In the beginning…

Years ago, dog training was conducted using punishment-based methods, including choke chains, prong collars and shock collars.  Since then, the research, and science, has resoundingly demonstrated that these methods adversely affect the relationship that you have with your dog.  (Please read the article on punishment by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior on this topic.)

Thankfully, we now have better training methods!

Reward-based training methods are based on the psychology of B.F. Skinner.  Operant conditioning, as this is called, relies on consequences of the subject’s (our dog’s) behavior.  If the dog Sits, then he gets a reward.  If the dog doesn’t Sit, then he doesn’t get a reward.  Dogs learn pretty quickly to Do what Works for them!

What is a reward?

Rewards can be anything that the dog wants at that moment.  Food works easily in the classroom (because most dogs will work for food) but you have lots of opportunities to reward your dog with the stuff of life:  the dinner bowl, go for a walk, a belly rub, etc.  A reward is anything that the dog wants at that particular moment.

With information readily available online, from TV, magazines, books, videos, friends and family, we encourage you to trust your instinct and question sources of training information to make sure they are reliable and grounded in fact and proven science.  Unfortunately, dog training is an unregulated profession and anyone can be a dog trainer.  Please check the credentials, education and certifications of the trainer you choose.  For more information about How to Choose a Trainer and trainer certifications, please visit the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

How does positive reinforcement work?

Positive training focuses on teaching your dog what To Do, not focus on the things he shouldn’t do.  Consider this:  If you yell at your dog for something (or worse, shock him), what are you teaching him To Do instead?  Nothing.  You’re teaching your dog to be afraid of you.  I’d rather teach my dog what he should be doing in the first place so he doesn’t do the bad stuff!

What is clicker training?

Clicker training is a tool that we use to mark the behavior that we like.  Have you ever been to a dolphin show at an aquarium?  Did you notice that, when the dolphin did the cool jump, the trainer blew a whistle and the dolphin came over to get a fish?  We use the same principle, only we use a click and a treat to mark the behavior that we like!

All species, including humans, horses, chickens, goldfish, cats and dogs, can be taught using clicker-type training.  For more information about clicker training, please visit the Karen Pryor Clickertraining website.