Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why Balanced Dog Training? Dog Trainer in Milton and Burlington

There are many different methods from many different dog trainers in this world and many conflicting ideas of what is best for our canine companions when it comes to training. Everything from purely positive to complusion only training, and the mix left inbetween.

As a general rule, dogs will respond differently to different people, to different objects, to different training methods, in different situations. Dogs are not robots, dogs are not pre-programed and dogs are not idiots.

It is best not to be close minded about training our dogs, as it reduces training to a "this or nothing" type of approach that, in training, and life in general, is not ideal.

Balanced training offers the best of both worlds - positive motivation paired with corrective training, that usually garners the most reliable results.

I've included a few links below for those interested in looking deeper into the world of balanced training, why it works, and why we shouldn't be close minded to our dogs intellectual needs.

Plan B - Kill the Dog - by Roger Hild

Calm and Assertive Clicker Training - by Terrierman - Patrick Burns

A Silent Killer - by Tyler Muto

Real Training vs Operant Conditioning - by Roger Hild

Most people live real lives, with jobs, children, households and other activities to take care of. They don't have the time to spend 40 hours a week conterconditioning their dog to garner the results of postive only training, nor do they want to punish their dogs into oblivian with complusion only training. A balance is needed in order to get results that are more reliable and speedier than either of the above mentioned methods.

Life carries with it both positive and negative consequences. Consequences teach us rights and wrongs, we learn from consequences daily and they will drive us to change our behaviour the next time around. Shouldn't we allow our dogs to learn at their full potential, in a natural way that has been working for millions of years?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Motivators and Training - Dog Trainer in Burlington and Milton

There are a number of different motivators that we can use when training our dogs. Motivators are the driving force that makes the dog want to work for us. In sport dog training, a dog with high drive for food, play or prey, makes treats, toys and tugs excellent motivators for performance. These motivators tend to keep these dogs "in drive" meaning that you are going to get a quick, intense, upbeat, flashy performance utilizing these tools. Corrections, voice, touch, play and social interaction are also motivators, but on a bit of a different level. Pairing different motivators together is what gives us reliable results both in the performance arena, at home, or where ever you and your dog may be.

Sometimes though, the motivator is too much for the dog to handle, and you're left with a sloppy, excited mess at the end of the leash. And it is not just the use of food that entices this intense behaviour. There are many dogs who are extremely motivated by touch and social interaction, that fall apart completely when their owners give them a rousing "good boy!!! oh such a good boy!!!". Timing and self control also become an issue when the motivator is so highly coveted that the dog becomes giddy thinking about it.

The key to utilizing the motivator is feel out the intensity used by the owner to deliver that reward, be it treats, praise, tugs etc. It is also our job as trainers to determine what works best for each individual dog. If you have a dog that is nuts for balls, but will work for a treat reward or praise, use the treat or voice instead of the ball to tone down the energy level until the dog has built up enough self control to work for the toy that drives them to the edge.

Self control is a whole topic unto it's own, but it is something that is extremely important for dogs to learn, and until your dog learns self control, don't use over-the-top rewards or techniques that cause the dog to "loose their mind". If you get to that point with your dog, he or she is no longer learning because they are so ensconced with the reward that nothing else really matters.

There is also another side to the motivators that causes dogs to lack drive, lack interest and lack the joy of wanting to work for their owners. Usually this comes with the sole use of punishment based training, the incorrect use of voice/petting for reward when training (too much or too little) or the incorrect steps to wean the dog off of the food/toy lure. All of these can reduce the performance in your dog and create unreliable, lackluster results.

Do we really need motivators that put the dog in "drive" for pet dog training? The average dog owner doesn't need a flashy, high energy performance when asking their dog for a down stay on the front lawn. They don't need the dog "in drive" to perform basic obedience commands at home. They don't need to have a dog that displays controlled insanity when asked to sit. They don't want to have to try and control the energy level that comes with certain motivators. Most owners just want reliability, without the intense energy level that can be brought on by certain motivators. This is where we need to take another look at the motivator currently being used and adjust strategies accordingly if your dogs drive for the reward it too high.

Pairing motivators such as treats, voice and corrections together, once the dog understands what is beinig asked, tends to offer a very reliable result, with just enough drive to get quick response, but not enough drive to bring the dog over the edge. Pairing motivators in this way allows trainers to fade the food reward and replace it with voice/praise/petting, so food no loner is relied upon for commands.  As well, pairing guiding corrections can help tone down any incorrect or high intensity responses, let the dog know that he or she needs to comply and give the dog a clearer picture of what is being asked, creating a calmer thought process for the dog.  (There are steps to be taken when utilizing the corrections for obedience training, and the dog needs to understand what we are asking of them before corrections are added in order to be fair to the dog during the learning process.)

Experient with your dog - find out what works by testing different motivators in non-distracting settings to see how your dog responds. If you want to advance your dogs training, are interested in sport training or just want a reliable response from your pet, feel free to contact Smart Dogs Canine Training to help guide you along the way

Another Great Review! Dog training in Milton, Ontario

Just wanted to share a great review we received from one of our fantastic clients:

"What an experience! Being young with 2 kids we thought a nice puppy would make our family unit complete…But what a handful! Boss, our chocolate lab puppy chewed through baseboards, wall units, and any toy he could get his teeth around. He walked us most of the time, pulling and dragging us wherever he would go. He would bark when people came to the door, jump up on anyone and everyone, and played mostly with his teeth – nipping and biting whoever touched him. Everything very normal for a puppy – but out of control! Thank God for Julie and Smart Dogs Canine Training. We arranged to have Julie come over, assess Boss, and determined that Private training sessions were a must to gain control back, and have the puppy we had longed for. After just one, one hour session we began to see results. We never knew that training could tire a dog out! With the smallest tips from Julie, like prong collar for walks, correction for teeth on skin, and basic commands our lives were remarkably easier. 8 private sessions later Boss is a new dog – we take him everywhere we go, without the worry that he will be “that” dog that no one can handle. He can follow basic commands, walk a distance away from us without running off, and play games with the kids without getting too excited and biting. Julie really knows what she is doing – and does an amazing job!! Thank you so much Julie for all of your help and dedication to our family, and our new pup. What an experience!" - Alison & Kevin - Milton, ON

If you are looking for a dog trainer in Milton, Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga or the surrounding areas, that gets results, check us out at or feel free to email for more information.