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At The Heart of How We Work

Our Dog Training Methods & Philosophy

There are many ways to train a dog and many styles which may seem to produce a reasonable outcome. But what sets certain trainers apart from the rest is questioning and constantly looking deeper into the why and how to train. Why do it this way as opposed to doing it that way? Why does this technique that worked for that dog not work as well for this dog? How could one dog tolerate inconsistency in his handler when another dog whose handler is much more proper be not as tolerant? How could this breed be so different from that breed?

This probing and being unsatisfied with results in training, whether at a high level or basic level, is what sets the professional apart from the enthusiast. Like any other profession, this type of reflection creates the standard for others to follow. A great trainer researches and experiments, creating better ways to communicate and to gain the understanding in our dogs. By constantly looking under the surface of the how’s and why’s, questions become answered as new ones become harder to answer. This is the quality of an innovator regardless of profession.

John Soares believes that a lot of what is not being considered by professional trainers and enthusiasts alike is domestication. Domestication is the fundamental concept in John Soares’ training methods. This outlook is based on personal experience and theory as well as practical training with different breeds, in different areas of work and disciplines.

Process of Domestication
What facilitates domestication is “paedomorphism”. This refers to the ability to retain juvenile characteristics. By interrupting the growth and maturing process, paedomorphism stops or prohibits the completion of an adult cycle. Paedomorphism brings about changes mentally as well as morphologically. By retaining juvenile characteristics, our adult dogs look like young adults compared to their wild counter parts of the same age. In other words, a four year old dog would resemble an 18 month old wolf. Also mentally our domesticated dogs have a retention of play which extends well into their later years whereas adults in the wild grow out of this behavior. Experts believe that this ability of retaining juvenile characteristics is what gave us the opportunity to domesticate dogs. Most animals do not have the ability to become domesticated.

Domestication of Aggression/Defense
It should be noted that along with understanding of predatory sequence another factor in domestication is aggression/defense. These terms are often thrown around without much regard. The perception is that aggression and defense is bad, that such traits should not exist in the domesticated dog. What should be made clear is that aggression and defense are fundamental in a healthy animal (human included). In the wild, a hurt animal is a dead animal. So the instinctive actions such as marking, establishing territory etc. all stem from aggression. The signals or annunciations an animal makes is all within the framework of survival. Aggression is a survival instinct based to a great extent on ritualistic behavior to avoid contact. Aggression instincts allows the animal to take the necessary steps to annunciate and provide the signals for harmony to take place within the area they live. We call this role “active aggression”. We also have defense which is reactive. Defense is usually associated with the fight or flee response. If cornered, surprised or if there is an intrusion of space defense will cause a flight response or fight behavior. Defense does not initiate action; it is a reaction to situation or action.

The way in which aggression and defense works is directly dependent on space or distance. Space or distances are very important to animals. They do not have the perception of a world or a universe, their world is limited to their immediate area.

Personal Distance is the immediate area of the animal. Within this area only animals of great familiarity which pose no threat are allowed (the very young, opposite sex etc.).

Predatory Sequence 
Paedomorphism, which breaks the cycle of growth and maturing gave man the possibility to genetically produce certain types of dogs to do certain types of work consistently with high rate of predictability. Paedomorphism is to domestication as predatory sequence is to predictability.

Predatory sequence is the sequence that a carnivore goes through in hunting. This sequence is deeply rooted in the genetic makeup of hunters. Although carnivores can get some of their nutrition from plant life the need to satisfy these hunting-innate impulses serves a neurological purpose. Even when remains are available from previous hunts the biological need to satisfy these impulses often takes over. The steps to predatory sequence are:

Stalk → Chase → Pounce → Bite → Kill → Dissect

These six steps are essential to a successful hunt. Each of these six steps must be fulfilled. If one of these steps is unsuccessful in being fulfilled, the hunt will stop. This process is deeply rooted into the genetic makeup of the animal. Successful hunting has to do with the completion and maintaining the order of predatory sequence. Paedomorphism allows the interruption of this deeply rooted response to prey. Because paedomorphism retains juvenile characteristics (breaking the cycle of maturing) predatory sequence was able to be manipulated. So for example:

  • The first two steps of predatory sequence-Stalking, Chasing or Chasing, Stalking has been the traits used for our hunting breeds.
  • The first four steps of predatory sequence-Stalking, Chasing, Pounce &nbspand bite has been the traits used for our herding breeds.
  • The predatory sequence of -Stalking, Chasing and Biting has been the traits used for our retrievers and so on.

Through domestication, succession of predatory sequence was interrupted and (whether by accident, breeding or combination of both) these deeply rooted sequences produced dogs with the predictability to serve and work for man. Most of our domesticated dogs do not show the killing or dissecting steps of predatory sequence. Though some of our terriers do exhibit these steps as part of their vermin hunting and controlling farm pests.

Social Space is a bigger area where a pack is free to roam. Here, opposing members may pass each other but tension at this distance exists.

Critical Distance is the limit in distance an animal will let a rival approach. If this distance is violated there will either be a fight or flee response.

These distances are also deeply rooted into the genetic makeup of our domesticated dogs. These responses, coupled with the responses of predatory sequence, give us a complete functional domesticated dog. For example:

  • The reason a hunting dog that stalks and chases prey but refrains from making contact has directly to do with maintaining space stemming from aggression.
  • The reason a retriever will stalk-chase and bite the prey soft mouthed (this inhibition is brought about due to defense).
  • The reason a herding dog is able to manipulate a flock of sheep through ritualistic movement also derives from aggression, distance.

John Soares has studied and developed his training methods based on these instinctive qualities. Distance and space, when used properly, influences behavior instinctively. It can be seen as a pressure point which induces learning naturally. This consideration benefits the trainer’s communication and meets the dog half-way in the process of learning. Our dogs are caught living in two worlds: one which draws from their ancestors (wolf, coyote, wild dog etc) and second which humans have brought them into through domestication. This unique method of training capitalizes on the individual dog’s outlook.

In high level dog training, John Soares believes that this consideration is what sets him apart from his competitors. The harmony of movement is a quality a professional, as well as novice, can value. The picture of dog and handler working as one is the goal. John Soares’ training methods utilizes the natural behavior of movement (predatory sequence) and ritualistic movement (distance and space) to produce behaviors we can all compete and live with.

John Soares K9 Training, LLC Reviews

Susan ManalioSusan Manalio
12:03 17 Jul 23
My 7-month-old White GSD Star, just returned from her 4-week board and train with John. What an amazing difference in her obedience. I worked with her since she was 8 weeks old to build a good foundation but started struggling with her on-leash training as she got older. She was also extremely mouthy when taking her collars on and off, which had to change. John’s ability to evaluate, read and work with dogs is second to none. To say the results of my expectations were unmatched, is an understatement. Every week I was sent updates, videos, and pictures on how Star was doing. During these 4 weeks I missed her terribly, but I knew she was in the best of hands. Upon her return I participated in the first of 4 training sessions which were included in her board and train. John taught me, as the handler, how to work with Star with the training tools specific to her. She now walks beautifully on-leash and does not react when I pull her collars on and off. She is also more focused on me and does what I ask her to do regarding obedience. John has a deep passion for training and endless patience when showing handlers (no matter what level) how to work with their newly trained dog. I found John by accident when I was looking for additional training for my last WGSD 10 years ago. I loved his style and how he worked with people as well as dogs, he has a deep compassion for both. I am looking forward to when Star is old enough, when John will re-evaluate her to attend off-leash training at his board and train facility. I HIGHLY recommend John as a trainer; he is the best of the best, and I feel grateful and fortunate to have had this opportunity to work with him and I look forward to continuing with John.
Ray WhiteRay White
15:23 14 Jul 23
I highly recommend John Soares K9 Training. John did a great job achieving our objectives with our Doberman, who was previously very reactive and difficult to walk. After just a few weeks of training, our dog is now able to stay focused on us in complex and challenging environments, and walking is now super easy with no pull or distractions.I was particularly impressed with John's patience and understanding. He was always willing to answer our questions and help us understand what we needed to do to continue training our dog. He also took the time to teach us how to prevent our dog from becoming reactive in the future.I believe that the investment in John's training was well worth it. Our dog is now a much better household member, and we are all much happier. I would definitely do it again with any other dog we may get in the future.Here are some key points from my experience with John Soares K9 Training:* John is a highly experienced and knowledgeable dog trainer.* He is patient, understanding, and fun to work with.* He teaches you how to prevent your dog from becoming reactive in the future.* The investment in his training is well worth it.If you are looking for a dog trainer who can help you achieve your training goals, I highly recommend John Soares K9 Training.
Andrew SAndrew S
14:39 11 May 23
John has a rare gift with dogs, and besides immense experience he has an innate talent in being able to translate his gift into real results.Through my own interactions and experience with John, I know for certain that he is also a man of great honor and integrity.He's a straight talker who will tell you from the start what can and can't be achieved, rather than give false promises.These qualities all make him your only choice in what is otherwise a sea mediocre and inexperienced K9 trainers out there.
Jeff ScottJeff Scott
19:22 07 Apr 23
Absolutely the most knowledgeable, and professional dog trainer you will ever meet.
Marvin CarpenterMarvin Carpenter
00:45 30 Mar 23
I’m so glad that my wife and I decided to go with John Soares K9 Training, the results were life changing. Our Doberman is a total different dog after spending four-weeks with John and his staff at his board & train facility. We were provided with video’s throughout her training and were impressed with her progress. Nova’s transformation was amazing, the training has blended perfectly into our daily lives. It was one of the best decisions my wife and I made to get Nova the professional training that she much needed. In addition, the four follow-up sessions were geared to train us humans on how to handle a well behave and trained dog. Thank you John, we are totally happy with the results and we highly recommend your board and train program (Obedience & Off-Leash) to family and friends.
Tina AlvesTina Alves
02:38 08 Oct 21
I am grateful to have found John to help me with my 18 month old doberman. Not only is John an expert in understanding how this breed thinks but he took the time to get to know my dog’s specific temperament and personality. The 4-week board and train program was definitely worth it because he helped me get to a better place with my pet by teaching me about the importance of tone of voice when giving a command, leash pressure, and timing of corrections. I feel more confident and in control as a handler. The follow up sessions were key to better understanding how to manage his dog reactivity. Thank you for all your help, I really appreciate it!

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