There are many thoughts on how best to train a dog. I believe that in order to get the most benefit from dog training, it is critical to have a great relationship with your dog that is based on mutual trust and respect. Since dogs do not speak the same language as us though, it is our job to teach and guide them on what to do. As people, we want to be able to make our own decisions as we go through life. Teach our dogs what to do in situations but allowing our dogs to make that choice, creates a happier life for them as well. This is why our program uses force free methods throughout training, focusing on the positive methods. This means using rewards rather than aversive tools such as choke collars, electric collars, and prong collars.
I believe that when teaching the dogs the appropriate skills, we should make it as positive as possible for them. It has been shown that keeping the training as fun and positive not only builds the great relationship with our dogs that we are looking for but also helps them learn more since they are enjoying it as well.
In our training program, we stress using positive reinforcement as much as possible. This means rewarding them when they perform the desired behavior. You love getting a paycheck for doing your job correctly, so do our dogs. They will be more likely to repeat a behavior if they know they will get rewarded for it. The reward could be treats, toys, praise or anything else that they love. This method is called positive reinforcement.
In occasional situations, withholding something from them can be beneficial as well though. For example, when a dog is jumping to get attention, withholding that attention can teach them to stop jumping since they learn that is not getting them what they want. With this, it is important to also work on differential reinforcement which guides them towards what they should do in the situation instead to get what they want.
At times, I may give my dog a verbal correction if a mistake is made which is giving them a cue that the behavior is not what I was looking for at that time and to reset to try again. Words such as “whoops” or try again” are examples. I do try to avoid “no” so that if I say it at times outside of training, my dog does not think that they are doing something wrong then.
There is no physical punishment or aversive tools used throughout our training as there can be many negative consequences to this such as ruining relationships, increasing anxiety & fear, and inhibiting learning. At the end of the day though, we have not taught our dog what to do, just what not to do to avoid the punishment. Not only does this have the potential to cause physical and/or psychological injury to our dog, they may not know what to do when you are not around.
I always strive to stay up to date with the latest research in dog training and use those to determine the best ways to help dogs and their owners.
To learn more about training styles and philosophies, go to this page that has resources to check out (with link to a page listing the resources).