Basic education

Best Techniques for Dog Training

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. May 25, 2017
Best Techniques for Dog Training

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Although there are many dog training techniques, all of them can be classified into two broad categories: techniques based on learning theories and dog training techniques based on canine ethology. AnimalWised will detail what they are and how to apply them.

Techniques based on learning theories centre on modifying dog behavior, giving less importance to the typical behavior of the canine species. Meanwhile, techniques based on canine ethology focus on a dog's typical natural behavior, giving priority to establishing dominance hierarchies and giving less importance to learning theories.

Techniques that include violence and abuse towards dogs should not be allowed and should not even be considered within modern techniques in dog training. Deliberately acting against the welfare of our dog can bring very serious consequences.

You may also be interested in: Obedience Training for Dogs: Methods and Tips
  1. Techniques based on learning theories
  2. Techniques based on canine ethology
  3. What technique should I use?
  4. Tips for a good training session

Techniques based on learning theories

This category includes those techniques where the main way of teaching is through positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement or punishment. As all of these techniques are very different they are classified into three specific sub-categories: traditional dog training, positive training and mixed techniques.

1. Traditional dog training

Traditional training originated in military dog training schools and was a great success to train such dogs for the two world wars. After World War II it acquired great popularity following stories of heroic dogs.

In these techniques negative reinforcement and punishment are the exclusive means of training. To achieve results it is necessary to physically force the dogs until they perform the actions the handler wants. Choke collars, with spikes and electric collars are excellent tools for this type of work.

Although these techniques are staunchly defended by their practitioners, they are also attacked with the same stubbornness by those who consider them cruel and violent.

The main benefit of traditional training is the high reliability of the trained behaviors. For its part, the disadvantages include potential collateral behavioral problems caused by the training. As well as possible damage to the dog's trachea when choke collars are used.

Although these techniques should not even be practiced it is sadly the case that they are the most documented on the Internet.

2. Positive training

Positive training comprises a set of techniques based on the principles of operant conditioning developed by BF Skinner. Its popularity was very low until the 90s, when Don?t Shoot The Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor became a best seller.

With these techniques it is not necessary to use training collars and training sessions are very rewarding for both trainers and dogs. The main teaching method is the use of positive reinforcement, popularly known as treats.

Therefore, what it mainly does is reinforce desired behavior either through food, affection or others. There are also ways to eliminate unwanted behavior, but punishment is not used in any case. Currently the most popular techniques within positive training is clicker training.

The main advantages of positive training are that:

  • The results are as reliable as those obtained with traditional training.
  • There is no need to physically subdue the dog.
  • It is simple, fast and fun to train a dog like this.
  • We encourage its learning by letting it figure out by itself what we expect from it.

Paradoxically, the main disadvantage of positive training is the speed at which the initial results are achieved. Many novice trainers are impressed with their early stage advances and so do not take the care to perfect the training. The consequence is, of course, that training the training remains only half done.

3. Mixed techniques

Mixed techniques are intermediate points between traditional training and positive training. Therefore they are usually less severe than the first but less friendly than the second.

These techniques have been very successful with canine dogs competing in contact sports such as Schutzhund, RCI, Mondioring, Belgian Ring, etc.

Generally trainers who use mixed techniques combine the use of a choke collar with rewards. However, they usually prefer to use toys instead of food. According to the trainers this stimulates the prey drive. The exception to not using food usually occurs in the early stages and for tracking training, but this depends on the trainer.

Best Techniques for Dog Training - Techniques based on learning theories

Techniques based on canine ethology

Techniques based on canine ethology ignore all or part of the learning theories and focus on the dog's natural behavior. Its basic premise is that the owner has to gain a higher hierarchical status than the dog. Thus, the owner assumes the role of pack leader, or alpha dog.

Although these techniques are very popular their real effectiveness is highly questionable. In addition the techniques are so different that we cannot find a standard or clearly defined line of training, unlike what happens with traditional training and positive training.

Most trainers do not consider these techniques as a means of training, but simply as additional procedures that are useful. Similarly, many practitioners of these techniques reject being considered dog trainers. However, most people unrelated to the canine world believes that these are techniques in dog training.

Best Techniques for Dog Training - Techniques based on canine ethology

What technique should I use?

Other than the name that we may give a form of technical training, the ideal is to analyse for ourselves whether the method is valid, good and if it will work.

When you learn a new technique to teach your dog something ask yourself if this technique can be explained in the scientific principles of training, if it is simple and not violent. A technique is good if it is easy to explain, easy to teach, relates to the natural behavior of the dog, is simple, not violent and is understandable for both.

Many people are disappointed when using positive reinforcement only to receive no response by the dog. This is not always because the technique is bad, it may be related to the intelligence of the dog, with the exact time / place in which we are developing it or by the communication used when communicating with it.

Best Techniques for Dog Training - What technique should I use?

Tips for a good training session

To start you should know that it is not good to overdo the training time of obedience commands. On average we should devote between 5 and 10 minutes daily to review orders already learned and perhaps start a new one. Too much time overwhelms our pet and causes feelings of stress.

On the other hand note that communication with the dog should be clear and understandable for it. Do not use big words or expect it to understand on the first day. A useful training trick is to combine vocalisation with physical expression because the dogs best identifies physical signs.

The training site is also very important. Preferable are places that are set aside and quiet as an environment with countless stimuli will tend to distract the dog, making the task more difficult.

Once your dog learns an order you must practice it regularly, twice a week a minimum. Consistency and repetition of the same exercise make it possible for the dog to respond appropriately. In addition to practising the same exercise we should also increase the difficulty of this by doing it in places with more distractions to ensure that the dog keep following us in different environments.

Treats are very important in training, but something that many people do not know is that they must be treats or snacks that are really tasty for our dog. If we use a food or toy that our dog does not seem interested in obviously we will achieve worse results. To incentivise it is basic for a good result.

You should also take note of your dog's animal welfare. A sick, hungry or stressed animal will clearly not respond adequately to training.

Finally and to close we remind you that it is completely normal to not know all the technical and commands that you must teach your dog. For that reason consider going to a dog trainer if you really need help, he or she can best advise and guide you.

Best Techniques for Dog Training - Tips for a good training session

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Joel Thomas
The information provided in this article has been very useful to me. This post gave me a great deal of knowledge.
Similarly, I covered another knowledgeable post similar to the same subject for all those individuals who are looking forward to gather information to improve the health and lifestyle of their pets.
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Best Techniques for Dog Training