Blog post by Charissa Carvell KPA-CTP, CPDT-KSA

“Do you specialize in ___________ breed?”

As a dog trainer, we often get asked if we know more about certain dog breeds over others. The truth of the matter is it doesn’t matter what kind of dog you have or even what kind of animal you have. As animal trainers we focus first and foremost on training the human learners in front of us. Once we have taught you how to effect behavior change its then up to you to work with your animal (dog, horse, cat, or lion). There are many species-specific behaviors that occur (dogs don’t suffer from cribbing like horses do) but the way we can help modify these behaviors are the same.   

Fenrir, my German Shepherd puppy, LOVES to learn.

Fenrir, my German Shepherd puppy, LOVES to learn.

This is one reason that using positive training methods is so amazing - they can be replicated across species. Lions at the zoo, dogs in a rescue, or horses in your pasture all can learn the same behaviors in the same way! It’s what separates clicker training from other forms of training that involve force. When you use force or intimidation, you often get stuck when trying to apply such methods to larger species. What you can physically do to a dog, you cannot do to a tiger. But using a clicker and some reinforcement you can get amazing behaviors no matter how big or small your learner. 

We can all learn new things and I love teaching! The variety of learners that benefit from these positive training methods - from working dogs like German Shepherds to toy breeds like Chihuahuas, to humans with a long history of practicing different dog training methods to humans who are training their first dog - is part of what makes my job interesting and the science of learning so exciting!