Many people working professionally in the pet care industry have different letters or alphabet soup as I term it behind their names, in their email signature and on their business cards. There is a selection of colleges, online schools and professional workshops that will issue credentials to pet care professionals. These credentials vary and range from credentials for dog training, pet care and/or dog behavior counseling.
If you are thinking of becoming a pet care professional or opening your own pet care and dog training business it is important that you have a solid theoretical background in a selection of topics. You will need hours of hands on skill training for both dogs and humans and you will need to align yourself with an organization with supports your continued growth and has an invested interest in your success. A strong business mentor is a huge asset to any small business. You will also need a selection of business skills to support your operational skills. Marketing skills are crucial so you can strategically position your business and deliver your products and services to your clients. A basic understanding of business finance is also critical to the success of a small business, you need to make sound financial decisions and remain solvent.
One of the most important questions you must answer is whether you want to be a dog trainer, a behavior counselor, a pet care provider or a pet care expert who can offer a wide array of services across all three disciplines. As an individual thinking of moving into the pet care business this is a critical question as a huge number of your clients will require both dog training expertise and behavior counseling knowledge.
Dog Trainers can help their clients build dog obedience behavior repertoires. Training involves teaching a dog new skills such as teaching a ‘sit/stay’ to prevent the dog from begging at the table or teaching the dog to ‘come’ when the owner wants the dog to return to them. Behavior Counseling is when you work with a client to change an existing problematic behavior; you teach the dog an alternative response to a set of circumstances.
Many behavioral problems present themselves with some element of fear often exhibited as an emotional response such as anxiety, anger or frustration. Fear is a very normal “self protective” response for dogs. In order for dogs to survive they have to be good at adapting to and reacting to dangerous situations. Fear in dogs is either innate fear, which means it, has an evolutionary significance such as a fear of loud noises, strangers, isolation or fire or the fear is ontogenic with means it has been learned through experiences. Changing a problematic behavior, a conditioned emotional response requires an understanding of learning theory and a selection of behavior change protocols.
A national survey completed in 1996 by Goodloe and Borchelt found that fear is the common emotional factor motivating a dog’s behavior. Fear is elicited by a variety of unconditioned and conditioned stimuli like any other form of emotional arousal and reflex actions. This is one of the key reasons why aggression in dogs cannot be handled with aggression by humans. If the underlying factor of the dogs aggression is fear then being rough handed or using other methods that elicit fear in the dog only compound the problem.
The results of the survey conducted by Goodloe and Borchelt showed that from a pool of 2018 dogs,: 38% said their dogs showed some fear toward loud noises, 22% reported fear toward unfamiliar adults, 33% were fearful toward unfamiliar children and 14% exhibited fear toward unfamiliar and non threatening dog. Because of this if you are considering a career in dog training you need to look at options that educate you and support your growth as a dog trainer and a behavior counselor. Your clients will appreciate it and your bottom line will benefit.
Sign up for one of our individual webinars so you can begin to develop your behavior change skills
by Niki Tudge
The buying behavior of individuals is so complex that now business schools offer PHD’s in this subject. Buying behavior both pre and post the actual purchase is a fascinating study in psychology. The methodical buying process a client will go through before actually purchasing a service or product can be looked at in five stages. These five stages are not clearly separated and people do not always operate as methodically as this model suggests. But, most clients when deciding to purchase a new service or product do move in some way through one or all of these stages.
Understanding this client buying process will help you as a pet industry business owner design your educational marketing activities so they are effective in converting the “problem solver” prospect into a new client.
Think carefully about numbers 2 & 3. This is where all your marketing efforts should come into play. And come decision time, number 4, how easy is it for your clients to purchase from you once they have made the decision? It is important to eliminate all the potential purchase barriers. Amazon is a great example of a company that has removed all the barriers. It is so easy to part with money when just visiting their website; evidence of this can be found on many a credit card statement.
Whether your clients use all five stages of the buying process will depend on their actual buying situation.
During the buying process the following will also influence your prospects
In summary, understand your potential clients buying process given the different buying situations and how your prospects are influenced in these situations during their decision making process. This knowledge will help you develop effective marketing plans and sales activities.
Much of what we do in everyday life is all about choices. At any given moment we can work or we can do something more pleasurable, let’s say take our dogs for a walk. I can choose to do some work or train my dogs. I could then go to the beach or go to the store. I could food shop or go for a massage. I could deposit money in my bank account or buy a lottery ticket. I could train my dogs or schedule a session with a client.
There are a number of variables that exert control over my responding in these choice situations such as the reinforcement rate, the quality of the reinforcer, the reinforcement magnitude, and whether there is a delay with the reinforcement. For example if working at my computer (a powerful reinforcer for me) can be done now but scheduling an appointment with a client is not urgent then I will choice to work at my computer. If my client appointment has a deadline and I am due to get paid by them for 8 x one-hour lessons then I am more likely to schedule the appointment now as the reinforcement has greater magnitude or is qualitatively a more potent reinforcer even though it is delayed.
Choice situations arise when concurrent schedules of reinforcement are available in our environment. Training my dogs, visiting the spa, going to the beach, working at my computer, these all operate on their own schedule of reinforcement. But there is a choice between the response alternatives.
One phenomenon which was identified in laboratory studies using nonhumans is the “matching law.” The matching law theorizes that given two concurrently available response alternatives the relative rate of responding equals the relative rate of reinforcement. In other words if there are two response options and response option 1 provides two times the rate of reinforcement provided by option 2 then there will be two times the rate of responding on option 1 as appose to option 2.
A good human example is consider the possibility that you need to speak to a friend, and there are two telephone numbers available for this friend, home or cell. If in your experience you are twice as likely to get through to your friend on the cell number as you are on the home number then you are likely to call the cell number twice as often as you would the home number. This is matching law.
So how does this affect how we train our dogs? We have all heard of errorless learning, I like to think of it as guided learning. I believe we should offer our dogs, during acquisition of a new behavior, as much help and assistance as possible. The more often they get it right the more reinforcement they receive the more likely they are to choose that response in the future.
Let’s look at the “sit” behavior. In a training session we can “lure” or we can “capture” I always ask the question of our student trainers. How many “sits” can you lure and reinforce in 60 seconds? How many “sits” can you capture and reinforce in 60 seconds. More importantly when you are not offering guided learning in between your capture trials don’t be fooled into thinking your dog is not getting reinforced for sniffing, standing, moving, breathing, looking at you. Your dog is getting reinforcement from somewhere, elsewhere, everywhere. Yes a concurrent schedule!
Herrnstein, R.J. (1970). On the law of effect. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 13, 243–66.
How important is it to teach your canine companion what you would like them to do so that you can live a happy life together?
At DogNostics Career Center, we believe it is extremely important but what is even more essential is that you teach in a way that doesn’t cause any stress; that you teach in a way that is fun for both teacher and student; that you teach in such a way that each ‘lesson’ is easy to understand; that you teach in a way that not only encourages learning but enhances it and that you teach in a way that makes all learning feel like a game!
We also maintain that in order to successfully teach any companion animal, you need to understand animal learning theory – you need a good foundation of the knowledge and skills that underpin science based, rewards based, force-free training!
Whether you are looking to reduce unwanted behaviors; would love your pet to learn some cool tricks; need some effective management strategies; would like to expand your class curriculum or want to know how to teach your buddy to walk on a loose leash, the philosophy behind all of your interactions with the pets in your care should be the same: A philosophy based on our belief that we do not need to punish our companions in order for them to learn – a philosophy based on the latest scientific research!
We are not implying that you need to be a scientist in order to teach or care for a pet and we are not implying that you need to study all the latest literature. We are not even implying that you need to ‘master’ every single ‘positive’ training strategy that is available for you to use. We do, however, believe that you should have a foundation of knowledge and skills.
Misinformation abounds about the ‘best’ ways to ‘train’ a dog. The access to information has never been easier. Unfortunately, much of the information available isn’t based in fact and worst still, a lot of it could prove extremely detrimental to a pet’s physical and mental well-being and the relationship you share with each other. You only have to read some of the posts on Facebook, Instagram or any other social media to be inundated with ‘advice’ on how to deal with a specific problem or how to teach a specific behavior. Do a search on the internet and you will, without doubt, find the answer you are looking for or will you? You may think that you have the answer but, if you don’t have at least a basic understanding of learning theory, how will you know that the answer is the right one?
There are many ways to teach a behavior but not all of them are going to promote a healthy, happy bond for you and your canine companion. Not all of them are going to be in the pet’s best interest. What appears to be a ‘quick fix’ may be anything but when the consequences of your ‘teaching’ methods resurge at a later date.
Whether you are a pet dog guardian who is interested in learning how to teach your pet or you are a trainer who would like to improve your skills and knowledge and perhaps introduce a new ‘trick’ or 'manners’ program to your training curriculum, you should consider enrolling on the DogNostics Dog Training Certificate course. This is a comprehensive force-free dog training program that will give you the knowledge and the skill-set you need to teach your dog, or your clients, everything they need to know! The program is suitable for beginners, seasoned trainers and other pet industry professionals.
If you would like to continue your studies and become a Dog Behavior Consultant then the DogNostics Dog Behavior Practioner Program focuses on both the theory of dog training, associative and non-associative learning and the necessary mechanical skills to be a competent and ethical professional.
DogNostics also offers a host of individual programs to suit everyone's needs. Why not Learn to Speak Dog; become a Fun Scent Games Instructor; earn your TrickMeister Title; become a Certified Pet Care Technician, or simply sit down and watch an individual webinar?
The money you spend now will put you on the right path for all your learning and interactions with the pets in your care. It could even increase your business’s future revenue!
What is Conditioning?
Conditioning is a process of changing behavior.
Involuntary behaviors, also known as respondent behaviors, are elicited due to a person’s emotional reaction to a situation. In a process known as respondent conditioning (or classical conditioning), the presence of one stimulus begins to reliably predict the presence of a second stimulus. As a result, the association, through conditioning, starts to affect how a person responds emotionally to the first, eliciting stimulus. If the conditioning process is aversive, an initial pleasant or happy emotional response can change into a negative conditioned emotional response, such as fear or anxiety. It can work the other way around too, in that a negative emotional response can be changed to one of happiness and joy, i.e. a positive conditioned emotional response.
The wonderful thing about respondent conditioning is that when we grasp the scientific principles behind it, we can then use it in the workplace and our training lessons to modify a trainee’s behavior. We can counter-condition a problematic response to one that is more readily acceptable to all concerned
A Dog Training Method .........
There are always rumblings on social media about different dog training methods and their names and acronyms. Everyone seems to have comments and opinions on why one method is better than another. In some cases, in fact long Facebook threads, arguments breakout that become extremely aggressive and rude. Comments like
I am often asked what do I think? Do I approve of this method or that method? Well I never get pulled into these types of conversations or share my opinions and thoughts on one method versus another for a couple of simple reasons.
So, I just don’t do it, I don’t think we can make these kinds of general statements about a hypothetical dog training method because of reason x, y or z!
I remember one discussion about a method that had two different people passionately promoting it. Both individuals provided links to videos they had of their training in action. When I watched the videos of their actual training session and I functionally analyzed what was happening they were both very different. One was a -R protocol and one a +R protocol, yet both were promoting the training method as examples of great positive reinforcement training protocols.
So, to summarize. Rather than make general sweeping statements about one of the many training protocols is it not more accurate to observe a training session and functionally analyze what is happening. What is the targeted behavior, what are the consequences and how are they affecting the behavior and is the behavior as a direct result of the consequences increasing or decreasing. Then you can quietly decide if it’s a protocol you would choose to use in you practice.
If we are committed to implementing a quality training process to transform our workplace into one of purpose and productivity, then it makes sense to educate ourselves on how to be effective trainers. Equally, if we are really dedicated to training and transforming our employees in ways that benefit them personally and professionally, it makes sense to know as much about them as possible.
Human beings have, in general, an intrinsic desire to understand other people, their emotions, their thought processes, and thus, their actions. We no longer need to worry about being chased and killed by saber-toothed tigers and our survival no longer depends on our abilities to run fast, climb a tree or throw a spear. Instead, we survive “based on our abilities to detect the needs and intentions of those around us. Our primary environment has become other people.” (Cozolino, 2015, p. 13).
Because this is so important to us we tend to label people whenever we lack understanding. Understanding them, however, can help reduce the level of uncertainty we might feel about meeting and interacting with them. Our own uncertainties can cause us to make false assumptions about how our employees or trainees will react or behave towards us which, in turn, affects how we behave towards them. This is a damaging, dangerous and unnecessary cycle.
A key part of our effectiveness as trainers is being able to interact positively with our employees. This means we must present ourselves as accessible professionals and communicate appropriately with all team members.
When meeting new people, we perceive and interpret stimuli based on our sensory impressions. A cycle of perception and behavior follows and, if we get it wrong, can lead us to fundamentally misunderstand others’ motives, goals and actions. As individuals, we tend to apply identification rules to the moods, attitudes and intentions of others from the stimuli we receive. In other words, we stereotype. All of us do it to some extent. Once we have created these inaccuracies and drawn our own conclusions, we then expect others to behave in certain ways. This not only affects how we treat them but also how we communicate with them. Instead, we should be treating everyone with respect, fairness, integrity and – yes – interest. If we are to coach others effectively, we need to be invested in them as individuals, not just their goals.
The types of social behaviors dogs demonstrate can be broadly grouped into either
1. distance decreasing or distance increasing. A dog uses distance decreasing behaviors to promote approach, play and continued interaction. A lumbering soft gait, relaxed body and a relaxed face indicate the dog is encouraging interaction. Dogs who want to engage in play will demonstrate the ‘play bow,’ a posture where the dog bows the front of his/her body so that the front legs are parallel to the ground while the hindquarters remain in the standing position, the dog may offer you a paw, lean into you or rub against you.
2. Distance increasing signals vary and can be easily misread. The distance increasing signals we all seem to ‘get’ are when a dog stands upright making each part of their body appear as large as possible, weight on the front legs, upright tail, upright ears, piloerection (the hair on their back stands up), and the dog will bark or growl. We seem to instinctively react to these signals and take them as the warning they are.
The distance increasing signals that we commonly misinterpret are the more appeasing behaviors dogs demonstrate. Dogs use these appeasement behaviors to make friendly encounters more reliable and to help them pacify what they anticipate being a hostile encounter if escape is impossible for them. These behaviors are a nonaggressive way to ‘cut off’ conflict. When a dog displays these behaviors, we have to recognize that this is the dog’s way of showing us that they are unsure and a little scared.
You may see appeasement signals in one of two ways.
1. Passive Appeasement. Passive appeasement behaviors are easily misunderstood and are often labeled as ‘submissive.’ Dogs displaying passive appeasement will present themselves in a recumbent position exposing the underside of their body. The dog’s ears are typically back and down against the head and the tail is often tucked between the upper legs. Sometimes the dog will expel a small amount of urine while it waits for the attention to cease.
2. Active Appeasement. The active appeasement dog is often incorrectly labeled as ‘excited’ or ‘overly friendly.’ They will often approach you with the whole rear-end wagging in a “U” shape allowing both its face and genital area to be inspected and they may be desperate to jump up and ‘get in your face’.
For humans then, it is important when meeting and greeting dogs to be able to recognize if a dog is friendly and wanting to greet you or if the dog is experiencing stress or fear.
A conflicted dog will want to approach but is too scared or unsure of the outcome. Their body language will vacillate between displays of distance decreasing behaviors and distance increasing behaviors. Interacting with a dog that is conflicted can be risky. If you make a wrong move and the dog cannot avoid the approach then they may become aggressive. This is often the case with a fear biter. If a dog is demonstrating ambivalent, mixed signals then it is advisable to avoid sudden movements, and to allow the dog an escape route. Don’t force the meet and greet by moving toward the dog or having the dogs’ owner manipulate the dog toward you.
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