Our Training Methods
We train animals utilizing Operant Conditioning. This method was developed in the 1950’s and is based on consequences following a behavior. This method is used throughout the zoological community to train a variety of species- reptiles, fish, birds, and mammals. Operant conditioning uses good and bad consequences; however we will focus solely on the good consequences, also known as "positive reinforcement". This method may sometimes take longer for an animal to learn, but it allows them to learn at their own pace, and true learning actually occurs. This is what enables the animal to maintain the behavior memory much longer than other methods. We strive to make learning fun, because animals who have fun want actually want to participate in the training and learn. We also want to educate you, the owner. We will teach you the necessary operant conditioning techniques to be successful. We will not train your dog for you; you will be training your dog with our guidance.
The ABC's Of Learning
Operant conditioning requires an Antecedent to elicit a Behavior that prompts a Consequence for future learning. Good consequences (rewards) usually teach repetition, bad consequences usually teach avoidance. While this may sound complicated, it’s actually quite simple. As we teach the various behaviors, your dog will receive a reward (a good consequence) for each successful behavior. Over time your dog will learn it’s exciting to do this behavior because it receives a reward (a yummy treat or playtime with favorite toy). How fun is that? Your dog will soon learn to think “What can I do get my human to reward me?” This learning process is why operant conditioning is unique and highly successful for not only dog training, but any animal, even people. Communication is also key to operant conditioning. We will describe the tools to correctly mark a behavior, which tells your dog it has done something correctly and a reward is on the way. Think of it as a universal communication device that tells every type of animal the same thing- Yes, that’s it! By building a positive relationship through effective communication, you will be a successful trainer!
The Animal Behavior Management Alliance, (ABMA) is a not-for-profit corporation with a membership comprised of animal care professionals and other individuals interested in enhancing animal care through training and enrichment. Heather is also past president of the ABMA!
Heather & Trelle with Karen Pryor
Dr. Sophia Yin
Patricia McConnell, Ph.D
Susan P. Friedman, Ph.D.
Dr. Ian Dunbar, Ph.D.
We are all full members of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and adhere to their position statement LIMA (Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive) approach to behavior modification and training . Further information on this may be found on the APDT website.
Heather & Trelle with Bob Bailey
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