If you have been following me at all you know that I use positive, force free training techniques when I am teaching a dog. You may or may not know that I also wrote a book called “The Evolution of Dog Training”. The main reason I wrote the book was because I am passionate about changing the culture of dog training. In the book, I explain how dog training has changed and evolved over the years from aversive, punishment-based training to a more positive, less stressful way to train. Although traditional training has been around for over 100 years, we learned over 20 years ago that positive training is both psychologically and emotionally better for dogs. Unfortunately, there are still many trainers that use traditional training techniques. What is even worse is that some of these trainers do not have any type of real education to train dogs and because there is no licensing for dog trainers, they can call themselves dog trainers.
Traditional training revolves around punishment and dominance. Using “pops” (a quick tightening of the choke chain or pinch collar) or shocks (with an electric shock collar), the trainer tries to “correct” the unwanted behaviors by causing pain with the hopes that the dog will associate the unwanted behavior with pain. Unfortunately, most people cannot “correct” the behavior in a timely manner so the correction usually happens after the unwanted behavior, so the dog may not even know what behavior was linked to the pain. In addition, may of these trainers will tell dog owners that they need to be “alpha” or “dominant” over the dog, which can lead to mistreatment of the dog.
Positive, force free training focuses on teaching the dog how they should behave in different environments and teaches skills in a positive, friendly way. With positive reinforcement, if a dog makes a mistake, the trainer will either ignore the unwanted behavior, redirect the dog to another behavior or activity, or will prevent the unwanted behavior from happening. When dogs are positively reinforced when they do the correct behavior, they are more likely to repeat the behavior.
Now imagine that you are an untrained dog. You do not understand the language being spoken, you do not know how you should behave in various environments and you may be feeling a bit confused. If you are being trained with traditional techniques, you might be feeling stress and maybe fear. Your confusion is likely greater and you may not trust the person who is supposed to be your teacher. If you are being trained with positive techniques, you are being praised for things you do right and gently redirected if you do something wrong. Although you may still be confused, you are likely to be far less stressed so the confusion is not as great.
As a dog owner, it is important that you ask the right questions and educate yourself about different training techniques. Hiring the wrong dog trainer can lead to extreme behavior problems with your dog. Like kids, dogs do not need to be hurt and punished for making a mistake, we must remember that they are learning and stress does not help when you are learning. I have worked with many “aggressive” dogs that did not have any behavior problems until they were trained with pain and force (with a choke chain, pinch collar or shock collar).
As we are approaching the year 2020, there is no reason we should be using choke chains, pinch collars or electric shock collars on our dogs. If you want to learn more about how dog training has evolved, pick up my book “The Evolution of Dog Training” and learn for yourself that there are better ways to teach our dogs