FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- What is the first step I should take to hire Ruff Customers?— The first step is to determine what services you’d like to use. Ruff Customers trains dogs and puppies and has packages for each kind of training you need. You can email us via the contact form or simply download and complete the NEW CLIENT APPLICATION and send that form to Leigh via email or fax (206) 339-8778. If you prefer to speak with her first, you can call Leigh at (234) PLAY – RUFF.
- How much does it cost to hire Ruff Customers if I have a puppy that I’d like to learn good manners and basic obedience? — Ruff Customers offers a PUPPY PACKAGE for puppies who are five months and younger, and the package costs $500 for 5 hour-long sessions. Please note that these prices are subject to change without notice, but we update the website fairly often, so we stay current. Current rates are always available upon request.
- How much does it cost to hire Ruff Customers if I have an adolescent dog (over five months old) or adult dog with behavioral issues? — An initial evaluation with Ruff Customers costs $180, with a $10 travel surcharge for cases outside of NYC. The consult usually lasts one and a half to two hours. After that initial meeting, our trainer will discuss the evaluation and indicate how many training sessions she recommends. Please note that these prices are subject to change without notice, but we update the website fairly often, so we stay current. Current rates are always available upon request.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
- Animal-Assisted Therapy : the purposeful use of animals to provide affection, attention, diversion, and relaxation to humans, typically those who are institutionalized, injured, or otherwise under increased stress; dogs who engage in this activity are often called “therapy dogs,” and they often received specialized training in order to gain access to specialized institutions such as schools and hospitals in order to engage in therapy. These dogs do not, however, have protected legal status enjoyed by services dogs.
- Positive Reinforcement : the addition of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. A common example is when your dog sits and you give your dog a food treat which acts as a reinforcer, he will sit more often in the future – giving the treat reinforced the sit. Another example is if you told a joke and your audience laughed heartily, you were therefore confident to tell another joke in later conversation – the laughter increased your joke-telling behavior.
- Behavior Modification : the process of changing an animal’s unwanted or maladaptive behavior by using the principles of operant conditioning (positive and negative reinforcement and punishment, extinction) to reduce or eliminate those unwanted behaviors.
- Counter-Conditioning : the process of changing an animal’s emotional association with an item by pairing the item with something that changes it’s current association. For example, the alarm clock means you have to get up, and often that sound signifies the unpleasant necessity of going to work. If, instead, you paired the sound of your alarm clock with the task of sitting down to your favorite activity (INSTEAD of having to get up and go to work), you would change your emotional association with that sound. In animal training, this technique is most commonly used lessen an animal’s anxiety by pairing a (currently) fear-inducing stimulus (an approaching bicycle) with something pleasant to the animal (eating bites of tasty food).
- Functional Reinforcement Techniques : a functional reinforcer is a reinforcer (from the perspective of the animal) which is functionally related to an anxiety-inducing stimulus. The “functional” piece of a functional reinforcer is essentially defined as “whatever event or function your dog really wants to happen in the particular situation.” For example, if your dog is frightened at the sight of an approaching bicycle, then your dog may find it more reinforcing to MOVE AWAY from the bicycle than to eat food while the bicycle comes closer to her. Therefore, the “functional reinforcer” you could use to reward your dog for her calm behavior when she spots an approaching bicycle is to move her away from the oncoming bicycle. So, determining what that “function” may be is the key to using “functional” reinforcers. Two better known methods which use functional reinforcers are Constructional Aggression Treatment (C.A.T.) and Behavior Adjustment Training (B.A.T.), which is a derivative of C.A.T.
- Desensitization : the process of lessening an animal’s anxiety over a particular object by gradual, controlled exposure to the object causing fear. A common example of simple desensitization is demonstrated using a case of sound phobia: A person who is afraid of the sound of thunder would be placed in a room where a CD of thunder sounds is playing at VERY low volume, and during the session the anxious person can engage in some pleasant activity while the sounds play at a safe (quiet) volume. Once the person feels no concern with the sounds at that volume, the volume of the thunder sounds is increased slightly during the next session. Over time, the exposure, coupled with something pleasant should be able to be increased (the volume, in this case, turned louder and louder) so that the person can learn to tolerate or even to feel a pleasant association with the actual sound of thunder, even when that sound is not volume-controlled. In this example, the process of desensitization includes the concept of counter-conditioning, by pairing the fear-inducing stimulus (sound of thunder) with something pleasant.
- Separation Anxiety Disorder : an emotional condition in which an individual demonstrates symptoms of excessive anxiety or distress, which usually manifests as a result of separation from an individual with which the anxious individual is excessively bonded. Typically observed manifestations of this disorder include house soiling, destructive behavior (especially centered around entryways), excessive vocalization, and excessive salivation, inability to eat when separated, and potential self-injurious behavior if confined.
- Force-based training methods : dog training methods which rely on incorrect, non-scientific theories about dog society and cognition to explain dog behavior. Examples include such training models as those using dominance theory, in which the human is taught to use force techniques to demonstrate his superiority over the dog. A common example of these techniques is the “alpha roll”, where the human rolls the dog on its side and holds it down as a correction for unwanted behavior. Another force-based technique advises dog owners to use a choke chain or prong collar to teach walking behavior through the use of correction if the dog walks forward of the person. Dominance and alpha theory wrongly bases explanations of dog behavior on a 1947 study of behavior of captive wolves, from which the observing scientists made faulty conclusions. These behavioral conclusions about wolves were later found to be false, but the dominance-based dog behavior theories (and attendant mythology) persist in human society. See scientist David Mech here, explaining the mistakes and the correct meaning and application of dominance.
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