Dog training

A closer look at dog training techniques: part one


By Joan Hunter Mayer

Animal parents, what is your training style? Do you give a treat when your dog sits down? Scream when your dog jumps on the guests? Reward certain behaviors and punish others? When looking for practical dog training solutions to everyday challenges, you are likely to come across tips that fall into one of three broad categories: 1. powerless, 2. aversive, or 3. “balanced” (a combination of rewards and corrections). So, let’s dive in, explore each approach a bit more in detail, and find out why training styles are important to you and your dog.

In Part 1 of this two-part series, we’ll take a closer look at these three philosophies and how they relate to burning issues such as the use of dressage collars, the science of learning theory, and the use of food. in the formation.

Popular Dog Training Styles: The Nitty-Gritty

A powerless, fearless and humane approach Dog training involves training without the use of force, fear, pain, coercion or intimidation. The goal is to teach you and your puppy real life skills while keeping the both of you safe, having fun, and strengthening the canine-human bond. The techniques in this category are based on a dog training approach.

Positive reinforcement is a common option without force. Technically, reinforcement is the process by which a consequence increases the strength of the behavior it follows. Emphasize the word process – positive reinforcement doesn’t mean cookies. It could be whatever your dog finds motivating. As the reinforced behaviors are repeated, the dogs learn what we would like them to do, which causes them to come up with behaviors that we find preferable (such as sitting calm rather than jumping for attention).

Aversive approach – Correction-based training uses what is called positive punishment, adding a noxious stimulus, to “fix” unwanted behavior. Training collars such as chokes, pins, shocks and the like add something aversive to a behavior to decrease the frequency of that behavior. Punishment is the process by which a consequence decreases the force of the behavior it follows. Things can get a bit confusing with this term. But, as we get into the specifics of behavior terminology, we must note that there is a positive punishment – adding something aversive and a negative punishment – taking something away. (For example, a “time out” in sport is considered a penalty. The player is wasting time playing in the game.)

“Balanced” dog trainers using both positive reinforcement and positive punishment, rewarding certain behaviors and using aversive stimuli to “correct” others.

The use of training collars

Without force means parents and pet trainers avoid using equipment that pinches, chokes, shocks, scares, annoys or startles dogs. If you are struggling with unwanted behavior, instead of punishing, a more thoughtful approach is offered. Let’s say Fido tirelessly pulls on the leash during walks. It helps to think about the reasons your dog may be pulling or rushing. Do they have adequate opportunities to engage in normal species behaviors such as sniffing and socializing? Maybe he’s frustrated, scared, anxious, over-excited, or releasing pent-up energy. Maybe he doesn’t get enough mental and physical exercise between walks. When you can identify and resolve the issues that your puppy is struggling with, you can work as a team to make walks more enjoyable for both of you.

Aversive – Training collars use pain and positive punishment to decrease behavior. To clarify, a touch, buzz or vibration alone would not change behavior. By definition, an aversive stimulus can only change behavior by causing fear, pain or stress. Punitive methods tell dogs what you don’t want them to do; Training collars don’t teach dogs what you want them to do instead.

‘Balance’ – Please note that it is impossible not to force and use corrective collars. Philosophically and physically, they are opposite and incompatible.

When it comes to using training collars, parents of pets should be aware of the risks, especially that correction-based training can lead to increased fear, behavioral issues, and a human bond- injured dog.

What does science say?

Without force Dog training is rooted in scientific methods of learning animals and has been shown to be effective without causing harm. Parents of pets are asked to understand how dogs learn, how they communicate, and what behaviors are considered normal and specific to the species. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Position statement on Humane Dog Training states, “Based on current scientific evidence, AVSAB recommends that only reward-based training methods be used for all dog training, including the treatment of behavior problems.

Aversive – “Aversive training methods can be dangerous to humans as well as animals and pose a threat to animal welfare by inhibiting learning, increasing fear and distress behaviors, and causing direct injury, “according to the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists’ Position statement on human, effective and evidence-based training.

‘Balance’ – Since corrections are included in this approach, all of the above risks for aversive methods apply here.

Based on the science of learning theory and leading veterinary behavior specialists, taking a more humane approach to dog training is safer and more effective for learning than using methods and tools. aversive dressage.

The use of food and other rewards in training

Without force training can involve using whatever your dog wants. For example, positive reinforcement training focuses on using rewards to reinforce desired behavior. Treats, hugs, praise, and interactive games can help strengthen your bond, providing opportunities for fun and connection as you work out together. Rewards can motivate your dog to stay interested, curious, and engaged with you. Once you and Fido know how to get the most out of reward-based training, it’s pretty easy to use.

Aversive the methods focus on the punitive behavior you don’t want.

‘Balance’ – Food rewards are commonly used here in addition to fixes… which can be downright confusing! Dogs may not be trusted with the training process as it is unpredictable and can even be frightening and / or painful at times.

Getting back to the science, we see that training with positive reinforcement (adding rewards) is safe and effective, whereas correction-based training (adding something aversive) can be. dangerous; Plus, it doesn’t tell your dog what you want. Combining the two in order to be somehow “balanced” just adds unnecessary stress and risk.

In Second part in this article (to be published next Saturday) we will talk about comparing dog training styles with regards to time commitment, unintended consequences, treating dogs as individuals and the benefits to you , as a parent of a pet and / or an animal advocate.

Until then, as you and your puppy face life’s challenges together, remember that dog training is an unregulated industry. And while there is no shortage of opinions on the subject from TV, social media, friends, family, strangers, self-proclaimed “experts” (the list goes on … and more), we hope that this closer examination will inspire you to be curious, and to think critically and compassionately when deciding how to help our canine companions thrive as furry friends and family members.


The curious dog was founded by Joan Hunter Mayer, a Santa Barbara dog behavior consultant and certified professional dog trainer. Joan and her team are dedicated to providing humane, pawsitive and practical solutions that address the challenges dogs and their humans face in everyday life. Bark with dogs, cheer on humans and have fun!