A while ago I attended dog behavior seminar / workshop hosted by Chirag Patel, from Domesticated Manners.
Chirag Patel is an animal behavior and training consultant working around London & Essex. He consults on problem behaviors by vet referral for pet owners as well as at wildlife parks. Chirag is a consultant for Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and The Kong Company, UK. He has a BSc (Hons) in Veterinary Sciences from the Royal Veterinary College and a Post Graduate Certificate in Clinical Animal Behavior from the University of Lincoln. Chirag also teaches internationally.
During the seminar, Chirag focused on debunking some popular dog training myths based on science and on how to effectively teach dogs in a force free way.
Dogs do not come with any contract or promise of how to behave. It is we humans that decide to take dogs into our homes. It is therefore up to us to teach them how to fit into our human environment.
Chirag uses scientific principles of learning to teach both the dog and us humans. He believes that training animals is about teaching in a way that builds trust, confidence and helps the learners (humans and animals) to succeed.
He emphasizes that we dog owners cannot know what our dogs are thinking. However, we can observe what they are doing. We cannot read their minds but we can read their behavior.
First, we must get rid of all labels. Dogs are not stubborn, lazy, naughty, or stupid. When we label dog, e.g. as aggressive, we change towards them. Instead, we must observe how the dog behaves, e.g. barks, growls, jumps, uses his tail, ears, etc.
We must analyze how the dog behaves and what happened before (antecedent) and after (consequence) any particular dog behavior. By understanding what causes our dog to behave certain way we can reinforce desirable behaviors.
Reinforcement is about increasing future frequency of behavior, while punishment is about decreasing future frequency of behavior. Reinforcement techniques are always more preferable as it teaches the dog what to do, i.e. if you do this you get a reward... which increases the likelihood of your dog doing it again in the future.
It makes perfect sense, right? If you got a nice reward for behaving in a certain way, would you not be likely to repeat that behavior in the future?
Chirag believes in setting the training up for a success by planning training sessions well in advance, i.e. you must know exactly what you want the dog to do before you start teaching him what to do. He believes in empowering the dog, by allowing the dog to feel in control, e.g. by allowing him to stop the training at any time.
We should all be able to identify with that. We learn better in an environment that we feel safe in and when we feel in control.
He believes that working WITH the dog will get the best results. Animal training is a about planning and patience... which is something all dog owners should be able to agree with.
It was an excellent seminar. Chirag Patel touched on many interesting things, including the Canine Ladder Of Aggression which includes common mistakes we dog owners do when dealing with dog aggression.