Dog Training Methodology
Innovative Reality Dog Training & Dog Behavior Consulting is based on. We recognize that each dog and owner team have their own unique qualities and dynamics, so our methods are custom tailored to those and as well to your and your dog’s personality, temperament, age, and physical condition, taking into account your dog’s history.
You will find our dog training and dog behavior methods fun, intelligent, sensitive, intuitive, and practical; and our puppy training the same, with skills being taught in a manner that seems like a game to you, your family and your dog – although you, your family and your dog will be learning and being trained! Your NJ dog trainer, NY dog trainer, and Florida dog trainer will always be patient and willing to answer all your questions about dog training. Innovative Reality Dog Training wants you to understand your dog, not just “go through the motions” of training.
Innovative Reality NY Dog Training, NJ Dog Training, and Palm Beach, Florida Dog Training makes it a point to be responsive to all NJ dog owners, Manhattan dog owners, and Florida dog owners who contact us for the first time and owners who are recipients of our services in between appointments. We routinely spend 15 – 20 minutes on the ‘phone in free consultation the first time we speak. Additional time during our first conversation is available at a reasonable fee, or may be added in to your fee when we meet if you decide to turn an intake phone call into a consultation (I will let you know during the call if that’s possible and offer you that option). It’s not unusual to find your Innovative dog trainer contacting you weeks or months later NOT to sell you services, but simply to find out how well things are going. I love hearing from my NYC dog clients and NJ dog clients long after they finish dog training with me regarding their recent successes, and I love that former customers reach out to me to let me know how they and their dogs are doing.
Lure and reward, shaping, capturing, conditioning, clicker training, and other humane, effective dog training and dog behavior methods are used to train your dog. Frequently methods are combined considering your and your dog’s learning levels in order to create a stimulating experience for both you and your dog.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Training and behavior modification will not seem complicated unless you’re used to spending little or no time with your dog, and with most owners, that’s not the case – they love their dogs and spend quite a bit of time with them. However, the amount of time and effort you spend with your dog as a result of working with me may be pretty much the same as the time you’re currently spending with your dog, but the time will consist of more meaningful, purposeful time and result in more pleasant interactions. This effect will also have you feeling more in control of your dog’s behavior as opposed to you or your dog simply reacting too late to undesirable or inappropriate behaviors. Yes, this result takes practice, and incorporating training in to your everday interactions with your dog as training opportunities will eventually become a pleasant habit for both you and your dog. The training is always intended to be pleasant and should not feel like hard work at all!
Yes, in many instances of training I do use treats; and, no, rewards really depend on what a dog wants at a particular point in time, and may vary slightly from day to day or even situation to situation; so rewards for your dog may be different under different circumstances and they may be several things other than or in addition to food treats for certain dogs. You’ll get to know how to “read” your dog as I work with you so that you know which rewards he wants at which points in time. As your dog becomes more fluent at behaviors, food treats are faded out gradually over time utilizing the most effective methods for doing so, and food treats may also be replaced with other rewards that your dog considers important to him once a behavior is learned to fluency, even with dogs that are highly motivated by food as a reward. Your dog ultimately should learn to respond to requests for behaviors from you which are familiar to her and which she’s learned, without your dog having to see any kind of reward “up front” first. In fact, for many dogs, in certain situations and at a certain point in the training, seeing a treat “up front” may actually interfere with the learning process.
I have been asked this question many times before. Let me explain that dog trainers LOVE dogs that are food and/or toy/play motivated. Using food, if the dog is food motivated, or toys if the dog is toy motivated, is the fastest and easiest way to train your dog to learn a new behavior. Your dog understands concrete concepts, such as food, water, shelter, comfort. Dogs do not understand some abstract human concept such as ‘I want you to work for me or listen to me because you love me.’ Sure, dogs probably do feel love or something akin to love for their owners. But I doubt that they will ever make the leap to ‘I love you, therefore I will sit (down, stay, not be distracted by that squirrel over there) for you because I love you.’ Those two concepts in a dog’s mind are not interconnected, and Lassie is a fictional dog character (and, might I add, a highly trained bunch of professional dogs who more than likely were trained, even during that time of compulsion training, using food). Dogs live in the moment. They’re not planning their next political move as people do in the workplace and in social situations. With dogs, you’re working in the Here and Now. So, while you’re standing there with your puppy trying to make him understand that you want him to potty outside, or tyring to teach her a ‘wait’ or a ‘down,’ understand that while you’re standing there waiting for some abstract concept to kick in with your pup about love and learning, your pup’s neuropathways are rapidly forming and making little furrows in his or her brain that are setting up exactly how your dog will respond to stimuli in the future. Dog trainers know that dogs that are food- and toy-motivated make training much easier. We know as well that food is a primary reinforcer for your dog; that is, something that your dog intrinsically needs in order to thrive and to survive. So, ask yourself: would you rather plop a bowl full down of food that has the power trainers know it has, and waste all that power; or, would you rather have a trainer show you how to harness that power and stop giving it away to your dog for free? As well, ask yourself how difficult you want to make the job of training, for you and your dog. Food, in the large amount of cases, makes the initial, beginning training of new behaviors SO much quicker and easier. In addition, it’s not the fact that you Provide everything good that goes to your dog – it’s the method in which you Provide it and the interaction between you and your dog(s) which may make all the difference in how they respond to you.
That being said, there is a point at which treats used as food rewards need to be faded out. There are many other things you can use that your dog considers rewards that are not comprised of food. Varying types of rewards can serve to hold your dog’s interest, keeping your dog engaged in the training. Varying rewards also mimics what occurs in Reality, in the real world. Things that your dog finds reinforcing in The Real World vary, so it’s practicial to vary the types of rewards used during training as well. When we meet, I wil be happy to discuss the different types of effective rewards you can use for different skills that you’d like your dog to learn.
“New” methods are always cropping up. The fact is, I haven’t seen any methods that are truly “new” although I do see methods being creatively combined with others, and parts of already existing methods being selectively developed for specific behavioral issues in dogs (and other animals). I think it’s great that methods are being explored in this manner, and it’s important to me to be innovative about methods and to develop my own manner of best utilizing what’s “out there.” What’s “out there” has value to me only if it’s been highly scrutinized with a large population of people and animals. New methods and treatments being advertised as “quicker” or “better” than other scientifically investigated, scrutinized methods over many years that positive trainers use seem more than a bit like sensationalism to me, as in: The Wheel! Now, quicker, rounder and faster!
There are NO quick fixes when it comes to mitigating or attempting to resolve behavioral issues in dogs. I do strongly believe in combining scrutinized methods given the feedback that I get from a dog. I can quickly adapt to what a dog is communicating to me and “tweak” or add/subtract methods as needed for the dog. It’s important to me that I have an arsenal of heavily researched, positive methods in my toolbox so that I can quickly and effectively think “on my feet” and adapt to any situation and what the dog might be communicating to me and needing in any particular situation. My concern is always for the well-being of the dog, both emotionally and physically. Often that means keeping people safe, too, when working with dogs that have specific issues.
Much of what I do doesn’t challenge a dog as much as do shaping methods that are being advertised as “new” training methods or even as “treatments.” By “challenge,” I mean ask as much from a dog as quickly as do some of these “newer” methods, some of which I think and feel “ask” and demand way too much of most dogs, and which is one of my major criticisms of some of these new “treatments.” Asking so much of the dog during lengthy sessions can be counter-productive to helping the dog, in my view. Instead, I move at a pace that neither rushes the dog or the owner along, nor places undue (and sometimes not always immediately visible to the average pet owner) stress on a dog. While many of these new “treatments” do not choose to help the dog out with the decision making process, but require that the dog figure out all the right decisions on his own, doing so to me is a “craps shoot.” I feel my canine and human clientele deserve better than a casino craps shoot, and so I am always instead devising, scrutinizing and utilizing methods of helping dogs along with their decision making process when they indicate that they need such help. In fall of 2008 I started a Yahoo list which encourages people to explore and utilize these methods with me at a discounted rate (when and if applicable) as long as I’m allowed to video tape the sessions. Please feel free to call me or e mail me in order to obtain more information and to see whether you and your dog might be able to participate in my ongoing research. People who participate in my research are able to work with me at deeply discounted rates.
This depends on many factors, which I will ask and assess in part during your intake process, in my questionnaire when you make an appointment, and which I continue to assess as I work with you and your dog. In many instances, using food to make a dog feel better about a situation may work. In other instances, using food the wrong way, too late, or too early in the process may interfere with the dog’s ability to learn and process information. I treat every case and every dog as an individual, assessing, evaluating, and re-evaluating as I move you along in the training process. I believe there is no “one size fits all” approach to addressing behavior issues in dogs, and I do not use a cookie cutter approach. My training is customized to each individual dog and that dog’s needs at a particular place in time. I also am able to use many methods. Systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning is one method which may be useful.
One effective way to communicate to your dog that a behavior is undesirable is to manage the dog to prevent the dog from “rehearsing” those behaviors, which “rehearsals” result in the dog becoming better at them; and to ignore those behaviors in preference of behaviors that are desirable to you. Ignoring undesirable behaviors while rewarding and reinforcing more appropriate ones communicates to your dog what it is you want. You will never be asked to or expected to do anything you feel is unpleasant to your dog. Sometimes simply withholding a reward can serve as a non-punishing, positive and powerful consequence for an undesirable behavior IF the dog has come to expect that more appropriate behaviors will be rewarded. Your dog will learn over time that you expect and reward specific behaviors in specific situations and contexts. Those behaviors, if reinforced, will eventually extinguish and replace the unwanted behaviors. At the point that your dog starts learning this, your dog is on his way to forming good behavior habits! Most forms of punishment of which people are aware can have serious fallout, including but not limited to fearful, confused dogs that don’t know how to react in specific situations and so respond inappropriately; and many forms of punishment may even result in the dog mentally “checking out.” Many forms of punishment often backfire, resulting in aggressively behaving dogs who feel that they need to protect themselves from the punishment; nervous, anxious dogs who may resort to obsessive-compulsive stereotypic behaviors in order to attempt to relieve the anxiety; and dogs who may short circuit in other unexpected ways, such as the dog perceiving the punishment attempts as a rough form of attention and play, and respond in a likewise rough, aggressive manner which the dog may think is play, and which may be matched to the magnitude of the intended punishment. Any such fallout from punishment may end up being a very dangerous situation and the effects on the dog may be very difficult and time consuming for a positive trainer to help you reverse.
I coach you to be the person who will humanely and effectively control all your dog’s desires and needs, and thus to effectively communicate with your dog as to how she’s supposed to behave. Ultimately, your dog will respond to your directives and cues because of the trust and bond that you’ve built with your dog through good, consistent training habits, which will build a strong foundation for your relationship with your dog. Regrettably, some people still believe the misconceptions and myths about dog behavior that, in the past, encouraged people to do foolish things such as scruff shake their dogs, “alpha” roll their dogs, eat before they fed their dogs, and feel as if they needed to walk through doors ahead of their dog with the misconception that doing so was supposed to show the dog that the humans were more highly ranked. Dominance rituals between dogs and humans are unnecessary, although ranking rituals DO exist between conspecifics (that is, between dogs and dogs or between their closest relatives, wolves and wolves), which is likely how these myths about humans and dogs got started in the first place. However, they don’t apply at all to humans and dogs. And, yes, dogs know that we humans are not dogs!
All you need to do is work out a few days and times which are convenient for you to meet with me. If they work for me, too, we make an appointment. When we agree on a mututally convenient day and time, you give me your valid credit card information which confirms and holds your appointment and to which I charge half your first hourly payment to me. Be aware that other people often call who want an appointment time which I’ve reserved for someone else, and taking your credit card information is my way of confirming any appointment and knowing that you’re serious about keeping it. However, when we meet, you pay the remainder (minimum of two appointments) by cash or check. The credit card is NOT used as payment in full for appointments and is taken primarily in order to cover my cancellation policies if need be, and to make sure the credit card you have given me is valid to keep an appointment (unfortunately, I have had a couple of instances where people gave me credit card information which was not valid). As long as you cancel an appointment with 48 hours notice or less (at least 24 hours notice is required), you will not be charged for half your lesson as long as you reschedule at the same time for that week when you cancel. and the payment for your first hour will be refunded, less a $10.00 processing fee, There is one exception: If I’ve sent you the history questionnaire, and you cancel your first appointment after I’ve sent it you, and don’t reschedule immediately for another day and the same amount of time for the lesson during that same week (subject to my availability as well) there will be a one-time $40 fee charged to your card for the processing and customizing of the questionnaire based on your intake call with me, and for my having sent it to you. Frequently, many questions in the history taking are customized and targeted to your specific needs depending on information I gathered from you in our telephone intake conversation when you first called me; therefore, I’ve already spent time on your situation after you’ve made an appointment in good faith, and before we’ve even met – thus, the fee. Also, the history questionnaire needs to be sent back to me with your responses at least two days (48 hours) before your first appointment. Failure to do so will result in my assumption that you have cancelled your appointment, and you will be charged the full hourly fee for your area, UNLESS you let me know at least 48 hours ahead that you would like to go over the history questions during your appointment time or intend to send me the responses closer to your appointment time. It is your responsibility to fill out and send the questionnaire back to me on time. I am unable to read questionnaire responses the day o f your appointment as I’m working. Once you’ve confirmed your appointment, in addition to the history questionnaire, I send you documents via e mail that need to be filled out before your first appointment such as a Training Agreement and Liability Waiver. It’s a straightforward, professional process and delineates everyone’s responsibilities in the training of your dog!
Your credit card information is secure. No one sees it but me, your Trainer. It does not appear on any of the paperwork I take with me to appointments, and at the end of your training time with me, whether it’s weeks or months later, I delete your credit card information in all my paperwork (although I keep the rest of the notes from each training appointment you had with me). If you’re committed to working with your dog and to keeping your appointments, then you need not be concerned. If you need to reschedule, as long as you do so with more than 48 hours notice to me and within the policies outlined here, there will be no charges made to your card. My procedure has been the same for several years and is the same for all my customers with no exceptions. While you may not be the person who may casually cancel an appointment, another person might be, and I need to have a policy in place for such eventualities. What I do is unique from some other service businesses in that I don’t know the people who intend to utilize my services until I actually meet them and get to know them better.
While I believe no one sets out intending to cancel an appointment, and no one has ever told me when they schedule an appointment that they intend to cancel it, my work is part of a very structured day time-wise, often covering a lot of miles. I do my best to schedule two or three appointments in or as close to the same areas on the same days, with one appointment after the other in those areas, in order to keep my travel costs as low as possible and thus my prices competitive; and also so I can accommodate as close to possible the hours during which customers want to meet with me for appointments without my having to take a lot of time traveling from place to place. While I can empathize with anyone else’s hectic schedule and their need to reschedule an appointment, years of being an educator, formally studying and having personal experience with the psychology of how people may behave, and working as a trainer who goes to peoples’ homes over a large service area have informed me that a cancellation policy is necessary. Occasionally and unfortunately, there are sometimes people who overbook their time and get in over their heads without meaning to; and others who may try to take advantage and hire a bunch of trainers, only to meet with the first one who’s able to meet with them earliest as one of their criteria for hiring a trainer (which, by the way, is NOT any criteria by which to hire a trainer). Some people shop price, and if they find someone with prices cheaper than mine, they’ll hire that person. Once some people hire that cheaper trainer, they cancel appointments with the rest like me who may have schedules as busy as they do because they ARE talented, reputable and in-demand trainers who couldn’t accommodate an appointment on extremely short notice. At the same time, when you make an appointment with me, you are assured that my time is not going to the highest bidder in my highest paying service area. Your appointment is secure. We don’t know each other when you make an appointment, and for some people it may be no big deal to cancel an appointment with a faceless person on the telephone. My procedures protect and respect everyone’s time, and doing things the way I do them keeps everyone honest. My cancellation policies are as follows: For any appointment canceled 24+ to 48 hours in advance, half my hourly fee quoted for your area will be charged to your card. For cancellations that are made with less than 24 hours notice to me, my full hourly fee for your area will be charged to your card. While I am sure no one ever makes an appointment with an intention to cancel, I treat everyone fairly and equally. Also, once I have sent you the history questionnaire, there is a $40.00 fee for which you will be responsible to me even if you cancel your appointment with more than 48 hours’ notice to me. Please don’t ask me to make exceptions to my policies. When you give me your credit card information, you are agreeing to the policies set forth on my Web site and which I e mail to everyone who makes an appointment with me the day they make the appointment.
Thank you for reading! I hope I have answered some questions about which you may have been wondering. If you think of an important question about my training methodology that you would like to see answered on my Web site, please submit it to me via this Web site with ‘Web site question’ in the subject line, and your name and general location along with the question, and you may see it posted and answered here, along with your information. Please feel free to view the rest of my Web site.
SPECIAL DONATION PROMOTION
Send me a question about your dog at AllExperts.com after reading my bio there. I answer questions in the categories of dog training and dog behavior (category #701). If your question is genuine and is appropriate for me to answer as per my bio and expertise, I will answer it. When I do answer it, rate me promptly (within three days of my response) and fairly. When you do, I randomly make donations to a cause related to your question, the minimum amount generally being $20.00! If it can be verified by AllExperts that your question is sent from an IP address in Palm Beach County, Florida between the months of December and April, then the donation I make will be more than $20.00 and up to $50.00! My work at AllExperts is strictly volunteer. I do not get paid for responding to questions at AllExperts. The donations are strictly private and are made from my own funds. I do this because I want to educate people about their dogs at the same time as helping animals in other ways. Please let your friends and family know! Asking me a question, if it gets answered, may even make a great gift for someone in the form of a donation! Please do not try to “prank” me by sending fake questions to me via AllExperts. The administrators there monitor the site and have access to all IP addresses, and if you agree to rate my response and don’t after I answer your question, your IP address may be blocked.
Last but not least, some dogs have problems with frequent ear infections. Here is a wonderful link if your dog has frequent ear infections or smelly, itchy black ears. Long-eared breeds such as Cocker spaniels may be prone to ear infections, but other breeds may have this problem as well:www.zimfamilycockers.com/EarCleaner.html
The information and concepts presented on this page and on this Web site are c. 2002-2012, Madeline S. Aronson-Friedman