Our Dog Training Philosophy

Our Goal

It is the goal of the Washington County Humane Society to provide training programs resulting in happy, confident dogs as well as guardians who know how to work with their dog. We believe in building relationships with our dogs through skill building, compassion and education.  We further believe it is important to provide training classes in a positive environment to enable dogs to feel safe. Dogs experiencing behavior concerns may be referred to a behavior specialist.

Positive Reinforcers and Motivators

The use of positive reinforcers and motivators are not only acceptable but strongly encouraged in WCHS training classes.  Positive motivators encourage a dog to perform a desired behavior. Also, positive reinforcers strengthen the behavior by offering a meaningful reward that a dog will modify his behavior to obtain.
The motivator must be appealing enough to make a dog work for it. These motivators help build a relationship of trust, affection and positive association. Even if used incorrectly, positive reinforcers and motivators create very little risk of a lasting negative impact on the dog, the relationship or the learning process.


  • Voice – verbal praise
  • Physical Affection
  • Food/treats
  • Markers such as whistles, clickers or verbal (i.e. “Yes!”)
  • Life Rewards (i.e. Sit at the door = opportunity to go outside)
  • Play (i.e. Sit = ball will be thrown)

Equipment & Class Size

The best training tools enhance the ability to communicate with a dog while building a bond of trust and affection.

  • WCHS does not support the use of choke collars, shock collars or prong collars.
  • Body Harnesses are encouraged to reduce stress on a dog’s neck and spine.
  • Continuing Education:  WCHS believes that it is important to keep up with current dog training trends and new techniques used in the training field.

Classes will be limited to no more than 6 dogs per instructor.

Our Guidelines

The techniques used in the WCHS training program will follow the Least Invasive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) principle.
• Are dedicated to the use of science based training methods, utilizing the least aversive techniques possible.
• Are committed to using positive reinforcement as a teaching tool and negative punishment as complementary management
• Adhere to the Humane Hierarchy https://m.iaabc.org/about/lima/hierarchy/, as outlined by Dr. Susan Friedman.
• Adhere to The Five Freedoms of The Farm Animal Welfare Council. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/an_animal_welfare_history_lesson_on_the_five_freedoms
• Do not use or condone ideologies, methods or gear that impart physical or psychological punishment or pain on animals.
• Pursue and impart knowledge, maintain competence in animal behavior through continuing education, active training and applied experience.

Aversive training methods are based on making a dog feel something unpleasant or painful because they have done something “wrong.” Aversives can be anything that a dog finds displeasing. Aversives inhibit learning and inhibits the formation of trust between the dog and owner. What is aversive to a dog is highly individualized, and can have a lasting effect beyond the change of behavior. These side effects can manifest as avoidance, fear, or aggression, and can teach a dog to be fearful or anxious about people or situations.