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Beyond Dog “Training”

There is a shift happening in the dog training world, and it is an exciting one! Shifts happen all the time; before World War II dogs were workers, not pets, and the training given to them was an education for the job at hand.

After the war dog ownership became more common and their transition from worker to companion was underway. Obedience training took hold in those post war years, and was mostly done with a dominance based approach-do it or else.

In the 50’s and 60’s the world of operant and classical learning was being discovered and that lead us to where most of us understand dog training today; the laws of reinforcement and punishment, cause and effect. Through education we have learned that by using positive training methods we can teach our dogs more, faster, and without the negative fallout of punishment.

With the change in how our dogs live their lives, and the “humanizing” of dogs as family members, we have unwittingly created living environments that don’t really allow our dogs the appropriate outlets for all their wonderful doggy-ness. We try to train the “dog” out of our dogs, without giving them appropriate outlets for their needs.

Most dogs don’t have the fortune of living on large acres of land where they can roam for extended periods of time fulfilling their inherent needs, or actually get to do the job their breed was created to do. Most dogs live in urban locations where they are lucky to have a walk daily. Some dogs thrive in these environments, with owners that work very hard at giving their dogs activities and outlets for mental and physical stimulation. Yet, even with the variety of activities available to the dog community, we are seeing more and more dogs suffering from behavioural problems. Not just nuisance behaviours like jumping on people, digging in the yard, or not responding to cues, but maladaptive behaviours stemming from anxiety, fear, and frustration.

This new shift in dog training is looking at the dog as a whole; their mental, emotional and physical health and how they are all connected to their behaviour. Looking at ways that we can fulfil their needs, and once those needs are met we are seeing a lot of the problematic behaviours fall away. The remaining behaviours can then be resolved through training.

This approach results in greater “success”, less training for the family, much better understanding of the family dog and what they need, and a more relaxed and contented dog.

I believe that everyone does the best they can for their dogs. We do the best that we know how to do; and when we learn more, we do better. This is the next stage in learning more and doing better for our beloved companions.

Intrigued? Contact me to find out more.


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