At Seattle Family Dog Training we use a relationship-based method that taps into the "pack" hierarchical instinct that all dogs have. For long-term effects on your dog's behavior you first have to convince your dog of their "job description". They need to believe that you are the leader and they are the follower. In our program, we don't use food or toys as primary training tools. Instead, we use verbal and physical praise to acknowledge appropriate behavior and we use a leash and collar to direct the dog and we provide a quick light pop on the collar to identify and correct inappropriate behavior.
The reason we don't use food and toys as primary training tools, for dogs over 7 months old, to artificially reward our dogs is because we want to train our dogs in the way that they train each other into the rules of the "pack". Dogs don't flip food treats to one another to train new pack members or even playmates; instead, they interact socially, using vocalization, body language, and physical contact to approve of appropriate behavior and to disapprove of inappropriate behavior. Our method uses techniques that draw on the social interaction that dogs naturally use with one another. There's no need to be concerned though, we won't have you growling at your dog or trying to grab them by the scruff of the neck with your teeth. While we're trying, as much as we can, to tap into the communications styles that dogs use with one another, we also understand that we simply don't have the speed, quickness or power to interact with dogs exactly as they do. Instead, we try to interact in ways that approximate the broader ideas of a dog’s natural communication style.
Relationship First, Then Basic Skills & Then Policies
Once a proper leadership relationship has been developed, we work with clients to teach their dogs basic skills. Some of these skills have to do with functional obedience but some skills are even more foundational than "sit" and "down". Many dogs need active coaching to increase foundational skills like; a sustained attention span, as well as the ability to "recover from stimulation" when there are changes in the environment. After some basic skills work, we can begin setting a consistent set of rules or "policies" to live by. Many clients are surprised to find out that many of these “policies” also apply to them. That is, clients develop an “agreement” with their dog which involves consistent behavior from the human as well. For example, we can do a lot of things that convince our dog that we're in charge, but if we sometimes praise our dog for jumping up on us and sometimes get upset for the same behavior then he will become confused and unpredictable.
Private Lessons to Train the Human
We don't do the traditional group classes that you may have seen at your local community center or nearby pet store. Our program is done in private lessons at your location. We don't do the group classes with untrained dogs for two reasons. First, because we use a relationship based method we must train you to train your dog and that requires our undivided attention on you. In our private lessons, we teach you how to: read your dog's body language, how to communicate clearly with them, and to think "one step ahead of them" so that you can respond with the appropriate timing that is required. Second, the group class environment is far too distracting for untrained dogs. We want you to eventually be able to have your dog in a very high distraction environment but starting them in that environment (i.e. a group class with 10 other dogs) is not setting your dog up for success. It's a little like taking your child to a birthday party and trying to teach them math for the first time. We prefer to take your dog and you through successively increasing distractions that lead gradually to being able to focus on what you want them to do while at the park or the pic-nic or a "group class".