The Evolution of Dog Training

The Evolution of Dog Training

Over the years dog training has evolved just like almost everything else in the world! Although evolution and change can be scary, it is an important part of our lives.

As humans, we are constantly striving for “something better” or to learn more about things. Because we have a desire for “something better,” we have eliminated deadly diseases, we have mini computers in our pockets, we can travel around the world and we live much longer. These changes did not come easy and many people feared the changes. Change can be scary and if we learn that we have been doing something that may have caused pain, injury or fear, it is hard to accept.

We first started training dogs over 100 years ago. We thought we needed to use force to get dogs to obey and these training methods lasted a long time.

Anyone who has been training for 20 years or more, has used a choke chain, pinch collar and/or an electric collar. As a trainer of over 20 years, I have used these things. However, I have always been open to learning a better way as there are very few things in our world that have not changed in the last 100 years.

Approximately 20 years ago, a few people started to look for different ways to train. They started to look at human psychology and behavior and began to make changes in how we train our dogs. People like Karen Pryor, Dr. Ian Dunbar, Dr. Karen Overall and many more led the way to change our thinking that dogs must be forced to obey. They showed us that we can use positive reinforcement techniques to train instead of punishment.

When people transition from using corrective based training to more positive, force free training, they are often called “cross over” trainers. I am a cross over trainer and I continue to learn better and more efficient ways to train dogs all of the time. Even as a “positive trainer” my techniques and beliefs on how best to train changes as I learn about new studies and techniques.

Anyone who works with dogs, owes it to their dogs to be open to “new”, better ways to train.

Although “traditional” training techniques do work, they often come with unwanted side effects like anxiety and fear. Just because something “works” it does not mean it is the best way to do it. Many drugs have been developed over the years, like Phen Phen (a drug used to aid in weight loss) that have been banned due to the dangerous side effects (Phen Phen lead to heart related problems). As we learn and study, we learn better ways to live. Dog training is exactly the same.

Are the side effects worth it when there is a better way to train?

Shannon CoynerShannon Coyner

Shannon has been a pet lover all her life and a dog trainer for over 20 years. She has spent her life observing, caring for and training animals of all kinds. She has worked in the Bird Department at Marine World Africa USA, and worked as an handler and trainer for an African Serval Cat at Safari West, a private zoo in Santa Rosa, California. She has participated in behavior studies including observations of bald eagles and addax antelope through the San Francisco Zoo and Safari West.

Her education includes a Biology Degree, specializing in Zoology from Sonoma State. She is a Registered Veterinary Technician, Certified Professional Dog Trainer (Knowledge Assessed), a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

Shannon is currently serving as President for the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians.

Shannon’s dog training philosophy revolves around force free, positive reinforcement, however, her ultimate goal is for healthy happy relationship between pets and their people. Diet, exercise, environment and training all play a significant role in achieving this goal.

Shannon is currently the owner of Ventura Pet Wellness and Dog Training Center in Ventura, CA where she works with anxious and fearful dogs privately as well as teaching agility classes ( Shannon has also started a training website called Truly Force Free Animal Training (

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