Frequently Asked Questions
What methods do you use?
Paul uses positive reward based methods to train and modify behaviour.
Positive, reward-based training, according to research, is the most successful and humane way to train your dog. Positive training is based on the concept of marking the right behaviour rather than punishing the wrong behaviour. The principle works with the natural way that a dog learns and therefore we are working with, not against the dogs natural instincts. And by rewarding a behaviour, we reinforce it, so that we are more likely to get that behaviour again when the dog is presented with the same stimulus (another dog, a visitor, a cat etc).
Of course that does not mean that our dog does not need consistent boundaries. Implementing ground rules based on common sense and a balanced handling approach is an essential part of living with a dog.
The study of dog behaviour has come a long way over the years and we understand now a great deal more than we did about how a dogs mind works, how a dog communcates and their use of Calming Signals in their body language towards us and each other. Learning to read and understand what a dog is saying is paramount when looking to understand why they are behaving as they do and what they are trying to communicate. Paul has studied Canine Language in depth and uses it as a manistay of his training and modification programmes.
It is not only in training that a positive approach is used. When working with a dog under a modification programme Paul works to increase or decrease the frequency of behaviors, such as altering an individual’s reactions to stimuli (for example, other dogs) using positive reinforcement techniques and adaptive behaviour. Modification will often include programmes of systematic de-sensitisation.
Paul does not advocate or use aversive techniques or equipment such as check or choke chains, prong collars or electric collars. He does not use or advocate maneuvers such as the ‘Alpha Roll’ or the ‘maintaining eye contact’, both of which are a general misinterpretation of canine communication and often will do more harm than good.
The fact is, successful social groups (the family or the family pack) work because of voluntary deference, not because of aggressively enforced dominance. The whole point of social body language rituals is to avoid conflict and confrontation, not to cause it. To presume that everything our dogs do is an attempt to dominate us or a threat to the ‘pack leaders’ position is both misinformed and detrimental to achieving a harmonious relationship. Paul encourages calm and confident leadership based on mutual trust and understanding.
Do I have to use treats forever?
The simple answer is, no.
Reward based training does make use of treats to reward and reinforce, however it is primarily a teaching tool, and once established the behaviour should continue. In simple terms we teach our puppy to sit by association -Puppy hears the word ‘sit’, his botton touches the ground and that behaviour is marked by a reward. So Puppy learns that; putting my bottom on the ground must be the right thing to do when I hear the word ‘sit’. Once established most dogs will repeat this behaviour (for the rest of their lives).
Treats are not bribes. Dogs can not be bribed. They will simply end up learning a whole different behaviour.
We may lessen or stop the use of food treats, however that does not mean that we have to remove ‘rewards’ altogether ..what a dull world that would be! Good Boy/ Good Girl are verbal rewards. Petting, stroking and even smiling at our dogs are rewards for good behaviour. So is going for a walk. And toys are great rewards, too. Paul will often introduce a toy based reward system for a dog.
Remember it’s not just dogs who react better to positive reinforcement, either … how much more likely we are to repeat a behaviour if someone says thank you!
Training lesson or Behavioural consultation?
Dog obedience training trains a dog to perform specific actions when requested such as sit, down, stay, stand etc, etc.
It is essential for puppies and young dogs to give them a good start in life. It is also good to refresh our older dog or our rescue dog. Good training sessions are great fun. Training leads to a more focused dog who understands what we are wanting him to do. Training also gives us the right words to use at the right time knowing that our dog has been trained in those words.
However. Dogs who have problems with socialisation, aggression, anxiety or any home related problems (barking, greeting visitors, nipping, jumping up) are unlikey to find their behaviour rectified through training alone and therefore are more suited to a behavioural package where the aim is behaviour modification. Behaviour Modification is the systematic approach to actually changing behaviour. Behaviour Modification looks to change a dog’s reaction to a particular situation, a person, a thing, an animal, etc. and not just to teach a dog a command to follow. This is why it is important when looking to improve your dogs behaviour that you choose the right professional with the right qualifications and the right approach.
While some Behaviour Modification makes use of obedience training techniques such as teaching a dog to sit or lie down, these taught behaviours are called on only as tools as part of an overall program that is hoped will change how the dog thinks, feels and acts.
If you are unsure of what is best for your dog, have a chat with Paul.
How many lessons do I need?
As every dog is an individual and every behaviour is different there is never going to be a single answer to this question.
Many clients who use the Behaviour Consultation find that the home visit plus the single follow -up session sets them neatly on their way. This is especially so of those who dogs have home based issues. Paul is then available by email or phone for advice.
Other clients whose dogs display aggressive or anti-social tendancies however, should sometimes be prepared to stay a little longer to give the dog the best chance of moving on and away from their previously established behaviour. This may be the two suggested follow-ups but Paul sometimes suggests more. As a behaviourist who works hand-on with the dogs who come to him, Paul will plan and participate in a programme of systematic desensitisation to ensure the dog and owner progress as far as they can.
Continuing the programme at home is important, too. With consistant application most dogs will make good improvement and many behaviours will be changed forever. Paul is happy to work on with clients or to simply support and advise them as they continue the work at home. Quite simply, the dogs future is in our hands.
In addition to Behaviour Modification, Paul offers training sessions which are fun and informative and which clients can participate in whenever they wish. Join with a friend and come together!