- Posted by Gilleen Witkowski
- On August 14, 2018
- 0 Comments
- Caryn Liles, classical conditioning, clicker training, dog training, force-free, force-free dog handling, operant conditioning, positive reinforcement, private walks, puppies, safety, TCCE, the Toronto Centre for Canine Education
I had it during a dog walking course. It was a little bit terrifying.
Caryn Liles, who runs a large dog training facility in Toronto (the TCCE), was teaching the class. She shocked us with this story:
Years prior, Caryn was mauled at a client’s house.
Caryn and her dog Parker <3
At the time, she subscribed to the dominance theory. She was demonstrating an “alpha roll” (pinning the dog to the ground) to the dog’s parents. While they watched, the dog lashed out. The experience left Caryn with deep bites on her arm, body, and face – and a need for change.
In retrospect, Caryn realized the dog had been signalling deep discomfort and fear before lashing out. After some research, Caryn turned to a positive reinforcement-based training philosophy. Since then, she’s thrived on safely teaching dogs new behaviours using tasty rewards, toys, play, and other reinforcers. Quite the about-face.
From “obedience,” control, and perfection – to embracing kindness, patience, and reward. I learned a lot from that course.
Practically speaking, this means not using punishment-style, dominance-based, or “aversive” tools such as prong, choke, and e-collars, yanking, yelling, “correcting,” or, of course, hitting.
There’s been a century-long evolution of dog training toward operant conditioning (modifying behaviour, sometimes using markers such as clickers), classical conditioning (creating general positive associations with things), and positive reinforcement methods – the industry standard today.
But there are still many different dog handling philosophies out there, some safer than others. It’s important to ask your dog pros questions to know how they will handle your dog. Here are 6 things you should ask your dog walker, for instance.
For science, videos, and insights, check out these excellent resources on positive reinforcement and force-free dog handling:
The Toronto Centre for Canine Education
The Humane Hierarchy, Part 1 of 2: Overview – eileenanddogs
The Ultimate Dog Training Tip – Companion Animal Psychology
American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
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