What methods do you use?


The vast majority of anything we need to teach can be accomplished by first ruling out physical or medical causes for the undesired behaviour, creating thoughtful antecedent arrangements (manipulating the environment to prevent any rehearsal of the unwanted behaviour) to set the dog up for success, and training desirable behaviors using positive reinforcement. Your pet will never be exposed to unethical, fear based training techniques and coercitive tools.




Can I cure my pet's behaviour?


There is no "cure" when it comes to behaviour. Behaviour arises from a combination of learning, genetics, environment, individual characteristics ... and so cannot be erased or removed. Any behaviour serves a purpose (a function) and, as long that purpose is met, the animal will continue engaging in the same behaviour. My job is to help you understand the function of the behaviour and teach you and your pet more appropriate ways to fulfill the same purpose.




Isn't positive reinforcement just bribery?


The definition of positive reinforcement is “when a behavior is followed immediately by the presentation of a stimulus that increases the future frequency of the behavior” (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). A reinforcer, a reward is something you give AFTER a behaviour is achieved and completed. A bribe is “something that serves to induce, corrupt, or influence”. Bribes typically are offered PRIOR to performing the behaviour or task. Owner’s often unintentionally set their dog up to receive bribes, not rewards. Dogs are pretty observant and pick up on patterns pretty quickly. When owners always go to the cookie jar, reach into their treat pouches or pockets, or open a bag of treats prior to asking for a behavior, they are essentially bribing the dog. The dog knows ahead of time that a treat is present, and they can decide whether it is worth (reinforcing enough) to perform the owner’s requested behavior. Of course, I will teach you the right way to "speak" to your dog! :)




Why do you use food to teach animals?


Food is a commonly used reinforcer in training because we can deliver it easily and quickly, and we don't have to teach animals to enjoy it (it is innate). The food that is used to motivate animals to learn must be of high value to them until they are responding reliably. Once a behaviour is acquired and well known, the high-value food should only be used intermittently, meaning that your animal doesn’t always get rewarded with food every time he responds to a cue, but with an alternate reward that might be of lesser value to him, such as praise. Because the animal never knows when a treat is coming, he will continue to respond in anticipation that food will appear again at some point. Such intermittent reinforcement actually makes your animal respond faster and more reliably because this learning is based on the same concept that makes a casino slot machine so addictive. It would be wonderful if a slot machine gave out money every time you played it, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen. The potential, however, that you could win the jackpot with the very next pull of the lever makes you want to play even more.




How quickly will I see results?


Few issues are resolved in just one session. There are many variables when determining how many sessions it may require to help you and your pet. Some of those variables include your overall goals; the severity of the behavior; the “type” of problem behaviour your animal is displaying; your pet’s behavior history; how much time and resources you can commit; how your animal responds to the behavior modification plan; and addressing any underlying medical issues that might exist that are contributing to the behavior.




How often will I have to work?


I recently read this: "Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice makes it permanent!". Generally speaking, the more you practice, the faster you will make progress. But this is only true if you practice properly and accurately. A lot of improper practice just leads to training the "misbehaviour" you are willing to make disappear! Always reach out for the help of a trainer or behaviour consultant to double check you are doing the right thing!




What do you mean by reactivity?


Dogs that are reactive overreact to certain stimuli or situations, such as men with beards or hats, small children, or situations when the dog feels trapped on a leash. Genetics, lack of socialization, frustration, a frightening experience, or a combination of these can cause reactivity, and fear is typically the driving force.