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What is the Best Dog Training Method?

Written by: Kassie Dickson, CDBC, CPDT-KA

What Is the “Best” Dog Training Method?

There’s a saying “Jack of All Trades, Master of None” and this tends to be something that applies a lot in dog training. There are so many people out there who will say they’ve had dogs their whole lives or they’ve had them since they were young so they know what they’re doing. That’s like me saying I’ve had cars my whole life so I know how to replace the headgasket.

Although it may be true, some people do know how to train dogs, but not only do they have to learn and practice to be able to do so efficiently and effectively but oftentimes they need help, that’s why mechanics exist and so does their licensing! It’s not a perfect comparison but you get the idea.This is true for training and dog training methods as well. Those who train should be constantly educating themselves and learning better methods and like vehicles, based on their environment, wear and tear, design, make and model, every dog is different, so should our application be!

What is the difference between positive and balanced dog training?

Positive vs. Balanced training is talked about a lot. The difference in methods is largely based on application of the 4 quadrants of Operant Conditioning and how the teacher or trainer applies these quadrants. With Balanced dog training, the teacher or trainer uses both reward based techniques and aversive based corrections in an attempt to “balance” the quadrants in order to learn.

This however does not necessarily mean they are used equally. For example: A balanced trainer will typically attempt to introduce an aversive to a behaviour once it has learned meaning. If we ask for a sit and our dog doesn’t respond but they “know” the behaviour, the trainer introduces an aversive (something the dog will work to avoid) in order to correct the dog for not complying. Many dogs have been trained this way in the past, in fact it was common practice, but many believe it doesn’t take into consideration the dog.

In Positive dog training the teacher or trainer will base their training in positive reinforcement techniques which means they will actively introduce rewards to reinforce desired behaviour, this also means they will work to teach your dog how to actively learn.

By avoiding aversive techniques, they make the learner more comfortable and as a result, enjoy learning more. This doesn’t mean they don’t actively use the quadrants of operant conditioning, what it does mean is they are selective in how they implement these quadrants in order to create a curious, confident dog. This type of training focuses on the dog and how they respond to certain stimuli, or how they feel in certain situations, not just how owners want them to behave.

What is aversive dog training?

Aversive Dog training refers to the use of aversives in training. So any stimuli introduced that would cause an aversion would be used in an attempt to punish a specific behaviour. This isn’t typically a technique but is sometimes referred to as compulsion training. Avoiding the use of aversives allows a dog to express their needs and wants while introducing aversives suppresses this natural response and can have behavioural fall out. It’s suggested to avoid training based in aversives. 

What is the best dog training method?

There is no one size fits all method or “best” method because the best method is the one that takes everything into account. Not only is the best trainer for your dog going to look at your dog's needs and how they express them, but they will also look at the guardians' needs and wants.
They will look at the environment, enrichment, and management. The best trainer will help you to decide what’s best for you and your dog both, mentally, physically, and emotionally. We know our animals are sentient beings but don’t necessarily have the same capacity of understanding the people do, so finding a trainer that aligns with your values and helps you achieve the positive relationship you and your dog both want to thrive in, will always be the best method. Often we talk about operant conditioning in dog training and there’s so much more to training your dog than that. We often need to look past the operant ideologies to understand our dogs and their behaviour!

What is positive punishment in dog training?

Positive punishment refers to another quadrant of learning. What this quadrant is, is the introduction (positive) of a stimuli that will decrease (punish) a behaviour. Positive punishment naturally occurs in learning and the environment. For example a positive punishment would be making a loud noise like clapping your hands when your dog attempts to sniff or lick a plate on the table.

It succeeds in stopping the behaviour if the dog finds it aversive. Another example is implementing a time out when a dog jumps up. These are both introducing something that is meant to decrease behaviour. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually work long term and in some situations can cause behavioural fall out, like increase in other unwanted behaviours or increase in frustration and fear with certain stimuli. This can also create a toxic learning environment where a dog may be fearful of doing anything in a specific situation or set up. 

What is the first thing you should train your puppy?

The very first thing I recommend you teach your puppy is their name! This can help later to create a recall and  introduce attention and focus. Teaching your puppy their name means positive things can aid in safety and appropriate management if done well.

Teaching your puppies name can be fun, rewarding, and create a great relationship!

Grab a toy or treat from your monthly dog box to get the training journey started!

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