CCH Dog Training Manifesto
In plain English
Canine Community Heroes (CCH) training programs are designed to mutually benefit dogs and their people through the development of meaningful partnerships. All of our training activities are designed to enhance the success of future service dogs and therapy dogs in the community. The good news is that what we do to train working dogs is good for all dogs. Whether the goal is to participate together in work, recreation, or family life, we achieve success through modern approaches by teaching dogs and their people to work together as partners.
CCH upholds high standards of humane treatment to all dogs and uses methods that are based on current scientific research. CCH is committed to providing a safe and enjoyable training experience for all. We train dogs by rewarding desired behaviors, improving the emotional state of the dog, setting dogs up for success, and excluding the use of physical punishment and psychological intimidation. We do not use or allow the use of choke collars, prong collars, electronic shock collars, spray collars, and any other method or device meant to inflict pain or fear in the dog. If you are new to the concept of training without punishment we encourage you to explore more information at https://www.petprofessionalguild.com
A dog job means that the dog has a purposeful activity that is satisfying. Without input from people, dogs will typically create their own jobs such as barking at the doorbell, running the perimeter of their yard, and chasing uninvited animals from the yard. Life itself requires a purpose and even dogs need something meaningful to do. Training dogs as work partners, rather than just recipients of obedience commands, elevates the role that your dog will have with you. The training is very similar to team building exercises that are common in some work places. Dog and Handler work together to communicate effectively, support each other’s challenges, and achieve a goal together. Yes, it is more fun to do team building with a dog! It makes dog training a useful and enjoyable experience for both of you while learning skills that apply to real-life.
The CCH training model aims to meet the training needs of family dogs, future working dogs, and people with various abilities. In contrast to organizations whose training model is to fully train pre-selected dogs to be placed with their handlers, the dogs who come to us are beloved family members who are being trained by their owner-handlers. We do not disqualify (aka “wash-out”) dogs that are deemed unsuitable for work in public. All partnerships are valued at CCH and given the opportunity for continued growth and support. Our clientele are as varied as the dogs. They include future dog-handlers who are individuals with special needs, military veterans, parents, children, teachers, counselors, and care providers who will be using their own dogs for compassionate purposes. We honor each partnership’s accomplishments while maintaining high standards of practice for dogs that will be working in public areas.
A common goal in dog training is to implement behaviors in dogs that are more desirable such as sitting during a greeting instead of jumping on guests. Two prominent training methods to achieve that goal are to either punish jumping or reward sitting during the greeting. Both strategies have the potential to successfully change the outward behavior from jumping to sitting. In addition, the dog will associate the learning experience with an emotion. It is likely that the jumping punishment will produce a negative emotion such as fear and the sitting reward will produce a positive emotion such as pleasure. Although both methods may result in the behavior outcome to “sit during greetings”, a positive or negative experience can impact other types of learning.
The emotional state of the dog will determine how the dog perceives many types of experiences. The positive or negative experience has the ability to instill certain learned traits in dogs. Using the example above, the punished dog may perceive all people greetings as a negative experience and as a result become anti-social toward people whereas, the rewarded dog may perceive people greetings as positive and become friendly toward people. The emotions that are associated with a dog’s experiences has the potential to become a learned trait that impacts how the dog will act around people and the places and things that people do.
For dogs who are being trained for significant roles with people, it is important that their learning experiences promote emotional stability. A negative emotion such as fear has the potential to be associated with many common situations in our society. We see examples all the time of dogs that have unintentionally developed fears of children, strangers, unknown objects, and common noises because they perceived those experiences as scary. It doesn’t necessarily need to be overt punishment that causes the perception. Something as simple as a tone of voice or confinement away from people can impact emotional stability. By helping dogs experience positive emotions with everyday occurrences we can help them develop confidence and emotional stability.
The high risk of negative emotions to permanently impact learning in dogs is the primary reason why we do not use any forms of punishment and intimidation. Quick fixes such as choke collars and other types of equipment and methods meant to overpower the dog will change the outward behavior however it is not worth the underlying emotional devastation. A dog who is experiencing fear and stress while near people is especially at high risk for striking out unexpectedly. The amount of obedience training has no impact on a fearful dog. The stress will hijack the dog’s ability to think and the emotional reaction is similar to a reflex. Dog bites and other aggressive reactions are not usually a well thought out plan by the dog. It is a reaction to a perceived threat and designed by nature to be a protective mechanism.
The Use of Treats in the Training Program
We think of treats as our interpreter or middle language. It is very typical for dogs and people to misunderstand each other. Food is by far the easiest, most humane, fun, and quickest way to help people communicate with their dogs. Treats can be used to say “yes, that’s what I wanted you to do” or “see that silly kid on the bike, it’s nothing to be worried about”. Treats can also be used to help a dog develop confidence by following the treat up a ramp for the first time or to become comfortable when the dog sees a flag flapping in the wind. Treats can be used to teach a dog how to respond to certain human words such as “sit” and “stay”. Dogs who refuse the treat also communicate to us that the experience is too difficult and needs to be changed. The most successful use of treats is to develop traits that will make dog’s lives with people fulfilling. We effectively use treats to promote skills for dogs to be friendly around people, confident in unpredictable situations, motivated to do a job, safe around children and other dogs, and reliable when taken into the community.
Phasing Out the Use of Treats
All these reasons to use treats and you’re probably thinking “how is my dog going to function when I don’t have a treat?” The answer is quite simply, that like an interpreter you won’t need it once you and your dog are able to communicate successfully. Using treats is a very effective means to learning but it is not the end all. It requires excellent timing and the ability to recognize when a dog is ready to progress. Professional dog trainers who are knowledgeable in learning theory and animal behavior are able to coach owners when it’s time to transfer treats to spoken words, verbal praise, and other communication means.
Another important component to dog training is the other end of the leash, that is, you! How you communicate and respond to your dog will be the primary means to your dog’s learning experiences and later as a functioning team. Let’s face it, dogs don’t speak human and people don’t speak dog. The obvious challenge is communication. Our goal is to limit misunderstandings and build an effective means for dog-human interactions. Dog handler education is about teaching you how to read your dog’s body signals and to be understood by your dog.
Puppies are at a very sensitive time in their developing young life. What puppies learn will have a greater impact than what they learn at any other time in their life. “One and done” is a term we use that means that you can give a young pup a single positive experience and they will remember it for the rest of their life. Puppies do not require the same amount of effort and repetition as older dogs. What a puppy learns or doesn’t learn during those early weeks of life will lay the foundation for the future. Our preferred time frame to begin a puppy’s training career is 8-10 weeks of age; however we recognize that older puppies and adolescent dogs have the potential to benefit from early training too. For more detailed information about training puppies, check out our Puppy Training page.
Training should take advantage of the many opportunities for dogs and people to learn multiple skills together. Simply learning dog commands that are common in traditional obedience classes can be very limiting. Our team building approach to dog training takes advantage of obstacle courses, props, field trips into the community, and activities that teach dogs to enjoy the lifestyle of their human families. Canine Community Heroes offers a unique dog training experience that develops a healthy partnership between dog and handler for work, recreation, or family life.