The science and practice of dog training have made incredible advances in the last decade! As a result, many “traditional” training approaches have been replaced by more modern approaches that are based on mammalian learning theory and humane behavior modification research. Scientists and trainers have learned that dog training is most effective when humans and dogs are enjoying their interactions rather than experiencing stress. This can be accomplished through positive reinforcement based training techniques, in which dogs are rewarded for behaviors that are desired and are redirected for behaviors that are not desirable.
A reward for a dog can be treats, a ball, attention, a favorite toy or game, or anything the dog truly enjoys. Punishment, by definition, is stressful for a dog, and while it may tell a dog what NOT to do, it doesn’t help a dog learn what behaviors are desired instead. Punishment can also make your dog associate the negative experience with certain stimuli in the environment at that time, which may be other dogs, cats, or kids—all things you want your dog to associate with positive experiences!
Consistency is also necessary; all members of a household must use the same methods and only reward the desired behaviors. Remember: every time you interact with a dog, you are training him, or he is training you. So, make it a good experience for you both!
Here are some training resources to consider:
- Considering the “alpha roll”? Start here first! Reconsidering the Dominance Model in Dog Training
- To find a trainer in your area, visit The Association of Professional Dog Trainers
- Denver Dumb Friends League Behavior Library
- Read the The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson (available at www.dogwise.com)