Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What kind of things do you teach in your training program?
I teach basic obedience (sit, down, come (re-call), nope). I teach you and your dog the structured heel which eliminates pulling on walks and the “place” command (which is basically getting your dog to stay on a raised dog cot – and translates into getting your dog to stay in a down anywhere).
I also talk a lot about “pack hierarchy” and “leadership” and teach you how to add more structure into your life with your dog which helps in stopping unwanted behaviors and getting your dog into a much calmer/healthier mental state.
What is a structured walk?
On a structured walk, our dog walks behind us or right by our side. This also helps us to foster a calm state of mind in our dogs. Most people walk their dogs with them out in front leading the walk (which in their mind is leading your pack). This means their ears are perked up, chest out, probably sniffing and assessing the area. When people walk their dogs like this, a dog easily has room to become reactive and aggressive towards other dogs and people on walks. I want my dogs to walk behind me or next to me with their ears back, relaxed and letting me “do the scanning,” which is to say, leading the walk. The basic tool that helps me to achieve a walk like this is a prong collar. I believe they are the most gentle and effective way to communicate where I want them to be on the walk.
What’s the point of the “place” command?
When we put our dog on “place,” the command is that they stay there until we say, “break,” releasing them. Duration work helps us to work on the dog’s state of mind. We want our dogs to learn how to relax, chill and generally be calm inside our homes. Our home sets the foundational mental state from which the dog interacts with the outside world, outside of the home. We look for opportunities to practice leadership in everything we do with our dogs.
Why do you use prong collars?
Prong collars are one of the safest and most effective dog training tools out there. They may look a bit barbaric but they actually are pretty gentle. The way the prong collar works is with the concept of, “pressure on, pressure off.” We first start by teaching our dogs about the sensation of pressure the prong collar can create, and how they can turn that off. They can do this by paying attention to where we are and the leash guidance we are giving them. Once they move into the direction we want, we release any tension on the leash – thus showing them that they have control over the pressure that they feel. We recommend the excellent Herm Sprenger collars which are German company.
What’s up with the e-collars?
E-collars are an amazing tool when used fairly and with skill (don’t worry I can teach you). My favorite collar is the Mini Educator collar from E-Collar Technologies. These collars go from levels 1-100. This means that we can work dogs on incredibly low levels (“working levels”) – levels that some humans can’t even feel. When using these collars we use the same concept that we use with prong collars, “pressure on, pressure off.” This means that we can teach dogs what we want them to do – by teaching them to turn pressure or stimulation off. We use these collars in our training exercises in combination with rewards, and we also use them for achieving re-call outside – they work up to a 1/2 mile away (pretty cool). We can also use them for letting our dogs know a behavior is unwanted. Behaviors like jumping on people, becoming leash reactive/aggressive, excessive barking etc. Over-all they help even the most anxious dog step into a better and more calm state of mind by giving them structure, rules and guidance.
Aren’t e-collars and prong collars mean?
I believe these tools are the best training tools for dog training, yes, even for aggressive and anxious dogs. Both work with the concept of “pressure and release.” This means that we can communicate information to the dog with training exercises and then completely release all pressure teaching the dog what we want or where we want them to be. They begin to self-regulate and tune into us and require less pressure over time. The benefit of training this way is that we get super calm dogs that pay attention to us and follow our commands (like a working dog in the military, police department or service dog).
These tools help to generate a pack mentality of leading and following and can be used on low and gentle levels that are very mild. I’m sure some trainers have use these tools unfairly with dogs. However, I don’t work that way. I like to start out slow and easy, allowing the dog to develop a clear understanding of what I am asking them to do so that they can be empowered to make better choices. If I need to let a dog know a behavior is unacceptable or dangerous the tools can help to give a correction as well. In other words, no I don’t think they are mean, I think they are awesome and bring everyone a lot more freedom and quality of life. I also see the lives of dogs improve with these tools as anxiety issues reduce with their use.
I layer the e-collar training on top of the prong collar training which creates increased reliability.
When implementing all of this structure, when will my dog just be able to be a dog?
I get asked this question a lot. It’s really simple. Your dog can have more freedom when you start seeing better results and choices from them. If you give your dog a ton of structure, you should start to see some results. After a few months you can re-assess how you want to do things. If you loosen up the structure around your house a bit more and start to see those old unwanted behaviors resurrect themselves again – well, that gives you the answer. Your dog will let you know how much structure it ultimately needs. Remember that dogs are pack animals that thrive in structured environments because it makes them feel safe.
A lot of the resistance that people have to implementing more structure is really about their own need for their dog to fulfill a role in their life. A lot of people use dogs for emotional support or as replacements for human companionship. Dogs get a lot of privileges and access into our space – the couch, the bed, out in front leading the walk etc. I’m totally guilty of this as well (I love sleeping with my dog). Unfortunately without the right balance, this creates anxiety issues in dogs. It goes against nature which would have a dog/wolf working for all of it’s food in the wild. In short, less affection and less freedom equal a more balanced dog. Make your dog earn some of it’s privileges and access to you. It’s up to you to ultimately figure out the ratio that will give you the highest quality of life. Time and space to enjoy your dog and your relationship with them mixed with the right amount of boundaries, rules and limitations is a great combination. It all takes time and energy but I know you will find the balance eventually.