What is positive dog training?
Many of my clients struggle to understand what exactly positive training is, and how it works. The question I am asked a lot is, “Surely positive training is just bribery?” WRONG! Positive training involves several different aspects and takes on board various different philosophies. As a positive dog trainer, I look at the following:
•Using no force, negative or harmful punishment.
•Using positive reinforcement; taking on board and looking at the behaviour problem with the dog's emotional and physical wellbeing at the forefront of treatment.
•Ensuring a dog is never forced into any situation or put under any pressure.
•Taking on board the well-debated issue of dominance theory and applying a modern view, based on recent research into this theory.
Does it work?
Positive training is extremely effective due to the underlining principles associated with it and their implementation. Dogs are gradually trained at their own, individual pace, with training then adjusted and differentiated to suit each dog’s needs. Dogs respond better to positive training due to the lack of pressure and the association of having a positive experience, which encourages them to repeat the behaviour again and again. Owners find that their dog is much more responsive to them during positive training than when using any other training method.
The proof is in the science
Any punishment given to a dog, whether it's an abruptly toned scolding or a physical sanction, such as a smack on the nose or pinning the dog down into the submissive position, has detrimental effects on the dog's psyche and damages the trusting relationship between the dog and its owner. Negative punishment can have the following effects on a dog:
•The dog starts to show fear or display anxiety in environments similar to, or situations similar to, ones in which the punishment took place.
•A dog may become aggressive too, or fearful of, its owner.
•Punishment does not address the underlying root of the behavioural problem - it is purely an emotional, and ineffective reaction from the owner.
•Punishment can cause physical and psychological harm to a dog.
•Punishment decreases the dog's ability to learn and respond to training.
I have also heard many dog owners express disbelief over positive training, stating that it can not provide you with a dominance status over your dog or give you any authority. Well, I'm here to tell you that many studies show the whole dominance theory is no longer supported, so why on earth are we still hearing of trainers practising the old-fashioned methods of dominance training? It is time to move on. I have seen many cases where dogs have been trained the old fashioned way using punishment to assert dominance, and many of these methods have created aggressive behaviour or anxiety problems. Surely positive training speaks for itself.