WOOFS! number one priority in our basic class is something we call Voluntary Attention (VA). Simply put, voluntary attention is the ability of the dog to pay attention to it’s handler in a distracting environment without the owner using the leash or constantly cueing to the dog to look at them. The idea is that we make it so reinforcing for the dog to pay attention to the owner that they do so voluntarily and with duration.
This underpins our training philosophy which is that the dog does not HAVE to do anything you ask. A well trained dog WANTS to do what you ask because there is a history of reinforcement behind the behavior. I don’t ever want to force a dog to listen or make them feel like they don’t have an option. Every dog I train has the option to do what I ask or not. It is my job as the trainer to get them to WANT to do it. We start with voluntary attention because if the dog doesn’t even want to pay attention to it’s handler how on earth are you ever going to get it to do anything else? You can’t train a dog that won’t work with you.
Once we have excellent voluntary attention we train the basics, sit, down stay, and come but my personal belief is that all most pet dogs really need is a solid recall and a solid down stay. That’s it. 2 commands. If you train these two things to fluency, meaning the dog will always do it no matter what else is going on, you actually have a really well trained dog. A dog in a down isnʼt jumping. A dog coming when called isnʼt running away. A dog in a down can wait for a door to open or a food bowl to be placed. A dog coming when called isnʼt chasing another dog etc.etc.
Of course all of my dogs know a lot more than this and in all of our classes we teach a few more commands as well. But, if you want to boil it right down to what you essentially need to get by in life itʼs voluntary attention, a come here, and a down stay.
When looking for a training class, look for a positive trainer. Absolutely no choke chains or prong collars. If they refuse to use food, run away. Also, experience counts and you get what you pay for. Most of all stay positive.