Understanding the Dog
Dogs possess a strong desire to form relationships with their families, an amazing ability to make associations, and a natural inquisitiveness. These inherent qualities, if nurtured and respected, can lead to the development of a positive and meaningful bond between dog and human. I have strived to achieve this mutualism with my own dogs over the years, and I am dedicated to helping other dogs and their owners do the same.
Training a dog using motivational methods is one of the best ways for a person to develop such a relationship with their companion. Not only is a reliable, confident, and well-mannered dog the result of such an approach, but trust and equal admiration are gained. These benefits occur because such training teaches dogs, in a fair way, what desired behaviors are and that repeating these behaviors is rewarding. In other words, your dog will want to do things for you.
A clear communication system is necessary in this type of training. I prefer to use what people refer to as “bridges” or “markers” to teach new behaviors. Basically, an initially neutral sound (or sometimes visual cue) is associated with something the dog values. The dog then learns that at the moment this sound is heard that she is offering a desired behavior and that a reward will soon follow. This sort of precision makes the learning process much faster for the dog and more enjoyable—training should always be fun—for both species. I understand that utilizing such a system is not always realistic for just living with your dog from day to day. Therefore, I also work to help dogs and owners develop a “loose” communication system that is easily understood and applied by both species in settings outside of formal instruction.
I also believe that, although generalizations can be made about canine behavior, every dog is an individual with certain strengths and weaknesses. Highlighting a dog’s strengths and helping her work through her weaknesses is crucial to the development of a happy, well-rounded companion.
These methods honor the natural instincts of our wonderful canine friends. Dogs want their owners, their leaders, to be consistently benevolent, kind, and fair. We owe it to these animals that so willingly let us into their lives to try our best to provide them with such guidance.