Gentle Spirit Dog Training

Creating Lifelong Friendships Through Mutual Understanding and Respect

Training Philosophy


Kate’s training philosophy uses reward-based methods – nothing painful or scary – because she believes that this approach creates the best learning environment and the greatest results.  

Reward-based training is part of the larger category of science-based training, a term trainers use when referring to the behavioral sciences of operant conditioning, classical conditioning and learning theory.  Modern trainers who study these sciences and dog behavior are well-versed in many aspects of teaching a dog.  They understand how reinforcers and punishers work and design training protocols that adhere to the scientific principles that govern the way all animals learn.  Science-based training does not necessarily mean that a trainer is a "positive" trainer, but it is highly likely that he or she will use primarily positive methods.

Reward-based or "dog friendly" training refers to a teaching method that uses techniques based on positive reinforcement with no, or very little, punishment.  Trainers use the term to separate themselves from traditional trainers who use outdated "dominance-based", forceful or intimidating techniques when training a dog.  Reward-based trainers believe in creating training protocols that employ the Least Intrusive Minimally Aversive (LIMA) hierarchy of teaching. We are committed to using techniques that are enjoyable and effective, forming strong relationships built on mutual understanding, trust and respect. 

There are several basic elements to a reward-based training program:




Management refers to structuring your dog’s physical environment to prevent unwanted behaviorsThe goal is to set him up to “get it right” by not giving him access to things that will get him into trouble.  For example, preventing his access to the window by the front door ensures that he won’t bark at the mailman.  Preventing his access to the garbage guarantees that he won’t knock it over and have a party while you’re at work.  Management tools can include using gates, crates or confinement rooms, and enriching your dog's environment with plenty of toys, stuffed Kongs or hollow bones to keep him safe and happy when you can't supervise him.



Teach the Skills:


Provide a way to communicate with your dog by teaching him the meaning of words and phrases – a vocabulary of sorts – that you can incorporate into your family routine.  “Sit” means “please place your rear end on the floor”. Your dog will learn that he can earn a variety of wonderful things if he sits for you.  “Off” means “please remove your feet” and is used if your dog jumps up on people or furniture.  Each word or phrase must be thoroughly defined for your dog, in all of the situations you wish to use them. Teach him the skills you want him to have, reward him for doing them, and prevent him from practicing inappropriate behaviors while he’s learning appropriate ones.



Practice for Reliability:


It’s best to teach a new skill in a quiet, distraction-free environment.  Once your dog learns the skill, you should practice in different rooms, environments and situations so that he learns to perform the skill in more challenging contexts.  Gradually adding difficulty to the skill and helping him generalize to new situations will help him perform that skill more reliably.  You’ll coach him and help him throughout the process.  When your dog is consistently and easily performing the skill, you’ll need less management for his environment. 


All of this can be accomplished during short sessions throughout the day.  The more you work with your dog, the sooner you will have reliability.  But two or three 5- to 10-minute sessions a day, making sure you manage him properly in between, is a good plan for success.

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Service Area:

Gentle Spirit Dog Training services Bernards Township in New Jersey.  Telephone consultations are also available.