How We Train
Loving, respecting and caring for your dog doesn’t stop when training starts. Positive reinforcement training builds strong relationships and enhances the one you already have.
What is Positive training?
Dog training relies on this premise: when animals (including humans) have learned that a behavior has a predictable result, they are more likely to repeat (or avoid) that behavior. Positive training encourages desired behaviors by rewarding them. With positive dog training, dogs are more likely to repeat desired behaviors while learning that behaviors we don’t like aren’t useful to them.
Instead of punishing your dog for bad behavior, we can use positive reinforcement to train them to do the things you’d prefer them to do instead.
How do I discipline my dog then?
A common myth about positive training is that you’re supposed to ignore your dog’s bad behavior, never say “no”, and/or are permissive. This couldn’t be further from the truth! But it doesn’t mean that we have to use harsh methods or corrections with our dogs (resulting in long term damage) any more than we would with a child. We focus on giving dogs appropriate outlets for their canine urges, while also proactively teaching them how to behave appropriately in common situations.
Will I always need to use treats?
No; but we should always use a reinforcer. We use treats to teach behaviors initially (and when we are raising the stakes, i.e., asking for behaviors when it is more difficult), because for most dogs this “paycheck” incentivizes the behaviors we want to teach. Over time, we begin to fade the food treats with other “paycheck” reinforcers our dogs appreciate: i.e., a toy; a chance to go outside; play time; other activities our dog enjoys; praise.
What are the benefits of positive training?
There are many benefits of positive training, for both you and your dog!
Some benefits of positive reinforcement training include:
- A deeper bond with your dog as you work together and learn how to communicate effectively
- Fewer behavioral problems overall, as your dog learns appropriate skills for a two-legged world
- A more willing and enthusiastic training partner: Your dog will learn how to behave because they enjoy doing so – not out of fear of punishment
How is positive training different than "traditional" methods?
Sadly, traditional, i.e., punishment-based training methods, although discredited, are still in use today, primarily because they seem to work quickly. However, there are well-documented reasons why traditional, aversive-based methods should be avoided; like many “quick fix” solutions, there is considerable fallout from this style of training.
- Development of or increase in aggression.
- Removal of warning signals
- Erosion of trust and confidence. Some dogs completely shut down and give up; the relationship between the dog and person is damaged, sometimes permanently.
- Ineffective training because the dog often does not understand why he has received the punishment (although the human thinks it is perfectly clear). If the training were effective, the punishment would not have to be constantly inflicted on the dog.
- Habituation. The dog becomes accustomed to the pain and disregards it (unless the human then dials it up again)
- Unreliable. When the human is unable to inflict punishment on the dog (i.e., the shock or prong collar is not on the dog, the dog is off leash), the dog will not respond.
- Resentment and frustration. The dog may respond to the person who chronically inflicts pain on them, but then take out their frustrations on another animal or person.
Why CHOOSE Positive Training?
The Question should be, Why Not?
IT CREATES WILLING PARTNERSHIP AND TRUST
Most people get dogs because they want a loving canine companion and a relationship based on mutual respect and trust. When punishment-based training is used, it destroys the very purpose of our original reason for having a dog.
Positive reinforcement is more effective than punishment-based strategies because it teaches your dog what to do rather than punishing them for making a mistake. Put yourself in your dog’s place: What if you go to a new job and aren’t given a clear job description? Or are expected to do something that is beyond your current capabilities? And then you are punished every time you made a “mistake”. How would you feel? Not only would you not begin to understand what the expectations are and learn how to meet those goals, you would be constantly looking over your shoulder fearing you might make a mistake and worrying about a punishment coming out of nowhere. You would probably become fearful, frustrated, shut down, resentful. You would begin to lose trust in your boss because the situation feels unfair. Some of us might even begin to fight back, overtly or covertly. Punishment-based training may in the short run seem more effective, but the long-term fallout is devastating.
It's Scientifically Backed
Positive reinforcement training is recommended by the leading organizations in dog training (including the American Society of Veterinarians; American Veterinarian Society of Animal Behavior; International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants; Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers; and Association of Professional Dog Trainers). And studies have shown the effectiveness of positive reinforcement training.
It Creates willing partners
Fairness, realistic expectations, clear communication, mutual respect and trust are the cornerstones of creating a partnership with our dogs. If our dog is trained to the third grade level, expecting them to behave like a Ph.D is unfair. Instead of blaming our third grader for not behaving like a Ph.D, we can teach our third grader to behave like a Ph.D.
“Dog Training Methods Affect Attachment” companionanimalpyschology.com
“The Truth About Averse Training Collars” holisticdogtraining.org
“Should Dogs Be Shocked Pronged” psychologytoday.com
“Beyond Murray Sidman’s Coercion And Its Fallout” Dennis J. Delprato, June 2017
“Charlee and the Electric Shock Containment System with Dan Antolec” Podcast
“Highly Sensitive Personality and Behavior Problems in Dogs” smartdogtrainingandbehavior.com
“Why Electric Shock Is Not Behavior Modification” k9behavioralgenetics.net
“The End For Shock Collars?” companionanimalpsychology.com