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Stay Positive!

Training sessions with your dog are a great way to bond and to achieve a well-behaved companion. When choosing a trainer, please check their credentials. Most importantly, ensure that they practice only reward-based, positive training methods. Positive reinforcement trainers do not use shock collars, force, intimidation, or pain. Instead, they teach with a gentle, fair approach so that dogs truly will enjoy learning and form a trusting bond with their owners. Check out this link  or this link for a list of positive trainers by state.

Training Tips articles provided by:

Heather Smith, PMCT, owner of All 4 Paws Dog Training

Heather Smith, PMCT, owner of All 4 Paws Dog Training


Linda Lelak, CPDT-KA, owner of Pawsitive Paws Dog Training


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The “New” Face of Dog Training

By Linda Lelak, CPDT-KA

Pawsitive Paws Dog Training


Positive Reinforcement Training – perhaps you’ve heard of it. Many dog trainers in the area are embracing this scientifically-proven method of helping dogs with everything from manners training to dog sports to helping with emotion-driven behavioral issues such as fear and aggression. Positive reinforcement is espoused in hundreds of books and videos on the market today and endorsed by animal organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), The Council for Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), and The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB)  just to name a few, and it is quickly turning dominance training obsolete.

So what’s all the hype about and why does it work? First, let’s take a look at the old-fashioned ‘dominance’ method of dog training, otherwise known as coercive training. Coercive training is based on the mistaken theory that dogs think like wolves, perceive themselves as a member of a pack (the human family) and are either dominant over family members or submissive. This model of training dictates that our dog’s unwanted behaviors, such as pulling ahead on leash, are motivated by their desire to ‘dominate’ us. Therefore we must maintain dominance over our pet dogs by using force, harsh corrections (choking or otherwise inducing pain) and more or less exhibit a menacing presence to our dogs. This type of training results in an adversarial relationship with our dogs, fostering ‘obedience’ through fear and pain and sometimes resulting in the dog becoming fearful, defensive or aggressive.

On the other hand, positive reinforcement sets up a humane, collaborative relationship with your dog, fostering trust and bonding by using a reward-based system.

The positive reinforcement method is a result of decades of dog behavioral studies conducted by internationally-known animal-behavior and veterinary scientists. In part, these studies showed that dogs are not wolves, but rather are domesticated animals who, through centuries of living with man, have evolved in a manner much unlike their canid brothers. Such research has proven also that by rewarding (reinforcing) desirable behaviors, not only can we humanely teach our dogs, but we can successfully treat the fear and stress behind emotion-based behaviors such as uncontrolled barking and aggression. To put it simply, when behaviors are rewarded the probability of  those behaviors being repeated increases. When ignored, behaviors decrease and can disappear. Many times a marker work or clicker is used to “mark” the exact behavior being rewarded.

Positive reinforcement training is not new but has been used for decades and on species other than dogs. Have you seen the amazing performances by killer whales and dolphins at Sea World or other famous aquariums? Remember Morris the cat, Flipper, the cats and dogs in Milo and Otis and in Homeward Bound?  Eddie, the Jack Russell on Frasier, the golden retrievers in the “Buddy” movies, the Taco Bell Chihuahua, The Shaggy Dog, and Beethoven were trained using positive reinforcement. The list goes on and on.

Along with establishing a collaborative relationship with your puppy or dog, positive reinforcement makes training fun, non-threatening and builds trust. In upcoming articles we will provide you with training tips using positive reinforcement techniques to solve such problems as jumping up and to teach good manners.


Linda Lelak, CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer) has been working with dogs and their humans for over 15 years. As the owner of Pawsitive Paws Dog Training in Bucks County, PA, she offers private training specializing in behavioral issues such as fear and aggression and conducts  public dog training classes at the Bucks County (Pa.) SPCA. Linda’s expertise is highly recommended by area veterinarians and dog rescue organizations.  www.PawsitivePaws.info 

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Choosing a Dog Trainer

by Heather Smith, PMCT

All 4 Paws Dog Training


There is currently no required certification or licensing to open a dog training or dog behavior practice.  Before you hire a pet professional, interview them, ask for client references.  Discuss with them their training methods and philosophies, especially if they don’t specifically state on their web site.  I urge you not to engage a dog training professional who advocates for pain, fear or heavy handed training methods.  Make a well-informed and educated decision and here is why:  I believe in training my dog by developing a loving and trusting relationship, not one based on fear or forced dominance. 


In recent years, much creditable scientific study has been given to dog training and behavior modification methods.  The evidence shown by these studies indicates that training methods and modification protocols using “dominance theory” and social structures (“alpha,” or “leader of pack”), usage of physical or mental force, intimidation, coercion or fear are less effective and often create as a consequence “fallout” behaviors – behaviors which may be dangerous to the human and animal involved.

Some of these methods – specifically corporal punishment, choke chains, prong collars, shocking with an electronic collar, leash jerks, bark collars and verbal punishment – are often used in reality television programming.  Despite warnings on the television for viewers not to attempt the methods displayed at home, such methods will be attempted by pet owners and may lead to extremely dangerous situations.


Unfortunately for dogs, force-based methods work, but at what expense?   Wouldn’t you rather have your dog perform a cue that you asked him to do because he wants and chooses to, not because he is afraid of you and that he will be punished if he doesn’t?  But here is the even better news…positive reinforcement training also works and it fosters the relationship between you and your dog. 


So how do you find a positive reinforcement trainer?  You can search for a trainer using the links above for Truly Dog Friendly or the Pet Professional Guild.  These trainers have committed to using positive reinforcement and/or force-free methods of dog training.  Search trainer web sites and look for their training philosophy.  Most positive reinforcement trainers will proudly proclaim this and list their credentials.  Choose a trainer that has some formal education in learning theory and animal behavior and one that is committed to continuing their education.  


Watch out for trainers that provide “guarantees” before they even see your dog.  Training or modifying a behavior will take some work on everyone’s part and can’t be done in 5 minutes or in a 30 minute TV show.  Be cautious of so-called “balanced” trainers who will claim they are positive while yanking on your dog’s leash.  Be leery of trainers that say they don’t use food…most dogs are very motivated by food and will perform behaviors to earn it.  A positive trainer can easily explain how to successfully use food to teach a behavior then how to use other reinforcers to reward a behavior once it is reliable.


Your dog is a member of your family and deserves to have a training experience that is fun and where he or she can be successful.  Your first training class is just the start of a relationship between you and your dog that will last a lifetime.  Make sure it is a positive one for both you and your dog.


Heather Smith, PMCT (Pat Miller Certified Trainer) is the owner of All 4 Paws Dog Training. Heather has been working with renowned positive trainer Pat Miller since 2009.  She is also a training advisor for CRCPA, Canine Rescue of Central PA.  Heather offers Basic Good Manners private and group classes and behavior consultations, serving Franklin and Adams Counties in South Central PA.  www.all4pawsdogtraining.com