Our Training Philosophy
We believe that consistent and positive dog training builds trust and confidence between dog and human. From puppies to seniors, positive dog training promotes overall well-being through strengthening social, mental and physical health. Bk9T training curriculum is focused on positive reinforcement and backed by science. We work on a range of behavior from potty training, loose leash walking to aggression, reactivity, resource guarding, separation anxiety and more. Sign up for group dog training classes or one-on-one for personalized dog training classes. Training classes can be online or in-person.
Position Statement on Dominance Theory
Dominance is a concept we frequently encounter in our field. Many people, including some professionals, believe that the most important thing they can do to have a well-behaved animal is to establish themselves as a “pack leader,” or as dominant to whichever species of animal they’re training and living with.
According to dominance theory, behavior problems and lack of training are explained as the animal “trying to be in control.” The way to address these failures of behavior and training and “help” the animal, then, is to “regain the balance of power” in the relationship. Unfortunately, this mindset often leads to the use of punishment, and it can damage the relationship between human and animal.
What is dominance?
Dominance describes a relationship, not a state of being. Current scientific consensus is that no animal is born dominant or submissive. In an antagonistic relationship, like a competition over resources, when one animal is consistently the “loser” and one is the “winner,” the winner is described as dominant. But dominance is also situational and fluid; one individual might be dominant over another in some situations but not in others, or at some times but not others.
Dominance is not a natural order of power between us and our pets, nor is it a healthy or scientifically supported way to approach training and behavior consulting. It certainly doesn’t justify the use of punishment in training. An animal does not have to be dominant or submissive in order to learn—animals learn from what reinforces or punishes their behavior. They can learn from other animals in their group, from other species, and by interacting with the environment.
What to do instead?
The best way to minimize stress, promote good welfare, successfully prevent, treat, and manage behavior problems, train effectively, and help develop a strong bond between people and their animals is to focus on positive reinforcement.
Reinforcing behaviors we want to see in place of unwanted ones, and creating an environment set up for success, where good choices are safe and easy for the animal to make, is the best approach to resolving behavior issues. All behavior plans, including those for animals assessed with “dominance aggression,” should focus on an operational understanding of the function of the behavior, and how that function can be served by a different behavior, emotional response or environmental arrangement. The behavior should always be assessed based on its antecedents and consequence, and not on an anthropomorphic interpretation of intent.
Behavior consultants and trainers should focus on teaching clients how they can avoid reinforcing problem behaviors and showing them how to be a consistent, caring teachers. To work effectively and ethically, an animal trainer or behavior consultant must have a proper understanding of the natural world, each species’ natural behaviors, and what is significant to the individual animal in our care. Misunderstood dominance theory and the punitive, harmful approaches it is used to justify has no place in modern, evidence-based training and behavior work.
Breed Specific Legislation
Baltimore k9 Tutors opposes any legislation specifically designed to target or discriminate against dogs based solely on their breed or appearance. Research clearly shows that humans are poor at determining a dog’s breed based on appearance.* Further, there is a lot of within-breed genetic variation that suggests breed or the appearance of a breed are both bad targets for legislative action.
Dogs can become dangerous as a result of inadequate socialization, inappropriate training, poor living conditions, poor breeding, and other factors having nothing to do with their specific breed. With the right environment, training, and care, dogs of all breeds can become equally well-adjusted family members and working partners.
Baltimore k9 Tutors believes that the objectives behind breed specific legislation can be met more effectively through proper training and care, rigorous enforcement and, where necessary, the strengthening of existing laws.
Where such laws are enacted, provisions must be put in place to exempt existing individual dogs from euthanasia. These provisions, when necessary, should include obedience training provided by an appropriately certified, positive reinforcement-based professional trainer.
We fully understand and support the need for laws to protect humans and animals from the tragic consequences of dog attacks. In order to effectively do so, however, legislation should be based on specific behaviors or actions, and should not discriminate based on breed or appearance.
* See MuttMix.org if you’d like to test your skills, an IAABC Citizen Science project done in conjunction with University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
Who bites more often?
"There are several reasons why it is not possible to calculate a bite rate for a breed or to compare rates between breeds. First, the breed of the biting dog may not be accurately recorded, and mixed-breed dogs are commonly described as if they were purebreds. Second, the actual number of bites that occur in a community is not known, especially if they did not result in serious injury. Third, the number of dogs of a particular breed or combination of breeds in a community is not known, because it is rare for all dogs in a community to be licensed, and existing licensing data is then incomplete."
[Source: AVMA Task Force on Canine Aggression]
Humane Training (LIMA) & Aversive Tools
American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSB) Position Statement on Humane Dog Training.
Evidence supports the use of reward based methods for all canine training. Bk9T promotes interactions with animals based on compassion, respect, and scientific evidence. Based on these factors, reward-based learning offers the most advantages and least harm to the learner’s welfare. Research supports the efficacy of reward-based training to address unwanted and challenging behaviors. There is no evidence that aversive training is necessary for dog training or behavior modification.
Reward-based techniques should be used for teaching common training skills as well as to address unwanted behaviors. The application of aversive methods – which, by definition, rely on application of force, pain, or emotional or physical discomfort – should not be used in canine training or for the treatment of behavioral disorders.
Our goal is to minimize and eliminate the use of shock devices from training and behavior work, and to do so by modeling, educating, and providing members with effective alternatives.
Position On Aversive Tools & Confrontational Methods
Learning is a process, and we understand that change is difficult, especially in an ongoing practice of training and behavior.
Bk9T will work to minimize and eliminate the use of these tools while helping our clients live successfully with their dogs.
Before applying shock or using shock devices, Bk9T will consult with the IAABC Supervision Team to review the case and ensure that all possible, less intrusive and aversive options have been worked.
Survey studies have shown an association between the use of aversive training methods and long-term behavior problems including aggressive behavior towards people and other dogs, and anxiety-related behaviors such as avoidance and excitability.*
What Is LIMA?
“LIMA” is an acronym for the phrase “least intrusive, minimally aversive.” LIMA describes a trainer or behavior consultant who uses the least intrusive, minimally aversive strategy out of a set of humane and effective tactics likely to succeed in achieving a training or behavior change objective. LIMA adherence also requires consultants to be adequately educated and skilled in order to ensure that the least intrusive and aversive procedure is used. 1
LIMA does not justify the use of punishment in lieu of other effective interventions and strategies. In the vast majority of cases, desired behavior change can be affected by focusing on the animal's environment, physical well-being, and operant and classical interventions such as differential reinforcement of an alternative behavior, desensitization, and counter-conditioning.
LIMA Is Competence-Based
LIMA requires trainers/consultants to work to increase the use of positive reinforcement and eliminate the use of punishment when working with animal and human clients. In order to ensure best practices, we are committed to pursue and maintain competence in animal behavior consulting and training through continuing education, and hands-on experience. We will not advise on problems outside the recognized boundaries of their competencies and experience. 2
Baltimore k9 Tutors supports a Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) approach to behavior modification and training.
Positive Reinforcement and Understanding the Learner
Positive reinforcement is always the first line of teaching, training, and behavior change program considered, and will be applied consistently. Positive reinforcement is associated with the lowest incidence of aggression, attention seeking, avoidance, and fear in learners. 3
We believe the learner determines what may be reinforcing. To best do this we will assess any handling, petting, food, tool, and environment each time the learner experiences them. Personal bias must not determine the learner’s experience. The measure of each stimulus is whether the learner’s target behavior is strengthening or weakening, not the our intent or preference.
Systematic Problem Solving and Strategies
We are committed and responsible for ensuring learner success through a consistent, systematic approach that identifies a specific target behavior, the purpose of that behavior, and the consequences that maintain the behavior.
A variety of learning and behavior change strategies may come into play during a case. We always problem solve to understand the impact of each action on the learner, as well as sensitivity toward the learner’s experience.
We seek to prevent the abuses and potential repercussions of inappropriate, poorly applied, and inhumane uses of punishment and of overly-restrictive management and confinement strategies. The potential effects of punishment can include aggression or counter-aggression; suppressed behavior (preventing the trainer/consultant from adequately reading the animal); increased anxiety and fear; physical harm; a negative association with the owner or handler; increased unwanted behavior; and, new, unwanted behaviors. 4
Choice and Control for the Learner
We agree to LIMA guidelines which require that trainer/consultants always offer the learner as much control and choice as possible. Trainer/consultants must treat each individual of any species with respect and awareness of the learner’s individual nature, preferences, abilities, and needs. 5
What Do You Want the Animal to do?
We focus on reinforcing desired behaviors, and always ask the question, “What do you want the animal to do?” Relying on punishment in training does not answer this question, and therefore offers no acceptable behavior for the animal to learn to replace the unwanted behavior. These LIMA guidelines do not justify the use of aversive methods and tools including, but not limited to, the use of electronic, choke or prong collars in lieu of other effective positive reinforcement interventions and strategies.
When making training and behavior modification decisions, we understand and follow the Humane Hierarchy of Behavior Change – Procedures for Humane and Effective Practices. 6
* American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior position statement
Dog Training Services & Evaluations Available in the Greater Baltimore Area, and the entire world online.
We always want our services to be accessible to those who need them! As needed, please feel free to ask about our sliding-scale cost options.
617 - 798 - 0025 | BaltimoreK9Tutors@gmail.com