Dog Training Techniques

There are many ways of teaching dogs new behaviors, but they tend to fall into just
two categories - compulsion training and reward based training.

Let's look at the pro's and cons of each.

Compulsion Training

This training method involves using force to train your dog - he has to do a particular behavior to avoid discomfort. For example, if you are teaching your dog to walk at heel with a check chain, then he will get a check with the collar whenever he strays too far from your leg. Over time, he learns that if he stays close to you, it doesn't hurt.

Similarly, electric collars for barking cause discomfort when your dog makes a noise. Over time, he learns that if he is quiet, there's no shock.

The advantages of this training technique is that it's easy enough to learn how to correct a dog, and it's not time consuming to implement.

There are many disadvantages though. If you are using corrections to teach your dog what he isn't supposed to do, you're not showing him clearly what you do want from him. This can get very confusing for him.

You need to be very precise with your timing. If you're a bit late with the correction, your dog won't know what he's being checked for. Is he being checked for not being at heel, or for sniffing the grass, or for watching the dog next to him?

Lastly, by training your dog with painful methods, you're potentially damaging your relationship with him.

Positive Reward Based Training

This method uses rewars such as food or games to teach your dog new behaviors. It relies on the fact that any behavior that is rewarded will be repeated. If your dog sits, and you give him a treat for doing so, he'll do it again... and again... and again.

There are so many advantages to this type of training. You can start teaching a dog when he is just a baby, because there is no stress or discomfort associated with giving him a reward. You'll develop a very close relationship with him, because in his eyes, you're the source of good things.

If you get the timing wrong, the worst you do is give your dog a freebie treat, and that's not going to do him any harm at all.

The disadvantage? This training method can take time. Depending on what you're teaching him, it can take several sessions to shape the behavior you want.

Some people feel that if you use this training method, your dog will only ever work for you when you have a fistful of treats. That's not the case at all. As he progresses in his learning, you can vary how often he gets rewarded, and this will keep him alert and keen to work.

If you've ever questioned whether positive training methods work, then consider not only service dogs for disabled people but also the whales and dolphins in marine parks. These animals can't be trained by force, so it's fair to say that positive reward based training is definitely effective, and much more pleasant for your dog.

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