Shannon Bayless: I am a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, which means I focus on positive reinforcement and I have pledged “to teach and train using force-free principles so that you and your dog develop a bond based on trust and respect.” In simple terms, we will use stuff your dog likes to reward her/him for giving us behavior we want. Recognizing that dogs don’t speak English, we will communicate what we want in the clearest, dog-friendly way possible to build solid behavior foundations. Motivation is higher, learning is faster, and training is more fun for all of us when we have realistic expectations and consideration for dogs and their people as individual, living beings. Dog are not machines, after all!
Most of the time we will use tiny bits of food for rewards because it’s quick, easy, and dogs need and love food. We will also use functional, or “real life,” rewards such as play opportunities and other stuff your individual dog finds rewarding at specific times.
We will approach behavior issues with a focus on what need the dog is probably trying to meet with that behavior by analyzing what comes before and after. Then we will come up with a workable plan to train a different behavior that meets the dog’s need and meets your need, too. (You don’t have to know the details of the science behind this, but I’m happy to have geeky dog behavior discussions with you anytime!) In the course of training, if your dog “gets it wrong,” I will make adjustments in the environment, etc. to make it more possible for your dog to “get it right.” I will not punish your dog for my unclear communication or mismatched expectations. If your dog seems in need of medical care, I will refer you to one of several excellent veterinarians.
Keep in mind that dog trainers who have sessions with you and your dog(s) privately or in group classes are coaches. They are teachers and they can offer support between sessions, but you will be doing most of the practice with your dog. I will introduce your dog to each new behavior and teach you how to practice with your dog so that the behavior is learned and performed reliably. If you do not practice between our training sessions, the behavior will not be learned, and certainly not to reliability. Fortunately for dog folks with time constraints, practice takes mere minutes a day and private training allows for a flexible schedule of training sessions.
Feel free to advocate for your dog and ask any questions about what we will be doing together by calling 706.296.6893.
For much more information on using positive reinforcement in dog training, see this article by Zazie Todd, PhD on Companion Animal Psychology: What is Positive Reinforcement in Dog Training?