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DDO guide to…dog training methods!

There is a lot of information out there on the many different ways of training a dog. It can be a confusing world to venture into. You want to do the very best for your best friend but where to begin?

At DDO we spend most of our days with dogs and watching other people with their dogs. As a result, we see a lot of different ways of dealing with very common problems. If a dog jumps up, do you hit it? Push it off? Yell? Ignore it? If a dog pulls on a lead do you yank the lead back? Stop walking? Yell? Hit?

Depending on your answer you are likely to fall into two main categories (and for main methods) of dog trainer:

Negative Reinforcement and Positive Punishment are both aversive methods of training. They involve either stopping doing something the dog is not enjoying when he behaves or instigating some form of physical punishment when the dog does not behave. For example, it could mean teaching your dog to lie down by physically pushing him into the position then removing your hand when he is in the right place. He will not enjoy being pushed down and so the reward will be the removal of your hand. Alternatively, if a dog jumps up you shake a can of rocks to make a noise the dog does not enjoy or give him a shock with an electric collar, punishing him for the bad behaviour to discourage it from occurring again.

Positive Reinforcement and Negative Punishment are ‘reward based’ or ‘positive’ training methods. Taking the same scenario as before, this time to teach your dog to lie down you would use a treat to lure him into the right position then reward when he gets it right. This can be made even more effective when combined with clicker training or even using a simple ‘yes’ phrase when the dog is in the right position. Taking the example of a dog jumping up from before, you would simply ignore him until he stops, then reward with attention when all paws are on the ground. In this way the dog will learn that by jumping for your attention the opposite actually happens and discourage his incentive to do so.

Now, from the many books and articles on how to train your dog we have narrowed it down to two main methods. All we have to do is pick one. Personally, there is no doubt in my mind the only acceptable method. The phrase ‘positive punishment’ is ridiculous and there is no reason what so ever to physically punish a dog to make it behave.

It does not work, it is outdated, cruel, and most importantly of all has been scientifically disproven. Aversive methods are based on the desire to dominate your dog, to show him you are the boss and therefore frighten him into a desired behaviour. Attempting to be a pack leader is ridiculous on so many levels. First of all, you are not a dog. Secondly, dogs are not wolves. Finally, the theory of pack leader was based on a scientific study of wolves that has since been stated to be a flawed experiment by the very scientists that undertook it.

Training your dog should be a positive thing, it should be something you both enjoy. You should want your dog to love and respect you, not to be frightened into submission. If you disagree then perhaps a dog is not the right decision for you.

As dog walkers we see so many dogs being yanked back on the lead for pulling, yelled at for not listening, hit for jumping up. Keep spreading the positive word and stop the nonsense that is dominance training to see happier, more confident dogs and owners!


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