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We actually have a library in our facility. It is stocked with books and videos about dog training, dog behavior and everything related to dog care. We are always expanding our knowledge so we can improve our operations and the care for the dogs. We use a number of training programs for the staff, to teach them about dog behavior and managing a group of dogs. We are members of the Dog Gurus and IBPSA and use their training programs.

When looking at all these programs, it seems like there are three books that stand out as the foundation for a lot of the things we practice now: these books are ‘Don’t Shoot the Dog’, by Karen Pryor, “On Talking Terms with Dogs’, by Turid Rugaas, and “The Other End of the Leash’, by Dr. Patricia McConnell.

In the world of animal behavior and positive reinforcement training, 'Don't Shoot the Dog!' by Karen Pryor is a true gem. This groundbreaking book is more than just a manual; it's a philosophy and an approach that forms the cornerstone of how we manage and learn about dogs at our daycare.

We teach our staff about classical conditioning (Pavlov’s dogs, the ringing bell and the salivating dogs) and operant conditioning (B.F. Skinner; how specific consequences can become associated with a specific behavior). Conditioning happens all the time. How does it affect the dogs in our daycare? When some dogs are being picked out of the group, all the other dogs learn that their pet parent will come soon to pick them up. Classical conditioning at work. We try to reduce this kind of arousal by not having dogs coming and going all day, but keep our lobby closed in the middle of the day.

Or how about this scenario: Fluffy tends to get a bit carried away when playing, so the handler calls her over and is satisfied when Fluffy breaks away from the play. But if the handler keeps doing this, without reinforcing Fluffy’s recall, the dog will likely become less responsive to the recall, because the behavior is not being reinforced (with praise, or a toy). We say the behavior is being extinguished. By being aware of these scenarios, we can set the dogs up for success.

Old fashioned dog training often used punishment as a training tool. Punishment is anything that makes a behavior less likely to occur again, although it doesn’t let the dogs know what behavior to offer. 'Don't Shoot the Dog!’ encourages a shift away from punitive methods, emphasizing kindness, communication, and respect as the foundation of effective dog training.

At A Walk in the Park, the principles outlined in 'Don't Shoot the Dog!' are woven into the fabric of our daily operations. We understand that positive reinforcement, rather than harsh techniques, is the key to fostering well-behaved, content dogs. Here are a few ways we apply Karen Pryor's wisdom:

Positive Reinforcement: We believe in rewarding and encouraging the behaviors we want to see more of. This creates a harmonious environment where dogs are motivated to learn and interact positively.

Communication: Effective communication is essential, and 'Don't Shoot the Dog!' teaches us to be clear and consistent in our interactions with dogs. By respecting their needs and boundaries, we build trust and understanding.

Behavior Modification: The book guides us in employing positive reinforcement techniques to modify behaviors in a gentle, compassionate, and effective manner.

Enhanced Bonding: Pryor's insights help us strengthen the bond between handlers and dogs, nurturing a relationship built on mutual respect and trust.

Karen Pryor's 'Don't Shoot the Dog!' is more than just a book; it's a philosophy that resonates deeply with our approach to dog care. We are dedicated to providing an environment where your furry friends feel safe, understood, and cherished.

If you're interested in exploring the fascinating world of dog behavior and positive reinforcement training, we highly recommend adding 'Don't Shoot the Dog!' to your reading list. It's a powerful resource for anyone looking to deepen their connection with their dogs.

In the next few newsletters I will talk more about the other two books, until then, warmest regards,

Dirk and the Team at A Walk in the Park

Dirk Broersma