The Dog House
Wags to Wishes is located 100 418204 21st Street, Okotoks. We are about 4 km from the Chinook Honey Company, off 434 Ave.
- Karen Pryor Certified Trainer
- Certified Trick Dog Instructor - Silver Medal Trainer
- CGN Evaluator (CKC)
- Animal Behavior College Authorized Mentor Trainer
- Living and Learning with Animals Professional Course (Utah State University)
I am active in a wide variety of dog sports with multiple dogs.
- Sporting Scent Detection
- Barn Hunt
- Rally Obedience
- Therapy Dog and Paediatric Therapy Dog
I have experience in therapy dog testing and Canine Good Neighbour and am working on obtaining certification as a Barn Hunt Judge.
My goals in helping you train your dog are to:
- help you build a strong, positive and trusting relationship with your dog,
- help make training an enjoyable activity that you and your dog do because you want to, not just because you need to, and
- help you achieve your training goals whether they be simply to have a well behaved family pet, prepare your dog for a Therapy Dog or Canine Good Neighbour test, or engage in performance sports and other activities
I promote force-free, positive reinforcement based training techniques because they work - and because they support a strong and healthy bond between handler and dog without the risks associated with training techniques that involve coercion, punishment and force. Use of force-free, positive reinforcement techniques create a safe training environment for your dog. Training will become the best part of your dog's day and he will quickly learn to offer creative behaviours. He will become your enthusiastic partner in the training process. For more about positive reinforcement training refer to Clicker Training 101 on the resources page and check the links page.
Other reinforcers: in addition to food, there is a wide variety of other reinforcers available to us. Toys and play are great reinforcers if your dog enjoys them. Using toys as reinforcers may take longer - but there are many creative things you can do with toys that you cannot do with food.
Life rewards are things your dog wants to do - such as greet another dog, or chase a gopher. These things make great rewards when they are available at the right place and time - and when they are safe. Life rewards are more difficult to control so generally are not used as much in training classes, but they are very powerful reinforcers and when we can take advantage of them, they can be very effective in moving training forward.
Praise and petting may be reinforcers - but not all dogs find them sufficiently reinforcing to work around distractions, and for many dogs there is very little to no reinforcement value. (Be honest now, How long would you keep on working if your boss decided instead of a paycheck, you should simply be happy to work for the occasional pat on the back and a "nice work"?) We can increase the reinforcement value of praise by, when reinforcing with food, adding some verbal praise as you deliver the food. Praise takes on some of the value attached to the food. Praise is rarely as strong a reinforcer as food or tugging but it is something you always have at your disposal, so it is very worthwhile to build your dog's value for praise. Wait until after you have marked the behaviour and are in the process of delivering the reinforcer before adding the praise so as not to interfere with your dog's processing of the marker.
In classes, I encourage use of anything that your dog finds valuable (and is safe) - but food is the primary tool we use.
Why do we need to use reinforcers? Some trainers and owners feel that dogs should just want to work for their handlers - they should not need reinforcers. Indeed there are some breeds that have been bred to be highly attentive and responsive to handlers. However, this approach ignores basic and universal principles of behaviour that apply to all species: the consequences of behaviour affect future behaviour. Behaviour that is reinforced, increases. Reinforcers are all around us - some we control, some we cannot. Some are obvious, some are not. Sometimes something we think should be reinforcing to the dog isn't - and vice versa. If you feel your dog should just work for you without needing reinforcement, consider if you would continue to visit the grocery store if the shelves were always empty, or if you would continue to go to work if your paycheck never materialized. It might take a while if you have a long history of finding what you want at that store, but eventually you would likely stop going if you repeatedly found the shelves empty. And if your paycheck stopped coming, it likely wouldn't be long before you looked elsewhere for work. Finding the products we want / need and getting our paycheck are just two examples of everyday reinforcers that affect our behaviour - reinforcers are all around us.