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WHAT IS BOND BASED CHOICE TEACHING? A SHORT GUIDE


There are a lot of different applications and methods for training dogs. Usually, training methods use discipline or positive reinforcement. But there is a revolutionary type of training method, called Bond Based Choice Teaching, that focuses on the bond between humans and canines, not just on blind obedience, cues, and commands. 

In this post, we will take a quick look at the revolutionary Bond Based Choice Teaching method created by Jennifer Arnold. 

WHERE DID BOND BASED CHOICE TEACHING COME FROM? 

Before jumping into what exactly Bond Based Choice Teaching is, we’ll look at the creator of this training, Jennifer Arnold.

Jennifer Arnold is the founder and executive director of Canine Assistants, a nonprofit service dog school that provides service dogs to children and adults with disabilities. 

Jennifer Arnold is the author of several books including; Through a Dog’s Eyes, In a Dog’s Heart, and Love Is All You Need: The Revolutionary Bond-Based Approach to Educating Your Dog

After 25 years of experience working with service dogs, she had a revelation about how dogs are traditionally trained. She realized that the success between service dog and handler depends on the bond between the two. In comes the Bond Based Choice Teaching Method, a method focused on the bond between a dog and its handler.

SO WHAT IS THE BOND BASED CHOICE TEACHING METHOD?

Bond Based Choice Teaching is a method of dog training created by Jennifer Arnold. It is based on a mutually beneficial relationship between dog and human, where love and respect are the methods of teaching. It focuses more on teaching a dog rather than on training a dog. Her method focuses not only on the human-canine bond but also on giving a dog choices. 

In her book Love Is All You Need, the bond is defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) as “a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both” 

From this definition, Arnold saw three major components of the “bond”

  1. The bond should be mutually beneficial

  2. The bond should always remain a work in progress

  3. The health and well-being of both species impacts the bond between the two

She describes the Bond-Based Approach as “a way of using social connection to influence and educate such that they choose to cooperate with us.” Her approach uses love, respect, and the bond as the primary way of learning.

According to Arnold, it is easier to work and live with dogs that can act independently, instead of relying heavily on cues or demands from their human counterparts.

Arnold continuously reminds us that the bond is the most important aspect of the human-canine relationship. Arnold observed that when obedience from a dog was the most important aspect in the relationship, then the bond suffered. If the bond suffers then, anxiety and distress in dogs soars. Therefore, the secret of having a healthy, well-mannered dog is having a strong connection between human and canine.

Another important aspect of Arnold’s Bond Based approach is choice. Her method allows dogs to be given a choice in their human-dominated worlds. Humans cannot always be around to give their dogs cues and commands, therefore it is important that they learn how to make choices on their own. Giving a dog a choice instead of commands is critical for their well-being and gives them the ability to have control of their actions. 

Arnold says this about training in her book Love Is All You Need, “While it is entirely possible to contort all behaviors to make them fit the model of reward and punishment, it behooves us to stop manipulating our dogs’ behavior through training and instead begin focusing on helping them learn how to behave appropriately.”

BOND BASED TRAINING VS OTHER TRAINING METHODS 

Discipline and positive reinforcement training are the basis for most types of dog training. Some think that training dogs requires positive reinforcement to help a dog learn desired actions, while others think that discipline is necessary when training a dog.

Discipline or punishment-based training is one method that Arnold openly opposes in her book.

Positive reinforcement training is a type of training that rewards a dog for successful behaviors. Although Arnold admits that this is a better method of training than disciplinary methods, she has seen some long-term negative effects of positive reinforcement. Arnold has this to say about positive reinforcement methods, “Using rewards as the basis for a relationship—offering rewards in exchange for behaviors pleasing to us—is in direct opposition to the concept of unconditional love.”

She further states that positive reinforcement can cause dogs to feel distress and anxiety because they are still being trained to perform on command and do not know how to function on their own. 

Arnold observed that “there is a single predictor of success for our teams at Canine Assistants: the bond between the dog and their person.”

Forming a powerful bond will allow a dog to love fully and unconditionally, wanting to naturally please their humans and therefore need fewer cues and make decisions on their own.

Arnold’s conclusion when it comes to her Bond Based Choice Teaching method is that the most important aspect between a human and their canine is the bond. We should not sacrifice the bond for discipline or obedience. In Arnold's own words, “When we do everything right, our dogs become highly bonded to us. Our dogs never want to make us angry or disappointed in them, so they pay very close attention to our moods, body languages, and everyday lives.”

If you want to learn more about Jennifer Arnold's revolutionary Bond-Based approach, get her book here.

 

*the picture above is from a training Jennifer Arnold gave to our program at California Men's Colony

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References

  1. Arnold, Jennifer. Love Is All You Need: the Revolutionary Bond-Based Approach to Educating Your Dog. Spiegel & Grau, 2016.   

  2. “9 Most Popular Dog Training Methods.” PocketSuite, 18 May 2020, https://pocketsuite.io/9-most-popular-dog-training-methods/

  3. “Love Is All You Need: The Revolutionary Bond-Based Approach to Educating Your Dog.” Working Like Dogs,  https://workinglikedogs.com/product/love-is-all-you-need-the-revolutionary-bond-based-approach-to-educating-your-dog/

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