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What is Cynopraxic training?

Updated: Aug 15

Dogs and people share a unique partnership unlike anything else in the animal kingdom, and that partnership can be enhanced through Cynopraxic training and behavior modification practices.


Cynopraxic training proceeds on the assumption that dogs and people possess a shared capacity to establish relations based on fair exchange. Such training promotes cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes conducive social competence, cooperation, and play. Cynopraxic training objectives are governed by two essential social and life experience criteria: (1) enhance the human-dog relationship and (2) improve the dog’s quality of life.” -Steven Lindsay

When we expect our dogs to perform just because we said so, we unintentionally reduce them to robots with fur that needs reprogramming. Cynopraxic trainers instead strive to understand your dog as an individual with their own unique histories, motivators, and relationships. We are also committed to using the least intrusive and aversive methods first, while refraining from any method that will cause physical harm to your dog. LIMA (least intrusive, minimally aversive) is a commonly used acronym that describes these principles. If you are interested in this type of training, Wise Dogs is here to help!




Before you begin training, I would like you to consider the building blocks that create a healthy, emotionally balanced dog.


First, make sure you understand dog body language. Studying dog body language can help you understand the subtle shifts in your dog’s emotional state. Trainers can look at a dog’s body language and know if that dog is friendly, fearful, aggressive, and everything in-between.


Take a hard look at your dog’s physical health. Every dog with a behavioral problem should receive a thorough check-up with their veterinarian. Our physical health impacts our emotional state, and your dog cannot tell you if they have a thyroid problem or if their tooth hurts. Work with your vet to weed out any possible sources of pain and discomfort in your dog to support a healthy mind and a healthy body.


It is also crucial that your dog maintains a healthy weight and that they receive daily exercise and mental stimulation. You can see a body weight chart here to help you determine if your dog needs to lose a few pounds.


Are you trying to modify your dog’s behavior? How can the problem behavior be prevented? Until you have a trainer come to your home, it is critical that you prevent your dog from rehearsing the behavior you want to modify. Training will allow your dog to build better habits, but long-term habits cannot be built in a day! Here are a few things that can help you get started:

  • If your dog is protective over toys and chews, do not give your dog those specific items. Training will help your dog feel more at ease when you are around their prized resources, and it will teach them that it is okay to relinquish them when you ask.

  • If your dog jumps on visitors, keep your dog on a leash to prevent it. Training will teach your dog a better way to say hello.

  • If your dog barks at dogs on walks, keep them as far away from other dogs as you can. Training will help your dog learn to be calm and attentive to you when they see other dogs, and you will be able to get closer to other dogs with a bit of practice.


Your behavior impacts your dog’s behavior. If you are taking the time to understand your dog’s behavior and manage them correctly, you will then be able to understand how your behavior impacts your dog’s behavior. Dogs tend to respond best when they receive clear communication from a calm handler, and they tend to become stressed when their handler is stressed! If you feel yourself becoming frustrated, give yourself a break and reassess your training plan before you try again.


Leadership should create security and predictability. Do you set your dog up for success by being a good leader? Some might argue that this is even MORE important than training! Being a leader to your dog does not mean that you are trying to be an “alpha;” It means that you can make decisions for your dog that will result in a positive outcome for THEM! As they grow to understand that following your lead is in their best interest, they will be more likely to want to seek you for guidance, safety, and support.


How can we be a good leader to our dog? This is going to vary for each dog/human partnership, but creating structure and routine is a great way to get started. We should also set appropriate boundaries with other people, so they know what is okay/not okay to do with your dog. For example, if your dog is uncertain about new people, you should not be allowing strangers to pet your dog.


Training should benefit both you and your dog. Training is a way for us to connect with our dog, modify behaviors, and create a better life for them. Dogs have traded freedom in the wilderness with the security of domesticity, but they still have some of the instincts and behaviors that their ancestors had. As people continue to separate themselves from the natural world, we continue to seclude our dogs from the life that their wild ancestors knew. Dogs are designed to travel, play, smell, and make meaningful connections with us, and training is a way for us to fulfill those needs safely.


When you form a well-balanced partnership with your dog, they can….

  • Enjoy walks with you because they are not pulling and barking at other dogs and people

  • Play with you

  • Co-exist with friends and family

  • Go to dog-friendly establishments

  • Enjoy the great outdoors with you, which may include going to the beach, camping, and hiking.

  • Be okay at home alone for reasonable periods of time and leave you alone while you work from home.

Of course, it is perfectly okay if your dog cannot do all these things. There is no “one size fits all” approach to having a perfect partnership with our dog, but understanding these building blocks will help you bring out the best in your dog.

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