Training Philosophy

How We Train

Because dog trainers are unregulated in the United States, we strive to be transparent about how we train, how it works, and why we train the way we do.

At Collaborative Canines, we use and teach reward-based training methods (also known as “dog-friendly”, “force-free”, or positive reinforcement training). Training with rewards is safe, effective, humane, and has been shown by a growing body of scientific evidence to be the best training method to support dogs’ welfare.
Positive reinforcement training is recommended by these professional organizations, and many others:
  • AVSAB (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior)
  • AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association)
  • PPG (Pet Professional Guild)
  • APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers)
  • IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants)
  • ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)
Our methods are based on the science of how animals learn. Namely, we utilize operant and classical conditioning to elicit positive change in a dog’s behavior. We also emphasize antecedent arrangements (changing the dog’s environment) when appropriate, as well as making sure that a dog’s physical health and needs for exercise and enrichment are being met. To learn more, see the FAQ section below, or contact us.

Frequently Asked Questions

Positive reinforcement training means giving dogs rewards to teach them to perform more of the behaviors we want. Unwanted behaviors are reduced by rewarding the dog for doing something else, or by simply withholding or removing rewards after an undesired response.

Positive training emphasizes using rewards – things the dog likes and will adapt their behavior to earn more of. It excludes the use of aversives – things the dog dislikes and works to avoid or escape from, such as choke collars, prong collars, shock collars, and other devices that function via the application and/or the threat of physical discomfort.

  • Positive training is genuine fun for dogs! Your dog will love training, will love interacting with you, and will be eager to do what you ask them to.
  • Positive training is completely pain-free. Instead of using fear or discomfort to motivate, positive training uses food, praise, and play, leading to a happy, confident, sociable dog.
  • Positive training carries no risk of causing increased fear or aggression, and it is safe for anyone to use positive techniques to train their dog.
  • Positive training is associated with better training outcomes, better welfare for dogs, and fewer reported behavior problems.

Yes! Positive reinforcement training works for dogs of all ages, breeds, sizes, and personalities. 

It’s a common myth that positive training equates to letting the dog do whatever they please – which is quite far from reality. The truth is, there is no shortage of ways that we can set boundaries and expectations for dogs using positive, force-free methods.

For example, we can stop most misbehavior by teaching dogs an alternative behavior and reinforcing the new behavior instead. We can also prevent many unwanted behaviors by changing your dog’s environment to help them make better choices, or by making sure your dog’s mental and physical needs are being met. Certain unwanted behaviors can also be stopped by a well-timed removal of access to fun or reinforcement, otherwise known as a timeout.

Scientists have actually looked at whether praise alone can be used to train dogs. The answer seems to be, not all that well. It’s up to dogs to decide what they find reinforcing or not, and food happens to be very high on most dogs’ lists of preferred rewards. Food is easy and quick to deliver, and it is easy to take with you anywhere you might go with your dog. Plus, your dog has to eat anyways, so those calories might as well be put to good use! When using food to train is truly not practical or advisable for health or other reasons, we will explore using play, praise and other non-food rewards.

We find that even for dogs who aren’t very food-motivated, the solution is usually just a matter of finding the right kind of treats, being mindful about feeding times, and other simple workarounds. Trainer Kate LaSala of Rescued By Training has a wonderful blog post on the topic here.