In general, dog training adheres to one of three schools of thought. To be honest, as a dog owner, I’ve been exposed to all three. My experiences varied with different dogs, but I’ve come to a clear conclusion. Below are my personal thoughts on each.
The Dominant Pack Leader theory of Alpha Dog based training believes that you must show your dog you are pack leader. You are the alpha leaving your dog as the perpetual submissive in the home. In effect, it traps dogs at the puppy stage, never allowing them to reach their full potential as mature members of your family. Trainer 1s use methods that include harsh words, leash jerking, rolling and pinning the dog on his back, or even shock collars! At its core, these methods are inhumane and painful for our dogs.
Additionally, it is based on debunked science. It came from a well-meaning but tragically misguided study done by a single researcher in the 1940s. The study observed an unnatural pack of wolves forced to live together in captivity. They were not related and did not choose to live together. This led to some behaviors that simply aren’t seen in a natural wolf pack living in the wild. Fighting broke out in this pack leading the researcher to observe the “winners” which he then assigned as the alpha male and alpha female. His theory held that the alpha pair would dominate the pack for the rest of their lives or until age and weakness allowed another to take their place.
Natural wolf packs are family units composed of parent and child. The offspring are naturally subordinate to the parents and younger siblings to the older. They work together to survive as a pack as a tightly bonded unit. Many early subscribers to this theory have reversed their opinions on Alpha Dog theory after further research revealed the truth.
Additionally, wolves are a separate species. Our dogs may have descended from them, but they are not wolves. Tens of thousands of years have domestication and tamed the wild. Still, this theory persists. I find it abhorrent and refuse to even consider it in my work.
Thankfully, new science and theories emerged in the 1980s. Researchers working with dogs at this time began to observe that they learned more easily with positive rewards. By leaving the painful or frightening warnings of Alpha Dog training in the past, dogs began to enjoy learning and great advances were made. Positive reinforcement is helpful and works in general terms yet it doesn’t cover life outside the training class or home training session. It leaves our dogs uncertain what to do in the off time. In the end, this approach often leads to failure in real world situations because it relies on frequent input from the owner.
Dogs learn to sit, down, stay, and come. Some went on to learn rudimentary calmness with this method, but this theory fails to provide a dog friendly handbook on our human expectations. Left to make decisions without guidance, and they make thousands of decisions every day, some dogs strayed into troubling behaviors only to preform admirably in each and every training session. It simply didn’t go far enough.
The Concept Trainer
It’s a new era and new research has come to light. Concept Dog Training builds on the leaps forward of the encouragers and discards the advice of the punishers. Concept Dog Training is cutting edge and thousands of dogs around the globe are living their best life through this revolutionary method.
Concept Dog Trainers blend thoroughly vetted observations of human psychology with new research that focuses on the emotional state of dogs in various situations. It found that dogs are truly individuals. While older methods may have worked for some, many dogs were left behind to uncertain fates. We leave no dog behind.
Concept Dog Training also took from research that showed dogs have many commonalities with small children, and like children, dogs love to play. And play can be used to shape the brains of dogs, giving them powerful life lessons. The race was on to bring this exciting approach to the public and Games Based Training was born. Yet it it took a clever and skilled team to pull it all together into a carefully honed theory with cleverly designed games which were then vetted by thousands of eager dog owners around the world. With a foot firmly planted in current science and another in endless creativity, Certified Concept Dog Trainers use their super powers of observation to choose the games that most benefit your dog.
Obviously, I’m biased, but that’s because I’ve tried them all. The methods of the punisher repel me. The methods of the encourager helped me establish basic behaviors in dogs that were already quite adept at fitting in yet it left at least 2 of my dogs behind. Concept Dog Training skyrocketed forward to make training simple, fun, and solutions oriented. My Tasha has not been left behind. If it worked for her troubled mind, it will work for your dog, too.
Time to Choose
What do you want for your dog? Can you look yourself in the mirror after sending a jolt of electricity directly into the neck of your 7 pound Pomeranian because she barked? Do you wish to constantly be giving cues which request behaviors yet offer no lasting guidance to your dog, or would you rather your dog simply know what to do?
If you feel as I do, the choice is clear. You brought your dog into your home for a reason. Most people would say they longed for a companion who would fit seamlessly into the home. Concept Dog Training can bring that dream into reality through games. Imagine a dog that suddenly understands your world, and you understand him! You can easily access our games online, and I encourage you to play a few to see how they might help your dog, but only a Certified Concept Dog Trainer who has undergone the rigorous training under the hands on guidance of Absolute Dogs can put it all together to give your dog the coping skills they most need to live their best life.
Want to learn more? Hop on over to the Contact page and drop me a line. Tell me about your dog, whether he currently has behavioral issues or not because trust me; There’s A Game for That!
You might be thinking that Concept Training will require lots of tools, but you might be pleased to know that there is very little needed that isn't already in your home. And in fact, you will no longer need one thing you probably use every day.
Here's your shopping list:
1. Your Dog's normal food
3. Collar or Halter
4. 2 Dog Toys (use what you have)
5. An open mind
That's it. This is all you need to get started. Later, you might want to use a crate or puppy pen, but all you really need is a place in your home where your dog can chill out and relax.
Some games use items that pass through your home like empty water bottles and soup ladles. We believe in creativity over purchases.
So what's the item that you use every day, but will no longer be needed? The Food Bowl.
Every day you pour tons of value into that bowl when you could be pouring that same value into your relationship with your dog. I can show you how easy and rewarding that is.
Optimism doesn't come naturally to all dogs, or humans for that matter, but it is perhaps the most valuable gift we can give our dogs. Optimism, as in choosing to see novelty in the environment as something positive helps dogs cope with our complex and unnatural society. With Optimism dogs learn that often the best response is NO Response. Backfiring cars, kids on skateboards, other dogs, thunder, they can learn to look at all these things and more with a Positive and Optimistic spin.
Have you even seen a dog that seems to overact to everything? "He doesn't like change," his owners say, or "I can't do that. He has a set routine." The problem is that this thinking builds a pessimistic attitude. Dogs learn to see new things (novelty) as something to be worried about if not outright frightened of. And as we have already discussed, seeing things from worry or fear often leads to bad behavior choices.
Novelty is everywhere. And limitless. We can't possibly expose our dogs to everything that will enter their space for a lifetime. This is the trouble with traditional puppy socialization. How can you remember to expose your puppy to a man with an enormous hat and feather boa, riding a bike in the snow while singing at the top of his lungs? (this actually happened to me) Instead, we teach the concept of Optimism to our dogs regardless of age. It's never too late to learn to see life Optimistically. Dogs are great adapters and they can change even into old age.
All dogs are sensitive to change in their surroundings. Their senses make them superior observers of the world around them. They notice the wind and the scent is carries, the trees and birds perched in the branches, the ground and everything scattered across it. If we can transform them into Optimists, they accept pretty much anything that comes their way as something either positive or nothing to be worried about.
How do we do that? Well, we have a game for that.
I was recently challenged to offer foundational support regarding Games Based Dog Training. Some people need proof that something new and revolutionary works, and so I wrote a reply. I think some of you may find what you need here as well.
Games Based Dog Training draws from many sources. There are shades of Skinner who did work in the 1960s. I see commonality with Susan Garrett, Suzanne Clothier, Patricia McConnell and Victoria Stillwell, but Games Based Dog Training is innovative and new. It draws from human psychology with the Russell Dimensional Model which defines emotions as Fear, Worry, Excitement or Calmness. Many so called reactive dogs spend all their time in Fear or Worry and never reach Calmness. I know my dog never did until I found Games Based Dog Training which gave me the tools to lead her to Calmness where she makes far better decisions than those that came from a state of Fear or Worry.
Tom Mitchell is a Vet Behaviorist in the UK and his partner, Lauren Langman trained as a lawyer, worked as a teacher, and is now running the biggest dog training facility in the UK and one of the largest in the world. She also competes with great success in agility on the world stage.
They both live Games Based Dog Training 24/7.
As science builds on repeatable results, Tom did many experiments during his studies. The one he often refers to tests whether a dog is a pessimist or optimist. Once that was determined a correlation of behavior issues could be seen in the dogs determined to be pessimistic. A friend of his ran a separate study of shelter dogs. She measured the level of stress hormones in dogs housed in a shelter and found the dogs that huddled frozen in their cages had significantly higher stress hormones circulating than those that showed some form of behavior. This led to the conclusion that by choosing a behavior, any behavior, the dog was able to disperse stress hormones. However, the behavior could be anything. Barking. Pacing. Biting their Tail, Lunging at the Gate, or Offering a Paw. It all relieved stress.
Dogs are efficient. They will do what makes them feel better, even if for only a short time. The issues can start when that behavior isn’t the best choice. Games Based Dog Training works because it reinforces better choices, builds an amazing bond between dog and owner, and by giving them the skills they need to fit into our lifestyle. Dogs learn to use their efficient brains to make better behavioral choices that make everyone feel better.
Games Based Dog Training helps active puppies through delicate seniors, both with behavioral issues or not. Simply put, the Games give them skills to navigate our human constructed society. My next puppy will grow up with Games Based Training, and my now senior dog will live out the rest of her life playing these scientifically designed games that finally gave her peace and happiness. I still marvel at how far she has come.
There is, of course, more to this, but that is better expressed in a consultation or class setting. Know that Games Based Dog Training is firmly rooted in science. It sprang from a creative dog behaviorist and a professional dog trainer. They were seeking a better way to work with their own dogs which has led to changing the lives of thousands of dogs around the world. You can find some of our games on the RosyDogs FaceBook group, and I encourage you to play them. The games are fun, easy, and require no special equipment. It can be difficult to clearly assess your own dog so a Certified Games Based Dog Trainer is recommended especially for dogs already struggling. Additionally, once you begin to see progress, you will realize how special this training is, and you will likely want to learn more. I would be honored if you let me share what I know with you and your dog.
I am an active member of a global community of other Games Based Dog Trainers who support one another. I am also a member of the writing team at Absolute Dogs, the Training Location where Lauren and Tom teach. If I can't see the best way forward, I have the ear of a global community to help your dog. Each week new games are designed as we continue to stretch our creativity. It's an exciting time to be a part of something this big. I do hope you give it a try. I know you'll be amazed.
Rebecca Porter has been fascinated by dogs for decades, but it took a frantic mixed breed to send her on a journey into innovative and real life solutions in dog training.