Our ethos

Train with your brain, not pain!

At Happy Hounds, the foundations of our dog training principles are ‘Train with your brain, not pain.’  Our ethos is to create ‘Content Canines and Harmonious Homes‘  and we strongly believe that every dog, no matter their age, or breed, is capable of learning ‘new tricks!’

You won’t find any harsh, punishment-based training methods in our classes or 1-2-1 sessions.  We make training fun for you and your dog and only use humane dog training methods, which help strengthen the relationship you have with your dog.

We use kind, effective, reward-based training techniques and do not advocate the use of any methods that inflict pain or fear. Our training methods are based on the up-to-date, scientific principles of how dogs learn, also known as learning theory.

Learning theory – rewarding the good stuff to increase it happening

One of the foundations of learning theory is that when you reinforce (reward) your dog for doing something, they are more likely to repeat the behaviour.  If you do not reinforce the behaviour, it will stop or go away.  It sounds simple – and it is!  Reinforce more of the good stuff, prevent the bad stuff or train an alternative (acceptable) behaviour.

We may not realise it but we are training our dogs all the time. Dogs are like sponges – soaking up information and learning all the time – and often we don’t use this to our advantage. If you don’t pay attention to what you are teaching your dog (either on purpose or inadvertently), you may end up with a dog that you’ve trained to jump up at you, whine and nudge for attention, beg for food, or even run away from you when you call them!

Using food in training

We use food rewards in our training classes – especially when training new behaviours – and like to think of the food as doggy wages NOT treats.  We use the food to ‘pay’ our dogs when they have performed the desired behaviour.  If they don’t perform the desired behaviour, we withhold the ‘pay’ and then make the ‘job’ less difficult so that your dog can succeed and earn their ‘pay’.  See our Doggy Payscales leaflet, which explains this in more detail.

Most of us wouldn’t get up and go to work without some sort of pay and the same rings true for our dogs, and just as jobs in the human world pay different wages, the same is true in the dog kingdom.  The more complex or difficult the ‘job’ – the more a higher wage is needed.  You may find that the food reinforcers your dog works for at home, won’t work as effectively in a class environment (due to added distractions), so you will have to ‘pay’ a higher salary!

From a scientific perspective, food in training is often referred to as a primary reinforcer.  It’s primary because dogs (and us) need food to survive and the delivery of it, after performing the desired behaviour, is reinforcing – increasing the likelihood of the behaviour being repeated.  Don’t just take our word for it though, have a read of ‘The Proper Use of Food in Dog Training‘ by the Pet Professional Guild, which goes into more detail.

Contrary to popular belief, you will not be bribing your dog to do anything for you (the food is a consequence of the behaviour, not an inducement/bribe), or turning them into a ‘cookie monster.’  You don’t have to use food reinforcers forever, as  eventually you fade them out and reinforce your dog randomly rather than every time – ensuring that you still praise your dog for performing the desired behaviour.

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