About the author: Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA, is a force-free professional dog trainer enjoying her mountain-filled life in Colorado. She is a member of the Pet Professional Guild and the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She takes her highly trained dogs with them everywhere dogs are welcome because of their exceptionally good manners. Join Annie on her dog-training Facebook page.
Since that article ran in June, three dogs who have graduated from my Growly Dog class have been attacked by off-leash dogs. My clients work hard to calm their dog’s anxiety when they see other dogs (which often stems from being attacked the very first time by a rude, off-leash dog!). We help these over-anxious dogs learn to trust their handler, and we rebuild their faith that they can walk safely in their own neighborhood. We make significant progress in keeping these dogs calm and focused on their owners instead of hyper-vigilantly scanning for dangers . . . such as an off-leash dog. In some of these cases, the unleashed dog owner was held responsible and now must pay fines in addition to medical bills; one of my clients ended up having an $8,000 hand surgery after breaking up a dog fight. I have enough stories like that to fill up a very long, pathetic book.
Speaking of reward, positive reinforcement refers to operant conditioning, and I won’t bore you with the details right now, but suffice it to say B.F. Skinner, one of the leading researchers on reinforcement, found that positive reinforcement (to reward good behavior) is far more superior to punishment in altering undesirable behavior because positive reinforcement results in lasting behavioral modification, and punishment changes behavior only temporarily; and presents many detrimental side effects. If the problem behavior changes temporarily, it will reappear later, and it comes with even more problem behavior! Good Behavior = Reward and Bad Behavior = Punishment, does that sound familiar? Positive reinforcement training is what exotic animal trainers have used for years to teach dolphins, whales and large cats among other animals. You cannot force a dolphin to do what it does not want to do!
He has also trained at the famous Vohne Liche Kennels with owner Ken Licklider, which the Nat Geo show “Alpha Dogs” is based off. Vohne Liche Kennels is the training hub for the military and DoD special forces K9s. Last year, Nick was made part of Sport Dog’s Pro Staff, as he was considered to be one of the top electronic trainers in the world. Nick will be appearing on “Alpha Dogs”.
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