Tag Archives: fear

More Than Obedience

A young woman came to me with her German Shepherd, Wheels. At less than a year old, Wheels had already bitten a half dozen times, with increasing severity. Wheels’s owners called up her breeder to seek help and express concern at his behaviour. Her breeder told her, “Wheels just needs to learn to stay and heel, if you teach him better obedience he won’t bite.”

This ill-conceived advice is ineffective, at best. At worst, it’s downright dangerous.

Obedience training is like woodworking: taught properly, it’s enjoyable, enriching, and has some useful results (a pretty table leg, a dog who walks politely).

Behaviour modification is like therapy. The objective is to manage and resolve deep-seated issues like anxiety and depression. Carving a nice table leg is of minimal benefit!

Just as you wouldn’t sit down with your woodworking instructor to talk about past traumas and current struggles, dogs in need of behaviour modification work can’t fully benefit from obedience training. Wheels needed a very different approach.

Understanding the difference between behaviour modification and obedience lies in understanding the mechanisms through which animals learn. Consequences are critical to learning, but we often place too heavy an emphasis on them and don’t fully understand how they function. Consequences are defined by their results – in other words, if you attempt to punish a dog and the dog continues to do the behaviour you intend to stop, you’re not actually punishing the behaviour! Whatever you’re doing as “punishment” – shouting, collar corrections, pinning the dog – is likely scary or painful, yet the dog isn’t making the necessary correlation for it to be an actual punishment.

Obedience training is based heavily in consequences. Obedience training that is enriching and valuable for a dog is based in positive reinforcement, such as dispensing food or toys or providing access to something your dogs wants as a reward. There is no punishment. However obedience training’s value is limited by its specific focus on the dog’s behaviour – whether  to reinforce “good” behaviour or punish ”bad.”

Understanding how behaviour fulfills an emotional need is critical to assessing problem behaviours and assembling an appropriate training plan. All this rests primarily on how associations are formed and, most importantly, understanding this as a largely unconscious and uncontrollable process. Behaviour that is born of emotional turmoil is not behaviour the dog can easily control, and thus is not subject to “obedience training.”

This explains why Wheels can have excellent leash manners when walking down the street with no other dogs around, but when he sees a dog he barks, lunges, and drags his owner down the street and continues to do so even after the other dog is long gone.

Wheels is triggered to an uncomfortable emotional high by the sight of the other dog, and even after the dog is gone his sympathetic nervous system remains engaged in a “fight or flight” response. This leash pulling may look like an obedience issue, but really it’s a much deeper issue.

A woodworking instructor can help you detail your table leg just so, but she can’t help you overcome OCD or an addiction. Woodworking can also be an enjoyable hobby to help you de-stress, but it is not the root of a therapeutic approach. Obedience training can help an owner give their dog valuable structure, but it does not, in and of itself, resolve behaviour problems.

A behaviour consultant, just like a therapist, understands how behaviour is a reflection of an emotional state as well as the intricacies of how that emotional state is reflected in an animal’s behaviour. Just like a therapist recommending woodworking as a hobby, a behaviour consultant may use obedience trained with positive reinforcement as a secondary strategy to get to the emotional root of the problem, but that will not be the sum total of the training.

Rather than focusing on stay and heel with Wheels’s owner, we focused on developing his ability to emotionally self-regulate in the presence of dogs and implemented strategies to help him recover after the turmoil of encountering a dog, creating a relaxed, calm, and positive association, and cultivated a sense of safety. We didn’t punish any “bad” behaviour; instead we got to the root of the problem behaviour through changing Wheels’s emotional state and associations with other dogs.

 

Do you need help with your dog? Let us know!

Behaviour Consultation and Private Training

Learn the least invasive, minimally aversive, positive reinforcement-based methods to resolve your dog’s behaviour problems. Learn more about our training, and prepare for your private training, by viewing the free Orientation Webinar!


Behaviour Consultations

Emily, a certified dog behaviour consultant, will guide you through the resolution of your dog’s problem behaviours. Consults include discussion, demonstration and hands-on work with your dog, a completely personalized training plan, and ample resources and follow-up. See below for in-home travel restrictions.

For dogs who:

    • Have bitten or are at risk of biting a person, dog or other animal
    • Show aggressive or reactive displays in response to people, dogs or other animals
    • Panic when left alone/separation anxiety (bark, howl, house soil, drool, destructive chewing when alone)
    • Are fearful, scared or anxious in response to people, dogs or other animals
    • Are fearful, scared or anxious in response to sounds, objects, or storms
    • Are protective/possessive of/aggressive around food, toys, bed, or other objects (resource guarding)
    • Do not like to be touched, handled or groomed
    • Have other similar issues rooted in emotional distress

Private Training for Manners, Obedience and Puppies

Private training for manners and obedience is tailored to your specific needs. We will work on exercises where you need them in daily life with your dog, whether in your home, in the park, or your neighbourhood. Private sessions come complete with notes, handouts and follow-up. See below for in-home travel restrictions.

You are also encouraged to consider group classes, such as the Puppy Socialization and Life Skills programs.

For dogs who:

    • Ignore their owner and will not comply with requests
    • Will not come or stay when asked
    • Jump up to greet people
    • Pull on leash when out for a walk
    • Run out the front door without permission (door dashing)
    • Want to chase inappropriate targets
    • Puppy concerns, including nipping, teething, chewing, house training, crate training, alone training, socialization guidance, problem prevention, etc.

Private Training Services and Pricing

• Initial Session 2hr session 

$185+HST
Purchase Now

After completing this session, you may choose to continue with Single Sessions or the Package of Five. This session must be used within 90 days of purchase. Purchase is required in advance in order to hold session time.

• Package of Five – 5hr total 

$450+HST (Save $50!)
Purchase Now

After completing the Initial Session you are welcome to purchase a Package of Five at a discount.  All five sessions must be completed within six months of payment. Purchase is required in advance in order to hold session time.

• Single session 60min

$100+HST
Purchase Now

After completing the Initial Session you are welcome to purchase Single SessionsThis session must be used within 90 days of purchase. Purchase is required in advance in order to hold session time.

• Puppy Class Add-On 60min 

$80+HST (Save $20!)
Purchase Now *current puppy students only

This session is available exclusively to current students of our Puppy Socialization Class and must be purchased and used before your last puppy class. Purchase is required in advance in order to hold session time.




Behaviour Consultation and Private Training Purchase

  1. Contact the office for the behaviour questionnaire (alert us if you are outside of Guelph if you require in-home training, travel area is limited and fees may apply)
  2. Read Private Session Policy and Private Training FAQ, and view the free Orientation Webinar.
  3. Purchase your session to reserve your appointment booking
  4. Schedule appointments directly with the office

*TravelService Area for dog training in guelph fees apply to a limited distance outside of this service area, contact the office to see if travel to your home is possible. In-school training is always an option.

Please read private session policy prior to payment. This page includes general information, policy, and waiver. The Private Training FAQ addresses frequently asked questions.

Private Training FAQ

Private dog training for fear, reactivity, aggression, manners, obedience and puppies.

When is private training the best option?

Private training is the best option for dealing with issues of  reactivity, fear and aggression. It is also the best option for manners/obedience for owners wanting to pursue focused training on a single topic, prefer one-on-one training and for those owners with schedules that cannot accommodate the group class program.

How much does private training cost?

All pricing is listed on the Private Training webpage.

Where are you located? What is your service area?

Private training is offered in your home or at the facility. The school is located at 340 Southgate Drive #3, Guelph. There is a map of the service area for in home sessions on the Private Training page. Contact the office to find out if travel to your location can be accommodated, and to determine any applicable travel fees.

What are your hours?

Private training may be booked during days, evenings or Saturday afternoon. Specific availability varies by week.

What is your booking/cancellation policy?

Payment must be made within two days to hold your appointment time. Notice of cancellation/rebook must be made 48 hours in advance or there is a full charge for the missed session. Please read full policy here.

How many sessions/how long does it take to solve my problem?

The length of time or number of sessions that it will take to solve the issue is very much dependent on the issue, the owner and the dog. For example, an owner looking to teach a non-aggressive dog to settle at the sound of a door bell may take only a couple of sessions, however working through multiple issues involving fear or aggression will take multiple sessions. There is a discount available on multi-session packages, as outlined on the Private Training webpage. Owners acquire skills at different rates of speed and this in turn affects the dog’s progress.

Do you offer a guarantee?

In order to remain in compliance with the CCPDT Code of Ethics, I do not offer a guarantee.  A trainer teaches an owner how to train their dog; thus, asking a trainer for a guarantee isn’t asking for a guarantee on training methods, it’s asking for a guarantee on one’s own behaviour inasmuch as it affects the dog. I will guarantee that you will receive up-to-date information and instruction on force-free training methodology, support, guidance and consideration of the wants and needs of you and your dog.

What is the owner’s role in training?

Your role is invaluable! Your job will be to assure that you understand the information given to you and adhere to the training protocols laid out for you and your dog. My “dream client” is engaged, actively listens and assimilates information, asks lots of questions and requests clarification when necessary, frequently gives and requests feedback, and is overall an active partner in training. I want to work with you to help you and your dog, and I can’t do it without you!

What do I need to prepare for my session?

  • Completed Behaviour Questionnaire
    • This will be sent to you via email. Complete in detail it on your computer and return it via email in advance of your session. Do not print, complete by hand or save it as a PDF. If you experience technical difficulties please contact the office.
  • Treats
    • Prepare extraordinary treats, the smellier/grosser the better. For example: sandwich meats, dehydrated organ meats, cooked and chopped lean meat from the butcher, or tripe treats
    • NO veggies, fruit, kibble, hard biscuits, etc.
    • Chop treats no larger than the size of a pea (or smaller for tiny dogs)
    • Minimum 300 pieces
    • Choose treats that will not upset your dog’s stomach
  • Pouch
    • Purchase a fanny pack, a treat pouch from the pet store, or a rock climbing chalk pouch, or notify your trainer and one will be available for purchase.
    • NO pockets and over-the-shoulder type bags
  • Equipment
    • Have ready your regular walking equipment (leash, harness, etc) as well as any favourite toys. You may be required to use a different type of equipment, as determined in your session.
  • Feeding/Exercise
    • If the session falls near a meal time, please feed only a very small portion of the meal earlier than usual. Cut back on all meals to accommodate the extra calories of training treats.
    • Exercise your dog appropriately prior to your session, however be sure not to exhaust your dog.
  • For dogs who are not friendly with people
    • For in-home sessions please secure your dog in a room out of sight from the front entrance. (i.e. in a room with a door closed, not in a crate in the front entry way). Ensure that your dog is not able to open the door or otherwise escape or injure her/himself. You may be asked to meet your instructor outside the home, ensure that your dog is not able to access windows and become agitated.
    • For in-school sessions please discuss this with your trainer prior to your session.

What methods do you use for behaviour modification training?

Respect for the dog’s physical, mental and emotional well-being is a foremost priority in any training at Scratch and Sniff Canine Services. Behaviour modification training focus on creating good associations with a trigger and teaching the dog how to make good choices, particularly when under stress. This training is not about controlling the dog, it is about returning agency to the dog. A dog who feels in control of herself feels safe and secure, thus removing the root cause of most behaviour issues (fear, anxiety, stress, over-arousal, etc). Our goal is to demonstrate to your dog that she is able to make choices and more importantly to teach her how to make good ones. It is important to note that the dog is never pushed to react and then punished; modern behaviour modification training must be conducted sub-threshold in order for a dog’s behavioural and emotional reactions to change. (Learn more about what “threshold” is.)

Primary protocols include:

Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement refers to a type of consequence: offering the dog something they want in order to increase the frequency of a behaviour. This is not a bribe because the dog is not shown up-front the “thing” they want (“here’s what you get if you perform”). Consequences occur after the behaviour has happened, as opposed to a lure (or “bribe”) which is used first in order to prompt a behaviour. Lures have their place, however must be used properly and do not play a significant role in behaviour modification training. Positive reinforcement is an over-arching theme of training and provides a foundation to change a dog’s behavioural and emotional reaction to a trigger.

Classical Counter Conditioning

Classical counter conditioning is an element of classical conditioning, also known as Pavlovian conditioning. This focuses not on behaviour but on emotional response. The dog is exposed to the trigger sub-threshold (dog notices but does not react) and this exposure is paired or associated with “good stuff” and pleasant experiences. This acts to change a dog’s emotional response by changing the meaning of the trigger.

Desensitization

Desensitization involves incremental, sub-threshold exposure to a trigger. Desensitization is used in conjunction with other methods and is an element of any training that exposes a dog to a trigger sub-threshold. Note that desensitization is not flooding! Flooding is a very detrimental method that involves exposing a dog to the trigger at great intensity, usually for a prolonged period. Imagine having a deathly fear of scorpions and being locked in a small box filled with them! Flooding often provokes a “freeze” response (“learned helplessness”), similar to a mouse that has been caught by a cat. This is not indicative of relaxation, and the dog is not calm. For more information on this, please read this article.

Behaviour Adjustment Training

Behaviour Adjustment Training is a low-stress, effective protocol designed by Grisha Stewart for fear, reactivity and aggression. It works by exposing the dog sub-threshold to the trigger and using a functional reward, most often distance from the trigger, to reinforce socially appropriate behaviours. The foundation of BAT training lies in the owner learning to read their dog’s body language and teaching the dog how to deal with stressful or uncomfortable situations using non-confrontational means.

He KNOWS he was bad!!

Published in this month’s Speaking of Dogs newsletter

Just imagine…

A new friend invites you to tea. You really like this person and would like to get to know her better, so you happily accept. You visit the finest bakery and purchase delicious pastries, a hostess gift, and show up at her house, well-dressed and on time.

She lets you in, accepts the pastries graciously, and heads to the kitchen for  plates, telling you to “help yourself.” You turn left and head into the dining room, and laid out before you is a buffet table 10 – no, 20 – feet long. Stomach grumbling, you start helping yourself to the plentiful food.

Minutes later, your new friend gasps as she rushes through the doorway. She shouts, “NO! STOP! What are you doing?! Stop that, you ungrateful jerk!” She grabs a newspaper off the side table, rolls it up, and whacks you across the nose, saying, “BAD! BAD!” She grabs you by the shirt collar and drags you out the front door, slamming it behind you. You are left spinning on the front stoop, sore in body and mind, wondering what on earth just happened. Continue reading He KNOWS he was bad!!