Training and Behavior

Mom is what some people call a crossover trainer, meaning she used to use aversive/compulsion methods but now uses positive reinforcement/rewards based/no force (or whatever you wanna call it) training.

Before she began "educating herself," as a kid, Mom actually just naturally did her own imprecise and mixed form of positive reinforcement training; she loved teaching the dogs basic obedience and tricks.  For hunting, she and her dad didn't worry too much about retrieving or steady to wing & shot--so long as the dogs had a recall and would help search for the downed birds, they were content.

Then her interest in competing in field trials and tests grew with her developing breeding program, so she began studying bird dog training methods.  She never had the heart to do much more than dabble with that kind of training, nor was she satisfied with the modified methods that the bird dog world considered "gentle."  Gentle still meant positive punishment, negative reinforcement, e-collars galore, and a whole bunch of macho, alpha, pack nonsense (you do know that dominance/pack theories are unfounded and inappropriate for dogs, right? If not, see below). The result was that she gave up on her goals to compete until she had her own facilities and birds to train on with methods she was comfortable with.  Then, I came along and challenged Mom in all sorts of ways with my behavior, so she went on the hunt for more effective and fun ways to work with me.

We entered the world of positive reinforcement training, and we LOVE it.  Mom started with marker training over three years ago.  At first, we worked with verbal markers and moved on to clickers; these days, we use a mix of both.  When she promotes the methods, she makes sure to emphasize that it is fun, effective, and efficient.  It doesn't matter if you mess up, either, (unlike the use of corrections) which is good for dogs and humans alike!  She also points out that +R training doesn't mean you'll be relying on treats forever or that it is permissive.  She does use a little negative punishment to supplement the +R for things like impulse control and loose leash walking.  There are other ethological and learning topics (other than the quadrants of OC, diagrammed below), such as classical conditioning, reinforcement principles, etc. involved, too.

Now, Mom works with all of us, dogs at the shelter, and clients' dogs, using all the methods she's read about, watched, and practiced, and couldn't be happier that she headed down this path of more humane, science backed methods.  

Wondering what these terms mean? Here's an simple chart on operant conditioning:
                                     Add                                                   Remove
Desirable stimulus          Positive Reinforcement*                     Negative Punishment**
Undesirable stimulus      Positive Punishment**                        Negative Reinforcement*

* = increases a behavior
** = decreases a behavior

Reading Materials:

Mom has a great collection of books that she highly recommends to people with dogs.  See the list on my main pages called "On My Bookshelf."  There are several books on her wishlist below!
Dog Sense
For the Love of a Dog
Coaching People to Train Their Dogs
Excel-Erated Learning

Recommended Links:
Karen Pryor's Clicker Training                                          Pat Miller's Peaceable Paws       
4 Paws University                                                           Patricia McConnell, PhD               
Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS                                               Jean Donaldson's Blog
Kathy Sdao                                                                   Ken Ramirez Training
Pamela Dennison's Positive Motivation Dog Training         Whole Dog Training   
Grisha Stewart's Behavior Adjustment Training                 Diamonds in the Ruff
DoggieDrawings by Lili Chin                                            Doggone Safe
Family Paws Parent Education                                        Dogs and Babies Learning
Living with Kids and Dogs                                               Liam J. Perk Foundation
Emily Larlham's Dogmantics Dog Training                       Whole Dog Journal
Dr. Ian Dunbar's Sirius Dog Training                                Dog Star Daily     
Rewarded Behavior Continues                                         Dog Forum

Professional Organizations:
IAABC                    CCPDT                             ACVB                            Pet Professional Guild

Recommended Youtube Channels for Training:
Kikopup                                          Tawzer Dog                                    Eileen and Dogs
The Family Dog TV                         Pamela Marxsen                              Zak George
Tab289                                           Dr. Sophia Yin                                 Urban Dawgs
Ahisma Dog Training                       Dog Star Daily                                  Donna Hill
Clicker Training Tutorials                 Nana Border Collie                          Snugglie Puppy
Modern Canine Training                  3 Lost Dogs                          Domesticated Manners
Sarah Owings                   

Reading on why dominance/pack/alpha theories just aren't appropriate for dogs:
The Dominance Controversy
Welfare in Dog Training
The Dog Whisperer Controversy                   
Animal Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior's Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory...
Association of Professional Dog Trainers' "Dominance and Dog Training"
Journal of Veterinary Behavior: "Dominance in Dogs: Useful Construct or Bad Habit?"
Nonlinear Dogs: Myths about Origin and Nature,
Veterinary Information Network: Veterinary Behaviorists Question Dominance Theory in Dogs
Academy for Dog Trainers: "Are Dogs Pack Animals?"
The Myth of the Alpha Dog (webinar)
Debunking Dominance Theory
ScienceDaily: "Using 'Dominance' to Explain Dog Behavior is Old Hat."
Psychology Today: "Wolves, Dingoes," and (Other) Feral Dogs..."
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science: "A Fresh Look at Wolf-Pack Theory of Companion-Animal Dog Social Behavior"
Beyond Cesar Millan
Experts Say Dominance-based Dog Training Made Popular by Television Shows May Contribute to Dog Bites
ScienceDaily: If You're Aggressive, Your Dog Will be Too, Says Veterinary Study
(Read the published study here.)


Clickers:  Mom prefers the Starmark clicker for its design and volume but being somewhat of a clicker freak, she does have a bunch of box clickers from CleanRun, the KP iClick, and the Clickr by Petsafe.

Collars:  Mom prefers flat buckle collars.  No chokes/slips or prongs.  She doesn't like head halters for her own dogs and especially not for me because of my past spine issues.  (Really, she doesn't love them for any dog because of the spinal risks and tendency to suppress behavior, but she can see that they can have some value in some situations.) We also don't need martingales because our heads are, in fact, bigger than our necks.... ;)

Harnesses:  For walks/outings, Mom prefers to use harnesses rather than collars.  Her favorite types of harnesses are y-shape, step-ins, or front clips because there is no pressure on our tracheas.

Leads: Mom isn't picky about leads, so long as they are a fixed length and not flexi-leads.  She knows some people can use them smartly, but there are just so many who don't (we can rant on that later); for her own use, she doesn't care to risk the deep lacerations on herself or us that those thin cords can cause.

Treat bags: Okay, my mom is a nerd and does use treat bags.  Big sweatshirt or coat pockets work, but sometimes she just needs fast access for my training especially.  Plus, it's hard to find a pocket on most of her Spring/Summer clothes!

Here I am posing with my Manners Minder (remote treat dispenser) after a session with it.


We love a variety of treats!  

I get a lot of high value treats right now because of the types of training we're doing, such as ground beef, steak bits, shredded chicken, ground turkey, Nutri-Source chewy treats, etc.  

For mid-value, low fat Mozzarella string cheese sticks, [unseasoned, uncured, low-sodium] hot dog bits, and Acana/Orijen kibbles work pretty well for me, as do some store bought treats like the Cloud Star chewy liver treats, Zukes, New Zealand Real Meat, freeze dried liver treats, Natural Balance treat rolls, etc.  

Most other store bought treats fall into a lower value category for us, like fruits and veggies.  Mom doesn't use much for low value treats during training but if she does, she just uses kibble. 

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