Abundant Life Dog Training
Allows Dogs To Enjoy Life ~ Empowers Them To Be Their Best

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Introduction

How do you tell a dog that he guessed wrong?


By reinforcing him when he guesses right!

~ Andrea Dugan ~


Champion Hawk du Josar

'Thunder Paws'


Abundant Life Dog Training empowers dogs to be their best as companions as well as competitive partners.  With my training methods, dogs are always emotionally balanced allowing them to learn quickly and perform accurately. 


Dogs have been in my life for over 60 years, and in that time, I have been a student, a competitor, and a teacher. My dogs have been my companions, competitive partners, my protectors and my life helpers, but most of all, my teachers. I learn something from each dog I come in contact with and am an advocate for humane training.  



No dog should be the subject of verbal or physical corrections.   


All Learning Is Based On Science

Thanks to Pavlov we know the science behind Classical Conditioning.  Because of Skinner, we know the science behind Operant Conditioning.  No matter how you decide to train your dog, you are using one of the following:


Positive Reinforcement (+R) - Good stuff is added to the dog’s environment. This increases the chance that response will be offered again. (Treats, toys, enjoyable interactions with you.)
Negative Reinforcement (-R) - Good stuff is removed from the dog’s environment. This decreases the chance that behavior will be offered again. (Removal or withholding treats, toys, and interactions with you.)
Positive Punishment (+P) - Things dogs want to avoid are added to their environment. This often causes a sense of anxiety or distress in the dog. (Collar corrections, being yelled at.  +P also includes offering him something he doesn't like ~ pickles, lemons)
Negative Punishment (-P) - Things dogs want to avoid are removed from their environment. The dog often feels a sense of relief. (Not being corrected by a yank on the collar or not being yelled at.)

Some trainers call themselves positive reinforcement trainers and use punishment when the dog is wrong.  I am a non-aversive positive reinforcement trainer.  I give the dog something he finds reinforcing when he meets my criteria and do not use physical or verbal corrections of any kind if he does not.  Why?  Because ...

Dogs base their responses solely on:

~ The information we give them.
~ The opportunities to rehearse the response until it becomes habit.
~ Proofing their response to insure they are confident in distracting situations.
~ Making it reinforcing enough for them to want to offer the response again.

Playing Canine Russian Roulette

If you use traditional training methods (compulsion-based), every time you give your dog a cue he is playing Russian roulette.  If his response is not what you want, BANG!  He gets a correction.  Now, you have put him into a position where he must play a guessing game.  What was that for?  What did I do?


Was it because I was startled and looked to see if I was safe?
Was it because I moved my right foot or because I dropped my head to get up, was that it?
Was it because I moved because I was uncomfortable?
Was my sit too slow?  Was my down too fast?

Understanding How To Communicate With Your Dog

By learning as much as I could about what is behind the beautiful eyes of dogs, discovering and implementing the laws of learning, and studying the science behind training, I developed a unique dog training program that is extremely effective, and I have been using it with my dogs and teaching it to my student's for almost 40 years.  We have all had amazing results. Since there is a language barrier, I create a new and distinct one that we learn together.  My dog stays emotionally balanced instead of getting frustrated because he cannot figure out the information I gave him.  Skills are taught with hand signals first.  This eliminates all social pressure on the dog.  Verbal cues are added only when my dog is responding reliably and meets my criteria for the targeted response.


Giving The Dog His Freedom
My dog is free to offer any response he thinks will earn reinforcement.  By refining my criteria, he refines his responses until we have the targeted response.  

My dog’s response to a verbal, signal, or object cue is solely based on my abilities to:


  • Effectively teach him the desired response.
  • Allow him to rehearse it until it has become habit.
  • Proof it so he is confident of what to do under many circumstances. 
  • Be consistent and reliable when presenting the signal or verbal cue. 


If I have not done all of that, how can he respond correctly?  He would be punished because of my poor teaching.  And if after all of that, he still doesn't offer the desired response, then I go back to the drawing board and figure out a better way to explain it to him.  

How my dog responds to my questions provides me with extremely valuable information. If he offers a behavior other than what I am looking for, that behavior often has a stronger positive reinforcement history. Since he is only performing a behavior that he thinks will earn reinforcement, the onus is on me to figure out what I did that caused him to answer my question that way.  I need to figure out a better way to ask the question, so he is correct the next time.


Having a dog that does not respond at all is very different than offering the incorrect response. Two of the reasons why a dog does not respond are:


  1.  Something in the environment is affecting their emotional balance.  They are in survival mode.
  2. They are so distracted by something in the environment that the signal/cue was not salient?

They offer incorrect responses because:

  1. They really do not know what response to offer to that signal/cue.
  2. They are confused in what we are asking them to do.
  3. We have mutated the signal/cue so much they no longer see it as a signal/cue.
  4. They have not been given enough opportunities to rehearse the response until it has become habit.
  5. The response has not been proofed.  
  6. They are not confident what to offer around distracting circumstances.


And the list goes on and on.

Wildland's Indiana Jones

Canadian TDX


My dogs and I have competed and earned numerous titles in:


  • Agility - AAC, USDAA, NADAC
  • Conformation - AKC/CKC 
  • Herding - AKC/CKC 
  • Obedience - AKC/CKC/UKC/WKC 
  • Rally - AKC/CKC/WRCL 
  • Schutzhund - USA
  • Tracking - CKC/AKC
  • Trick Dog - AKC/DMWYD

My dogs have passed their Canine Good Citizen, Virtual Home Manners, the American Temperament Test as well as being registered Therapy Dogs.  Indiana received the JET Award of Merit for heroism from the Belgian Sheepdog Club Of America.
Dogs have been my best teachers.  Each one has taught me something different about them, about dogs, and about training.  However, I have also learned from some of the best of the best in their specific sport.  The following are just a few:

Chris Bach - Click to see her 199 in Utility B - Multiple OTCh & 200's  
Elicia Calhoun - Click to see her and Tobi - Elicia is a 5 time National Champion, and 3 time World Champion.
Jo Gauthier -  National, and World Agility Competitor (Canada)
Lucie Desserault - National and World Agility Competitor (Canada)
Kathy Sdao - Marine Mammal Trainer 
Michelle Pouliot - Canine Musical Freestyle 

These are just a few of the many wonderful dog trainers and competitors that have influenced my training and philosophy.
Workshops

I present workshops across the US and Canada in the following.  Each workshop includes Problem Solving And Proofing. ($250 per day + travel expenses)

AGILITY
  • Introduction To Obstacles
  • The Course - Reading And Strategy
  • Advanced Handling And Strategy

TRACKING
  • Training For A TD And TDX

OBEDIENCE/RALLY
  • Developing A Strong Foundation
  • Novice Thru Utility/Rally Novice Thru Excellent

Help Me Cope! - A Unique Approach For Emotionally Unbalanced Dogs
  • Turning A Trigger Into A Cue
  • Understanding Drives And Sensitivities
  • Program Planning

Workbooks


COMMUNICATING WITH DOGS
(Released 1/22) Click here to buy it.  
Some topics include:
  • Understanding The Science Behind Teaching Dogs
  • Techniques To Teach And Communicate
  • Building A Reliable Cue System
  • The Science Of Choosing Cues And Signals
  • Teaching Foundation Skills
  • Understanding Focal Points
  • The 'What If ...' Theory
  • Proofing & Problem Solving

DOGS IN NEED OF EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
  • Understanding Emotional Instability
  • Teaching Foundation Behaviors
  • Using Reinforcement Appropriately
  • Developing A Game Plan

AGILITY (Out of print)
  • Introduction To Obstacles
  • Obedience For Agility
  • Handling Skills
  • Course Strategy

TRACKING (Out of print)
  • Training For A TDX

RALLY-ON (Out of print)
  • Negotiating The Signs
  • Handling Skills

THERAPY/SERVICE DOGS (Out of print)
  • Training Skills
  • Proper Interaction With Clients

I have written articles for Front & Finish magazine for over 10 years, and had numerous articles published in UKC Bloodlines as well as various breed-specific magazines.  The topics ranged from competing in Agility, Obedience, Tracking, and Rally to understanding and working with dogs who are emotionally affected by their environment.