FAQ
Who is this training for?
This question can be read two ways…is the training for you…
or your dog, OR, who is this type of training for…what type of
owner.

Of course, both you and your dog are learning. You already
know how to sit, however, so your learning will be in the realm
of how to achieve the desired behavior from your dog. I will
help you learn to break behavior down into trainable pieces, so
that your dog understands what is expected and your
frustration level will be reduced.

Many owners who seek this kind of training will be from varied
backgrounds. Maybe you want a dog that is a polite member of
the family and that is more than enough, or perhaps you want
a dog that is good in public, on and off-lead. Maybe you want
to start training basic obedience as an entrance into some dog
sport, like agility or competition obedience or flyball…or some
combination of the above.

Learning how to teach your dog and your dog learning how to
learn will open possibilities that you may have yet to consider.
Why use positive
training methods?
What is positive
training?
Positive training uses the tenets of learning theory to provide
ways to achieve behavior change without coercion. Operant
conditioning is a learning theory that can quite simply be
defined as learning through reinforcement. If something
reinforcing occurs after a behavior occurs, then the probability
that the behavior will be repeated is increased.

At Thinking Dogs, clicker training is the preferred
methodology. A clicker is a small noisemaker that serves to
mark the desired behavior more precisely than our voice or
words can. Once the dog understands the desired behavior, a
cue (the word ‘sit’, for example) can be added to elicit the
desired response.
What does that mean
exactly?
It means that we can teach our dogs the behaviors that we
want to see, we can teach them to enjoy learning, and we can
do this all without punishment.

Operant training has been used successfully in a variety of
animal environments, including zoos and marine parks.
What is a reinforcer?
A reinforcer is anything that increases the probability of the
behavior occurring again. This could be food, toys, playing
fetch, playing tug, ear rubs, back scratches, etc.
.
Will I always have to
‘bribe’ my dog with
food?
You are paying your dog for the behavior that you want,
particularly in the learning phase. After the dog has learned
the behavior and it is reliable on cue, food is not necessary
every time the behavior occurs. Remember, however, that we
continue to desire pay after we have mastered a skill, and your
dog might also, so eliminating rewards completely may not be
the best idea, but you can vary your choice of reinforcer.

.
How will my dog know
that I am the boss?
What will my dog learn?
What is operant
conditioning?
Why use positive
training methods?
What about my dog’s
bad behaviors?
The good thing about your dog’s bad behaviors is that you
can put in place replacement behaviors that are more
acceptable to you. Many times people know what behaviors
they don’t want, but they don’t delineate what they do want.

For example, we all know that we don’t want our dog to jump
up on us in greeting, but we don’t think about what we would
prefer as a greeting, such as a sit. Learning sit when
approaching for greeting automatically eliminates jumping in
that situation. So you, in effect, eliminate one behavior by
learning another behavior in the same circumstance.
How on earth do I learn
to break a behavior
down into component
parts?
Initially, this may take a little practice because we are not
trained to think in this way. If I want my dog to look me in the
eyes, it may not occur to me that I need to encourage a glance
to my face as the first step. I can’t wait to see the complete or
final behavior because it may never be offered in the form that
I want to see it! I need to shape the behavior I seek and this
can be done by starting with an approximate behavior
(glancing at my face) and shaping it into a lengthy stare into
my eyes, bit by bit.
What is “Earn to Learn”?
Some people call this “Nothing in life is free (NILIF)”. Since you
are the controller of all that is good, you can decide what your
dog must do to receive good things. Your dog must earn every
pat, treat, or playtime (e.g., sit before food, wait before
entering a door, sit before throwing a ball, down before an ear
scratch).
What do you mean by
‘controlling all
resources’?
You have everything that your dog wants…access to the
outdoors, access to food, access to good sleeping areas,
access to you!
Do compulsive
techniques work?
Sure they do! Millions of dogs are proof that these training
techniques work. The decision to use positive training is not
just based on effectiveness. Research shows that you can
have the behaviors that you want with fewer side effects using
positive techniques.
Will my dog just do
random behaviors to
get my attention?
Yes, he might, and that is great. It means that he realizes that
he must do some action to gain your attention and the rewards
that come from that attention. The nice thing about your dog
learning cues (sit, stay, down, shush, etc.) is that he will offer
those learned behaviors when you ask for them.
Will we work in the
house or in the yard?
Yes! Dogs are not good at generalizing what they learn. A sit
in the house might seem very different to them than a sit in the
yard, so we will practice in both places and you will continue to
practice behaviors in as many places as you would like to see
it successfully executed.


Undoubtedly, there are many training methodologies that yield
satisfactory results, including training using force. However,
studies have shown us that positive training gives excellent,
reliable results with few to no side effects. Scientific studies
have also shown that methods of training which use force have
numerous side effects, with fear and aggression being the
most undesirable.
You are the boss because you control access to all of the
resources…food, playtime, outdoors, toys, etc. With some
dogs it is also helpful to require a behavior before access is
granted to any resource (e.g., sit before pats, sit before food,
etc.).

.
Whatever you teach him!

.
Learning through reinforcement.

.
Undoubtedly, there are many training methodologies that yield
satisfactory results, including training using force. However,
science has repeatedly showed us that positive training gives
excellent, reliable results with few to no side effects. Scientific
studies have also showed that methods of training which use
force have numerous side effects, with fear and aggression
being the most undesirable.