Don’t we all feel a bit jealous seeing videos of perfectly well-trained dogs? They sit if you ask them to sit, run if you ask them to run — the very definition of a good boy/girl!
And then, there’re our dogs — the kings and queens of clumsy-land!
Here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can train your dogs and develop their behavior. Frankly speaking, you should train your dogs so that you can be on the same page almost always.
You might ask, “Don’t dog training styles involve punishments and negative reinforcements?”
Yes and no!
Some dog training styles (mostly, older ones) incorporate negative reinforcements. But most of the modern styles use different positive reinforcements and reward-based methods.
Understanding Dog Training Styles
Most of the dog trainers follow one or two methods from the common seven to eight dog training methods.
On the technical level, you can divide them into three clusters —
- Positive (Reward-based)
- Negative (Punishment-based)
- Blended or Balanced
Most of the negative training styles are traditional. Mostly, hunters and warriors developed these methods.
The reasons are quite simple too.
These dogs have to be strong and disciplined. Consider a police dog or a military dog in this case. Would it help if these dogs wagged their tails around the criminals and started cuddling around?
That’s why, dog training styles like — Alpha Dog, Electronic (Shock Collar), Choke Collar — have their place in society.
But, yes, these methods are cruel and evoke the question of morality. Extended use of such training styles would emotionally (even physically) damage your beloved doggo.
Most dog-lovers, like you and I, prefer using positive reinforcements and a healthy balanced training style.
These methods suggest offering rewards for good behaviors so that dogs feel encouraged to remain well-behaved.
Even modern blended training methods prohibit the use of inhuman tools and tactics like choke collars.
As you can guess, YOU need to make the big decision here. Being the owner, you have to choose the right training method that will improve the quality of the life of your dog.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common dog training methods now.
Pure Positive Reinforcement (Positive)
This method is pretty straightforward as you can guess by the name. You’ll be only using positive reinforcements for good behaviors.
Also, you’ll be using different types of rewards of varying degree to promote different levels of positive behavior.
For example, if you ask your dog to come to you and he/she listens, you can give small amount of treat. If he/she successfully uses the litter box, you can give them their favorite toy, or participate in their favorite activity — the more stimulating the better.
Treats, toys, cuddles, pettings, praises are your tools.
Pure Positive Reinforcement has a major flaw though. It doesn’t have any answer to the bad behaviors. All you can do is wait patiently and see if he/she corrects the unwanted behaviors themselves.
Obama’s dog, Bo is one of the celebrity dogs trained in the Pure Positive Reinforcement method.
Clicker Training (Positive)
Clicker training is based on the same principles of Pure Positive Reinforcement. The only difference is that you use a tool called “clicker” to let your dog know that he/she has done a good job.
The clicker has one single job — make a distinct click sound.
How does that help?
The idea is simple — the dog does something good and you press the clicker and follow it up with a real reward. If you continue this for some time, the dog will begin to understand that click sound means something good — I’ve been a good boy/girl!
To introduce the clicker to your dog, first, offer a treat right after the click. It doesn’t matter if he/she has done something good. Continue this for some time and he/she will understand that click has something to do with the reward.
However, just like the previous one, this method doesn’t have any solutions to curb out the bad behaviors.
Relationship-Based Training (Positive)
This method focuses on building a strong relationship between the owner and the dog first. Also, the owner (or trainer) has to understand the body language and common behaviors of the dog.
For example, how the dog sits when it feels distressed, what are the signs that tell that the dog is hungry. The owner has to pin-point all of the small physical and behavioral traits of the dog.
Now, when the dog does something unexpected or undesired, the owner can identify the true cause behind such behavior.
Do you see the difference?
Rather than using punishments, you find the root cause of such behavior.
It’s true that relationship-based training will take a lot of time and patience. But no other training method can meet the depth of the bond and create a meaningful relationship.
Alpha Dog Method (Negative)
Wild dogs have a pack mentality and follow the leadership of the alpha dog. They need to show respect and obedience to the alpha as they rely on the alpha for protection and guidance.
Submission and dominance are the two pillars of Alpha Dog method.
In this case, the owner is the alpha and the dog has to submit to the command of the owner. But the dog will challenge your authority from time to time. Then, you’d resort to punishment and show that you’re the alpha.
For example, if the dog barks, you scream at a louder noise.
However, Alpha Dog method can cause heavy toll on the mental health of the dog.
Electronic (Shock Collar) Training (Negative)
Think of this method to be the mirror opposite of the clicker method. Rather than promoting good behavior with clicking sounds, you induce minor electric shocks through a specially made collar to stop unwanted behavior.
Your dog is trying to roam beyond an unfenced boundary, shock him/her!
The gist is whenever the dog is trying to do something unwanted, you shock him/her. It will prevent them from partaking in negative behaviors.
However, I strongly forbid you from using this method — it’s immoral and can cause permanent mental trauma.
Science-Based Training (Blended)
As the name suggests, this method heavily relies on the scientific data on the dog behavior and psychology. Also, you need to study the information on the breed type and evidence-based researches.
Then, you’d create a behavioral profile of your dog and use the operant conditioning strategy. This means you’d praise the good behaviors with rewards and discourage unwanted behaviors with a healthy form of punishment.
You’ll use the research data to set the allowed do’s and unallowed don’ts.
Now that you’ve gone through some of the most popular training styles, you should select a training method for your pup. Most modern trainers combine two or more training styles together and develop a custom style.
You can follow that strategy too.
Just remember — you don’t need to be harsh to train your dogs. Also, every dog is different and you should set your training style according to YOUR DOG’s behavior profile.