Positive reinforcement for happy pups
It turns out that you can teach old dogs new tricks. Just ask Caitlin Lane, joint owner of Austin Dog Zone. A certified trainer and lifelong dog lover, Caitlin has made it her mission to improve the lives of dogs and their owners—at the expense of outdated myths.
At Austin Dog Zone, Caitlin says, “We’re constantly going to seminars and conferences to stay on top of the latest information proven by science, not going off old wives’ tales.”
Unlike traditional dog training, which tends to focus on an owner’s dominance and control over the dog, Austin Dog Zone’s training focuses on building dogs up. “You don’t have to hurt, maim, threaten, or intimidate your dog to get it to behave,” says Caitlin, who thinks that most dogs are smarter than their owners believe them to be. “We’re teaching them positive behaviors instead of saying, ‘No, no, bad!’”
Among the most common misbehaviors, or “dog hobbies,” as Caitlin fondly calls them, are poor leash-walking manners, jumping, and barking. “Dogs love to jump, bark, and pull on the leash. The most common things we work on are showing dogs how to have manners, impulse control, and self-control.”
Before the training process beings, Austin Dog Zone gauges the situation holistically to determine the most effective methods of training. During an intake evaluation, Caitlin asks dog owners about a dog’s medical history, day-to-day lifestyle, level of interaction and exercise, diet, and general wellbeing. “All of these factors come together to help the dog in a much greater way,” says Caitlin, who has been training dogs for more than seven years. “It’s not just on the surface, it’s actually much deeper.”
Though Austin Dog Zone offers both group and individual training, Caitlin recommends private training to pet owners seeking more immediate results. According to Caitlin, different dogs have different needs. “One dog might be fantastic in a group setting, while another might be less inclined to success around so much stimulation.”
An added benefit of private sessions is the opportunity for pet trainers to bond more deeply with the owners and pets. Group sessions last sixty minutes and run for six consecutive weeks. Owners bring their dogs and learn the skills for success. At the end of each class, owners are given handouts and specific assignments to practice with their pets and are additionally offered complimentary consultations via phone and email.
Throughout the process, Caitlin showers pets and their owners with helpful encouragement. “Positive-reinforcement-based training does wonders,” says Caitlin, who has noticed that the same methods employed to train dogs at Austin Dog Zone can also apply to cats—and even children!
If you work with Austin Dog Zone’s trainers, don’t be surprised if you discover that you’re learning as much as your pooch is. “I always have clients who have this light bulb-moment when they realize that I’m teaching them more than I’m teaching their dog,” Caitlin says. “But I think it’s really healthy for them to learn that on their own.”
To learn more about Austin Dog Zone, visit www.austindogzone.com or call 512-537-2364 (yes, that’s 512-537-A-DOG). Training is offered at Northwest Pet Hospital and Luxury Boarding, here in Georgetown on Williams Drive, or at the owner’s home by appointment. You can also contact Austin Dog Zone at www.austindogzone.com.