All dogs are individuals. Their expressed behaviors and personality traits are simply a product of their genetics and their environment; what’s in their DNA and how they are shaped by their surroundings as they develop. Though their behaviors and personality traits can be complex, the basic idea of nature and nurture being what defines an individual is what I base all of my training and behavior modification methodology from.
The closest I can come to describing my relationship with my dogs is as a parental figure. Not a boss, not a grandparent, not a best friend. I don’t believe in spoiling dogs (or kids for that matter) and I don’t believe my dog should do what I say, just because I barked an order. I believe the best type of relationship falls right in the middle of those two extremes with understanding and respect between both human and canine. Setting guidelines, routines, understanding what rewards are appealing to your dog, understanding their fears – those are all practices that dogs thrive on. This may be difficult for some to accept and/or understand and that’s okay. This is what works for me and what I’ve personally been able to build successful relationships from.
I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all narrative when it comes to training methods especially in behavior modification, most emphatically in aggression cases. Safety of the humans involved, (especially little humans) and safety of the dogs comes first, and unfortunately, in my experience, I am not of the belief system that utilizing one specific form of training can safely and effectively handle difficult behavior modification and aggression cases.
The bond between owner and animal to where a peaceful and happy existence is mutual. Again, I base this on all dogs being individuals and I find it critical to their happiness and your happiness in the relationship that you find what works best for your dog and your family. If that includes a training tool, a specific type of food, no food, no training tools, using tug, etc. and that’s what your dog responds best to, then that’s what we do. I don’t box myself into training labels such as Force Free, R+, Balanced, Alpha, and so on and so forth – any of them. Again, it is my personal belief system that each dog should be approached as an individual and the relationship should be cultivated on that guiding principle.
Aside from pre-labeled training methods, I do practice a specific training strategy known as LIMA – Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive. The concept of LIMA is to only do what is necessary to stop an undesirable behavior and replace it with a desired behavior. This specific type of strategy helps us put our human emotions aside and come at inter-species communication and guidance from a place of compassion. To sum it up analogically, the idea is why use a blow torch when a lighter will suffice?