Introduction to Dog Training: 7 Most Popular Methods
Remember when you were a kid and you asked for a dog, your mum would tell you how stressful it was looking after one? But you wanted one anyway, so now here we are. Congratulations on becoming a dog owner, or seriously considering it. It really is a great experience and worth every moment of it, but there is something crucial you have to do first; dog training.
While owning a dog is a lot of fun and can be very rewarding for both parties, it only remains that way if your dog is properly trained. We’ll be looking at the major ways of training your dog, with their pros and cons, so you can make an informed decision on which one you are going to use.
Personally, I only train my dogs using…. oh, hang on, that will come later. So, in no particular order, let’s begin.
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1. Positive Reinforcement Dog Training
Positive Reinforcement (PR) is a method of training dogs built on a consistent reward system, doled out on your pet every time it does something right. It conditions your dog to always want to do the right thing. Rewards might be treats, a touch of affection, or words of affirmation. There is no scolding, no violence and no threats for bad behavior, only rewards for good ones. This, by the way, is the only method I use and is also the preferred method of DogZone. DogZone is an advocate for Positive Reinforcement, so the remainder of training articles on the site (unless otherwise specified) will be largely based on PR, and with good reason.
Examples of Positive Reinforcement
Let’s say you want to train your puppy to sit. Via PR, you give your dog a treat every time it gets it right. When your puppy misses it, you don’t force it to sit or yell, so it covers the floor. This method is great for your dog’s naturally positive energy and, it yields excellent results. (Our other blogs will teach you how to train your dog using PR).
Benefits of Positive Reinforcement
Dogs trained with PR have a great attitude towards their owners, other people, and other dogs. They show the least troubling behaviors and are fiercely loyal. Here are just some of the benefits.
- Creates a strong bond between you and your dog
- Clear communication
- Dogs learn to obey quicker
- Dogs maintain their positive attitude
2. Alpha Dog / Dominance Dog Training
Next up, we have a style that gained popularity early in the 20th century, during the first and second world war. Alpha Dog or Dominance training is based on wolf pack behavior, which requires letting the dog know who the alpha is.
The dog has to be brought to submission to you, its owner, and would get a strong message every time it makes the wrong move, like a sharp yank of its leash. A clear hierarchy is established, which the dog is made to adhere to at all times.
Certain disciplines are instilled with Alpha dog training, such as not allowing the dog on the furniture or your bed. When you walk into a room, the dog should follow you in and not lead the way. And when your dog wants something, it has to wait patiently before it gets it.
This method is very demanding on the dog and is usually done by professional trainers. Once the dog believes it is the alpha, it would be hard to train. The Alpha is not necessarily a male dog, as bitches can also assume this role.
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Examples of Dominance Training
It is important to note that there are different ways of applying the methodologies, and trainers will differ in their approach. One of the popular types of dominance training is the Koehler method. When training a dog to lie down for example, and the dog is being too restless, a strong yank of its leash to the ground will bring it low. Leash pulls are often used to let the dog know it is making a mistake.
Another example of dominance training is how to let a dog know it just made a mess. So, this is what I was told when training one of my dogs, years ago. Every time my dog pooped in the wrong place, I was told to tie his leash somewhere close by, so he would constantly smell it. After poor Kevin got tired of smelling his excrements, he would finally get the message and do it in the right place the next time, in theory.
Benefits of Dominance Training
Proponents of Dominance Training assert that it is the natural way of training dogs, as it mirrors how they are trained in the wild. Military trainers boast that it yields unquestioning obedience and that the results speak for themselves. These are some of the asserted benefits.
- It satisfies a dog’s natural instinct to follow a strong leader
- Almost any breed can be trained
- Dogs are highly disciplined
- Works with very badly-behaved dogs
Negative Aspects of Dominance Training
Despite a lot of the claims made by Alpha Dog trainers, there have been a lot of conflicting studies. The theory has also come under attack since more information has been gathered about how wolf packs operate when not in the wild. Another problem with the method is its use of punishment as a deterrent. Unfortunately, the dog does not always know why it is being punished. It is left to figure out which of its many atrocities or even kind gestures got it punished. Was its face shoved in pee because it did it on the carpet instead of under the sofa? The dog would go through a lot of discomforts before it finally figures out why it was being punished.
- Bad habits are subdued and not entirely eradicated
- The dog’s natural personality is subdued
- The owner-dog bond becomes less jovial
- Dogs become fearful of other dogs
- Unclear communication
Besides the two mentioned above, there are a few other training methods used, but their applications are so varied they are difficult to describe in as much detail.
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3. Science-Based Dog Training
The scientific method involves gathering a lot of data on your particular dog, its environment, and its personality. It is one of the hardest to define because there are no set rules. Some people claim PR falls under science-based and vice versa. Others claim it is true of Alpha Dog, as it is meant to be based on scientific research of dogs in the wild.
The lack of clarity as to what this entails leaves this method up in the air with a lot of trainers. What you would more likely find are training schools claiming to offer the science-based approach, based on their own definition. Whatever benefits or disadvantages that might result, therefore, will depend on the precise methodology used.
4. Combined Training
While Positive Reinforcement and Alpha Dog training are the most widely accepted training methods, it is hard to find many trainers who stick to just one method. What you will come across more often is a combination of these two schools or others.
Even one of the most popular users of Alpha Dog method, Cesar Millan the Dog Whisperer, combines it with other methods. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work on every dog, so a combination is often applied.
The problem with this is possible confusion. Each method needs to be applied consistently for it to work, so when this merge occurs, the dog can often take longer to learn the lesson.
5. Clicker Dog Training
This involves the use of a clicker to communicate to the dog when it is doing something right. It is a form of positive affirmation, in the form of a short clicking sound. This method is often incorporated into PR, thus cannot truly be classed as a training methodology.
6. Electronic Dog Training
As you guessed, this is when an electronic collar is used to control a dog’s actions. For every false move, the dog gets zapped. Needless to say, this method is frowned upon for obvious reasons. The dog lives in constant anxiety, as it has no idea when or why it will get electrically shocked next.
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It is not difficult to see why people pay professionals thousands of dollars to train their dogs. The methods and the practices are strict and require a time devotion most dog owners cannot afford. Whether you choose to train your dog yourself or give it to a professional, you must be certain about how your dog is being trained, and whatever unwanted consequences might arise from it. Our dogs are our responsibilities, and it is our duty to train them with a lot of love, affection, and respect. Since your dog is to be your best friend, how would you want your best friend to be trained? For more clarity, read our other blogs.