Open Range Service Dog Training Philosophy
Open Range Training Style
Open Range Pups leads the way in increasing service dog reliability and standards through positive reinforcement training. Open Range is in good company as the most the reputable training programs in the US; including the US Army, use positive reinforcement training techniques.
Service Dog Training Goals
Reliability: anyone interested in owning or handling a Service Dog will need their pup to be reliable. Open Range "proofs" the pups in our service program using many different techniques, in all sorts of environments, and through the use of varying distractions.
Open Range also helps our clients feel confident that their investment is in the right hands through the use of the Open Range Puppy Portal. Through the Puppy Portal clients can see in real time the work that Open Range is doing to advance the technique and behavior of their working pup. Clients can watch as we "proof" the learned techniques and skill sets that are being taught on a daily basis. Receive daily working updates, watch live streaming video as we work with your pup, get weekly report card updates and more, all from your Puppy Portal Dashboard.
Behavior Protocols: Open Range follows strict behavior guidelines that help our staff and our clients stay on the same page. One of the premier qualities that Open Range strives for is Gentleness. A pup whose behavior is not naturally gentle or has a difficult time shaping behavior that is becoming of a service dog will be quickly disqualified from the Open Range Service Dog Program. In addition to a calm and gentle dog we do reinforce behavior in dogs that are appropriate for each client. Here are other behavior, etiquette and manner skills that Open Range is always working on starting from day 1 of training with completion of tasks no latter than Phase 2: (this is not part of minimum completion for Phase 1)
Prohibited Training: Any training that arouses a dog’s prey drive or fear to elicit a display of aggression for guard or defense purposes is strictly prohibited. Non aggressive barking as a trained behavior is permitted in appropriate situations.
"All of the dog training is based on positive reward or feedback"
Obedience Protocols: just like our strict behavior protocols Open Range also follows strict obedience guidelines. Here are some basic obedience guidelines for Phase 1 completion standards:
Here are a just a few guidelines we strive for in Phase 2:
Open Range goes above and beyond many of the standards set by the Canine Good Citizen guidelines and the Public Access Test guidelines. We understand that every dog should progress as quickly as they are able and that consistency and "duration" of tasks is extremely important for real scenario work environments.
Positive Reward Benefits
Offered Behaviors: An advantage of using positive reinforcement is that a service dog trained this way will "offer" lots of behaviors. With the use of adversities, one runs the risk of the dog offering fewer and fewer behaviors because not behaving is not the same from the dog’s perspective as exhibiting improved behavior. In other words, if a dog isn’t afraid of being punished for doing the wrong thing, the dog will feel uninhibited to try various approaches to getting rewarded until the dog finds the right one. Positive reinforcement works faster than other training methods because it increases the odds of behaviors being offered. That gives the trainer more behaviors to mark and reward, which, over time, evolves into the targeted behavior.
Less Stress: A study from Applied Animal Behavior Science looked at two classes of dogs being trained to sit. One group "lured" its dogs into a sitting position with a treat, and the other group pushed down on its dogs’ behinds to force them into position. The study showed that with positive reinforcement, the dogs were 15 times less likely to cower or slink away from their owner. Additionally, the dogs trained with positive reinforcement were more likely to look their owner in the eye. Because we want to encourage a service dog to look at his/her handler and to initiate social interactions, this study’s conclusions dramatically demonstrate how much richer the handler/dog relationship can be with positive reinforcement. Positive-reinforcement training is also much safer (and presumably less stressful) for the "handler" and their family, as well.
Less Risk Of Side Effects: One of the big advantages to using positive reinforcement is that there isn’t the same risk of side effects. Simply put, animals become afraid, either of people in general or of specific individuals as a result of aversive handling. Not only is it unpleasant for the dog, but it also can be damaging to the handler's relationship with the dog.
Dog's Encouraged To Work: Most dogs will sell their soul for a tiny bit of hotdog (or, for high-drive dogs trained for police work, a rousing game of ball throwing). We can also use praise, and we can build in real-life rewards, such as getting to walk through a door. The dog doesn’t just get to run through—by sitting and waiting for the release word, the dog is rewarded by getting to go outside for a walk. Or when out for a walk, the dog is rewarded by getting to cross the street after sitting. There's many ways to reward a dog for doing what you want him to do, which also helps to keep up his training. The dog doesn’t know it’s work—it’s like a game! This way, both the dog and handler are winners.
Proof Of Training Concepts
Both the U.S. Army and Guide Dogs for the Blind implement positive reinforcement training, we feel proud to follow in their footsteps and use such a reliable and effective method.
Just a few case studies to back it up:
A 1996 study confirms that positive reinforcement produces results more quickly.
The Canine Department of the Netherlands National Police Agency reported the following:
“[With] the first dog, [it] took me eight months to train him to follow a laser. With operant conditioning, it now takes me four weeks."
The largest guide dog organization in the United States also reports that positive reinforcement is faster.
Guide Dogs for the Blind, the largest guide dog school in the United States, used to train with the old-school aversive methods, but upon switching to modern positive-reinforcement methods they not only increased their pass rate, but also, "the dogs can become full-fledged Guide Dogs in half the time."
A 2014 study in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine concluded that:
There were often side effects (fear) when dogs were taught using aversives. Thus, “There is no consistent benefit to be gained from e-collar training but greater welfare concerns compared with positive reward based training.”
A 2013 study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science found that:
Owners who used methods based on positive punishment and negative reinforcement were more likely to report their dog was aggressive toward family members or strangers outside.
Open Range Puppy Portal
Open Range Pups challenges and "proofs" dogs through different testing techniques. Open Range is unique in that we go above and beyond by providing our clients with access to our Open Range Puppy Portal. Watch recorded videos of your pups training session, watch live streaming, get weekly updates, and follow along as your pup progresses toward the goals that you and Open Range have set to achieve.