The term "positive training techniques" is used often, but just what are positive training techniques? And why is it important to consider what techniques you use to train your dog? Dogs are sentient beings. They feel joy, fear, pain, sadness and other feelings. Knowing this about dogs requires us as pet parents to consider our dogs feelings in all that we do with and for them. Another critical fact is that dogs are dependent upon humans for food, shelter, love and medical care. Because of this, dogs desire to please the human pet parent and are grateful for having these basic needs met. You already have a dogs attention big time! Dogs look to us for so much. 

Three attributes required for successful training with dogs are:   

  • Trust -  A dog knows quickly if they can trust their pet parent to be there for them. Being consistent and reliable providing food, attention, and a safe environment for your dog builds trust. Showing love and affection in positive ways builds trust.
  • Respect - Dogs are a different specie. They have different needs from humans. Dogs communicate with their body language and interact with other dogs in ways we are only beginning to understand. Respecting these differences and that dogs are sentient beings is key to respect between dog and pet parent.
  • Patience - Behavior change takes time with any specie. Imagining your dog will learn to sit and stay and come when called in a matter of one or two instructions is just not realistic. Learning behaviors take time and much patience for both the pet parent and the dog...but mostly for the pet parent. We have a language barrier and need to find a way to communicate with our dogs so they understand what it is we want them to do. This is where we have the choice to implement positive or negative training techniques. 

Positive Training Techniques are basically the use of food, treats, praise and touch in positive ways. The use of positive reinforcement with food, praise or touch at the correct moment to allow the dog to begin to relate the food, praise or touch with the desired behavior. This requires repetitive requests of the dog with the positive reinforcement. The dog will begin to associate good things (like food, treats, or touch) with the newly learned behavior. You soon have a dog who is wagging his tail and looking at you with anticipation to do what you ask because he knows the reward will be a positive one. This anticipation heightens the learning experience. It is important to keep the learning sessions short and successful for the dog. It is important for the pet parent to realize there will be many learning sessions. TIME is a necessary component to making training with your dog successful. You will need to build time for training sessions into your schedule. Remember, you already have your dogs attention by the fact that he is dependent on you for all his basic needs. Implementing positive training techniques will only build the trust and respect between you. 

Negative training techniques are the use of devices or negative touch that inflicts pain to teach a dog behaviors. This training is fear based. A dog learns to fear the consequence and so in turn demonstrates the behavior to prevent or stop the pain from being inflicted. Creating a fear based relationship does not  build trust and respect. You soon have a dog who is anxious in anticipating the negative experience. This can even develop aggressive behaviors in a dog. Negative training techniques are shortcuts to results. You may have a dog who learns to sit faster with a choke collar than a dog receiving a treat. But look at the motivator. Is the dog motivated to eliminate the pain or receive the treat? And if you were in the same situation which would you prefer? Some of the devices used to negatively reinforce dogs are: prong collars, shock collars, choke collars, tasers, any device that creates a level of pain for a dog. I will not accept the term "discomfort" because it is a nicer word for pain. Remember dogs are sentient and "feel". They are not objects that can easily tolerate pain. We are pet parents not owners. Our obligation to our dogs is to parent them. It is our choice as pet parents to take the positive or negative parenting approach with or dogs, so choose wisely. 

Looking for a trainer is another aspect of getting your dog training. I encourage people to talk with trainers and discuss their philosophy before paying them money to train your dog. It might also be a good idea to observe the trainer in action. Talk to people who have worked with this trainer if possible. Gather as much information as you can to determine if this is a trainer you and your dog can successfully work with. If you find yourself in a training situation and observe the trainer doing things with dogs you don't agree with, try discussing this with the trainer and if there is no mutual resolution leave and find another trainer. The relationship of a trainer with you and your dog directly impacts the relationship between you and your dog. Trust is critical to your relationship with your dog. A negative experience with a trainer could have an undesirable impact on your relationship with your dog. It is wise to put thought and effort into finding a trainer both you and your dog can work with. It will pay off in dividends long term.

May you and your dog share positive training experiences and build a long loving relationship because of it!

Woofs & Smiles!