Dog Training Methods

    Top Paw Training offers a specific kind of dog training for both companion (pet) dogs and service dogs. The skills that are taught are very similar to the commands used with a show dog, performance sporting dog or even police service dogs, however, the goal of my dog training is to prepare dogs to conform to our human lifestyle so they may be a fuller part of our lives. 

    Companion and service dogs live indoors, play outdoors, travel with the family, go to public places with their handler, and does not over-react to the different animals, people or environments it encounters. The commands you use will allow you to tell your dog what to do or not to do in these everyday situations. The skill sets I teach will enrich the relationship and bond with your dog as you make an effort understand your pet's language as a "dog" and he makes an effort to understand your language as a "human". 

    An educated dog is a good companion or service dog.  A educated dog can be told where to move, in what position to stay, what to ignore and when to play and run. An educated dog knows the rules and words you are using to communicate- they understand what their job is. They also know the time and place to get rowdy and play like a dog loves to do! You'll also know how to handle (instruct) your dog in a way that promotes strong obedience and boundaries to keep bad habits from starting.
    Sometimes, we expect dogs to just KNOW how to behave. Not all dogs realize that they are there to be your friend and family member- and this can make your home seem like a zoo! Most behavioral issues come from the reinforcement, or lack thereof, poor daily structure and boundaries in your dog's day-to-day interactions, or genetic temperament issues that affect behavior. Frustration, resentment and a disconnection can even happen if you fail to get your dog trained. Let me start a a cycle of positive change and then show you how to control your dog more effectively, while teaching your dog to respect human authority and enjoy obeying the commands.
    By interacting with your dog in a new way, improving your dog's daily structure and using his new skills, your dog will maintain good canine habits and you'll discover a flourishing companionship and improved service dog work! 
"Most people have a list of what they want their dog to STOP DOING. Give me your list! I know an effective way to get your dog doing something positive instead. Then I'll teach you to get the same results." 

My Process of Teaching Dogs

    Reliable obedience is established by first imprinting positive behaviors with rewards. This is where I show your dog proper behaviors and teach him how to behave in a human world. I consistently reward repetitions in the form of fun training games, instead of boring drills. Your dog is learning a skill while having fun. The dog will soon understand the game in the form of a usable command. When your dog returns, I'll show you these games and how well your dog plays them. (Most people can't believe it's the same dog!)
    As the commands become more fluent, I incorporate distractions and humane discipline to make solid, useful obedience. This ensures a well behaved dog in a variety of environments. The focus is on setting the dog up for success and encouraging positive behaviors. 
    For those wary of food-based methods, thinking the dog may get hooked on food rewards forever or won't behave unless there's a treat involved, be assured- I train using food in the correct way to avoid food bribery and avoid treat dependency. I also train the dog past the point of relying on food rewards so you won't ever have to use treats. Please understand that your dog will need some sort of reward (but not food) for a job well done. A simple smile and kind word is what your dog will work for when he returns home.

"By training with rewards, I get the dog to quickly participate willingly and reduce stress and anxiety. Learning new habits and real results are seen quickly, so I can move on to advanced behaviors."

My Training Methods are an Effective Choice

    My methods are based on scientific research of how animals learn best- through operant conditioning, motivational reward-based training, understanding animal psychology- over years of professional experience and continuing education. Training is offered to dogs of any age, breed, health issues or past behavior. I use a balanced application of both rewards and humane discipline to establish trust, structure, skills, and a relationship through dog training. I have not worked with a dog that I could not train.

    "I want you to understand and be comfortable implementing a technique. Each dog is different- and so are people. My training is suited to each individual situation."

    While gaining respect and leadership in the relationship with your dog is important, I do not advocate or practice the overused "dominance theory," "alpha-dog" ideology, or the punishment-based training of the 1980's that utilized choke chains. While dogs descend from wolves, modern canines have a domesticated desire to learn and please. People have selectively bred this, therefore eliminating the animalistic need to be "dominated" in a physical way. Dogs actually have a natural subordinate hierarchy where the lower members keep things in order by apologizing and being respectful to the leaders. I use forms of equipment that work fast and safe. (Sorry, choke collars, head halters and harnesses aren't safe or effective- let me show you what I've found that will actually get you real results.) Don't be overly concerned with trying to be the "pack leader". It's waaaay more simple. I'll show you.
    Training should be fun and build confidence in our dogs- but I do not restrict myself to purely-positive training to an extreme that abolishes all communication of error to the dog. There has been a movement of dog trainers that only use rewards and never tell the dog, "no" or give a correction to stop a bad behavior. People often choose this route when they have witnessed poorly-used or abusive, negative methods or equipment, and feel emotionally sensitive, guilty or uncomfortable by enforcing boundaries that they believe are "hurting their dog's feelings." Reality is, that dog training is a two-way street...When using an extreme purely-positive form of training you put so many limitation on the trainer's communication techniques, but no limitations on the dog's behaviors. This imbalance creates unreliable behaviors that sway with the ever-changing motivations that the dog may have. Because a tool has been abused, it's not an excuse to abolish the tool.
    My experience has confirmed what science has theorized: that dogs learn best when they are given a complete form of communication- one that tells them both whether to repeat a behavior or not to. 
    Both described extremes (forceful ways or using purely positive reinforcement) of dog training are flawed and contradict the science and reality of how animals learn best; Education and personal experience in the field has proven this to be true.
It is strongly encouraged that clients ask questions and actively participate in the transfer process when their dog returns home. I also can demo all methods, behaviors, etc, on request, with my dog or yours.

Call 830-557-7026 or email to discuss your training goals.

"A Gift From God"

    I originally began training horses, and then dogs, as a teenager. I read every book on the subject so I could train my horses well enough to compete against more expensive ones with paid, professional training. Soon, my horses began to win against horses that cost ten times as much! Some people are born with a love for an animal that is unexplained- for me, it's dogs and horses (okay, and maybe a couple more amazing species...) One of the horse trainers that I learned the most from was John Lyons, a world-famous horse trainer. This is a special message from him that I believe applies to our relationship with our dogs. It's like his note was written from my heart as well as Mr. Lyons'. Please enjoy this perspective from another animal trainer that shares what I apply to dog training.

    A Gift from God

Bright Zip isn't my horse. He is God's horse. He’s just on loan to me. Likewise, the horse in your barn isn't really yours. God just gave him to you to care for and love. Because our horses belong to God, you and I will have to give an account someday for how we've treated them, which isn't a bad thing.

If you have something really valuable, a fragile family treasure for instance, would you give it to your child when he was three? Of course not. Would you give it to him at age 16, when he has trouble just keeping his room straight? Or at 22 when he finished college and you know he'll be moving around the country, packing and unpacking? Probably not. If it was something you really treasured, you'd wait until your child was settled and able to appreciate and take care of it. By the time you give it to him, you'd be sure that he could take care of it.

The horse is to God like that family treasure is to you. Horses are important to God, so He put within each of us the knowledge of what is right and wrong to do with them, so that we could care for them well. We may not instinctively know how much to feed them or how often they need shoes; we have to learn the specifics. But we do know, for instance, when a trainer tells us he wants to tie the horse's head around to the stirrup for 10 hours, that isn't right. Or when someone wants to hit a horse with a 2 x 4 to "teach" him a lesson, something in your gut says that isn't acceptable. We have to learn to trust our instincts when it comes to how to treat our horses right.

But does that mean we'll never make mistakes? No. God knew that, too. When he made the horse, He not only included traits like beauty and courage; He also included adaptability and forgiveness. As much as God cares for His horses, He cares even more for us. So much, that he gave His Son's life so that we may live.

Back to the family heirloom, if you just wanted it to be safe, you'd put it in a vault. But because you wanted to share something of yourself, you gave it to your child. That's some of why God gave us horses. He wanted us to see how their beauty, courage and, especially forgiveness is a reflection of Himself. So, next time you have a decision to make regarding your horse, remember that God loved you enough to give you the horse, and He loves the horse enough to give you insight into how to treat him. God planned that we fully enjoy our relationship with our horses.

God Bless,

John Lyons


-Thank you for all you have taught me, Mr. Lyons.