Q: What does it mean to use positive reinforcement? Do you always have to use food?
A: Positive reinforcement based training focuses on rewarding behaviours that are wanted and preventing behaviours that are not wanted through replacement or management. Food is a primary reinforcer and is a very strong and easy way to reinforce desired behaviours but is only one of many reinforcers that fall under the umbrella. Anything the dog finds valuable can be a reinforcer but most training starts with food for it's ease of use.
Q: I feel a lot of pressure to have my dog socialize with other dogs at the park, shouldn't he want to play with the other dogs?
A: Dog parks have become a big phenomenon in the last ten years or so. It is important to know that parks are for socialized and social dogs and not for rehabilitating dogs that do not want to or due to fear cannot socialize. If your dog does not enjoy it then there are other ways to safely and happily exercise or socialize your dog. Not every dog wants to be or can be a social butterfly and that is OKAY.
Q: Why is it important to have my dog checked by my veterinarian before starting a behaviour modification plan?
A: If your dog is showing signs of anxiety, aggression or any other changes in behaviour (for example issues with house training) it is very possible there is a physical cause. Pain, Illness, infections etc can have a profound effect on a dog's behaviour and it is important to rule these out for serious behaviour issues or we may be trying in vain to modify the behaviour. It also ensures optimal health for optimal learning. Your dog will thank you.
Q: Is my dog too old to learn new behaviours?
A: Short answer is no. Longer answer is that the dog has had months or years of practicing the unwanted behaviour, so it may take longer to change it than in a younger dog or puppy. Old dogs CAN learn new tricks. New research into neuroplasticity confirms it.