Bernie the Beagle taking a little training break at the Central Park.

Mission

Doggone Special's mission is to teach people how to better understand and communicate with their dogs using our humane, force-free dog training method so they can live in harmony and lead happier lives together.   

Training Philosophy

We believe to better prepare and train dogs to live with us, we need to have more empathy for them.  Our dogs have been brought into our homes and the human world  often with our expectation that they should know our rules and etiquette.  We may get annoyed or angry when they behave in ways that we don't like such as barking, jumping, chewing, mouthing, or digging.  It's important to recognize that these are very natural and normal dog behaviors.  From their perspective, they aren't doing something "wrong" or being "bad',  they are  just being DOGS!  With this in mind, punishing or reprimanding our dogs really isn't fair, especially when they don't speak our language and can't understand why we don't like certain behaviors they do.  This is why we adhere to positive reinforcement  dog training and behavior modification.  With positive reinforcement, we can get polite, well behaved dogs without resorting to punishment or coercion.

Dog being trained with positive reinforcement using a clicker as the marker. .

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement training is a compassionate reward-based method of dog training where we clearly communicate and provide feedback to our dogs about the behaviors we like.  We do not use any force, fear, or intimidation.  We use  a distinct sound, word, visual, or tactile gesture called a "Marker" to communicate with them. This tells our dogs "Hey, I like that you just did that."  Our feedback is in the form of a reward such as food, toys, play, or activities that our pups enjoy.  As soon as our dog does something that we like, we immediately communicate that we liked that behavior with our "Marker" then follow it up with a reward. 

 

This  is not only humane but it  is also a very effective way to get our dogs to do and continue to do behaviors we like.  Science tells us that the more a behavior is reinforced the more likely it will be repeated.  With positive reinforcement we keep our dogs engaged through a rewards based, reinforcement system that helps them stay focused and teaches them how to learn.  We watch as they try to figure out "What earned me that reward?".  This is fun for our dogs and for us!  The more we train behaviors with positive reinforcement the easier it is for our dogs to learn new behaviors. 

 

With positive reinforcement training, our dogs are not only making pleasant associations with the behaviors we like  but they are also making a pleasant association with our presence.  This is a wonderful way to build a relationship of trust and strong bonds with our dogs. 

Why Punishment is Risky

The alternative to positive reinforcement training is punishment.   Punishment consists of aversive techniques to get the learner (our dogs) not to do something.  Where it FAILS is that it does not reform behavior or teach our dogs what it is that we would like them to do.  Basically, when we are punishing our dogs they are not really learning from the punishment.  Instead, they are going into survival mode trying to avoid something stressful, scary, or painful.

 

Where punishment is risky is that it is designed to inflict at minimum something uncomfortable but more often than not something that can result in physical and/or emotional harm.  This causes our dogs to suffer and can have unintended, serious consequences. 

 

Punishment, force, intimidation, corrections, and fear tactics can lead to apathy, aggression, generalized fear, and escape / avoidance behaviors.  These dangerous side effects can manifest into our dogs not showing any interest in anything at all for fear of making a mistake because "it's just no use" (apathy), to growling, snarling, and biting (aggression).  Our dogs can become afraid of the person who inflicts the punishment.  They can even start to fear anything they may associate with that person, behavior, or situation connected with the aversive action such as a child who might also be in tha room; a bike, car, or another dog passing by; or another person or people who may resemble the punisher (generalized fear).  As a result of discipline techniques, our dogs may attempt to avoid, hide, or run away from the situation or the person with whom they regularly associate  with punishment (escape / avoidance behaviors).  Ultimately, they may give up and shut down. 

 

At Doggone Special we do not advocate nor do we use punishment or aversive techniques. They are not compassionate, too risky, and only work to suppress behavior.  They do not work to change behavior nor do they instruct our dogs on what it is that we want them to do. 

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