“I tried positive reinforcement. It didn’t work for my dog.”
Dealing with serious behavior problems, I’m oftentimes called in after a desperate dog owner has already tried many different things to correct their dog’s problem behavior. Dealing with behavior problems is frustrating and emotionally tasking, and I can understand why a person would be reluctant to try something they already believe to be doomed to fail.
All that said, learning and behavior are subject to laws. The laws of learning are no different than the laws of physics: they exist whether you believe in them or not. Saying that positive reinforcement doesn’t work is like claiming that friction doesn’t work or that gravity doesn’t apply to you.
That’s not to say that one’s attempts at positive reinforcement may not fail. If your timing, criteria, or rate of reinforcement are problematic, your dog may not learn what you’re trying to teach him. If your dog doesn’t like whatever you’re trying to reward him with, you may not succeed. If another reward (such as the relief your dog feels when he lunges and a scary person backs away) overshadows the reward you’re using, you may actually wind up worse off than when you started.
That’s where I come in. Professional dog trainers know the laws of learning inside out. We understand how the training system works, and we can tweak your training program so that you succeed.
Just as you wouldn’t represent yourself in a complicated legal case, it’s foolish to attempt to modify behavior on your own in a complicated behavioral case. Hiring a lawyer can save you money or jail time. Hiring a professional trainer can save your dog’s life.
If you’re dealing with a complicated behavior problem (or even struggling with a more simple issue that you just can’t get on top of), remember that you don’t have to represent yourself. There are people out there who can save you time and heartache. There are people out there who understand the laws of learning, and who can help you understand them too. There are people out there who want to help. Put the laws of learning on your side. Let us help your dog. You’ll both be happier for it.
I recently heard this excuse from a few people who are members of a local training group (they believe treats are bribery and you should only use a balanced approach of praise and leash corrections, as well as prong collars). One of them claimed to have done everything religiously.
My only response was that I really have nothing to say since I haven’t SEEN them use the methods. They could have simply had a trainer that wasn’t that great. Some dogs are more stubborn and take more effort. It sounded to me like they were likely just not applying the techniques quite right and got lazy about it. But I just kept quiet because I felt like, no matter how politely I went about it, things would have just escalated. Sigh.
I expert the same thing I expert from any professional, to be knowledgeable about the job and up to date as reasonably possible. My driving instructor should know the traffic laws, my physicist should know the Laws of Thermodynamics and my dog trainer should know the laws of learning. Anything less is unacceptable.
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