Positive Dog Training

You may have heard this term many times but maybe not quite reflected over its meaning or what the significance would be to train this way versus any other way. There are many different approaches to how to train dogs. In the past, training methods were heavily based on using force and punishment, also referred to as traditional training. More modern positive reinforcement based techniques are steadily growing in popularity. It is part of our mission to educate new dog trainers in this latter approach.

You can also read more on the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers position statement regarding the Application of the Humane Hierarchy and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Dominance Position Statement and Punishment Position Statement.

What is positive dog training?

  • It is founded on what is the most effective way for our dogs to learn based on scientific studies of animal behavior and learning theory.
  • It is based on being proactive to set the dog up for success as much as possible.
  • It emphasizes rewarding wanted behavior and managing the dog from engaging in unwanted behavior.
  • It motivates the dog to learn new behaviors using food, toys, praise and pets or anything else the dog really likes.
  • It focuses on the entire relationship with the dog, based on trust, respect and joy. We do not want the dog to respond to us out of fear or to avoid pain.
  • It uses equipment like buckle collars, martingales, no-pull harnesses and head-halters. It does not condone choke chains, pinch collars or shock collars.

What are the benefits with positive dog training?

  • It enhances the human/dog relationship.
  • It focuses on teaching the dog what we want him to do, not on punishing him for behaviors we do not want him to do.
  • It teaches the animals that paying attention to us is fun, pleasant and rewarding and to respond to us because they want to.
  • It is an effective method for all dogs as the method is built on finding what motivates that particular individual you are working with.
  • It takes into account the entire dog, both physical and mental state, and both the cognitive and the emotional part of the brain. Suppression of behaviors would never be part of any behavior problem solving technique.
  • It encourages the dog to think, be creative and problem-solve because we offer a safe environment.
  • It minimizes the dog’s stress level and thus the need to act out aggressively, whether toward you in self-defense or by creating unintended associations in the environment.
  • It builds on success for both you and your dog. Errors are an integral part of the learning process, you both get more practice and improve your skill set but no one gets hurt in the process.
  • It will build your dog’s confidence level.
  • It is more fun!

How did it get started?
While there are many people who have contributed to the increased understanding about how animals learn, including Ivan Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, Edward Thorndyke, Robert Bailey, Marian Breland-Bailey and Keller Breland,  it was Karen Pryor who introduced positive training to the public. She was a marine mammal trainer that through her book, “Don’t Shoot the Dog (1984) really managed to translate the behavioral concepts to a very practical level and the positive dog training movement picked up from there.

We must remember that dogs are living beings who have good and bad days just like us. Some exercises they will find harder to learn than others and sometimes competing motivations can conflict with what we are asking the dog to do at any given moment. Our job is to learn how to recognize what the various motivations are and use them to our advantage. With time and through a developing habit the dog will respond to you automatically most of the time. Dogs do not disobey out of spite or stubbornness. Also, dogs live in the moment. Our lives become more complicated because we live in the past, present and the future all at the same time. The fact that the dogs live in the moment is why they are such wonderful companions!