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What is Canine Coaching?

Nov 12 / Jay Gurden
There is an intrinsic link between the concept of self-belief and dog training.
Although it may not be what immediately comes to mind, it becomes a little clearer with a minor change in phrasing.

A growing number of modern dog professionals prefer the term ‘canine coaching’ to ‘dog training’ although will use the latter, as a title that most people understand. Both methods have the result of a dog who will respond to particular words with an action they have come to associate with that word. How we actually reach that point is a little different for each method. How is it then that canine coaching provides a link between self-belief and dog training?

Dogs learn by making associations. We humans utilise this by creating associations for our dogs between words or signals, known in canine coaching terms as cues, and actions that they can take, such as sit, down, stay and so on. The correct association that we want them to make earns the dog a reward. This pleasant consequence for the dog makes them more likely to repeat that action in the same circumstances, as it may earn them that nice reward again. This process of positive reinforcement works exactly the same way in both canine coaching and the more traditional dog training. The difference between the two comes in how the dog gets to discovering that desired action.

In the older form of dog training, the association is formed by speaking the cue word or making the signal as the dog is moving to take that action anyway, or as the dog is lured into position with a treat. Coaching takes a different approach. In coaching, we encourage the dogs to offer behaviours, which we can then mark with a clicker or a word, followed by the reward.

How does this make the link between self-belief and canine coaching stronger than the link between self-belief and dog training? When training a dog, we are teaching them to respond to cues. In canine coaching, we show the dog that they have the answers within themselves. We let them realise that they can offer solutions, they can solve the problems that we put in front of them.

Just as it is for a human, the dog that knows they have the answers inside them and simply needs to find them will grow in their self-belief and self-confidence. Both of these attributes are incredibly important for a happy life, for our dogs as well as for us. This is why canine coaching may be considered as a better way for our dogs to learn what they need to know to live alongside us. 

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