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Practice Makes Progress

Methodology:
How Will We Learn?

The Big Picture

Fuzzles Dog Training considers both the dog and human as active learners that will be taught to better signal and communicate with each other. We are best suited for engaged pawrents that want to develop their relationship with their pup while having fun and spending time with them. 

Our methods are LIMA-compliant and can be considered R+ positive dog training. However, we also use a more conversational training style that increases the dog's agency and reduces unintentional stress.  Inspirations include Dr. Karen Overall's work on biofeedback, Leslie McDevitt's Control Unleashed series, Fear Free Pets, and the Resilience Rainbow framework created by Behavior Vets' Bobbie Bhambree and Dr. Kathy Murphy.

These additional pieces are particularly helpful for urban dogs, who are easily distracted and overstimulated. Living with a dog in the city hits different than anywhere else, so extra emphasis is put on teaching the human how to understand the dog's needs and emotional state at any given moment on top of standard dog training.

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"Pawrent" - A Value Statement

Fuzzles Dog Training does not refer to humans as owners, just as we don't refer to dogs as inanimate objects. While dogs have historically been bred and genetically selected for working purposes as tools, most modern urban dwelling dogs were brought into the home as companions to live alongside their humans for the sake of company and friendship, or to assist with personal medical needs. One standard trait humans have artificially selected for in dogs is friendliness towards humans, and many use endearing terms like "fur baby" and "puppy parent", which sound more like family than property. Dogs can't be turned off like a lamp, either! This can feel unfortunate when some other specifically selected traits (high energy output, boundless curiosity, prey drive) start to show themselves...in the apartment.

 

Our furry friends have very different behaviors, needs, and communication styles than people, yet we still want to love them like humans - which naturally leads to some miscommunication. The core principles of our training take this into consideration, both in values and methodology, so we can teach our dogs in a language they understand, and with the same compassion and understanding we'd give any close family member.

Not Just A Dog Trainer

Positive training is a journey humans and dogs take together - when hiring a dog trainer, the most valuable education goes to the pawrent, not the dog! As living, breathing creatures, our furry friends are always learning: they will continue to notice the consequences for their behavior, just as we do, so training is never suddenly "over". Even when trainers work directly with dog, success depends entirely on the pawrent being able to follow through with given guidance to maintain the behavior. Without this, the dog will naturally find what works for them in the new circumstances and adapt accordingly.

Years spent working with dogs and their humans in downtown Denver have given me experience addressing the unique adversities that come with dog life in urban environments. Although a proverbial Disneyland waits just outside the door, I've walked on foot through most of the city and have found creative locations to gradually increase distraction level and difficulty during practice. I'm accustomed to many common apartment layouts and creating management solutions tailored for smaller spaces, and have acquired a wealth of knowledge about fulfilling our dogs' enrichment needs inside, since park spaces can be limited or difficult for reactive dogs.

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At Fuzzles Dog Training, both the human and the dog are considered in training methods and protocols. What is the human's lifestyle that the dog will need the skills to fit into? What's their daily schedule, and what kind of training routine is realistic? Does the dog feel safe? Are cues not working because the dog needs more skill training, or because they're too distracted to hear them? 

Behavior is complex, even for your dog! It is the result of their genetics, learning history, environmental cues, physiological factors, emotional state, physical ability, and...I could go on. Trying to modify undesirable behavior by only considering the dog's physical response in a situation ignores so much information! It's like trying to figure out why the answer to a math question is wrong without ever looking at the equation, or only treating symptoms but never addressing the cause. 

Unfortunately, our dogs can't tell us that they snapped because they didn't sleep well last night and their stomach was throbbing before the other dog ran into them. They do give us a pretty good idea about how they feel overall, though! Tuning into a dog's behavior and body languages is one of the most valuable skills a pet parent can have., especially in the city. That extra step gives you the power to hear your dog and have a pretty solid idea of what's going on in their head. Who needs a doggy translator?

MANAGE

Prevent unwanted behavior from repeating using management tools such as gates, exercise, leashes, and adjusting daily routine as needed. Reduce fear, anxiety, and stress caused by the city through pattern games and enrichment.

TEACH

Lure-reward, capture, or shape specific behaviors and put them on cue. Develop strong, safe patterns that can be taken into a variety of situations. The foundation!

STRENGTHEN

Improve the dog's ability to respond in increasingly difficult or distracting situations. Incorporate new skills into daily routine in return for life rewards, IE Stay earns the opportunity to go through the door.

MAINTAIN

Use appropriate skills when the dog may perform unwanted behaviors to create a more acceptable pattern response. Establish a lifestyle of reliability, rewarding the dog for listening with everyday privileges such as dinner, walking out of the door, or a ball toss.

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LIMA: Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive

Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive, or LIMA for short, is a term used to describe trainers or behavior consultants that who use the least intrusive, minimally aversive strategies out of a set of humane and effective tactics likely to succeed in achieving a training or behavior change objective. This methodology is considered "best practice" by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), and the Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). 

IAABC Statement on LIMA

APDT Position Statements

CCPDT Statement on LIMA

In short, LIMA practices require trainers to be competent in cases they work and up-to-date on current research and literature in dog training. This requirement extends past just knowledge and goes into sub-skillsets such as reading body language, understanding how the dog perceives rewards and punishment, and separating personal bias from the current situation. Behavior consultants should use a consistent, systematic approach in assessing behaviors, their natural rewards, and how to reinforce alternative behaviors while following Susan Friedman's Humane Hierarchy.

LIMA practices help prevent pet dog abuse by removing the potential for inappropriate, poorly applied, and overly-restrictive management and confinement strategies. Potential side effects of punishment can include aggression, counter-aggression, suppressed behavior, increased anxiety and fear,  physical harm, a negative association with the pawrent/handler, increased unwanted behaviors, and new unwanted behaviors. Punishment-driven training styles remove choice and control from the learner and fail to account for the dog's individual nature, preferences, abilities, and need. Instead of focusing on punishing unwanted behaviors, LIMA methods instead hone in on what we do want the dog to do, giving a more guided, direct path to success, while incorporating the dog's individual needs and behaviors.

Listed below are further resources on LIMA for those who want to know more.

Statement from the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants

Positions for the Association of Professional Dog Trainers 

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  • I live in a building right next to all these other buildings, why can't I join?
    If you live in a condo building along Little Raven or Cherry Creek near Confluence, feel free to reach out and ask! The buildings included are where I have the most experience, but I'm certainly open to these buildings as well. If you live near these buildings and your apartment isn't listed, it's likely that you are across a major road or landmark. Union Station, 20th Street, and the Platte River create additional barriers that would add stress and time to my commute, which would raise prices.
  • What if I'm already working with another trainer?
    It's important to talk with your trainer before purchasing a membership to be sure it works with your current training plan. Walks will never include aversive tools or techniques, so traditional or balanced trainers are not a good fit with this membership. I will be reaching out to your trainer to see what the training plan and ongoing priorities are, and will work with them to determine how lesson credits would best be used. This may include activities such as handling a therapy dog during reactivity training, working through in-home desensitization, or being a high-value distraction. There is no option to purchase a membership without lesson credits.
  • How does scheduling walks work?
    Walk credits that are purchased with membership renewal expire after 45 days. Each credit is valid for a 30-minute walk, to be scheduled for M-F 9:30 AM - 3 PM, or Sat/Sun 10 AM - 3 PM. Credits are reserved for the upcoming week on Sunday according to a schedule that we discuss during signup, so it's preferred that any foreseen changes are communicated by then. Schedules may be changed at any time, assuming availability. If a walk is cancelled before 9AM on the same day, your credit remains unused and can be rescheduled for another day. Walks cancelled after 9AM on the same day will forfeit the reserved credit. Memberships may be paused for up to two weeks, delaying the renewal date as well as credit expiration dates by the same amount.
  • What/when are office hours?
    A minimum of four office hours will be scheduled and communicated weekly along with educational materials. Office hours are set aside just for members to call, text, or email with any questions or concerns about their dog's behavior. If I'm on a call with a member when you reach out, be sure you'll hear back from me soon!
  • What if I have two dogs?
    If one or multiple of your dogs displays heightened stress behaviors (extensive barking, howling, scratching at the door, escaping) that do not stop a minute or two after their sibling leaves, this membership is not a good fit for your household. It is not recommended to sacrifice one dog's well-being to train another. Membership walk credits are valid for a half-hour walk with a single dog at a time to allow for ample focus towards the environment and training goals. Multiple-dog households can purchase a membership for a single dog, multiple dogs, or use one membership's walk credits on multiple dogs, keeping in mind this reduces how many walks per week credits will be available for. Lesson credits cover households and can be used to work with any human or dog that spends a lot of time in your household. Dogs from other households will only be trained for situations that happen on your property.
  • Why are dogs with separation anxiety not a good fit for the membership?
    Separation anxiety is treated very differently than many other issues, done in short bursts by the dog's human over time. This is one situation where private coaching is inherently far more effective than with a day training format. Separation anxiety treatment always begins by confirming and securing a promise from the human that the dog will not be left alone longer than they can handle; I will not work with a case that will require me to frequently leave the dog in a highly stressed state of mind.
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