Curriculum

The Canine Training Institute teaches puppies and adult dogs based on proven methods of all-positive training.

click on the links to see each course description and schedule

Dog Obedience – Manners (our most popular course!)

Junior High

Tricks and Games

Bully Babies

The following article, written by HSSCM behaviorist Lois Phelps, describes our method:

What is Positive Training?
by Lois Phelps, CPDT-KA

If you’ve been involved with your dog, or just watching Animal Planet, anytime in the past 10 years, you have been exposed to the terms “positive training”, “positive reinforcement”, “lure and reward training”…all synonyms for a scientifically based and peer reviewed method of training mammals (yes, mammals, not just dogs!). The basic concept is to 1) wait until your mammal does something you want it to do, then reward it or 2) lure your mammal into doing what you want it to do and reward the subsequent behavior. The purpose of the reward, coming immediately after the behavior you want, reinforces the probability that your mammal will repeat the behavior on its’ own…to obtain more rewards. (Think slot machines, or treating yourself to a piece of chocolate after vacuuming the living room.)

While walking my dogs on the Linear Park, I do recall (or come) exercises to reinforce their behavior of returning to me when asked. I call, they return, they (sometimes) get a piece of chicken, and then they’re released to go sniff again. A jogger stopped and exclaimed “You’re bribing them!” and I responded “why not? It works!” I am positively reinforcing a wanted behavior.

When people talk about positive training to 21st Century Americans, we become confused because in our culture we have assigned moral values to the word ‘positive’ and ‘negative’. Positive is good, negative is bad. In the world of Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning and Behavior Modification (in which positive training resides), ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ have a mathematical meaning, not a moral one. Positive means “+”…we add something; negative means “-“… we take something away (remember first grade, learning to add and subtract??).

In today’s world of dog training, Positive Trainers primarily use “positive reinforcement” and “negative punishment”. For example:
Positive Reinforcement: We call Fido Come; Fido comes; we reward the behavior. Command, action, reward are all done to encourage repetition of the wanted behavior.
Negative Punishment: We come into the room, Fido jumps on us to solicit our attention, and we turn around giving Fido no attention. When he stops jumping to demand our attention, then we give it. We subtracted the reward (our attention) because of the unwanted behavior and returned the reward only when the behavior ceased.

Positive trainers rarely use Positive Punishment or Negative Reinforcement, e.g., leash pops, hanging by leash, alpha rolls, hitting with any implement including hands, etc. Studies have shown all mammals (from humans to dogs, to dolphins) have a better chance of learning correct behavior, and of choosing to repeat correct behavior, when they are treated respectfully in the educational/training process Training in such a positive manner reinforces the relationship between trainer and student…and that is why the majority of dog trainers in Southwest Michigan are positive trainers.

Two recent books on using positive training methods with your pets are Terry Ryan’s “The Toolbox for Building a Great Family Dog” and Dr. Sophia Yin’s “How to Behave so Your Dog Behaves.” Both are available on the Internet (and possibly locally). As always, this Humane Society and many local trainers are available to assist.