Updated: January 2020
I‘ve seen the inside of loads of dog training programs. Some are rubbish, some are outdated and some are unsafe, to say the least. Today I’m going to share my Brain Training for Dogs review with you.
I’ve seen the inside of this program and I use it myself for my dogs.
I can tell you right off the bat that the training philosophy and techniques are solid.
I’ll share with you what you get, what you can expect from the program and of course what I’d like to see improved. And I’ll show you a quick video of my dog and I training for one of the basic games.
I know you want to do right by your dog. We all do!
So grab a cup of java, turn your phone on to silent, kick up your feet and read this review from top to bottom!
Use the links below and be magically transported to any section you’re interested in.
Quick Navigation Menu
- Brain Training for Dogs Review
- Brain Training for Dog’s Structure
- Behavior Training for Dogs: Examples
- What Needs Improving
- Interview with Adrienne Fariccelli
Brain Training for Dogs Review
Adrienne Faricelli’s Brain Training for Dogs is a force-free training program. In this program, you’ll train your dog with positive reinforcement.
This is in direct contrast with dominance training, where dogs behave to avoid punishment.
If you don’t know this already, dominance training causes;
- Low self-esteem.
- A lack of trust.
- And slows down learning.
Positive reinforcement training sets your dog up for success, every single time!
- Your dog will be a problem solver.
- You’ll have a dog that actively takes part in training.
- Learning is accelerated through positive reinforcement.
In my review of Brain Training for Dogs, you’ll see exactly what’s under the hood. I’ll also give you a peek into how it works and my experience with my own dogs.
And why it’s one of the best dog training programs out there.
As of the writing of this post, the program is a one time charge of $47. And there are no extra monthly fees.
Inside you’ll find;
Brain Training for Dogs e-book 328 pages. Behavior Training for Dogs e-book 89 pages. 21 short videos teaching you how to successfully complete the exercises with your best friend.
Update: Adrienne and her team have overhauled the program. So now you have access to an exclusive member’s area.
Now it’s even easier to follow along since each step has its own description of what you need to do and the video to go with it.
You still get the cutting edge training information in the ebooks and short videos that were offered like before. But now they are offered in an easy to use member’s area. The reason I like this change so much is that following along with the videos and written information is so much easier than before. It’s all there in one place.
But there’s more…
The program is still as solid as ever but now you have access to things like:
- Case Studies.
- Ask Adrienne (where you can direct question to her).
- In-depth case studies.
You can log into the member’s area from anywhere. So as long as you have your pooch and an internet connection you’re good to go.
I’m especially happy about the community forum and the case studies. The forum is new, but I highly recommend registering and getting into discussions.
The case study now available is about Sadie who’s a dog that is earmarked for a service or therapy dog. So Adrienne works on things like pacing and whining.
You’ll also get a range of trick training videos included. This will not only be a great way to show off your dog’s abilities, but these will spill over into building confidence in your pooch.
- Take a Bow
- Cover his Eyes
- Shake hands
- Play dead
The training program is still selling at $47 once off, even with all the upgrades and bonuses. I think it’s a total steal considering how powerful this kind of training is and how much information Adrienne provides.
But Adrienne’s team has mentioned that they might start charging monthly. So I definitely recommend getting it before that happens.
Adrienne Faricelli’s Training Philosophy
Adrienne Faricelli’s dog training philosophy is science-based, force-free and kind.
She will also show you how to use positive reinforcement in the form of rewards to train your dog. This is a BIG win-win situation for you and your pooch.
Because it boosts the canine-human bond. And sets your dog up for success at every step.
And the best part is Brain Training for Dogs can be used at any age! From puppies to adults and also senior dogs.
Adrienne’s method will challenge both you and your dog physically and mentally.
The training exercises are a progressive course of games and puzzles that your dog will need to figure out. As with humans, there is a learning curve. but remember, this is not a race, it’s about developing your dog’s mental agility and skill.
And no, using treats is not a bribe! It’s payment for learning and getting it right!
With each of the 21 exercises, she includes troubleshooting guides to help you help your dog learn each exercise.
Adrienne Faricelli’s Professional Credentials
Having worked with dogs for more than 10 years, Adrienne Farricelli is a certified dog trainer and behavior consultant.
Adrienne also actively works with dogs who are intended to work as service or therapy dogs. So she’s a highly trusted dog trainer.
She holds dual certification in dog training. In 2010, she became certified by the Italian Association for Dog Trainers and Canine Consultants.
She is also a certified CPDT-KA in the United States. The CCPDT requires continuing education credits in order to maintain her certification.
Her work has been published online in;
- USA Today
- Daily Puppy
- Nest Pets
- Paw Nation
- And E-how
Adrienne is also an esteemed writer for;
- Every Dog magazine
- And the APDT Chronicle of the Dog.
So you can be sure she knows her stuff!
Training You, the Dog Owner
Right off the bat, I need to tell you that much of dog training is actually about training dog owners.
So, I’m impressed with Adrienne’s clear writing and instructions that teach you the skills you need. And makes using her program a breeze.
You and your dog are unique. And neither of you are robots. So training doesn’t always go smoothly.
So you’ll be happy to know that Adrienne has included a handy troubleshooting section.
This is an excellent feature to help you and your dog figure things out when there are bumps in the road.
Adrienne will also show you how to master clicker training. And believe me, learning to clicker train is a skill not to be underestimated!
You’ll also learn the best way to hold treats to avoid having your fingers chomped off.
Tip: Luring is the only time you’ll ever hold treats at the tips of your fingers!
Polishing Up Your Training
Adrienne has gone to great lengths to give you all the tools you need to round up your training as though you are working with a trainer one-on-one.
She deals with things that are often overlooked and that can end up causing your dog to only listen when it suits them. Below are just a few of the crucial secrets she shares in her training program.
- Fading food lures, so your dog doesn’t become dependent on treats.
- Simplifying hand signals, and taking the mystery out of teaching them.
- Adding verbal cues, at the right time to avoid causing confusion if you add them too soon.
- Hand signals vs. verbal cues, when and how to use them successfully.
- Fading continuous rewards, so your dog reliably offers any behavior even without the presence of rewards.
It’s worth remembering that training your dog is a joint venture. It is a give and take activity which is a great bonding experience for you and your pooch.
- It also strengthens your dog’s trust in you.
- It’s fun.
- You’ll spend some of the best quality time with your dog.
- And your dog will learn faster with this training method.
What You’ll Need to Follow Brain Training for Dogs
Brain Training for Dogs does require a few supplies. But most of them are free and can be found in your home. So you won’t need to spend a fortune to get started.
The first thing you’ll learn is that in a reward-based training system, not all food is created equal!
Kibble is one thing, but yummy, cooked chicken is another.
There is also a difference between small, quick-chew and larger treats. Both kinds are important and Adrienne shows you which to use and when.
Other items include a clicker. Adrienne suggests that you can use a verbal marker rather than a clicker. Personally I use both. But I trained clicker first and later verbal.
But do yourself a favor and get a clicker. For about a buck, this is an invaluable tool, and I strongly recommend that you buy one. I actually have about 20 of them around my house.
Other items include muffin tins, rugs, and plastic bottles. A treat bag is also handy, a pointer and a stopwatch, but I just use my smartphone for this one.
Brain Training for Dog’s Structure
All the lessons in Brain Training for Dogs are structured in the same way.
Here’s a quick breakdown…
Introduction – Here you’ll see what supplies you need and what your objective is.
How to train – Here you’ll learn step-by-step how to train your dog the behavior.
Troubleshooting problems – If you’re experiencing a bump in the road, this is where Adrienne shows you what you are doing wrong and how fix it.
Increasing the challenge – Here’s where you learn to reinforce the behavior and make it a transferable skill.
The exam – Now you’re ready to test your dog’s skill and evaluate how well your pooch is doing!
Brain Training for Dogs starts with an introductory Obedience section.
Don’t skip this part!
It’s the most important part of the training program because here’s where you teach your dog basic obedience commands.
Without this foundation, you and your dog will fail at everything else.
Some of the most essential things you’ll both learn are;
- Using a lure
- Lie down
- Take / leave it
- Drop it
- Recall (AKA Come)
These commands a vital part of the later brain games.
Also, they are healthy behaviors that will make you and your dog happier.
You find your dog on the verge of munching away at a poisonous mushroom they found in the woods. Untrained dogs will likely wolf down that mushroom before their owner can reach them to take it away.
But if your dog knows the “drop it” command, you can be 100% sure they’ll drop that mushroom like a hot potato!
Now imagine this…
Your dog is moving at breakneck speed towards a busy road in pursuit of a squirrel. If your dog is not 100% trained in a recall, you’re going to have 10 different sorts of trouble on your hands.
But, if your pooch knows when you recall everything else but you disappears, you have 100% control of the environment. No matter where your dog is or what distractions there are.
I’m sure you’ll agree this is a very powerful skill for you and your dog.
Pre-School to Einstein
Brain Training for Dogs is set up in a school-like structure. The exercises and puzzles become more challenging as the program progresses. Levels include:
- Preschool – Very easy
- Elementary – Easy
- High School – Intermediate
- College – Difficult
- University – Very difficult
- Graduation – Expert
- Einstein – Genius
At the end of each task, you grade your dog anywhere from A-F. The grade is based on how fast your dog completes the challenge.
Each exam has it’s own grading curve. And each level has its own criteria for what grades will allow your dog to progress to the next level.
Once you and your dog have mastered a lesson, there are suggestions to “up the game.”
This reinforces what your dog learns, and also makes your dog more fluid at the task. Which means they will start using their skill in other ways and situations.
For example, once you have taught your dog to lie down, you can then teach them to lie down while you’re eating, while there are strangers in the house, or while you are preparing his meal.
Adrienne suggests that you can pick and choose the exercises at random. But I recommend that you follow the program in sequence.
This is because each exercise builds skills that are helpful in successfully completing the next level.
Also, some great advice is that if your dog starts to slip or needs a little reinforcement, you can always revisit an earlier lesson.
Force-Free Dog Training
In this part of my review, I’ll breakdown the first 2 lessons in the program at the Preschool level. You’ll see just how amazing force-free training is and what you and your dog can accomplish.
Lesson 1 – Targeting
Your dog must touch a target object with his nose on cue.
What you need:
A target like a pointer with a large blunt end or a Post-it note.
A clicker and treats.
The larger goal is that this exercise teaches your dog to look to you for guidance. It also increases your dog’s self-esteem. Which is awesome in itself!
- Have your dog touch your hand with his nose.
- The first time he does this, you hide your hand, click, and reward him. It is vitally important that he hears the click the instant his nose touches your palm.
- You repeat this exercise several times without adding a cue.
- Once he has the hang of it, you name the behavior by adding a cue.
- Use a word like “target,” present your hand, click, reward, repeat.
- Once your dog has mastered this, you can present a different target like a Post-it note. This is how you transfer the skill as I mentioned earlier.
The troubleshooting section is where this program really excels. Suggestions for a dog who has problems learning this skill include ideas like; breaking it down into smaller tasks. Or, increasing the value of the treats.
Increasing the challenge is where it gets fun!
Now you teach your dog to touch Post-it notes with his paw. The Post-it can be placed on the floor, the walls, furniture, light switches. You can actually teach your dog how to turn the lights on and off.
Here’s a short video Zè and I made about targeting…
The exam is where you put your dog to the test.
You start the timer and have your dog touch your hand, or the target stick or a Post-it note three times in quick succession.
It can be with his nose or his paw, his preference. Check the time after the third touch, and there you have it! Passing grades for this challenge is 3 C’s.
Adrienne reckons your pooch will need to complete 3 executions in less than 17 seconds to make the passing grade.
The video shows you how to conduct the exam. But, more importantly, it shows you how to use the clicker and treat to reward your dog.
If you have never done clicker training, I pay very close attention to how Adrienne uses the clicker and treats. It might look easy but handling a clicker, treats and an object while training is a skill to learn.
It takes some practice to master the skill, but you and your dog are lost without it.
Lesson 2 – Look into my eyes
In my opinion, this is one of those behaviors up there with emergency recall. If your dog can focus on you on tap, you’ll be in a position to avoid some dangerous situations. Think dog fights and road accidents here…
I wrote about how useful this behavior is when dealing with an unruly pooch.
Here’s how it goes down…
Your dog must look into your eyes on cue.
What you need:
A clicker and treats.
To open the lines of communication between you and your dog and to promote trust and bonding.
Making eye contact is an important basic skill. When your dog looks into your eyes, he will find it easier to focus and follow directions.
Once your dog masters this skill, you can divert your dog’s attention from other dogs or situations where he becomes nervous.
- Here you will find using a noise that your dog will respond to. Adrienne suggests a smacking sound – like kissing air – to get your dog’s attention.
- Begin by holding a treat next to your eyes and making the kissing sound. As soon as the dog looks in your eyes, click, reward, repeat.
Tip: Do this exercise in a quiet room.
In the troubleshooting problems section, Adrienne shows you how to associate the kissing sound with a treat.
- Make a kissing sound and immediately toss a treat. Do this several times.
- Once you have established the kissing sound as desirable, begin rewarding even fleeting glances. Oh, so romantic!
- As you continue, only reward longer and longer glances. Adrienne breaks down many of the skills into a group of smaller skills throughout the program.
This approach is very effective, especially with timid dogs, dogs learn slower or previously abused dogs.
In increasing the challenge, Adrienne suggests training your dog to hold your gaze for longer. You do this by delaying the click and treat.
You can also work in a place with more distractions, and hold your gaze while you are walking. This last is called “attention heeling.”
She stresses that it is important to stop using the treat at eye level as soon as you can. This is called “fading the lure.” If you don’t do this at the right time, you’ll have a dog that won’t do anything unless there are treats around.
That’s not what you want!
The exam is 3 “look into my eyes” in rapid succession. You can use the lure at eye level, or not if your dog will perform this behavior without it.
As soon as your dog looks into your eyes, you click and reward. As always, the exercise is timed.
The exam video will show you exactly how to perform the exercise, and how your dog should respond.
More Advanced Brain Train Games
The training exercises at the most advanced level get more interesting. Not to mention really fun!
As always, the objective of each exercise is to have your dog learn a new, desirable behavior.
Throughout this training program, there is always a broader purpose to the exercises that positively impacts your dog’s quality of life!
A few of these advanced exercises are:
Leg weaving – Your dog must weave through your legs. This is a great bonding exercise, because of the physical closeness. This exercise is also great to teach smaller dogs not to be afraid of your legs and feet!
Name discrimination – The objective of this exercise is to teach your dog the names of several different toys. And bring you a specific toy by name. This is great to extend your dog’s cognitive abilities – dogs can learn up to 200 vocabulary words.
The tidy up game – I LOVE this exercise. You teach your dog to pick up their toys and put them in a specific place! If he could only fold laundry!
Play the piano – This exercise is a natural conclusion to Brain Training for Dogs. In this exercise, you teach your dog to “target” several notes in sequence on a piano or electric keyboard. That’s quite a party trick!
Check out this short video of Adrienne and Einstein doing flawless weave work!
Behavior Training for Dogs: Examples
Behavior Training for Dogs is the second book that comes as a free bonus. This is the next area that I will explore in my review of Adrienne’s Brain Training for Dogs.
In the second book, Adrienne teaches you how to remedy some common behavioral issues.
So let’s look at 2 of the most common problems pooch parents face…
Attention seeking whining and barking at nothing.
Attention Seeking Whining
Adrienne explains that whining is an instinctive behavior pups use to speak to mom.
They are born blind, deaf, and unable to regulate their own temperatures.
So they need some way to tell their mom that they are hungry or cold. Once the puppies are weaned, their mothers become deaf to their whining and the behavior goes away.
When a puppy goes to their new home at about 8 weeks old, it can be distressing. So whining is a way to get your attention.
For the puppy, this is a proven method that works. In the past, whining was positively enforced. Because mom responded with warm snuggles and food.
There are a few reasons that dogs whine. So it’s important to figure out the root cause before you begin to train the behavior out of your dog.
Dogs may whine because;
- They are anxious.
- To get attention.
- Or because they are excited.
The problem is when the line between whining for a real need – like food or water. And whining for attention becomes blurred.
And guess what? This is usually the owner’s fault for unwittingly positively reinforcing the behavior!
A long time ago, when I was new to dog training, I learned from many of my dog training idols that…
And dogs aren’t like us.
We can make a distinction between positive and negative attention.
So, if we scold our dogs, we see this as negative attention.
This is how your dog sees it…
Whining + scolding = attention.
So, who’s training who here?
Adrienne teaches you that behaviors that are reinforced grow stronger.
And behaviors that are ignored go away.
This is a restatement of Thorndike’s Law of Effect.
Responses that produce a satisfying effect in a particular situation become more likely to occur again in that situation, and responses that produce a discomforting effect become less likely to occur again in that situation.
So if your dog is whining for attention, you simply ignore them at all costs.
As soon as the whining stops, you reward them with play, treats or a toy.
So, for example, you are vacuuming the house and you crate your dog.
- Your dog whines.
- Ignore him.
- Finish vacuuming.
- Once you are done, if your dog is still whining, ignore them. Don’t look at or talk to them. And don’t let them out of their crate.
- The second the whining stops, let them hear you coming toward the crate.
- If they start whining again, stop dead in your tracks. Once they are quiet again, continue toward the crate, release and reward them.
Here’s another example…
If you are in a room with your dog and they start whining, turn your back.
When they stop whining, turn back toward them.
If not, turn around and start to leave the room. Any attention, even looking at your dog when they’re whining, is positive reinforcement.
Yes, it sounds like the long way around. But it’s also the best way!
If you behave consistently to change this annoying behavior…
You will be rewarded with a whine-free dog!
Remember back at the beginning of this Brain Training for Dogs review I mentioned how dog training is also about people training?
Now you’ve seen the proof!
Barking at Nothing
It’s normal for our dogs to bark. When barking gets out of hand, it can be very unpleasant for us.
I mean I got a comment on this blog from a guy at 3 am in the morning. His dog was keeping him up at night. And he was getting complaints from the neighbors.
Not a fun situation to be in! Right?
Although we like to think that our dogs are barking at nothing, that is most likely NOT the case.
Dogs have senses of hearing and smell that totally outstrip our own. So if they appear to be barking at nothing, they are most likely barking as something that we are not aware of.
Barking at pests – This usually happens at night. If you suspect your dog of barking, for this reason, call an exterminator.
Tip: You can also try distracting him with a fan, television, or radio to drown out the other animal sounds.
Distant sounds – Dogs may hear other dogs or sirens that are too far away for us to hear.
Adrienne suggests keeping your dog away from the windows or using something that makes a noise like a fan or a radio to distract them from the noise.
Reinforcement – Like whining for attention, dogs can bark for your attention.
If your dog is looking at you when he barks, and you respond, you are reinforcing that behavior.
The same technique of completely ignoring them and leaving the room is used to remedy this situation.
Adrienne also suggests that your dog could be bored. So, playing a game -like the ones found in Brain Training for Dogs – provides mental stimulation. Is a great way to distract your dog and work on reconditioning the barking behavior.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Some dogs bark at nothing because they suffer from OCD.
Their barking is prolonged, exaggerated, and out of context. These are usually high-strung pooches who suffer from anxiety. And some breeds are more prone to OCD than others. A lot of mixed breeds fall into this category.
The best course of action is to talk to your vet.
On a personal note, Lexi my GSD-Collie cross is an OCD barker. I have no real information about her background since she is a rescue. But I do know she came from terrible circumstances which might have lead to this obsessive behavior.
After trying everything, my vet recently started treating her with Clomicalm. Which is a calming drug specifically designed for dogs.
I’ve seen a marked change in her behavior. And her little heart no longer races at a million miles an hour so her well-being and quality of life has improved. Which is all I want.
Dementia – This usually occurs in older dogs. It’s also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). And it’s like Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
Behavior changes include altered sleep patterns, pacing or wandering. Also, staring at walls, barking, and whining. And even losing their potty training skills and not responding to their cues.
This is a progressive disease, but there are some drugs that may slow the progress of the disease. This is another one of those “talk to your vet” situations.
More Behavior Topics in Behavior Training for Dogs
The three other chapters in Behavior Training for Dogs are:
Digging – Dogs dig for many reasons. Some dogs, like Terriers, are bred to dig. While others dig to have a cool place to lie down. Or to escape, or to whelp puppies.
Chewing – Dogs chew on things they’re not supposed to for several reasons. Puppies teethe, boredom, attention-seeking, anxiety, or loneliness. Many of the items that your dog finds attractive to chew have your odor all over them. Adrienne gives some great tips and advice on how to deal with chewing.
Jumping – Dogs jump as a part of their greeting ritual. When they are puppies they jump up to get closer to us when they greet us. We positively reinforce the behavior because we’re equally happy to see them. Our puppies grow up, and when they reach 80 pounds, jumping is already a huge problem.
What Needs Improving
Okay, so now I’ve shared everything I like about Brain Training for Dogs.
But, we all know nothing is perfect. So here are a few things I’d like to see improved on…
Okay, so you already know I love the videos in this program. What I would like to see is better sound quality. It’s not that you can’t hear what Adrienne’s saying, but the sound is a little muddy.
I’d also love to see an exclusive member’s area where all the videos, e-books and updated information can be found in one place.
And an online community would be a super addition.
Update: Adrienne and her team have now included a forum inside the member’s area. I love this addition and I’m so pleased to see Adrienne listening to what her students need! It just goes to show how dedicated she is to bettering the lives of dogs and their humans through the power of games.
It would be helpful to discuss the contents of this program with other newcomers to dog training. for example, I might be struggling with something you have found the solution to. So it would be great to bounce ideas off other pooch parents. And maybe even share videos.
Adrienne does give members direct access to her email and says that she tries to answer every email personally, which is above and beyond the call of duty.
So, after reading my Brain Training for Dogs review should you buy the program?
I can wholeheartedly say yes!
At a cost of $47 USD, I can’t tell you what a bargain it is.
I mean, on average you’ll be shelling out anywhere from $125 to $175 per hour for a dog trainer!
But besides the price, I support Adrienne’s Brain Training for Dogs for more important reasons…
- The training methods are force-free, science-based and kind.
- The unique connection between behavior and brain-boosting games will inspire you and your dog to do more.
- Adrienne Faricelli is a highly qualified expert in the field of canine behavior. And her expertise shines through.
- She knows when to change your dog’s behavior (and yours) or when to change the environment.
- The information in an easy to understand and implement even for someone brand new to dog training.
- The program is structured to become progressively more fun and challenging.
- The training style promotes mental stimulation, bonding and trust.
Interview with Adrienne Faricelli
If you follow any training program means you’re putting the well-being of your dog in the hands of someone else.
And the truth is, you don’t want some Mickey Mouse showing you the ropes. Right?
So I reached out to Adrienne and asked for an interview so that you can get to know her better. In this interview you’ll read about:
- How Adrienne started out and her credentials.
- How her creative training style will help you overcome any behavior issues.
- Why she refused to re-home one of her pups, even after dog training experts advised her to.
- Why brain training exercises stimulate the working gene in your pooch.
- Advice on what to do when training isn’t going according to plan.
- And some great ways you can build trust and bond with your hound.
So I’m pretty familiar with you, your training style and your professional accolades.
Intro: You hold dual certification in dog training both with the Italian Association for Dog Trainers and Canine Consultants and you’re a certified CPDT-KA. So you’re no Mickey Mouse!!
You’re also well published online on sites like:
• USA Today
• Daily Puppy
• Nest Pets
And in print too in publications like:
• Every Dog magazine
• And the APDT Chronicle of the Dog.
Q: Could you briefly explain to the listeners what your certifications mean?
Sure, I’ll be glad to go over them! Well, it all started when I was visiting my family in Italy. I stumbled upon a program to become a certified dog trainer through the Italian Association for Dog Trainers and Canine Consultants.
In order to get certified by this program I was required to attend several courses covering different disciplines. Such as canine conformation, ethology, evolution, kinetics and more.
And then after passing a written test, I was mentored by a master dog trainer specializing in basic and advanced obedience for over 200 hours.
After having fun training dogs for Canine Musical Freestlye that summer, I then returned back to the States and obtained Certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.
This program entailed a minimum of 300 hours experience in dog training and passing a rigorous exam to demonstrate knowledge of humane, science-based dog training practices.
The CPDT-KA intials after my name simply means that I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer who’s Knowledge has been Assessed by the CCPDT.
Q: Who inspired you to become an advocate for dogs and what events inspired you to become a professional dog trainer?
To be totally honest, my dogs inspired me! When I got my dogs, I had no clue how challenging it was to raise two sibling puppies together. I guess I overestimated myself.
I consulted with a few trainers and they told me I made a big mistake and that it was best to re-home one puppy as they would have grown too attached with each other and not pay any attention to me.
I was determined to not let this suggestion discourage me, I already loved my pups and wanted to try anything in my power to overcome the problems, so I rolled up my sleeves and started reading and watching videos as much as I could and applying what I learned on a daily basis.
I knew I must have been doing something right when people started asking me where I got my dogs trained and I told them I did it all myself.
Soon, my husband’s colleagues started asking me to the train their dogs and voice spread quickly and I immediately felt this was something I really enjoyed doing.
So many dog training programs follow the same structure; basic obedience, behavior modification and then a handful of the usual tricks like high five, roll over etc. But your approach with Brain Training for Dogs is unique in this regard. You place mental stimulation at the heart of your training program.
Q: Why is that? And what does this approach mean for dogs and owners?
Well, the brain is something that never stops changing, it is constantly evolving and we need to provide it with constant challenges. Every time our dogs learn something new, new neural connections are formed. It is very fascinating!
So my conclusion is that if we provide enough mental enrichment and keep those doggy brains thinking, dogs will by default become more receptive to being trained and more open to learning new skills.
Their brains become more and more plastic, meaning they have a much easier time storing new information.
I think Brain Training for Dogs is an exceptionally creative approach to dog training. And I’ve found with my dogs that it’s been a huge boost to their self-confidence and cemented a lot of great behaviors and manners in them.
Q: How did you come up with the idea?
Well, the idea sort of evolved gradually. It mostly started with dogs coming over for board and training. Most of these dogs who suffered from behavior problems had something in common, they were lacking mental stimulation!
Before even starting training or behavior modification, it greatly helped to exercise their body and mind with brain games so they were more receptive to learning.
As a plus, these dogs were also building trust towards me so we had the perfect foundation to start working on the problems they were facing.
Q: Can you share a sneak peek into any plans that are in store for your Brain Training for Dogs in the future?
Well, we have big plans coming up soon. On top of our popular e-books, we are creating an online library with a huge wealth of information for dog and puppy owners.
The articles and videos in this library are going to tackle most problems dog owners face, with many tips and solutions.
After completion, this “virtual library” will be available as a free bonus to all new customers, and the best part is that just like the “brain,” this library will keep on growing and evolving, with continuous additions and perks for dog owners!
I hear a lot from dog owners on my blog who are experiencing perceived challenging behaviors with their dogs. In reality, many of these behaviors are normal. And with some training can easily be reconditioned. Things like; jumping, random barking, biting, leash pulling etc come up regularly.
Q: How can the focus on mental stimulation in Brain Training for Dogs help dogs and owners overcome these behaviors?
It is often forgotten that before being companions, dogs were workers at heart. Dogs were pointing, flushing, retrieving, guarding livestock, and so forth for a good part of the day and nowadays most dogs are left unemployed with little to do.
On top of that, dogs have a past history of being hunters and scavengers, so they are naturally wired to engage in behaviors such as digging, chewing and ripping things apart.
When boredom sets in and when dogs are prevented from engaging in natural behaviors, dogs are forced to find their own sources of entertainment, but yikes! these forms of entertainment aren’t very appealing to dog owners.
With brain training we can provide dogs with outlets for their pent-up natural needs and provide them with “legit forms of entertainment” that won’t upset dog owners.
On top of that, being that owners are often involved in these brain games, dogs start perceiving their owners as part of the fun. It’s a win-win!
Dog’s aren’t robots, they have their own personalities and minds to think. This can be easy to forget when training is not going according to plan. So, sticking with creativity here…
Q: What would you advise pooch parents to do to get creative when dog training isn’t going the way they want?
I would say to think outside of the box. As you said, dogs are not robots so it may happen that you may stumble on some unusual problems that are not covered in any training book or training manual.
This is why a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work in the field of dog training.
If something isn’t working, then it’s time to troubleshoot the issue. Often it’s just a matter of presenting the exercise in smaller, more attainable steps. Sometimes recording your trials and watching them carefully can help pinpoint the source of the problem.
Other times, you just gotta get creative, try to take a stroll on the unbeaten path and see what happens, chances are you may stumble on the solution and be pleasantly surprised!
Your program, Brain Training for Dogs is currently the only online dog training program that is purely positive reinforcement. There are bunch of ‘balanced trainers’ who use a mix of positive and punishment in their training style. And of course many who subscribe to the dominance theory and punishment based training.
Q: What do you think is the reason that the dog training world just won’t let go of the dominance/punishment training style? When the reality is the results of this outdated training style are limited and poor at best.
I think it’s a matter of some people being stuck in the old ways of doing things which prevents them from evolving. The term “old school” reminds us that in the old days, children were hit on the hand with a wooden ruler.
Fortunately, nowadays things have changed.
In the dog training field, things are starting to change as well, but more work needs done. Fortunately, more and more studies are coming out and they support the use of positive reinforcement.
More and more educated trainers are aware that interactions between dogs and their humans are not driven by social rank, but by a history of reinforcement.
The dog therefore jumps not to attain higher rank, but to be closer to the owner, the dog pulls, not to be in charge of the walk, but to go sniff a bush, the dog steals the sandwich from the table not to challenge the owner but just because it tastes good.
This is why it’s important to find dog trainers who are continuing their education and understand the implications of using outdated techniques.
Q: What are the 4 most important things dog parents should NEVER do with or to their dogs?
If I had to pick four I would say one is to avoid being inconsistent. Nothing confuses dogs more than being allowed to perform certain behaviors in a precise circumstance and then expect them not to perform them in another.
Secondly, a pet peeve I have lately, is dog parents who leave collars on their dogs during play sessions with other dogs. It’s very unfortunate, but there have been so many cases of death in dogs due to collar strangulation that could have been easily prevented.
Third, I would advise to never train when frustration starts building up as this can cause dogs to shut down, when training requires dogs to be open.
And of course, never engage in aversion-based methods such as giving alpha rolls, scruff shakes and all the alike. These will only inflict fear and intimidation and can trigger defensive aggression.
Q: What are the 4 best ways owners can build trust and bond with their dogs?
Lack of trust is an issue I see a lot and it most often involves dogs who have been recently adopted from the shelter.
Many dogs need time to adjust in their new surroundings and therefore I would recommend taking care in not overwhelming these dog with too many sights, sounds and smells at once. These dogs need time to assimilate and integrate themselves in the new home.
Playing with dogs is a great way to bond. The 21 games I’ve included in my Brain Training for Dogs course offer owners a great chance to play and bond with their dogs while teaching their dogs new skills at the same time.
Training can also be a great confidence booster for insecure dogs. Targeting, nosework and agility obstacles are all great ways for dogs to bond and build trust in their owners. I’ve been sure to include all 3 of these in the Brain Training for Dogs course.
Last but not least, I would encourage dog owners to take steps to make their dogs feel safe. Dogs need to learn that their owner will be there to protect them and avoid putting them into overwhelming situations. Many dogs feel relief when they feel that they have their owners to rely on as advocates for their safety and wellbeing.
I recently had an email from a dog owner who wants to make the switch from punishment based training (he’s used shock collars, alpha rolls and flooding to name a few techniques) to positive reinforcement.
Understandably, this guy feels a deep sense of regret. And concern that from his dog’s perspective the trust is gone and that there is no chance of fixing what’s been broken.
Q: Is it possible to make the switch in the dog’s mind from one of being afraid to explore behaviors (and possibly afraid of the owner too) and performing out of fear to one of openness like you mentioned earlier?
Absolutely! And the change is one of the most rewarding experiences dog owners get to witness with their dogs. Of course, the process takes time, but as days unfold, tentative dogs starting coming out of their shell and the changes are quite remarkable.
In particular, clicker training and free-shaping – which are both covered in the Brain Training for Dogs course – create a great foundation for tentative dogs in need of learning to offer new behaviors and transform them into enthusiastic learners.
And the best part of all, the increased trust and bonding that results as a”side effect” from these methods is the greatest perk for dog owners.
Q: As an expert, what do you think dog parents find the most challenging? And what fixes do you suggest?
Well, one big obstacle is the fact that many dog parents have a hard time accepting that changes take time, they do not happen overnight.
Pet parents are often looking for quick fixes and often have unrealistic expectations. I had a client ask me once, “I would like my dog to stay in my non-fenced yard in the morning and be there in the exact spot when I come back from work, what can I do?”
I told him I had the perfect solution: to stop by the closest garden center and pick a statue of a dog.” I then left him a business card of several fencing companies and fortunately, last time I drove by, I noticed he was getting a fence installed.
The fix for this is therefore to understand that dogs are animals, it requires time to change behavior, but with patience, determination and consistency, you can accomplish a whole lot.
Dog training is also about training humans and sometimes we humans need the most training! And in your career you’ve worked with countless pooches and their owners.
Q: What do you find most challenging when training humans?
Hmm, that’s a good question! I think something I encounter over and over is reminding pet parents to get into the mind of the dog and refraining from putting labels on their dogs. I hear too often things like ” oh my dog is so stubborn” oh, my dog is so vicious..”
These labels only hurt people’s relationships with their dogs because they imply the belief that dogs cannot change because the labels reflect a dog’s essence.
It is far more productive looking beyond these labels and trying to understand exactly what triggers dogs to behave in certain ways and what can be done about it.
Q: As more studies about dogs are done, we realize we still have a lot to learn about our canine friends. As a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist, where would you like to see more scientific research done? And where do you see dog training 10 years from now?
There has been an increased interest in studying dogs lately, which is great! I would love to see more studies on dog cognition, discovering more about the dog’s brain and how it works. Like recently there was a study that researched how dogs process what we say, and the results showed that they perceive words in a similar fashion as human brains do.
As more of these studies on dog cognition and neuroscience come out,demonstrating how dogs analyze and interpret the information we present to them, and how dogs perceive the world around them, dog training will continue to evolve as well to reflect these results. This is why training dogs is one of those disciplines that is never static, you never stop learning and you will always have to keep up with the new data. It’s very, very fascinating.
Adrienne, thank you so much for taking the time to give us to get to know you better. And of course to allow me the opportunity to pick your expert brain! It’s been a great pleasure to have you here!
You’re very welcome and thank you for having me!