Rx Pharmdog training does not incorporate
negative reinforcement methods to train assistance dogs.
Rather than focusing on physical correctionoperant conditioning & classical conditioning methods are used to
and rote memory techniques commonly used to train dogs,
incorporate the dog’s mind and emotions
into the learning process.
The ABC’s of Learning
A = Association: First associations are always the most powerful because they imprint information onto a
dog’s blank slate, forming a clear relationship between one thing and another. Associations can be good or bad.
You want your dog to have as many good ones as possible
B = Bonding: Bonding is an important connection to developing a foundation of trust between a handler and
his dog. Bonding instills comfort and familiarity in a relationship, giving us the security we need to feel safe and
trusting. Communication is enhanced once a bond is formed.
C = Consistency: Is the key to learning a new behavior quickly and efficiently. Being consistent builds
strong associations that help accelerate learning, making your job as a trainer more enjoyable while giving your
dog and you a sense of accomplishment. Strong associations develop when a pattern is formed as the result of
S = Synchronization: Behavior is contagious! Synchronization allows you to set the tone for which you
and your dog will work. Model the behavior you want to bring out in your dog, and the dog will follow by example.
If you wish to get your dog aroused, be aroused yourself, if you wish for him to settle down, settle down yourself.
The SMARTEST Training Methods
S is for Shaping: Shape behaviors into patterns that you want to instill in your dog.
M is for Modeling: Dogs can learn from example. This is a fun and interactive way to teach.
A is for Association Training: You wait for dog to perform the activity instead of initiating it
yourself, then you attach a voice command to it to make it a skill.
R is for Reflex Training: While not used much, being able to cause a reflex to occur with your
dog can sometimes be used to teach a command by association. Something to keep in mind.
T is for Targeting: Used for teaching new skills only. Not for everyday activities.
Use commands not hands.
E is for Errors: Marking errors during training with the “Nope” correction is an interaction that
encourages the dog to problem solve, and enhances communication.
S is for Successes: Successes are marked with an enthusiastic “YES!” for emotional
reinforcement, and immediately followed by a treat. Marking the second of success for the dog.
Embedding information into the dogs psyche with a heightened emotional response enhances
memory and learning.
T is for Timing: Timing is everything. Dogs learn in the moment. Your timing in marking a
desired behavior is critical for the dog to recognize the connection. The better your timing the quicker
Understanding DOG Mind
D is for Dog Whisperer: Dogs speak through their body language, and sometimes with their voices.
Physical and visual signals such as tail position, hair raised on a dog’s back, eye contact, nudging, destructive
behaviors, fearfulness, avoidance, excitement, and audio signals such as barking, and whining, are all forms of
canine communication. Learning to identify and understand your dog’s communication cues, helps you be a
better communicator when interacting with your canine student, and gives you greater control of your dog. The
dog, in turn, will better communicate with you as it begins to recognize and understand your communication cues
as well. Communication should be, and is, a 2 way street.
O is for Overnight Learning: Theories on this subject suggest that we tend to forget incorrect
associations faster then correct ones. Sorting out the things that brought reward or success from those that did
not, helps to reinforce our willingness to continue learning. Ending training sessions on a positive note is
important, because it stimulates your canine student to eagerly engage in the lessons they are learning from day
to day, making training an enjoyable and rewarding experience for both student and mentor.
G is for Gross to Refinement: We start by teaching “gross” motor skills. Rather then asking for
perfection. Our goal is to first teach the basic idea to the dog, and expect the dog to progress in small increments.
Once the dog understands a command, we then refine the skill and fine tune it, so the dog becomes more precise
and reliable at performing the task.
How TRAINING works best
T is for Trigger Thinking: A Dog’s role often requires it to engage in activities that require problem
solving skills on the part of the dog. For example, if a ball rolled under your desk and landed in an awkward spot.
The dog should find a way to retrieve it with little more then a few encouraging words from you. Although we do
not train our dogs to think. We do engage them in the thinking process by encouraging them to draw upon their
natural ability to problem solve. Our dogs are not robotic. Their usefulness is a result of their versatility. It is not
your job to do it for your dog, your job is to be patient, and engage the dog to figure out what it needs to do in
order to get the reward.
R is for Restraint vs. Resistance: No one, including your dog, likes to be pushed or pulled
around. Not physically or emotionally. Pulling a dog around by its collar is like a cancer on the partnership. It is
unfair to the dog and does not give the dog any opportunity to think, learn to cooperate, or problem solve. It is in
fact, a short cut dog handlers use to satisfy their own need to see instant results from their dog. Given the
opportunity, Your Dog will cooperate but first he must learn how.
A is for Affective [Emotionality]: While we humans wallow in our emotions, dogs don’t spend much
time in these moments. They act on their emotions immediately and thoughtlessly. A dog’s reaction escalates
when a situation is emotionally charged. Behaviors can become more intense and “magnified” in the dog.
Whether it is fear or excitement driving a reaction, the more emotionally charged the event is, the more it will
reinforce a withdrawal, or cooperation behavior.
I is for Individualize [Personality]: The ABC’s of the SMARTEST DOG TRAINING recognizes, and
takes seriously, the individuality of both dog and handler. For example, if a passive, introverted person has an
assertive, extrovert dog, the dog will not be in sync with its partner and the relationship will be stressful,
unless the handler understands the dog's personality and learns to work with it, instead of against it.
Example of Personality Types: Driver / Analytical / Expressive / Amiable
N is for Nature needs Challenge: Dogs will challenge you. It’s nature’s survival test. Challenges
always test your weakest areas. Challenges from your dog should be a wake up call for you to evaluate your
leadership skills. Learn from them. Look at the issue, not at the dog. As your relationship continues to evolve
with your dog, you will be faced with new challenges. It is part of the pack mentality that is inherit in your dog.
There are 2 types of challenges. Those that are “Passive” meaning they are subtle and disguised,
And those that are “Active” or obvious, and straight forward.
I is for Inverted U: Stress comes in two forms. There is good stress Eustress which is positive,
encouraging, and pleasurable. It motivates us to reach the peak of our performances. Drives us to reach
positive states of arousal, and activates our brains and bodies to respond in a way that motivates us to engage
ourselves in the learning process. Motor skills are learned and sharpened best with the right balance of
Eustress. The second form of stress comes in the form of Distress. Which is negative, confusing, and
leads to resistance or submission through fear, pain and/or discomfort. Cooperation is gained through
desperation, instead of through motivational methods. Stress is increased or decreased according to our
approach and interpretation of any given situation. While Eustress persuades us to focus on reaching our
fullest potential, Distress dissuades us and causes anxiety in learning.
N is for Narrow or Broaden Attentional Focus: What a dog hears, smells, sees or tastes,
is broad when they are low aroused. They can experience the environment in a relaxed state, without focusing
on just one thing. As arousal increases, however, the dog’s attentional focus begins to narrow. They filter out
things around them, and begin to focus on what is important. This attentional focus is useful when training and
handling your dog. But if the attentional focus of your dog narrows in on a cat, the opposite is true. The only thing
useful here is your ability to redirect the dog’s attention on to you, and narrow his focus enough for him to exhibit
self-restraint and self-control.
G is for Generalization: Once your dog has learned a skill, he must learn to do it anywhere, on any
surface, and with environmental distractions. The dog must generalize commands to respond well in public
places like the dog park or when taking a walk in the neighborhood.
In environments with distractions such as food (scent), other animals (sight), unfamiliar sounds (hearing), and a
multitude of other stimuli, a dog’s attentional focus needs to be kept in balance in order to perform any given
task. Generalization allows the dog to work around many distractions because it has been taught to narrow its
focus and use self-restraint in different situations.
You, as a Mentor, coach your canine student to success. It is
team work. The dog needs you to be a team player. That’s
what makes the human/canine partnership work.
Rx Pharmdog training is based on scientifically proven methods
as well as incorporating Bonnie Bergin's
ABC's of the SMARTEST DOG TRAINING