Dog Training FAQ
Most frequent questions and answers
Gray House is based in West York, PA; however, all of my training is done in my clients’ homes. I travel all about south central PA, from Hanover to Gettysburg, Harrisburg, and Lancaster. I will typically travel up to 50 miles from West York, PA. If you’re not sure whether you are located within my travel area, you can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or my contact form by clicking the button below.
Operant conditioning is a four-quadrant system of learning that I use to communicate with dogs and provide clarity to their lives. Specifically, operant conditioning is a system that influences the behavior of your dog.
Each of the four methods of operant conditioning are defined by two questions: “Do we want to increase (reinforce) or decrease (correct) a particular behavior?” and “Do we need to give (positive) or take away (negative) something from the dog to increase or decrease that behavior?”
By using a combination of these four approaches in a way that appeals to your individual dog, I can communicate with your dog clearly, making it easier for your dog to learn what you are asking of it, and building your dog’s trust and respect in you as its owner.
You’ll hear this a lot from me – dogs are like kids. In the classroom, some children learn best through visual representation like graphs, pictures, and videos. Some learn best through reading and discussion. And other still learn best through direct application like test questions and experiments.
Your dog is no different. Some dogs can and do thrive on a positive-only learning experience. But there are many dogs that cannot learn through positive reinforcement alone. They cannot obtain full clarity through only being rewarded for good behavior.
Additionally, by definition, positive reinforcement cannot decrease the frequency of a behavior. Yes, you can distract and redirect a dog to behave differently in a given circumstance using positive reinforcement. You can also decrease the frequency of a bad behavior using negative punishment. But if you want to protect your dog and those around it from dangerous behaviors, you need to ensure that behavior is no longer an option for your dog. Positive reinforcement cannot do this. Incorporating positive reinforcement with the other quadrants of operant conditioning can and will when applied properly.
This is why at Gray House I evaluate your dog’s personality to determine what the best balance of the quadrants is needed to provide the most clarity to your dog’s life.
Positive-only training (also known as -P, purely positive (PP), or force-free) is the idea that applied punishment has no place in dog training. It states that causing discomfort or otherwise negative experiences for a dog during training only enhances bad behaviors and cannot teach the dog anything. It also states that this discomfort or negative experience is unethical for trainers to enact on dogs. These trainers claim that positive experiences can achieve the same results. In essence, positive-only trainers limit themselves to the use of only positive reinforcement.
While positive reinforcement has a very important role in dog training, there are issues with limiting or completely avoiding the use of the other quadrants of operant conditioning. Most notably, by definition, positive-only trainers cannot stop bad behaviors. They can create new behaviors and manage existing ones, but it is impossible to 100% inhibit and eliminate bad behaviors using only positive (add to the dog) reinforcement (increase the frequency of a behavior). No matter how much you try to encourage an alternative behavior in response to a trigger; if you do not tell the dog that the bad behavior is unacceptable, that behavior will always be an option for the dog in the future. This leads to unpredictable behavior that can result in injury to the dog and those around it.
At Gray House, I don’t just train dogs, I educate and train their people. I do not provide board and train programs, which allow trainers to take a dog for weeks at a time, train the dog to the satisfaction of the owner, and return the dog afterward. Although there is value in this approach to training, Gray House believes that part of the training process should always incorporate strengthening the foundation of the dog/owner relationship. This means building your dog’s trust and respect in you, which is best done during the training process itself.
I provide you the knowledge practice to use operant conditioning methods and tools in a way your dog will understand, allowing you to accomplish your training goals as a family. I establish a structure of learning for you to follow, protocols to implement during your daily life, exercises to practice daily with your dog, that together will shift your dog’s mindset and help him/her to be more focused, obedient, calm, trusting, and respectful to you and the world around you. With my guidance and your dedication, your dog will become a loving part of the family.
In order for me to determine the best methods to use with your dog to accomplish your goals, I will start with an in-home consultation. Consultations typically last about an hour, during which time we’ll discuss your training goals and observe your dog’s personality and behavior. I will give you recommendations on how to proceed, including what methods and tools I will use and how many sessions I believe you’ll need to see proper results. Finally, I will provide you a customized package quote for your training, fill out a contract of services, and set up a payment plan.
I offer training packages that are customized to the individual client. I do categorize our packages into tiers depending on the needs of your dog: Tier I is recommended for puppies and basic obedience work; Tier II is offered for advanced obedience and non-aggressive behavioral issues like anxiety-based destructive behavior; Tier III is reserved for dogs with aggression issues. Each package includes all necessary dog training equipment (such as clickers, elevated cots beds, slip leads, etc.), training resource materials, and a set number of free follow-up sessions