Sunday, February 20, 2011


The more dogs I work with the more I believe that dogs are much like children, one technique DOES NOT fit all. I have had the benefit of helping and training on my own of 6 very different dogs. I trained Jake a wirefox terrier, Holly a beagle, Koda a golden retriever, Mya a pug, Sophie a yorkie, and Indy a portugese water dog along with offering advice to friends and family on their pets. I'm certainly not qualified nor can I effectively train every dog just meet Sophie one little brat who manages to not be trained no matter what.

Koda was the first dog that I trained on my own. I would take him into our laundry room everyday and have training sessions. He was very food and praise motivated. Koda learned everything very quickly and was wonderful to have tagging along no matter where you went. The only things he didn't learn too well were that he is not a lap dog and leash manners. Both were not faults of his but rather of mine, I couldn't help but snuggle the little puppy on my lap and boy am I paying for it now when a 70 pound bottom lands on me. As for his leash manners, I live in the country and was more intent on having him learn off-leash manners and control. Therefore he has a great recall and continually checks in. Anytime I bring Koda with me someplace I am always complemented on his dark red colour and how well trained he is. I am amazed sometimes at the things he learns like knowing which rooms and beds he is allowed to sleep in, staying out of the kitchen when people are eating, playing hide and seek, and how to play with people or animals smaller than him. Overall he was a great first dog to train.

My dog training philosophy is to make sure that the dogs understand exactly what you want from them and when by introducing them to everything and anything. I am very big on the word NO and the word GOOD, along with the words TREATs. I prefer to begin with treats or food and move to including praise and then to just praise. Although many are not okay with it, I am actually okay with the occasional spank. When you compare methods used by humans with methods used by other dogs, I'm sure that being spanked it much more appreciated then being bit. Of course you should give warnings before doing so and it should only occur in repeated actions by the dog. Of course not all dogs respond to this type of training and I myself am still learning different and new methods with each dog I train.

I would love to eventually take a course on dog training and become certified, I feel it would be soo much fun to learn. If anyone has any suggestions for an online school or experiences that they have had I welcome the advice!


  1. Sure you have had lots of different experiences with each one of them!
    My mom is sooo bad trainer! I have to admit I am a wild girl!
    Kisses and hugs

  2. Hi Erica,

    Sorry it's taken me so long but I've finally made it over to say hello! I just loved this post - it chimes with me so perfectly! I would say that my own attitudes & methods as a dog trainer fit in really well with yours.

    I also believe strongly in using positive reinforcements - treats & praise as much as possible (especially in the beginning when they are just learning - making it a high reward scenario) and then slowly reducing rewards or raising the criteria for similar reward...BUT like you, I am also not a 100% positive trainer. I believe in balance and I actually do think that dogs learn better with a combination of reward & correction/deterrent.

    I know it is very un-PC to say such things nowadays - people are ready to jump down your throat if you're not a 100% positive trainer! - but I think that "only positive" methods can have severe disadvantages too, mainly that it often takes so long that either people give up on the dog or the dog gets to reinforce & indulge in the bad behaviour for so long that it becomes a habit or the dog continues to be stressed & has poor quality of life during the looooong training process or (worst of all) the dog becomes downright dangerous to both himself and/or others.

    Speaking as an owner of a very big, powerful dog which people are quick to judge harshly, you simply cannot afford to just "reward the good & ignore the bad" when you have a dog like this if they are doing something that can potentially be dangerous. You might be able to when the dog is small & you can just "hang on" to them but you can't rely on physical restraint with a really big dog.

    I have seen how a combination of using rewards & deterrents can really speed up the learning process and also make things MUCH clearer for the poor dog to understand - and thereby "solving" the issues much faster, meaning the dog can move on and enjoy learning other things. And when you have a very short-lived breed like mine, that counts for a lot.


  3. (...continued)

    We tried using only positive methods with Honey and got nowhere - then met our great trainer who showed us how to combine rewards & correction - and you can see Honey's training & behaviour now. It's meant that rather than waste her short life struggling with basics like loose-leash walking, we can focus on other things - like all the dog sports & fun activities that we have tried - and make her life more fun & interesting.

    And anyone can see, looking at Honey, that she is not "damaged" or "fearful" of me or all those other thigns that people say your dog will be if you use discipline & correction. We have a great bond and she loves working with me and does far more than most dogs. I believe that if you work hard to build your bond with your dog in lots of ways, doing lots of activities together, then it can withstand a bit of "discipline" from you occasionally. I have met positive only trainers who insist you mustn't even say "No" to your dog, for fear of damaging your bond...well, I think you can't have much of a relationship in the first place if that's the case. It's like being afraid ever to refuse your husband or partner somethign for fear that he might stop loving you.

    Of course, as you rightly pointed out, all dogs are different and what worked for Honey might not work for other dogs. However, as you also said, dogs themselves use discipline in communication and I don't think it's a terrible thing for them to learn that certain actions have consequences. I have trained several other dogs while working with our trainer back in Auckland, as well as helping at various training clubs, and in my experience, most dogs respond well to a combination of reward & correction, providing the timing is precise and there is no emotional bullying involved. And that you're fair & consistent.

    Anyway, so sorry for the LONG rambling comment but it's lovely to meet a like-minded trainer!

    Hsin-Yi (& Honey the Great Dane)

  4. I am always struggling to learn what methods will work best for which dogs. I never have figured it out when it comes to Ziggy. :-) Hopefully his rehab place will get him figured out! But the best online schools I've found for dog training are either the Karen Pryor Academy, the Animal Behavior College, or Companion Animal Sciences Institute.