“There is no one right way to work with a dog.”
These are the words of Billie Groom, creator and founder of UPWARD Dogology, when faced with the ever so popular question “What do you do when your dog does X behavior?”.
“It’s just like (with) children. You know, (with) some children, you have to change how you parent, when they sort of become three years old to four years old… So, it’s the same with dogs. In other dogs, you don’t need to. You could just continue to use operant conditioning, and it works really well. But, at some point, it’s very common for dogs at around the age of six months to have some of those methods that were working before, just not work as well,”
Because of this, Billie uses an approach based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—rather than the standard operant conditioning—when working with dogs.
“Cognitive behavioral therapy works off a completely different platform than operant conditioning. Standard methods—positive reinforcement training, balance training—work off the operant conditioning, which is reactive in nature, whereas cognitive behavioral therapy has different elements and different components. So, UPWARD Dogology adheres to those components.”
(Click the “Play” button below to watch the video)
An acronym that mainly stands for “Urban People Working with Adopted and Rescued Dogs”, UPWARD Dogology also works with adolescent, adult, rambunctious, and rebellious dogs that are over six (6) months old.
As a successful canine consultant, award-winning book author, podcast host, and entrepreneur with over three (3) decades of professional experience, Billie developed UPWARD Dogology to become a scientifically proven formula that adheres to the principles and policies of CBT. The goal is for the methodology to help in effectively addressing anxiety, aggression, and other similar behaviors.
“Just by virtue of doing that, it (UPWARD Dogology) decreases surrenders, decreases euthanasia that are due to behavioral reasons. It also increases successful adoptions, and it also decreases frustrations, which can lead to abuse.”
While a traditional dog trainer utilizes operant conditioning to teach expected behaviors and discourage unwanted ones, UPWARD Dogology makes use of CBT to work proactively with dogs and change their perception as well as their behavior.
As per Billie,
“It works under the assumption that the subject—let’s say, the dog, or whatever it is—already has preconceived ideas…that they have to do a behavior to achieve their goal. So, you’re changing their perception to change that behavior.”
This is not to say that your Fido’s perception of you is wrong. In fact, in Billie’s opinion, what your dog thinks and how they perceive you is never wrong. What you just need to do as an owner is to build up those skills that will change your pooch’s perception of you.
This includes changing your ability to understand and recognize the things that your dog holds in high regard so that they can perceive correctly your ability to manage them calmly in different situations.
According to Billie, this is what makes her an unintentional behaviorist and trainer in practice, although not in the same sense as people might commonly think.
“Part of cognitive behavioral therapy is that you need to apply the skills and see the changes because the changes determine the next steps. And then you need feedback, so this is a very interesting thing,”
Although there may be other methods that would work just as well, such as distraction training, positive reinforcement training, and counter-conditioning, it’s still possible that they will fall short simply because they do not harness the cognitive side of your dog’s brain.
This is also the reason why UPWARD Dogology only applies with pups that are beyond the age of six months, as this stage is when their cognitive abilities start to truly kick in.
“So, if you take a street dog, and they’ve been surviving on the streets, they’re probably using their cognitive skills. So, we need to harness that when they come into our homes. That’s why, sometimes, standard positive reinforcement training will fall short, and then you don’t wanna be going over to negative reinforcement.”
Because the approach can be unconventional for many dog owners, it makes changing the mindset of first-time clients interesting. However, since UPWARD Dogology is purportedly very flexible and adaptable, Billie is able to ensure that the method continues to remain effective with different dogs and different types of scenarios.
She does this by working closely with her clients in order to provide them with effective advice and strategies that adapt to their lifestyle as well as their dog’s needs.
When asked about her future plans for UPWARD Dogology, Billie replied,
“I would really like to be able to get this on platforms that have a lot of influence in the dog world… Personally, I would love to work with rescue organizations and celebrities who are just fun and love dogs and are really big on animal rescue… I think that would be a way of getting it out there.”
Want to hear more from UPWARD Dogology?
Visit their website at www.upwarddogology.com.
Buy their book entitled “The Art of Urban People with Adopted and Rescued Dogs Methodology” at https://www.amazon.ca/Urban-People-Adopted-Rescued-Methodology/dp/1525547283.
Follow UPWARD Dogology on social media!