Deaf Dog Education Action Fund

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The Power of Positive Dog Training

by Pat Miller

Pat Miller is a long-time dog trainer with more than 30 years of experience. She has written a basic primer for dog owners on using positive reinforcement training techniques. Her book, "The Power of Positive Dog Training" (published by Howell Book House) is written for both the professional trainer and the enthusiastic pet owner. She first explains in detail her philosophy on why positive reinforcement works better for both dog and trainer. Then the book sets out a six-week program for training any dog in the basics to be a good canine companion. Each section builds on the previous one and also includes fun exercises to keep the human and canine interested and enjoying the process. The book concludes with solutions to common behaviour problems.

Pat's Positive Training Principles are the key to understanding her book and to understanding positive reinforcement training. The four principles are:
Concept 1: All Living Things Repeat Behaviours That Are Rewarding and Avoid Behaviours That Are Not
Concept 2: Your Dog Already Knows Everything You Are Going to Teach Him
Concept 3: Dogs Can Learn Only One Behaviour For Any Particular Cue
Concept 4: Think In Terms of What You Want Your Dog to Do, Not What You Want Him Not to Do.

This book was written using verbal commands but most of the training techniques and cues include a hand signal or body language component. Those that don't specifically indicate a gesture or signal could readily do so. Pat's ideas and techniques can easily be used to train a deaf dog and require minimal modification. Signals or cues given by Pat could be replaced by other signals used by an individual trainer. The trainer's preference is easily incorporated into the program. However it is important to remember Concept 3 when devising signals so that the dog does not become confused.

For those interested in clicker training (using blinking lights for deaf dogs), this book can be used as a starting point. At each point in the training sequence where the term "Click" appears, substitute "Blink" from a small flashlight or penlight. Pat outlines the basics for both conventional training and clicker/blinker training in the first seven chapters

Pat says, "One of the many things I love about positive training is that it works, literally, with *all* dogs, hearing impaired or otherwise, because it is based on scientific principles of learning and behaviour. As long as you can communicate with your dog through the use of food lures, body language, flashing lights and other visual cues, and can figure out how to reward him for the behaviours that you want to reinforce, this method will work just as well with a deaf dog as with any other."

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