To me, positive dog training is…using methods that enhance our relationships with dogs.
The methods of Ian Dunbar, for one. Using clickers with dogs. The Tellington TTouch. Rewards at times, when the dog does what we want.
Maybe it’s helpful to say what it is NOT…It is not using training methods that hurt or terrify the dogs.
It isn’t electric shock, no matter how “humane.” In a milder vein, it isn’t teaching a puppy to sit by shoving his butt, nor is it teaching him to heel by yanking on a choke chain. It isn’t thinking in terms of punishment.
Is it possible to train every dog using solely positive methods? I don’t know. But it is possible to do far, far more positive dog training than people are doing so far — and that is one of the main reasons I’m creating this website, to add my bit to this movement.
In the last few years, many trainers have crossed over to using clicker training and similar positive dog training methods rather than the forceful approaches. You may hear them called crossover trainers for that reason. There’s an organization — the Association of Professional Dog Trainers — which emphasizes this approach,advocating “dog-friendly” training.
For some years, the thinking was that dogs are descended from wolves, wolves are pack animals, and therefore you must dominate your dog.
But we are in the midst of a paradigm shift here… a significant change in thinking is going on. Positive dog training is on the rise.
It is not so much a matter of the old ways being wrong and the new ways right. Rather, positive dog training approaches are more useful.
Instead of thinking of our dogs as beings who are ever-eager to dominate us if we don’t dominate them, we can think of them as beings who like to feel good and don’t like to feel bad.
In that simple shift, new joys open up in dog training — and in every aspect of our lives with dogs.
Great title — and a very useful book!
Pat Miller is one of the crossover trainers I mentioned earlier on this page. She had been successful in training dogs with punishment-based methods, but once she discovered positive dog training, things really improved.
The Power of Positive Dog Training begins with four basic and powerful concepts:
- All living things repeat behaviors that are rewarding and avoid behaviors that are not.
- Your dog already knows everything you are going to teach him.
- Dogs can only learn one behavior for any particular cue. (For example, they don’t understand that a word can have several meanings.)
- Think in terms of what you want your dog to do, not what you want him not to do.
From there, the book has three parts:
- A discussion of the foundation of our relationship with dogs, explaining operant conditioning in a nutshell, discussing reinforcement vs. punishment, describing supplies, and how much and where to train.
- A six-week training course you can do with your dog, which includes core exercises and extra ones to do if you want to… all clearly described and illustrated with photos. Get yourself some clickers and yummy treats for this part!
- Behavior challenges: housetraining, digging, chewing, barking, separation anxiety, biting, jealousy, and more.
The Power of Positive Dog Training is availabe here.
The Culture Clash, by Jean Donaldson
This book looks at dog training more from the dog’s point of view, and I found it so inspiring that I lent it to friends who never returned it, and so I don’t have it here to leaf through for this review.
I liked Jean Donaldson’s emphasis on the fact that dogs are dogs and not people. One thing I found interesting was her discussion of how dogs don’t generalize in the way that we do. That’s why a dog may respond to Sit beautifully in the living room but not in the bedroom. The solution? Train in many places.
This groundbreaking book can be scathing on the force-based methods of dog training that have been the mode for too long. At times, I got tired of that aspect of Culture Clash. But then, the cutting edge is often just that… cutting.
Better get another copy… it’s been long enough, it’ll be worth a re-read. It is really focused on positive dog training.
The Culture Clash is available here.