Positive dog training is a gentle, yet effective approach to training and is an alternative to punitive “traditional” training. Positive dog training is based on psychology and how an animal learns. It does not rely on “quick fixes” like force, intimidation or control. Positive dog training is not about dominance or being the “alpha” or “master”. It is about having a well-mannered dog over having an “obedient” dog. However, it is also not about being permissive or spoiling our dogs – it is simply teaching them what we expect in a kind way. Positive dog training allows a dog to be a dog!
Positive dog training emphasizes using positive reinforcement. Rather than waiting for your dog to make a mistake and correcting him, positive reinforcement focuses on what your dog is doing right and rewards him for it. Dogs are highly opportunistic and tend to repeat behaviors that they have been rewarded for. Anything that your dog loves can be used as a reward, such as food (dogs will work for crumbs!), praise, belly rubs, toys, interactions with you, playing with other dogs or going outside.
Dogs are like four-legged children in many ways. They need to be guided in order to understand what is and what is not acceptable behavior inside and outside of our homes. Like children, we need to establish boundaries and guidelines for our dogs, as well as rewards and consequences for behavior. For example, you might expect your child to finish eating dinner before getting dessert or to finish her homework before watching tv. Similarly, you might have your dog sit and wait while you put his food bowl down, or have him sit and wait before you take him outside. Consequences need not be harsh in any way! If your dog jumps, and you don’t like it, turn your back and walk away or go into another room and close the door. You are sending a message to your dog that his behavior is unacceptable and results in the removal of your presence.
Positive dog training can build your dog’s confidence level and foster a happy, eager attitude towards learning. It can also enhance the relationship and strengthen the bond between dogs and humans because it is based on trust and cooperation. Additionally, because brute force is not needed, anyone including a small child or senior citizen can train a dog through positive reinforcement!
REFRAIN FROM PAIN, TRAIN HUMANE!
Additional resources include: The Culture Clash, by Jean Donaldson; The Other End of the Leash, by Patricia McConnell; The Power of Positive Dog Training and Do Over Dogs by Pat Miller; and Don’t Shoot the Dog, by Karen Pryor