Tuesday, February 20, 2018



It is very important to be able to ask your dog to give something to you, especially something he isn’t supposed to have!  If you only take things away that are forbidden to him, he will learn to play the keep-away game – which is no fun for the humans!

Here’s how to teach “Give”:

1.     Give him a toy that he likes;
2.    When he is happily playing, offer him a tasty treat! As he drops the toy to take the treat, say, “Give!”;
3.    Say “Yes!” and give him the tasty treat;
4.    Then throw the toy for him to play with again.  If it’s a forbidden object, you will skip this step.


If the dog won’t give up the toy, ignore him until he gets bored with the toy, then try again. Start the exercise with a toy that is less valuable to your dog or give a better treat. Also be sure you aren’t being threatening with body language or voice when asking him to give.  Make this lesson a fun game.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Force Free Dog Training

By: Drayton Michaels, Urban Dawgs

The Force Free Dog Training culture has a main objective now more than ever to educate people so that they do not end up causing their dogs fear and pain. The fear and pain approaches are still lurking around, it’s better but we’ve got work to do.

By educating people about legit dog training and behavioral modification, by showing them their dogs do not need to be reprimanded, kicked, hit, shocked beaten down in order to learn, we are putting a stop to that dog abuse, and it is abuse, and those people are living a punishment lifestyle. We are decreasing dog bites, we are extending dogs lives we’re adding years to their life because we’re reducing stress. 

I am not na├»ve, behavior does not change overnight and again as I’ve said many times the biggest variable is the human, that is the variable which is most important. The dog needs a good association to people, fear generalizes easy for dogs, and that association to humans will erode if that dog is met with fear and pain on a daily basis in order to decrease behavior. 

Force Free Dog Trainers indeed are here to help people learn and to get their dogs better trained so they can have less stress in their life, but one of the most overarching goals in our work is to educate people so they change their behavior and they do not cause their dogs fear and pain, ever. It’s simply not needed, ever. 

Force Free Dog Training may not have started out with advocacy underpinnings but it certainly is now one of the main reasons Force Free Dog Trainer’s need to stay strong and keep moving on and educating the world at large because the way we approach Dog Training without fear and pain and force, using science and math, common sense and empathy making sure the dog feel safe sure sounds advocacy to me. 

Stay strong team Force Free! 

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

How to Make the World Better for Dogs

 Companion Animal Psychology

How to Make the World Better for Dogs

Dog experts – including Marc Bekoff, Jean Donaldson, Alexandra Horowitz, Ilana Reisner, Kathy Sdao and Pete Wedderburn – weigh in on the one thing that would make the world better for dogs.

Ilana Reisner, DVM PhD DACVB

Reisner Veterinary Behaviour and Consulting Services (Website http://www.reisnervetbehavior.com/, Twitter, Facebook)

“We can make the world better for dogs by recognizing that we are ultimately responsible for everything they experience, from their eating and elimination schedule, to their exercise and access to both wonderful and frightening things. Once we recognize that we humans are responsible for all of it and that dogs are powerless animals whose welfare depends on us, kindness and consideration naturally follow. Dogs make choices when they have the opportunity – to be warm, well fed, near the people and animals to whom they’re attached (an important one!), and to be safe; we humans are the ones to present those opportunities. Force-free behavior modification then makes sense: if you want to influence what a dog does, offer appropriate choices, give the dog time to choose, and reinforce the behavior you want. If the dog makes the wrong choice, try again – don’t punish. Punishment leads to stress and unravels trust so that choice-making is inhibited. We are also capable of making choices; choosing to train dogs with kindness and generosity is an important one." Read the entire article

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Leash Reactivity

Counter Conditioning Leash Reactivity, The Hybrid Approach

Leash Reactivity towards dogs, humans or traffic, is one of the most challenging training endeavors simply because there is no consistency in the appearance of the stimuli, and there will most assuredly be at some point, an over threshold event for the dog due to “criteria pile up”. More than one piece of criteria at a time combined with a lack of sufficient distance, too much duration, and or both, then add in the stimulus entering the environment with intensity of both the visual and auditory components known to cause the dog to react “over threshold”, and there will be more likely at some point a dog reacting by lunging and barking or attempting to flee and thus ends up flailing around while the handler tries to maintain control.

Handlers of leash reactive dogs be they large, medium or small dogs, have numerous mechanical and timing challenges. The variable that can be controlled the most is the human’s behavior, once that is the focus all other areas of leash reactivity become easier and stress is reduced.

The good news is this, once the handler has a better idea of what to do and starts a proactive protocol that consists of distance and high value food reinforcement, the dog will start to have less and less reactivity. There is no 100% reduction in leash reactivity, but if the handlers of the reactive dogs implement the following protocols in this blog and the video links, 90 – 95% reduction can be achieved. Humans are the variable so here we go… Read the entire article

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Leave It


In nature, animals often use aggressive threats to prevent others from stealing their possessions. With our pet dogs, however, aggression toward owners is often deemed inappropriate and even dangerous. This resource guarding can be exhibited along a continuum of intensity. A dog may freeze, for example, holding her head low over the food when the owner approaches. She may eat faster with wider gulping motions, growl or give a “hard stare”. At increasing levels of intensity, she may snarl, snap, or bite the owner. Dogs may become possessive over things other than food, such as stolen household items, bones, toys, or sticks. Click here to read the entire article

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Spoiling Your Dog

By:  Ilana Reisner, DVM

Don’t worry about spoiling your dog.

We’ve all encountered that person who insists that indulging our dogs (or children) is the devil’s work. But whether you're spoiling your dog or just treating him with kindness is really a subjective assessment. To spoil is “to impair, damage, or harm the character (of the dog, child etc.) by being too indulgent.” An additional connotation, though, is “to treat with great or excessive kindness, consideration or generosity.”

In an interesting study, “Is there a relationship between canine behavior problems and spoiling activities, anthropomorphism, and obedience training?” (Voith et al, Applied Animal Behaviour Science (1992) 34:263-272), the authors summarize, “The purpose of this (survey-based) study was to determine if dogs that were treated ‘like a person’ or that had not been obedience trained were more likely to exhibit owner-reported behavior problems than dogs not treated in those ways. Results…failed to reveal that problem behaviors were related to obedience training, ‘spoiling’, or anthropomorphic activities. Further, a discriminant analysis was unable to identify any variable (item)…that distinguished between dogs engaging and not engaging in problem behaviors. Eight variables were then factor analyzed, resulting in four factors which counted for 71.15% of the variance. The factors, which pertained to owners sharing food with their dog, taking the dog along on trips or errands, dog comfort or resting places, and anthropomorphic attitudes, were analyzed along with the obedience training and behavior problem variables in an ANOVA. The results showed that dogs whose owners interacted with them in an anthropomorphic manner, ‘spoiled’ them in certain ways, or did not provide obedience training were no more likely to engage in behaviors considered a problem by the owner than were dogs not viewed anthropomorphically, ‘spoiled’ by their owner, or given obedience training.”

Thank you, science! Yes, this is only one study, of a convenience sample of dog owners/guardians in the waiting room of a veterinary teaching hospital, but it is an impressive analysis of the owners’/guardians’ perception of their own dogs’ behavior. Again, this is subjective, but isn’t that all that matters?

The divide that separates “spoilers” from “nonspoilers” is similar to – in fact, it might be the same as –the difference between handlers who use force and intimidation for "obedience" vs. those who rely on humane, positive-reinforcement-based training. To critics, feeding dogs human food (even leftovers) and inviting them to share our beds is unconscionable and can lead only to impolite, aggressive and just plain rotten behavior. After all, these are just animals who will take every opportunity to "dominate" us (face palm). However, to those who view “indulgence” as simply assimilating the dog into the human family and treating him or her with warmth and kindness, that word never did make any sense -- and the purpose of training is much more interesting than simply creating an obedient pet. So don’t listen to the spoil-sayers – if you want to, go ahead and invite your dog on the sofa tonight and share a bowl of popcorn. Season 3 of Broadchurch is streaming.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Punishment in Dog Training

 By Zazie Todd, PhD

The risks of using punishment in dog training

By now, many people are familiar with the idea that using aversives to train dogs can have side effects. Studies show a correlation between aversive techniques (such as hitting, pinning, leash jerks and shock) and behaviour problems like aggression (Herron et al 2009; Casey et al 2014). 

One study found dogs in a training class that used aversives showed signs of stress and were less likely to look at their owners than in a similar class that used positive reinforcement instead (Deldalle and Gaunet, 2014).

The benefits of reward-based dog training

Rewards bring benefits: dogs with a history of reward-based training are better able to learn a new task (Rooney and Cowan, 2011). Nicola Rooney and Sarah Cowan say this may work “by increasing the dog’s motivation and aptitude to learn, because it learns to anticipate rewards.” 

If you are used to training with rewards, you know that look of happy anticipation on your best friend’s face. (Incidentally, the same study found dogs previously trained with punishment were less playful with their owner and less likely to go up to a new person).

There’s increasing recognition that good animal welfare includes giving animals positive experiences that cause positive affective states. 

In other words, it’s about making animals happy. Training your dog gives them control: “If I do this behaviour, I’ll get a nice reward.” They enjoy it and become better learners. Read the entire article

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