As many pet owners can tell you, training dogs can be a difficult task. But for this month and part of October at the Roudenbush Community Center, Lisa Burt is showing a few dog owners that just about any canine can be trained with a little love and patience.
In her first class at the Roudenbush, Burt is aiming to take her ten years of experience in basic obedience training and puppy socialization and help local dog owners teach their dogs without the use of negative reinforcement.
Burt’s positive reinforcement approach stands in contrast to the standard “compulsive training” model used by most obedience trainers that sees dogs as animals to be given orders and provides not just positive reinforcements, but also punishment for disobedience.
The approach focuses on operant conditioning, where subjects develop behaviors through conscious choices and the consequences of those choices.
That approach is rare for dog training in comparison to classical conditioning methods where animals are taught to subconsciously associate negative and positive stimuli with certain behaviors.
In Burt’s view, providing treats and praise for good behavior and withholding positive stimuli during bad behavior helps dogs understand proper behavior much more effectively.
“Some undersocialized dogs have issues, but I would say most dogs, more than people think, can be trained,” says Burt. “When it’s done right, for dogs it’s all just a game.”
For participants in Burt’s class, such as Stephanie and Ashley Scholastico, the experience was refreshing.
The Scholasticos came to Burt for help with their 18-month-old hound Sam, whom they had adopted from the MPSCA.
“Sam’s still learning, although our expectations were low at first,” said Stephanie. “(But) Lisa’s great, she’s very knowledgeable and very patient.”
More information on Lisa Burt is available at her page on the Karen Pryor Academy website.