A well-trained dog is super-duper important, as anyone who has witnessed a poorly behaved canine can tell you. It’s important for safety, it’s important for social interactions, it’s important for health — and though it’s not necessary for your dog to have a college degree in tricks and on-command behaviors, you, your dog and everyone that interacts with your dog will live much healthier and safer lives if you practice continual training throughout their lives. So, in a previous podcast, we interviewed Jamie Migdal, Amanda Hessel, Kim Butler, and Jenn Merritt who are all experts in dog training. Each of them shared their own insights, experiences, technology, and resources with us on modern pet training. Without further-a-doo, we will start with what Jamie shared with us and emphasize her point, training begins with us, the pet parent.
Start with Yourself
As I’m sure you know, pretty much everything you could ever want is available online — you can find a YouTube video to teach yourself how to do almost anything basic. Unfortunately, we can’t set our dogs up in front of the laptop and say, “Okay, sweetie-pie, watch this video a few times and the trick, okay buddy? And I’ll be back in half n’ hour to see how you’ve done and I’ll have a treat if you can show me your new trick!” Yeah, it just doesn’t work that way. Dog training is an interactive, real-time, in-person thing and there is no replacement for that human-canine bond that happens during at home training, or sessions and classes with a professional trainer.
Jamie stressed the first step in training your dog is to evaluate your knowledge on dog behavior. If you don’t understand your dog, how your dog thinks, and what motivates him or her, you’re setting yourself up for frustration and failure. The latest and greatest apps and devices won’t do you much good if you don’t know how to use them properly. There’s also the chance you can accidently teach bad or unwanted behaviors if you’re not careful. So start with yourself. Learn as much as you can about canine behavior and hire a professional dog trainer (if you can) to help you get started in training your beloved pet.
To help you get started in learning more about canine behavior and training your pet, Jamie started a wonderful company called FetchFind. FetchFind holds several online resources and e-learning courses on canine behavior, how they learn, how they evolved, and other geeky dog related subjects. The best part about these resources is that most of the content tailored to pet parents is free.
If you’re pet parent who happens to be involved in one of the 125,000 pet care businesses in the United States, then FetchFind is a must for you, as it provides an easy to use e-learning platform that contains over 80 courses to help you run a quality pet care business. The platform is mobile friendly, the courses are promised to be entertaining, and you can train your whole staff for a small subscription fee of $59 a month.
Alright, back to dog training. We asked Jamie what gadgets, apps, and websites are out there to help us train our pets and she responded that there aren’t too many devices that are actually helpful in training our pets than there are resources for help educating us on training our pets and dog behavior. However, she did mention a few devices she found particularly helpful in training a dog as well as a couple of devices to avoid.
One of the devices she mentioned, that you probably may already know about, is a basic clicker. Hey, it’s mechanical and it works if used properly. You can also find apps that mimic the clicker too. Then there’s one of Jamie’s favorite apps Sue Sternberg’s Dog Park Assistant. This app gives you access to knowledge about dog behaviors, helps you understand your dog’s play style, and can arrange safer dog playmates to meet up with at dog parks. Unfortunately for you android folks out there, this app is only available for ios for a $1. Jamie shared briefly two other devices she really liked which were Pet Tutor, which we will get into detail in our recap with Amanda, and PupPod a fun training puzzle game shaped like a classic Kong toy to entertain and engage your pet.
Devices Jamie warned us to avoid would be shock collars and, depending on the circumstance, vibrating and sound cue collars. Shock collars can mess with dogs’ minds and can cause them to distrust their pet parents and can even emotionally scar them. E-collars that vibrate or give sound cues can be a great tool for training, but should only be used with a dog professional. Most pet parents out there don’t understand the importance of timing, and when to use reinforcement and punishment. In the end, they’re likely to accidentally train their dog unwanted behaviors or just confuse the poor thing.
We asked Amanda on the show why positive reinforcement really is the best modern approach to dog training. Amanda responded that it’s the only method that really has the least amount of side effects. Punishment, though it can be effective, it usually brings out more side effects such as fear and distrust. Positive reinforcement can usually keep the pet and pet parent happy by building comfort and trust, without the paranoia of harsh consequences. It causes your pet to want to behave properly rather than long to behave a certain way but scared to do so. For the science behind positive reinforcement, Amanda referred us to Burrhus Frederic Skinner, the psychologist who dubbed the concept of operant conditioning.
Technology in Training Importance
With new technology practically oozing out of every corner in this modern age, it was bound to seep into dog training at some time. Amanda briefly went over the importance of how technology effects dog training. First, she shared that it helps us record a lot of data about our pet’s behavior. We can record videos of how our pets behave while we’re away and analyze how often they sleep, eat, bark, and roam about. Second, we can take ourselves, the pet parents, out of the positive reinforcement training. Where we can reward our pets for good behavior through devices even when we’re not physically present with the dog. This allows our furkids to understand that they should behave even when we’re not around.
The Pet Tutor is a treat/food dispenser that can help you communicate with your pet, through positive reinforcement, acceptable behaviors. The device is shaped like a Quaker Oats box and you fill it up with your dog’s favorite food or treat. As long as the food is not drippy, it can be dispensed, so some moist foods can work. Each time you press the button on Pet Tutor, it will dispense a few treats for your dog. You can even press a button through an app that connects to the device via Bluetooth. You can store Pet Tutor by attaching it to a crate so that it can dispense directly into the crate. Pet Tutor can be stored to drop treats in a bowl. It can be stored high above so it rains down treats on your dog like manna from heaven.
The Pet Tutor came into being by Wes Anderson and Amanda Hessel. Both Amanda and Wes wanted to create a product that was kind and humane and would be an alternative to punishment. They wanted the product to be able to reward from a distance and do so without being terrifying and loud while doing so. Working with professional dog trainers, the two learned a lot about what kind of product they wanted to create for pet parents and dog trainers. She stated a lot of ideas started with “Wouldn’t it be great?”, which quite frankly, she stated, got them a little carried away. Eventually, they developed the product to what they wanted it to be and what their market wanted it to be.
There are a few apps associated with Pet Tutor. The first app is pretty much a remote. It allows you to press a button to dispense a treat. It also gives you access to settings that control how often treats are dispensed without you pressing a button. The second app helps reinforce silence by rewarding your dog when he or she is quiet. It can even keep track how often your dog barks when you’re not around. However, the app must be running near the device, so leave the iPad at home folks. The other apps come from other companies working with Pet Tutor to help improve their products. PupPod is one such company that works with the Pet Tutor to dispense treats when a dog completes a challenge with the PupPod. The Smart Animal Training Systems made Pet Tutor an open architecture for other companies to work with because they’re a firm believer the industry should work together to bring solutions to pet parents with pet problems.
Training Success Story
Amanda shared a personal success story with her Great Dane, Walter, using Pet Tutor. Walter was a foster failure who Amanda adopted. His life started with a tragedy where he was rescued from being locked in a basement for a long period of time that he ended up being carried out as a skeleton. When Amanda took Walter into her care, he was not well potty trained and had some separation anxiety. Immediately she began training him to go in a crate using Pet Tutor. It took her six months to get him to stay in the crate for an hour compared to the 1 to 2 minutes when she first got him. The poor thing. Through constant training and patience, Amanda managed to get Walter to currently stay in the crate for about a 3-hour period of time.
Good Dog in A Box
Good Dog in a Box is a monthly subscription service that offers training tools and resources that help you train your dog. What you can expect in each box is monthly training modules that contain exercises and information, about dog body language, teaching basic commands, and material to help your dog become a well-behaved family member.
When visiting Good Dog in a box’s website you’ll come across 2 programs each with their own subscription. The first program focuses on teaching children how to be safe around their dog and other dogs they encounter, as well as get them involved in training their dog. The second program focuses on dogs that suffer from anxiety, whether it be separation or traveling. Overall the focus of these programs is to get pet parents tools for dealing with different training issues.
The training exercises in each box are actually more like games and they guide you through the program. Each month you get a new training tool such as a T-harness or a Kong, and the training exercises teach you how to use the tool. Not only does Good Dog in a Box send you these training exercises and resources but they give you access to them online. Online you can also gain access to videos with Jenn and her dogs going over the exercises. Best of all they made an app! It is called the hydrate app that gives you access to training videos along with other extra features such as managing your dog’s health records and keeping track of your dog’s appointments.
Jenn Merritt has been a professional dog trainer for over 12 years. Her training solely relies on positive reinforcement training and Kim Butler and Jenn have been trying to figure out how to educate people about positive reinforcement training. People have done books and training cards and they couldn’t really come up with anything that would get people excited about learning and training their dog. About almost two years ago Kim was speaking at a conference and caught on a keynote another presenter mentioned, which was subscription box. Almost instantly Kim mentioned she knew a possible way to encourage and help family’s train their pets in a fun exciting way. She teamed up with Jenn, and the two created Good Dog in a Box which focuses on educating families to share the responsibility of training their dogs within their families and trying to avoid families giving up on their pet and sending them back to the shelter.
Welcome Home Video Series
Kim and Jenn recently launched a web video series called Welcome Home. The video series is completely free and guides new pet parents through the first two weeks after adopting a dog. Since the first two weeks are critical in setting up good behavior habits in routines in a household, Jenn guides you through a video each day on different exercises to work on such as house-training, feeding schedules, and tools you’ll need to go out and buy for your new pet. The primary focus of the series is to set new pet parents down the right path of being responsible pet parents and avoid returning the animal to the shelter.
You can also find the SAFE Dog Bite Prevention Program on Good Dog in a Box’s website. The goal of this program is to keep children safe around dogs by teaching them simple things they can do such as stay calm and not doing things to the dog that can be risky. The program is free and offers fun things for your kids such as posters and things to color.
Good Dog in a Box also incorporated Pokemon Go into their kid-friendly program. It teaches your kids how to be safe while playing the game and interacting with their dog. You can find several illustrations and videos that demonstrate safe behavior in an exciting and fun way.
To wrap up we would like to thank the wonderful ladies we had on the show and provide you a list of links to help you get started on training your dog and learning more about their behavior. Take care, pet lovers and we’ll see you in the next rewind post.