Dog training, the Shedd Aquarium way

Dog training, the Shedd Aquarium way July 8, 2013

I saw a story this weekend on NBC Nightly News that highlights positive dog training in new way: training shelter dogs at Shedd Aquarium using the same techniques used on dolphins.

I noticed the similarities between dog training and sea lion training last summer when I was at our local zoo; the trainers used clickers and rewards to teach sea lions tricks and new behaviors. I know a lot of dog owners who scoff at trainers who preach humane treatments and eschew the choke, prong and shock collars. I laughed with a dog training friend that maybe she needed to do her dog training classes at the sea lion stage so people could get a different perspective on what positive dog training is all about.

We don’t question how a trainer can teach dolphins to jump through hoops on command, and yet dog trainers use the same methods to teach your dog to sit and stay. Love, treats, clear cues, patience.

So I loved seeing the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago’s program to train shelter dogs using the same methods they train their dolphins! Pairing the dogs and dolphins together in a show was a perfect way to not only entertain audiences but share important dog training information.

For those dog owners skeptical of how positive training methods can be used to help a dog overcome negative behaviors or fears, let me assure you that if you can train a dolphin (or whale or penguin) using fish and a clicker, you can definitely do it with a dog. 

For more about the Shedd Aquarium, visit their website.  You can also visit their pet resources pages, with tips on dog training and how to find the right trainer. (I’d add another book to their list: “Dogtown: A relationship manual for you and your dog”, by the folks at Dogtown at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. It’s very easy to understand, especially for owners new to positive training methods.)

Click here for more about Bruce, one of the dogs featured in the NBC story.

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