What and How I Teach

I teach using positive reinforcement. That means I teach by providing desirable consequences for behaviors that I want to see more of. Food is often the easiest reinforcer to use in teaching new skills, but as behaviors are learned, and you learn to gauge what your dog finds truly reinforcing, you will learn to use a wider variety of reinforcers.

I will also teach you to how to use positive reinforcement in the reduction of behavior you don't want. I do not use techniques where the primary strategy is to reduce behavior by creating pain or discomfort as a consequence, because across multiple species, punishment carries a well-documented risk of creating fears and phobias, avoidance behaviors, aggression, and/or apathy. 

I have formal education in how animals learn and multiple certifications that verify a widely accepted knowledge base. Neither is required in dog training, which is an unregulated field. 

When teaching new behavior, I often use an "event marker." An event marker is a distinct signal that helps the dog understand precisely what he did right and why he's getting that treat. One such marker is a little plastic noisemaker called a clicker (pictured below) Others might be verbal, like "yes" or "good," or hand signals (e.g., a thumbs-up for a deaf dog). 

red iclick.jpg

Some of the advantages of using an event marker are that you can:
  (a) Use plenty of food for reinforcement without having to show the dog the food in order to get the behavior to happen;
  (b) Quickly take advantage of the many behaviors your dog actually already knows how to physically do (sit, lie down, stand, turn, wait, be quiet) to get him to do them when you ask, or in response to certain environmental conditions;
  (c) Bridge the gap between the behavior and the reinforcer even when you are working away from the dog;
  (d) Help the dog understand very fine points of training.

In my experience, learning to use a clicker can help a novice trainer develop the good timing necessary for all effective training. But the use of this device as your event marker is not required. 

I break down complex behaviors into small, achievable steps for both dog and owner—a proven way of keeping both of you engaged in and enjoying training as well as moving steadily toward your goals.

I train people. I want you to know how to communicate with your dog and how to problem-solve after I leave.  

For more about how I teach, please check out my blog and my index of training articles for other outlets.