Our Training Philosophy & Style...

Quite often I am asked what my "Training Philosophy" is.  So I thought it would be helpful to have a bit of insight on this topic as there are lots of terms out there that make this a little confusing.  

We don't prescribe to just one theory of training... we've created our own blended approach from lots of experience and education to bring the best things of different types of training to you...  We like to say we are...

"Humane - Holistic - Relationship Based"

Do you want a dog that just listens?

Or, do you want a dog that BEHAVES?

This is a VERY important distinction that I find owners almost never think about.  You want a do that listens to you.  But, do you Always want to be having to tell your dog what to do?  Because that's what regular obedience focused training gets you.  A dog who "listens" when you give them commands, but otherwise checks out and doesn't know how to actually behave.  Which means unless you're standing over them telling them what to do like a drill sergeant, they're doing things you don't like.  Which makes you frustrated, and makes you think you have a "bad" dog.  You get frustrated with training classes and training which simply perpetuate the cycle of "my dog is great in class" but outside class or practice time? Forget it.

What if I told you, there's a way to train your dog that

actually transfers over into your REAL LIFE and not just "training time."  

This means a dog that BEHAVES AND LISTENS?

There is, and you're going to find it here with us!

Why We're Different

Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun   &   Dogs Think Work Is Fun

Dogs Just Wanna Work

We Train by harnessing this VITAL INSTINCT in your dog,

and teach them how to control it.

Notice how I said there we teach your dog to control their instincts?  That's NOT how most trainers train.  Most trainers use your input to constantly control your dog.  But what happens when you aren't standing over your dog and telling them what to do?  Do they know how to behave?  Have you ever taught them your expectations for when you're not giving them specific instructions?  I bet not!

It's a mind blowing thought, I know.

Think about how when you raise a child, you TEACH them right from wrong,

Then you hope that they practice right from wrong when you're not around to tell them.

This is what allows us to give our kids the freedom to not need supervision and input right? 

So, why exactly aren't we doing the same thing for our dogs?  Most trainers only work on the concept of you constantly telling your dog what to do.  This means you always have to be there to tell them.  And if you get distracted or busy?  Well it's a gamble as to whether your dog is going to behave in a way you want or not.  

Training is Interacting

Every Single Interaction You Have With Your Dog

IS A TRAINING MOMENT.  

This is happening whether you acknowledge it or not,  

Whether you pay attention or not,

Whether you want it to or not.  

So the reality is that every interaction either:

works for you - moves you closer to the behavior you want from your dog

or works against you - does nothing, or gets you further away from the dog you want.

What this means?  There's no such time as "training only" time.  There's no half an hour set aside to run obedience drills that gives you a better behaved dog when you aren't telling them what to do.  

Training is 24/7/365

For Your Dog's Life.

We show you how to take advantage of every single interaction with your dog to move your dog closer to the behaviors you want from them.  And we show you how to do it in a way that incorporates it into your already hectic daily life.  And in a way that makes your dog responsible for their own behavior once we teach them what we expect and want.

How?

We Teach and Build On Default Behaviors

We first focus on teaching your dog WHAT WE WANT THEM TO DO IF YOU AREN'T GIVING THEM A SPECIAL TASK.  

Think about when you go to work.  

 

Let's say you're a mechanic.  

The car is the same no matter what shop you take the car to, it's the same car.  

But the expectations or ways of doing things  at one auto body shop are different.

 

So as a mechanic, when you start a new job, you have an "initial training period" where the specific expectations of that shop are taught and explained to you.  This is where your boss is hovering over you making sure you know how to do things the way they want.

But, after your initial training period?  Your boss doesn't hover over your shoulder for every e-mail you send or phone call you return.  Because they know you know what's expected and how to get it done.  

Your boss may call you in for a special assignment, or specific things they need done that day.  But, if they don't have anything specific, they let you go about your normal work day knowing you know what's expected of you right?

We do the same thing with our kids.

Why exactly don't we do the same thing with our dogs?

So our initial training, is creating "default behaviors".  Your dog learns what's expected of them when you aren't telling them what to do (i.e. giving them special projects).

Because once you have a dog that knows how to behave, you have a dog you can live, not worry about making bad choices when you aren't watching, AND a dog you can play with and enjoy!

After the default behaviors are established, then we go into the fun cues and commands.

Because yes we want a dog that listens when you ask them to do something, but we want a dog we don't need to constantly watch unless we want them to do something specific.

Thirdly, we go into harnessing your dogs Drive and Energy using default behaviors AND special cues to make your bond and their ability to respond in highly distracting situations.... well REAL.

 

It's About Communicating With Your Dog

My dog training is Relationship Based all the way... but what does this really mean?

Instead of working against your dogs instincts, desires, and energy, we show you how to hone those things to work for you.  Which means you get REAL LIFE RESULTS.

 

Why?

Because any other kind of training relies on your input all the time for your dog to know what to do.  

 

Force based training ONLY WORKS as long as the fear of what you're going to do to your dog outweighs their desire to do something.  

 

Obedience training only works if you have a chance to tell your dog what to do before they notice it.  Well, what if they notice it first? 

Have you ever heard the saying, "if you have a dog's nose, you have the dog"?

Well I've come to find that "if you have a dog's brain, you have the dog".

We practice teaching your dog how to make "GOOD CHOICES" on their own!  

Without your input.  We make them responsible K9s!

We work WITH YOUR DOG and THEIR BRAIN not by using Force, Fear, or Intimidation.

Relationship Based

It's About Communicating With Your Dog

My dog training is Relationship Based all the way... but what does this really mean?  Well, at the end of the day you are only going to always have two things to work with your dog: Your Voice and Your Body.  This means that you should be able to work with your dog and get him or her to do what you want using ONLY these two things.  If you need anything else to get your dog to listen to you (after proper training) you run the risk of not having those items on you when you NEED something for your dog (i.e. treats when they run out the door, a leash, a clicker, a whistle... the list goes on).  Yes we do utilize many of these items while training your dog, but the goal at the end of the day is for your dog to listen to just your voice and your body.
P.S. when I say "your body" I don't mean putting your hands on the dog in any way with force, I mean hand signals and body posture.   

This means that when we train, our main focus is on YOUR RELATIONSHIP with your dog and how he/she responds to you (and your family).  Cues, behaviors, and fancy tricks mean nothing if your dog doesn't want to listen to you.  So lots of what we focus on in training is Relationship Building while we work on behaviors.  

Humane Techniques Only

Ok, so you've probably heard all about this "latest-greatest" concept of Positive Only Trainers.  And what I have to say is that's not me.  I am not a Positive Only Trainer.  Before you go having a heart attack after reading that, give me a chance to explain...  When you truly learn about "Positive and Negative" dog training styles, you learn that those terms in science are like they are in math.  They mean adding or subtracting, NOT good or bad.

 

So a Positive Only Trainer, is someone who can ADD things to a situation to make your dog do something or NOT do something again.  This means ... a positive only trainer can technically physically correct your dog and still be considered positive only... think about that for a second.  People keep getting wrapped up in "Positive Only" because they think it "sounds like someone will be nice to their dog."  When technically it's a marketing gimmick that actually lets them use force on your dog and still be considered "positive".

 

Our methods at K9 Manners Matter are FORCE FREE.    

Anyone can use Physical Force and make a dog do something.  

Literally Anyone.  

Forcing a dog into a response isn't teaching your dog anything.  

Forcing a dog into something doesn't get you respect from your dog, it makes them afraid of you.  

DOGS DON'T RESPECT FORCE, THEY FEAR IT.

Now Force Free said, that doesn't mean "soft" training.  Doesn't mean for even a second that if I ask my dog to do something they aren't expected to do it.  It does mean however that I don't need to put my hands forcibly on your dog to make it happen.  

 

#1 - If you wouldn't put it on a toddler, don't put it on a dog.

This means you will not find me using: choke chains, prong collars, electronic collars, or any method of any kind that inflicts pain or fear... it's just not going to happen.  
And for those who want to argue that these items are "humane" I will gladly have that discussion with you.



Holistic Approach

We believe that animal behavior, like humans, is not all "behavior based".  A dog's behavior depends on so many factors: nutrition, supplements, environment, exercise, health, social activities, their relationships, and much more.  So in order for us to truly get to the root of your pup's behavior, we can't just "train" a dog to do something and ignore the rest of it... We have to cover ALL those bases in order for your pup to have what he/she really needs.  This means when you work with us we're going to cover

Health: A dog that doesn't feel it's best won't act or perform his/her best and we
will work with your Veterinarian if we need to.

Nutrition:  Nutrition is the base line to all of health and behavior.  No, I'm not exaggerating even a little bit!  This is your most vital component to your dog's life!  Think of it like gasoline for your car to run.  If you put in water or vegetable oil instead of gasoline, you're car isn't even going to run.  If you put in the super cheap stuff versus the premium stuff, your car is going to run differently.  The same is true for you and your dog!  So we want to make sure your dog's nutrition is stabilized  (without breaking your bank account) so that your dog can perform at his or her best!

Exercise: A tired dog is a good dog.  This may be an old adage, but it's one of the few "old school" concepts I can say is really true.  Exercise is imperative for your dog's health and behavior!  Exercise helps them burn off their "extra energy" which a lot of the time is causing common behavior problems that you don't like.
We could keep going, but I think you're getting the idea that training isn't just about teaching your dog a behavior.

 

Some Quick Frequently Asked Questions

My dog is Agressive.... They need Force

I hear this one all the time. "There's no way you can work with so and so... they need Force"

My response is Always, they don't, let me prove it to you.

Force is Lazy.  Anyone can use force and stop a dog from doing something, or make them do something.  Force works.  Force gives you the response you want immediately in the moment.  

Force is used by people who don't know what they're doing.  A dog never needs force.  They need to be Taught, and they need a better trainer, and so you do.  Your dog deserves better.  You deserve to know that there's another way to get better, longer lasting, humane results with your dog.

What Force doesn't do, is help you the next time you get into the same situation.  

FORCE ONLY WORKS AS LONG AS THE FEAR OF THE FORCE IS STRONGER THAN THE DESIRE FOR WHAT YOU DON'T WANT YOUR DOG TO DO. 

IT ALSO MAKES YOU RELIANT ON USING FORCE, AND BEING ABLE TO USE FORCE TO STOP YOUR DOG WHEREVER THEY ARE. 

Before you go saying, well you just don't know what you're talking about.  You've never worked with highly aggressive dogs.  Yes.  Yes I have.  I've worked with dogs from puppies to dogs who want to eat my face off, and I've never HAD to use force to work with them.  

In fact, quite the opposite:  I'm usually the trainer people call once Force Based Methods don't work, or make their dog worse.  And I can't tell you how many dogs I've seen lose their minds because a "trainer" used force on them.  

Force isn't worth it.  Let us show you a better way.

I've been told my dog is UNTRAINABLE

Again Another Lie

"Trainers" tell people their dogs are untrainable when their methods don't work.  It puts the blame on the dog.  When really the issue is, YOU JUST NEED A BETTER TRAINER.

 

No dog is untrainable unless maybe he/she has actual neurological issues, but that is VERY RARE.  

Now, that said, there are people who are unteachable, because they aren't willing to try things a different way.  Don't be unteachable.  Be open to ignoring the bad advice you got and knowing your dog and you deserve more and better.

You are your dog's advocate.  You know your dog best.  No dog or situation is beyond help.  We're here to help.

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Let's Talk A Little About All the "Buzz" Terms You've Been Hearing...

"Positive Only Trainer"

This is Currently the Most Popular & Least Understood Method Out There

"Positive Only" dog training is the current "buzz theory" in dog training, but the term is misleading to someone not familiar with dog training theory.   A true "positive only" trainer will only reward a dog for wanted behaviors and tells you to completely ignore any unwanted behavior.  

In my experience dogs do much better with verbal communication of when you want something and when you don't.  It's about communicating with your dog.  Rewarding the things you want AND interupting the behaviors you don't while supplying an appropriate alternative behavior that you do want.

So no... I am not a "Positive Only" Trainer.  What I would consider myself is a Positive Reinforcement, Reward-Based (this doesn't just mean treats), Force-Free Trainer.  I think that is typically what people think of when they hear "positive only" but I don't like using terms incorrectly.  

 

If you're interested in learning more about Positive Reinforcement Training, here is a great article from Victoria Stilwell: "The Four Pillars of Positive Training"

"Dominance Based Trainer"

Dominance theory is the old school version of dog training.  You'll hear these trainers say dogs can't be trained until they're at least 6 months old.  That you have to show the dog who's boss.  They often use tools that inflict discomfort and pain: choke chains, prong collars, ecollars.  They will talk about alpha-rolling and pinning a dog.  This typically creates fear in the dog and often has the opposite effect of eliciting agressive behaviors when applied inapporpriately.  

This theory has been debunked by science and time. For more on Debunking Dominance Theory, Read this article from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers: "Dominance and Dog Training"

"Compulsion Based Trainer"

These are typically trainers who also perscribe to Dominance Theory Training.  These trainers rely on compulsion tools: choke chains, prong collars and shock collars to get the reaction out of the dog that they want.  I often see trainers call themselves "positive trainers" and once they run out of ways to "positively" work out a behavior problem, they tell the owner their only option is compulson tools because nothing else is going to work.  Unfortunately, these owners trust their dog trainer and resort to choke chains, prong collars, and electric collars.   

For those who want to say that choke chains, prong collars and electric collars "used properly" are humane... my question to them is this... would you use them on a toddler?  Answer: Absolutely Not.  If someone saw you using these items on a kid, child protective services would soon be knocking at your door.  So my response, is: If you wouldn't put it on a toddler, it doesn't belong on a dog.  Secondly, I would ask those trainers, have you put them on your own neck for as long as you use them on a dog and corrected yourself the same way and number of times you correct a dog?  If you were corrected the same way a dog was every time you corrected a behavior, would you want to be using those tools?  I doubt it.  And no, I don't say any of this out of naivete.  I have used choke, prong and e-collars on myself, and to those who want to say that e-collars are equivalent to a light "static shock"... my answer is you're flat out lying.  I have put a shock collar on one of the lowest settings and set it off against my own hand, and the stinging stayed in my hand for hours after the correction.  Not to mention the prong points on the back of the collar, which when fitted properly, put pressure on a dog's neck the entire time the device is on.

If you are seeking guidance from ANY trainer, and they suggest the use of ANY Compulsion Based Tools... get a new trainer ASAP.

"Clicker Trainer"

Clicker Trainers utilize a training tool called a "clicker" to communicate with their clients.  Let me start off by saying, I have nothing against clicker training.  However, I find it cumbersome and unrealistic to be the base of one's training plan in most cases.  That's because you then have to carry around a clicker for as long as you want to communicate new things with and train your dog.  My firm belief is you are only always going to have two things: your voice and your hand gestures, so that is what you need to use to communicate with your dog.  

Now I understand the basis of clicker training.  It does simplify communicating with a dog because the reward sound is ALWAYS THE SAME from the tone, inflection, word... nothing changes.  The "click" is the same.  This can be beneficial for someone having difficulty working with their dog or for a dog who is so afraid of someone that them using their voice or hands sends a dog over the edge.  However, I find more commonly that dogs are actually afraid of the clicker sound over someone's voice. 

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Please note our disclaimer: I am NOT a veterinarian!  The information contained on this site is not intended or delivered as medical advice, fact, or opinion; nor is it in any way a recommendation to not follow the advice of a trained veterinary professional.  K9 Manners Matter recommends a consultation with a veterinarian about any information provided. Thank you.

*This site contains affiliate links* -the profits of which help me buy more dog training stuff for all my favorite pups

K9 Manners Matter in SCV | Bachelors of Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
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K9 Manners Matter in SCV | Certified Trick Dog Instructor
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