Our Training Ethos
POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT/GAMES-BASED CONCEPT TRAINING: Here at ATG, we believe the bond between you and your dog is the most important part of dog training. Your partnership is based on mutual trust, loyalty, and reward; therefore, training should be FUN for both of you! So, we train through the power of games in a joyful, optimistic atmosphere! Our games-based training philosophy is backed by scientific studies--it's the science that gets real life results! We use a myriad of enrichment activities and positive reinforcement to train key concepts (calm, focus, impulse control, disengagement, optimism, proximity, etc) that develop and shape your dog's brain. In doing so, we prevent/eliminate the behaviors you don't want, and encourage/grow the behaviors you do want.
DITCH THE BOWL (Partially): ATG uses a concept known as "Contra-Free-Loading"; a behavior in which an organism, when offered a choice between “free” food or “work” food (requires effort to obtain), the organism prefers the food that requires effort. In many circumstances we try to use part of our dog's daily food allowance to play training games- so you don't have to worry about your dog gaining weight or getting sick from too many "training" treats. You aren't bribing your dog to listen, you’re in essence, paying them when they "work" for some of their food! Their daily food allowance, is a huge pot of value for your dog, with "Contra-Free-Loading" that value comes through and transfers to YOU! The experience with you becomes the reward, not the food itself! It's important to note, we don't ever condone only feeding your dog when they do something correct or keeping a dog "hungry" so they will be more food motivated to train, or even exclusively hand feeding your dog. We actually recommend giving some of their daily food allowance in a bowl so the dog is accustomed to eating out of a bowl incase circumstances require this (like vet stays or when someone is taking care of your dog for extended periods - training FOR the situation, see below). But, we also recommend feeding some meals with lick mats, stuffed kongs/toppls, Scatter feeding, slow feeders, etc. In addition, it's important to understand, we don't only reward with food! Anything your dog values, such as toys, tugs, activities, verbal praise, petting, etc, are all positive reinforcements we can use to "pay" our dog for their "work".
TRAIN ‘FOR’ THE SITUATION: ATG believes in training your dog "FOR” the situation rather than training “IN” the situation. "IN the situation" refers to those distracting environments where your dog may feel stressed and exhibit undesirable emotional responses. While this contrast may seem subtle, it is analogous to an athlete practicing training drills FOR competitions, before they ever perform IN competitions. Think "wax on- wax off", where the purpose is to create muscle and mind memory FOR the situation, which gradually advances to applying them IN the situation. By developing and refining your dog’s behavioral skills in low-stress, distraction-free environments through games based concept training, we are equipping you both to handle any situation. Choosing the right behaviors IN the situation becomes automatic.
TRAIN THE DOG (and owner) IN FRONT OF YOU: ATG understands that every dog is unique with their very own special personality. We also know that every owner has their own dog owning dreams, the reason they got their dog to begin with - their "powerful why". With this in mind, every individual game-plan is designed specifically to cultivate your dog's personality and to reach your personal vision for your relationship with your dog. Additionally, every group class is differentiated, meaning we tailor instruction within the class to meet your individual needs based on your level and goals.
POSITIVE IS NOT PERMISSIVE! At ATG, we believe that management is training, so we have several techniques to help you manage the environment to preclude your dog from rehearsing unwanted behaviors. A dog will do more of what it does every day, so our goal is to limit rehearsal of what you don't want through management, while we grow the behaviors you do want, through games. The games are designed layer by layer to set your dog up for success and to choose the right behavior at each level.
FORCE FREE: ATG doesn't use any aversive tools or compulsion in our training. Tools such prong collars, choke collars, eCollars (including stim collars) cause pain by design. They serve only as a bandaid, rather then addressing underlying reasons for behavior, and the long term fallout can be devastating to the dog and to public safety. We strongly believe desired behavior outcomes can be achieved by managing the dog's environment, focusing on its emotional and physical well-being, building trust, and reshaping the dog's brain through positive reinforcement and games (classical and operant conditioning) rather than utilizing aversive tools that are designed to cause pain to compel the dog to comply.
"Dogs always do the BEST they can with the EDUCATION they are given
in the ENVIRONMENT we expect them to perform in. " /Susan Garrett