The dog training world is in turmoil, with ‘positive’, ‘balanced’ and ‘traditional’ dog trainers fighting each other about who’s approach is right! My position is clear. I choose kindness!
I choose methods that cause a dog no pain and that aren't scary or worrying. Full stop.
Why I choose to use positive reinforcement
While it has now been debunked that dogs need a pack leader to make them 'comply', many people still subscribe to this way of thinking and look for quick fixes to unwanted behaviours. However, we need to have realistic expectations and accept that there are no quick fixes. We need to support and guide our dogs and help them learn how to navigate our human world, which is very alien to them.
This can be achieved without scaring or hurting a dog, or by damaging your relationship with them. Yes you can change behaviours through the use of force and intimidation, but why would you want to?
Using 'positive' training i.e. positive reinforcement doesn't mean being permissive, it means helping dogs think, learn and make good choices by setting them up to succeed, giving feedback and rewarding them when they do a good job.
I choose to use positive reinforcement to strengthen good choices and behaviours I want to see more of. If a dog is motivated to ‘work’ for a particular reward in a particular situation, why on earth wouldn’t I use this to my advantage?
Finding out what motivates your dog is key to success, try this exercise to help find out the different things you can use as a reward for your dog:
A kinder way to tackle unwanted behaviours
There are five things that I recommend to owners to help prevent unwanted behaviours without force or fear:
1.Management and prevention:
This is hugely important because first of all, you are going to need manage things so that a dog doesn’t get to practise the behaviours you don’t like.
2. Never reinforce unwanted behaviours:
Unwanted behaviours are often inadvertently rewarded, you have to ensure that from this point forward nobody is rewarding the unwanted behaviour.
3. Train an alternative good choice behaviour:
Instead of focusing on the stuff you don't like you’re going to focus your attention on using positive reinforcement to train an alternative behaviour that you like to replace the unwanted one.
4. Redirect onto something appropriate:
This is switching their focus when doing something unwanted and redirecting them to a more appropriate desirable behaviour.
5. Train a positive interrupter:
This can help interrupt the unwanted behaviour before it happens so you can ask your dog to do something more appropriate.
Positive reinforcement builds a dog’s confidence, motivates them to learn, enables them to succeed, and strengthens your relationship with them. The only fall-out by training this way is that your dog might end up loving you even more than they already did!
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