Our Training Philosophy 

dog obedience training

Years ago, virtually everyone trained dogs by the "yank and jerk" method.  The theory was that the dog would learn to avoid all behaviors that would be punished, resulting in a well-trained, compliant animal that would not challenge the pack leader.  This philosophy - although factually inaccurate - was widely accepted.


For many dogs, this approach led to some serious consequences.  Dogs trained  primarily by force and intimidation or other forms of negative reinforcement often tend to become timid and submissive with their owners, fail to develop confidence, become mistrusting, and most significant, may learn to fight back.  This "fighting back" can lead to more serious aggression directed toward the owner, or become generalized as a style (strategy) in resolving stress-related encounters with other people or dogs.









The advantages of PRT are many.  It gives the animal a more direct path to success by showing it what "to do," and perhaps most important, avoids the pitfalls of fear and intimidation often associated with punishment training.  It's also kinder and gentler, making the entire process more acceptable for most dog owners. 


But just as negative reinforcement training has consequences, the same holds true for "purely positive" training.  Rewarding desirable behavior works well so long as the reinforcement (reward) offered is enough to get the dog to respond not only when it wants to, but also when it has (doesn't want) to.   If the positive reward is "treats," the additional pitfall of dependence on the "reward" can lead to a dog that fails to perform without continuous reinforcement.




With over 30 years in the business of behavior modification, we at Common Scents understand the advantages and disadvantages of both positive and negative reinforcement training, and have developed a training philosophy which incorporates elements of both.  Based on the principle of establishing authority (benevolent leadership) rather than dominance (intimidation), we first build a positive foundation for desirable behavior through a system of positive rewards.  Next, we demonstrate how to maintain desirable behavior, while at the same time preventing the dog from becoming dependent on the reward.   Success is achieved by first demanding a specific level of performance for a reward ("raising the bar"), and then advancing to reinforcement on a random basis, where the expectation of a reward is ever present, even though the reward may not be.

On the other hand, the dog must

understand when he has failed to respond

appropriately or made a mistake. The

concept of “correction” or “consequence

for non-compliance” is necessary to create

reliability. At Common Scents, we ascribe to

the LIMA principle: least intrusive, minimally

aversive correction to communicate to the

dog that he has made an error. Once the dog

is back on track, positive reinforcement is

again used to reward the correct behavior.



This completes the picture for the dog, who

now learns to respond both when it wants to,

and when it has to.  The end product is a well-rounded pet that is confident, but also accepts the owner's authority without the attendant problems that both extremes of positive and negative enforcement training may create.


Want to know more?  Please feel free to call us!

dog obedience training

Enter operant conditioning.  Pioneered by Dr. B. F. Skinner in the 1930's, its value as a training approach both in and out of the laboratory became increasingly evident over the next four decades. 


Creating a foundation for  applying principles of learning to both humans and animals, operant conditioning  explained how to use positive reinforcement, rather than    punishment, to both reward desirable behavior and maintain a positive attitude in the subject.


The sequence of stimulus >  response > reinforcement was, early on, embraced by  many marine mammal trainers.

Karen Pryor finally brought the application of positive reinforcement training (PRT) for pets to the general public with the publication of the hallmark work "Don't Shoot the Dog," authored in 1984. Today, most enlightened trainers and    behaviorists have adopted this positive reinforcement strategy as a way of modifying behavior, and building a bond of trust between dog and owner. The concept of “alpha” has been replaced by the term “benevolent leader.”