Dog Training – What Works, And What Doesn't
By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2018
Some dog training methods are based on what makes the OWNER feel good, rather than on what actually makes sense to the DOG. For example....
"Positive only" or "purely positive" dog training has become popular nowadays.
With those methods, you use food to encourage your dog to do something. If he does the desired behavior, he receives the food. If he doesn't do the behavior, nothing happens.... even if he knows how to do the behavior but is choosing to blow you off.
You don't even say "No" to him if he does a behavior that you don't want – like barking too much, jumping on people, lunging at other dogs, and so on. No matter how bad his behavior is, you don't do anything that would make him feel the slightest bit uncomfortable or unhappy – even for a split second, and even if doing so would completely solve a really bad behavior.
Imagine if we raised our kids that way.
The problem with "positive only" dog training
Well, that's easy. It doesn't work. Oh, it's fine for teaching fun things – like tricks – where it really doesn't matter whether your dog obeys or not. If you tell him to shake hands or roll over and he doesn't do it, who cares?
But for teaching your dog to come when called in the presence of temptations or distractions.... for teaching your dog to act politely (rather than aggressively or fearfully) toward strangers or other dogs.... for teaching your dog to stop jumping on people, stop barking, stop chasing the cat....
....positive-only dog training doesn't work.
Think about it. What happens when you want your dog to stop chasing a cat and come to you – but at that particular moment he's not hungry and would RATHER chase the cat than munch on a biscuit?
Owners who rely on positive-only dog training are stuck whenever their dog "isn't in the mood" to do something.... or even more importantly, to STOP doing something.
An old trainer once said that if a dog really wants to chase a cat, he will chase it "regardless of biscuits showering upon him like manna from heaven."
Positive-only dog training does not teach your dog to respect you. And it is RESPECT that motivates a dog to be well-behaved even at times when he doesn't feel like it.
Why Respect Training makes more sense to dogs
Respect Training is a balanced philosophy of dog training. "Balanced dog training" means both positive and negative consequences for one's behaviors.
Real life for ALL living creatures consists of learning from both positive and negative consequences.
- Positive consequences encourage us to repeat a behavior.
- Negative consequences discourage us from repeating a behavior.
For example, we hold the door open and someone says, "Thank you!" (positive), so we are likely to do it again. We take an extra-long lunch break and the boss docks our pay (negative), so we are less likely to do that again. We learn from both positive and negative consequences and behave accordingly.
So do dogs. When a puppy plays with his mother, if his style of play is reasonable, she responds in a positive manner. But if he gets too rough, she is quick to correct with a growl.
Does Puppy become depressed and never play with another dog again? Of course not. He is happy to play – only more gently.
Dogs learn best from balanced dog training, where their behaviors can result in positive OR negative consequences.
- Positive consequences means you reward desirable behaviors with praise, petting, toys, games, and yes, treats.
- Negative consequences means you correct undesirable behaviors with a corrective word, tone of voice, body language, hands, collar, or the leash. Negative doesn't mean abuse! You can absolutely correct your dog without being cruel. Don't ever let the "purely positive" folks tell you otherwise.
By showing your dog both positive and negative consequences, he can make a conscious choice to do what you want – not only when he's in the mood for a reward/treat, but also when he might not care a hoot about the reward/treat but he still controls himself because he doesn't want a correction.
All of life works this way – "cause and effect."
And here's the best part....
When YOU become the arbiter of your dog's behaviors – the one who gets to say yea or nay about what he's allowed to do – your dog feels respectful toward you.
And once your dog respects you, he will listen to you. He will pay attention to you. He will do whatever you ask, and stop any misbehavior upon a single word from you.
You might like my article on Respect Training.
Or just let me guide you with the complete, step-by-step Respect Training program in my book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. You can download it and start reading immediately, or you can have the printed book mailed to you.