Wednesday, 13 December 2017

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Behavioural and
Rehabilitation Training

Our Methods

We can help...

With training that's both useful and fun: We work with you and your dog in group classes or one-on-one consults, giving you practical instruction and individual coaching to teach your dog any new skill or trick on cue, teach them to play new activities and games, help them develop manners and overcome a host of problems such as jumping on people, pulling on lead, chewing inappropriate objects, toileting in the wrong place, and more.

With behaviour modification: We show you how to change your dog's existing behaviours to better ones, help them develop calm and self-controlled behaviour, avoid or reduce potentially damaging emotions such as anxiety and arousal, and build good habits that will last a lifetime.

With problem solving: We offer help and advice on any problem, it doesn't matter what you're facing. Ask us about anxiety, fear, aggression, barking, escaping, guarding, destruction, mouthing, phobias, disobedience, fighting and more, and we'll either work with you ourselves or introduce you to an expert in the field. Safety and welfare is our priority so we always take the advice we give seriously, and work hard to ensure you get the right help first time.

With knowledge: We teach you what you need to understand your dog and live with them successfully. You'll learn how to read canine body language, manage behaviour, address problems, change unwanted behaviour, meet your dog's needs, provide behavioural enrichment, implement guidance & guardianship, teach your dog life skills and more. Most importantly though, we show you how to have fun, and build a great relationship with your dog!

With referrals: Whether you need a veterinary behaviourist, a veterinarian, a groomer, doggy day care or are just looking for some fun activities to enjoy with your dog, we can help you find the professional you need.

And we do all this with full commitment to using only no-harm, evidence-based methods that help you achieve the best relationship you can with your dog.

 

We offer much more than Training

Unlike other trainers, we know tricks & treats are not the answer to every problem.

Training for cues like Sit, Drop, Stay, Come, Heel with rewards is wonderful and fun, and we teach it every day to help dogs learn good manners in class, but training won't even touch the sides of problems like obsessive behaviour, aggression, fear and anxiety. These problems are driven by emotion and are just symptoms of an underlying problem or disorder that needs to be addressed, which needs a very different solution.

Being 'calm & assertive', or an 'alpha leader' is definitely not the answer, any more than putting a nervous child in front of a policeman fixes fear. Nor is it ethical to expect an instant fix - just ask a psychologist if they think human problems can be solved in a day. It's therefore worth thinking before you part money to a trainer who guarantees amazing results in one session, says disobedience or lack of discipline is the cause, or that correction and strong leadership are the key to solving behaviour problems. Trainers who offer miracles have usually confused temporary change, avoidance or neurological shutdown with success, and the kind of damage that goes with some of their techniques is unlikely to be what you want, particularly if they didn't explain the side effects to you properly first.

Instead, our approach is to use the right tools for the job. At the heart of it, we manage emotional state and stress, which are the fundamental cornerstones of behaviour - what veterinary behaviourists call 'affect' and 'arousal'. It's not about positive vs. negative, rewards vs. punishment, it's about recognising that anxiety, arousal and fear will undermine everything we try and lead to major behavioural issues unless we address those emotions first. Negative emotions have massive implications for behaviour, health and welfare, so we know never to do anything to trigger them. Why would we? When we can show you so many brilliant, humane methods instead, that avoid all the problems, help you constructively achieve your goals, and actually work better than anything else.

We run classes that are well-managed and as stress-free as possible. We offer consults to identify the root cause of behaviour and give you practical help to start reducing them today. And we combine behaviour management, behaviour modification and referrals to veterinary behaviourists for cases requiring medication to get the right results for you and your dog.

 

We use Motivation

We only ever use no-harm training methods to teach dogs new skills, based on motivation. These are known as dog-friendly, force-free, reward-based, humane, modern or positive methods. We teach and reward desirable behaviours, ignore or redirect undesirable behaviours, and otherwise prevent behaviours that can't be ignored.

Rewarding a behaviour, say by giving food treats or praise, makes that behaviour stronger whilst behaviours that go unrewarded will disappear.

Redirecting a behaviour, from something undesirable to something acceptable that still meets their needs, teaches alternative behaviours that then become habit. The best news is once learned, the habit continues whether you're there or not.

Does the approach sound weak? It's actually anything but. It cuts to the heart of the behavioural imperative of all living creatures: to do what's in their interest. We've known that since the 1800's, so no wonder dogs respond to motivation.

Trainers who say reward-based methods don't work are only demonstrating they don't understand dogs, or don't have the knowledge or skill to train. And trainers who claim they double the learning by combining punishment and rewards, or 'use all quadrants' or 'balanced' methods are grossly misguided about what punishment actually does.

The exclusively no-harm, positive methods we use have been shown time and again to work better than any other combination of methods including methods that incorporate physical dominance, coercion or punishment [Hiby et al., 2004]. It's the same reason a child responds best in a school that actually teaches them useful things, rather than just reprimands them for mistakes. Not our opinion, just fact.

 

We don't use Dominance

The term Dominance refers to human beings using force or aggression to make dogs submit or defer, in an attempt to establish 'hierarchy'.

Dominance Theory is the outdated idea that this kind of force or aggression is necessary in training.

And it is outdated. Did you know the terms 'alpha', 'pack', and 'dominance' got started in dog training in the 1970's following a theory published by the eminent and genuinely well-respected wolf researcher Dr L. David Mech? (pronounced 'Meech') But his theory about wolves has not only been disproved, he's recanted it. Don't believe us? No worries, Dr Mech will tell you himself on YouTube. The terms 'Dominance' and 'Alpha' simply don't apply to wolves and so certainly have no relevance to domestic dogs. Now no-one ever need dominate their pack again!

Unfortunately some trainers don't seem to have updated their knowledge, and still try intimidation, punishment, physical force and aggressive acts like "Alpha Rolls" to train dogs, often in the name of leadership. We say those methods are nonsense. They're not only inappropriate, unnecessary and physically dangerous, it's not even leadership - it's dictatorship. What those trainers don't understand is that leadership is earned and dogs will defer willingly to good leaders - but moreover when people claim a dog is 'dominant' they're almost always misreading the fact the dog is actually anxious. No surprise then that intimidating an anxious dog is a pretty poor idea, so trying to be an Alpha with a 'dominant' dog actually ends up making the anxiety worse.

These are just some of the reasons why you'll never see us use or recommend any dominance or pack-based approach to anyone.

Read the AVSAB Position Statement on Dominance Theory for more on why the need for dominance in training is a myth.

 

We don't use Punishment

Punishment is the use of force, coercion, reprimands, aversives or physical correction in an attempt to stop an unwanted behaviour.

Equipment used often includes choke chains, pinch collars, electronic shock collars, spray bottles, throwing chains, air horns & noisemakers, traps, buzzers, whips and sticks.

Technically punishment is anything aversive done by a trainer to stop a behaviour, regardless of what that thing is. Therefore punishment equally includes causing pain or discomfort through physical manipulation, pinches, toe-stepping, kneeing, ear tweaking or smacks on the nose, but also shouting, standing over, startling or rushing bodily at dogs, and even verbal reprimands like "Stop it" and "No". Hmmm. How many times do we say "No" to our dog each week?

Aversive-based punishment has some serious drawbacks that make it a pretty undesirable method:

   ► Using it with a reactive dog can be physically dangerous if it triggers defensive aggression

   ► Punishment increases other behaviour problems due to increased anxiety, confusion and stress

   ► When behaviours don't change or keep recurring, owners step up punishment to the point of abuse

   ► The trust and good relationship most owners want is quickly eroded by the avoidance behaviour punishment causes

For our part, we think the biggest issue for owners with punishment is that it can deliver swift and dramatic changes in behaviour that makes certain trainers claim, "See, I fixed your dog in one session." But they didn't fix your dog! Yes punishment absolutely changes behaviour, but it comes with all the undesirable problems above and more. Did the trainer understand the emotional and physical side effects and did they explain them properly to you first? Did they also say they are mainly just suppressing symptoms not addressing causes, so have likely only 'stunned' the behaviour which will return once the dog is left alone? And do you really want to have to spend thousands later to fix the deeper psychological issues punishment can induce? Probably not.

Because we understand the effect of punishment on behaviour with crystal clarity and with a certainty backed by a century of scientific evidence, you'll never see us use or recommend it to anyone.

Read the AVSAB Position Statement on Punishment for more on the negative consequences of using punishment in dog training.

Read More

AVSAB
Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behaviour Modification of Animals

 


 

AVSAB
Position Statement on the Use of Punishment for Behaviour Modification in Animals

 


 

AVA
Reward-based Training -
A guide for Dog Trainers

 

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