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!

Private Training FAQ

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

Do you offer Service Dog Training?

No. Service dog prospects are welcome to attend our classes, including Puppy Parties, however we do not offer any type of service dog training.

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.
Due to COVID restrictions, in-home sessions are not available. In some instances, in-yard or neighbourhood training can be accommodated. Contact the office to find out if travel is available to your area, and if any travel fees apply.

What are your hours?

Availability varies by week, with bookings Monday through Friday. Please contact the office.

What is your booking/cancellation policy?

Payment is required in order to hold your appointment time within 24hrs of making the booking. Notice of cancellation/rebook must be received 48 hours in advance or there is a full charge for the missed session. Please read full policy here.

Do you cancel classes in bad weather?

Very rarely, unless the roads are dire (e.g. heavy freezing rain) or weather is a determining factor in a dog’s ability to train.

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 small number of sessions, however working through multiple issues involving fear or aggression will take more hands-on coaching. 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, and guidance.

What is the owner’s role in training?

Your role is critical! 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 contact the office immediately.
  • Treats
    • Prepare great treats, the smellier/grosser the better! Initial sessions will need only “normal” treats such as Rollover brand log. For example: 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)
    • Estimate about 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 during in-person sessions.
    • 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, or skip that meal. 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.

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 the over-whelming trigger or circumstance and teaching the dog how to make good choices, particularly when under stress.

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 teach your dog that she is able to make good choices and help her to feel calm and happy in situations that might otherwise cause over-whelm. This is very much like “Doggy Therapy!”

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!!