Training Philosophy Explained

When I started out train­ing years ago, devel­op­ing a solid train­ing phi­los­o­phy seemed really impor­tant to me.  I wanted to be fully pre­pared for the ques­tion “So what’s your train­ing phi­los­o­phy?”.  Many years, clients, dogs, and bizarre behav­ior prob­lems later, the ques­tion seems less relevant.

I imag­ine it as rel­e­vant as ask­ing a doc­tor about his phi­los­o­phy on treat­ing can­cer. “Um… do the thing that makes the can­cer go away or get as close to that as we can?”  I seem to be caught off guard by the ques­tion now and want to respond “Um… do the thing that resolves the behav­ioral issue in the quick­est, safest, and most effi­cient way pos­si­ble”  Just like there is a stan­dard in human med­i­cine for how best to treat a prob­lem and that stan­dard con­tin­ues to evolve as we learn more, so is there for dog train­ing.  There may be those out there who call them­selves doc­tors who do not abide by that stan­dard but, just like unqual­i­fied dog train­ers who fol­low a unfounded phi­los­o­phy rather than researched and tested behav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tion tech­niques, those peo­ple are to be avoided.

A dog pulling on leash

Me get­ting Vega to pull on leash for a photo shoot on leash manners

Good train­ing is based off a solid under­stand­ing of ani­mal learn­ing the­ory which, thank­fully for all of us ani­mal train­ers out there, is the same for every ani­mal, her­mit crab to dol­phin.  Ani­mals do what makes them feel good and safe and avoid what makes them feel bad, scared, or in pain.  No amount of fancy the­ory mumbo jumbo will change this.

When a dog care­taker employs a trainer to help them tackle a behav­ior issue, it is our job to use our exper­tise in read­ing and under­stand­ing dog behav­ior along with our expe­ri­ence in resolv­ing behav­ioral issues to find the sim­plest, fastest, and most direct path to chang­ing the behav­ior.  We are also oblig­ated to tell you how dif­fi­cult or real­is­tic our goals are and how long that process will take.  Just as you would expect a vet to give you con­crete details regard­ing options for med­ical relief, we will try our darn­d­est to give you con­crete details as well.

My “phi­los­o­phy” is shared many other qual­i­fied dog train­ers: to use proven and tested ani­mal learn­ing the­ory, years of expe­ri­ence, and a flat out obses­sion with con­sum­ing as much infor­ma­tion about dogs as pos­si­ble to form a plan for mod­i­fy­ing a behav­ioral issues in the most effi­cient and effec­tive way possible.

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