, this is equivalent to turning off your burglar alarm system and then being surprised to arrive home and find your valuables missing.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018



It is very important to be able to ask your dog to give something to you, especially something he isn’t supposed to have!  If you only take things away that are forbidden to him, he will learn to play the keep-away game – which is no fun for the humans!

Here’s how to teach “Give”:

1.     Give him a toy that he likes;
2.    When he is happily playing, offer him a tasty treat! As he drops the toy to take the treat, say, “Give!”;
3.    Say “Yes!” and give him the tasty treat;
4.    Then throw the toy for him to play with again.  If it’s a forbidden object, you will skip this step.


If the dog won’t give up the toy, ignore him until he gets bored with the toy, then try again. Start the exercise with a toy that is less valuable to your dog or give a better treat. Also be sure you aren’t being threatening with body language or voice when asking him to give.  Make this lesson a fun game.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Force Free Dog Training

By: Drayton Michaels, Urban Dawgs

The Force Free Dog Training culture has a main objective now more than ever to educate people so that they do not end up causing their dogs fear and pain. The fear and pain approaches are still lurking around, it’s better but we’ve got work to do.

By educating people about legit dog training and behavioral modification, by showing them their dogs do not need to be reprimanded, kicked, hit, shocked beaten down in order to learn, we are putting a stop to that dog abuse, and it is abuse, and those people are living a punishment lifestyle. We are decreasing dog bites, we are extending dogs lives we’re adding years to their life because we’re reducing stress. 

I am not na├»ve, behavior does not change overnight and again as I’ve said many times the biggest variable is the human, that is the variable which is most important. The dog needs a good association to people, fear generalizes easy for dogs, and that association to humans will erode if that dog is met with fear and pain on a daily basis in order to decrease behavior. 

Force Free Dog Trainers indeed are here to help people learn and to get their dogs better trained so they can have less stress in their life, but one of the most overarching goals in our work is to educate people so they change their behavior and they do not cause their dogs fear and pain, ever. It’s simply not needed, ever. 

Force Free Dog Training may not have started out with advocacy underpinnings but it certainly is now one of the main reasons Force Free Dog Trainer’s need to stay strong and keep moving on and educating the world at large because the way we approach Dog Training without fear and pain and force, using science and math, common sense and empathy making sure the dog feel safe sure sounds advocacy to me. 

Stay strong team Force Free! 

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

How to Make the World Better for Dogs

 Companion Animal Psychology

How to Make the World Better for Dogs

Dog experts – including Marc Bekoff, Jean Donaldson, Alexandra Horowitz, Ilana Reisner, Kathy Sdao and Pete Wedderburn – weigh in on the one thing that would make the world better for dogs.

Ilana Reisner, DVM PhD DACVB

Reisner Veterinary Behaviour and Consulting Services (Website, Twitter, Facebook)

“We can make the world better for dogs by recognizing that we are ultimately responsible for everything they experience, from their eating and elimination schedule, to their exercise and access to both wonderful and frightening things. Once we recognize that we humans are responsible for all of it and that dogs are powerless animals whose welfare depends on us, kindness and consideration naturally follow. Dogs make choices when they have the opportunity – to be warm, well fed, near the people and animals to whom they’re attached (an important one!), and to be safe; we humans are the ones to present those opportunities. Force-free behavior modification then makes sense: if you want to influence what a dog does, offer appropriate choices, give the dog time to choose, and reinforce the behavior you want. If the dog makes the wrong choice, try again – don’t punish. Punishment leads to stress and unravels trust so that choice-making is inhibited. We are also capable of making choices; choosing to train dogs with kindness and generosity is an important one." Read the entire article

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Leash Reactivity

Counter Conditioning Leash Reactivity, The Hybrid Approach

Leash Reactivity towards dogs, humans or traffic, is one of the most challenging training endeavors simply because there is no consistency in the appearance of the stimuli, and there will most assuredly be at some point, an over threshold event for the dog due to “criteria pile up”. More than one piece of criteria at a time combined with a lack of sufficient distance, too much duration, and or both, then add in the stimulus entering the environment with intensity of both the visual and auditory components known to cause the dog to react “over threshold”, and there will be more likely at some point a dog reacting by lunging and barking or attempting to flee and thus ends up flailing around while the handler tries to maintain control.

Handlers of leash reactive dogs be they large, medium or small dogs, have numerous mechanical and timing challenges. The variable that can be controlled the most is the human’s behavior, once that is the focus all other areas of leash reactivity become easier and stress is reduced.

The good news is this, once the handler has a better idea of what to do and starts a proactive protocol that consists of distance and high value food reinforcement, the dog will start to have less and less reactivity. There is no 100% reduction in leash reactivity, but if the handlers of the reactive dogs implement the following protocols in this blog and the video links, 90 – 95% reduction can be achieved. Humans are the variable so here we go… Read the entire article

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