Positive Dog Training: New Tricks for Old Dog Trainers
There's a paradigm shift going on in the dog training world. Dog training is experiencing an evolution, and the great majority of dog trainers and dog training experts have already crossed over from traditional ways of doing things to positive, reward-based dog training methods.
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), a professional organization of individual trainers, defines dog-friendly training as "training that utilizes primarily positive reinforcement; secondarily negative punishment, and only occasionally, rarely, and/or as a last resort includes positive punishment and/or negative reinforcement.
In essence, positive dog training means using methods that will improve your relationship with your dog. Positive dog training means thinking in terms of rewards to mold your dog's behavior. It may also mean using devices that can help dogs learn without the use of punishment, physical pain, or fear.
Positive dog training methods are successful because animals tend to keep doing things that are rewarding and stop doing things that are not rewarded or ignored. Positive dog training is more than just keeping a lot of treats on hand, it's about controlling consequences and leading your dog to the desired behavior.
How Positive Dog Training Works
Positive dog training formulas are based on two concepts. The first concept is the idea that if two things tend to occur at the same time, we begin to expect one when we see the other. This is called associative learning, and the most famous example is Pavlov's dogs. In a research experiment conducted by Ivan Pavlov, dogs became conditioned to salivate at the sound of a metronome, because they associated the sound of the metronome with the appearance of meat powder.
The other concept behind positive dog training is the use of consequences to modify behavior. This is known as operant conditioning. By rewarding desired behavior and ignoring unwanted behavior, we can increase desired behavior and practically eliminate unwanted behavior.
The strength of positive dog training methods seems to come from its ability to separate learning the behavior from learning the command. In a nutshell, positive dog training associates a stimulus (like a sound) with a desired behavior (like sitting). Once the desired behavior is identified and can be repeated, then the command (like "sit") can be added. First your dog learns what you want him to do, then he learns the command for doing it.
Traditional dog training usually attempt to teach the command while at the same time physically forcing the desired behavior. Traditional dog training methods often include the use of devices like choke collars, prong collars or electric shock collars. The idea was to use pain to force the dog to adopt a specific behavior.
The Effectiveness of Positive Dog Training
Many trainers and pet owners are finding that positive dog training is more effective. As positive dog training methods disperse through the dog training community, clear advantages over traditional dog training practices have begun to emerge.
Positive dog training activities tend to have better timing and are more specific. These qualities combine to accelerate training and focus on the desired behavior. As your dog learns to look to you for leadership, the bond between you will strengthen.
Punishment and coercion, part of the traditional dog training toolbox, often lead to aggression. However, positive dog training methods rarely, if ever, result in aggressiveness or related undesirable behaviors.
The use of pain is not found among positive dog training methods. Pain is not required for learning; in fact, pain can actually lower your dog's ability to learn by increasing his stress.
Positive dog training will be more effective, will work more quickly, and it won't confuse your dog or break his spirit. Training will be fun for you and your dog, and the time you spend together will be an investment in the future.
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