What is Positive Dog Training?

If you look for a trainer you are going to find a variety of different trainers telling you about how wonderful and humane their methods are.  It's hard to argue with when the alternative that they present is the vision of a sadistic angry trainer using all sorts of medieval torture devices that are designed for no other reason than to shock, choke, intimidate or hurt your dog.

You will find hundreds of articles explaining positive and negative reinforcement , operant conditioning,  behavior modification, and conditioned response.

 

You won't find any such explanation here.  IF B.F. Skinner had given us all we needed in regards to human and animal behavior then neither humans nor animals would suffer from mental health conditions.

The problem is not with the equipment being used but rather with how it is being used.  The best dog trainers in the world will tell you that you should never so much as have to raise your voice to a dog (they have excellent hearing) so why would you need to apply methods that cause pain and fear.

The second problem is the assumption that the the positive methods full of yummy treats and collars with names like "Gentle" leader aren't causing any harm either.  That over treating hasn't lead to overweight dogs with a multitude of diet induced health problems or that harnesses do not hurt back and neck muscles.

So What is the answer? : Time, Consistency, Understanding, and Communication

The two main methods promoted by most dog trainers are both short term fast fixes , one applying pressure to a dog to produce results and the other relying on treats but both require dogs to conform to a generic program that does not take into account the dogs own personality, rate of development, experience, and inherent breed specific traits.

A Short Story

When I was younger my family had all kinds of labrador retrievers.  They were fantastic family dogs and 

wonderful hunting companions.  As a child I had no idea what it took for them to become this way.  I just assumed that dogs were incredibly smart animals.  They all fetched slippers when asked, lied down calmly on their spot in the house.  Stayed in their own yard and never barked more than one or two times to let you know someone was in the driveway.  All our dogs knew to go to the bathroom in only their designated place in the yard and left the family cat in peace. 

 

Then one day when I was a little older we got a puppy.  It was incredibly cute.  But boy was it stupid.  It chewed on everything, our dogs never chewed anything but their treats, it peed everywhere, why didn't it go outside?  It jumped on everything, our other dogs sat patiently and watched it.  I think it was deaf because it didn't even know its name.  Over time however the pup stopped chewing everything, stopped jumping, quit running away.  Long story short that dog became one of the best dogs we ever had but up until the dog that I have right now, it probably started out as one of the most difficult and misbehaved.  What that dog taught me that every dog reinforces is that the key to training is communication.  Every dog wants nothing but to please its owner but until a dog understands what is expected they don't have a chance.

You can create all kinds of fancy names for training but what it comes down to is.

1) Introducing the dog to the desired task or behaviour

2) Repeating this in a consistent way in an environment where the dog can pay attention

3) Communicating to you dog that they have done what you want with praise

Repeat

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