TRAINING PHILOSOPHY

You are training your dog every second whether you realize it or not!  You might as well be training the right things. Leah's training philosophy focuses on providing positive leadership and incorporates positive reinforcement techniques with a focus on motivational learning.  Leah teaches owners how to change their own behavior and use body language (hand signals and much, much more!) to effectively communicate with their dogs. Dogs understand hand signals long before they understand our command words fully - they are exquisitely tuned in to our body language and respond to it all the time - without us even knowing it. After all, dogs are non-verbal creatures, although this does not mean they don’t have language (and it doesn’t mean they can’t learn what particular sounds [words] mean!) Any one of us who has ever seen our dogs dance a jig when we ask if they want to go for a “walk” knows this!

 

Using positive techniques does not mean being a push-over with your dog - in fact, quite the opposite.  Dogs trust, feel safe with, and respect firm, fair, benevolent leaders - we teach them what the rules are in a fair way and that good things happen when they follow those rules. Most of the time, we think our dogs know something when we haven’t fully trained it yet (‘coming when called’ is a great example!) - that’s where most training starts to break down.  Leah teaches owners how to train behaviors so that their dog fully understands them, how to recognize when their dog truly does or does not understand something - so they can avoid correcting their dog unfairly.  Learning then begins to happen much more rapidly - for dog and owner!  There are four distinct stages in obedience training. Most of the time without realizing it, we attempt to progress from stage one straight to stage four with our dogs, skipping the middle stages - which causes confusion in our dogs and makes them appear to us to be “stubborn”.  Once we learn how to incorporate all the stages, we begin to see real results!

 

All exceptional trainers have a very full toolbox!  For example, Leah is skilled at using a very wide variety of training tools and techniques and has the ability to educate owners as to the proper use of each one and if one type may be preferred for a particular dog over another and why.  She may suggest the use of one type of tool or technique with a particular dog as being the most appropriate choice for that dog and then with a different dog suggest something completely different. It is very crucial that owners feel comfortable with the training tools and techniques being utilized. If one does not suit a particular owner, then Leah will teach them how to use one that feels right to them.

 

There are “old school” training philosophies adopted by some who claim to “never” use a particular tool or technique - this almost always means they are uneducated as to its proper use and have no experience in its use. It’s easier for them to speak negatively about those tools and techniques rather than to reveal what they don’t know. Most often, they were trained solely on the use of one type of training tool or method of training and never received proper instruction on the use of others. They may have been told something was no good and accepted that as truth without researching it themselves. For example, it is incredibly incorrect to term the use of food rewards in training as “bribing” a dog. To call using food ‘bribing’ a dog indicates there is no educated understanding of the principles of learning theory and the four “quadrants” (you’ll have to train with Leah to find out what that means!). Trainers who claim to use NO food are often using primarily compulsion (force) to train dogs - this is a disservice to dogs and how intelligent they are. There are, of course, situations where the use of food would not be appropriate in training, but getting rid of it altogether creates an unfortunate and unnecessary limitation on training.

 

The best trainers continue to stay open to learning the use of new tools and techniques and also to learning new uses for old tools and techniques!!  The key concept here is staying open.  The dogs will thank us!