Most Efficient Training Method

People used to think that the best way to teach a human child was to have the child sit and do copy-work; tons and tons of copy-work. Then science came along and it was quite proven that children really don’t need much copy-work at all; this busywork does not hardwire information into our memories very well and therefore is mostly a big waste of time (unless the goal is to improve handwriting).


Now we know that having children learn then summarize what they have learned and/or teach the information back is the best way to teach. Not because it’s “more fun” or “more kind” or “more interesting for the child”. Nope. It is the best way to teach because we have hard scientific data that proves it is the fastest way to etch the information into the child’s long-term memory bank, rather than lodging it in short-term dump-it-later memory. We must have full comprehension and active engagement.


What does this have to do with your dog (apart from your dog perhaps being referred to as your little “fur child”?) Most of these current facts and theories about humans came from studying animal behavior and dogs were one of the animals intensely studied. We know how animals learn and have science to show for our theories. Ever hear of Pavlov’s dogs? That is just one famous example of this kind of study. Much of psychology and behaviorism owes carefully studied animals for their greatest breakthroughs in understanding the human mind.


Training your dog is not terribly dissimilar to teaching a small child. And training your dog does not have to be a guessing game or a game of “follow that guy on television because the television never lies”. It can be done by learning from experts that have not only read the valid science about dog behavior but also have decades of experience training hundreds of dogs. Unfortunately, in the vast and unregulated field of “dog training” there are too many trainers out there that inaccurately use buzz words to catch attention and gain an income when they are really teaching myths and bogus garbage regarding dog behavior. So your goal should be to recognize which trainers are using science and which ones are using fancy sleight of hand and buzz words.


Where to Learn How to Train?


Dog training (or pet parenting) is subjected to all the same perils of human parenting. We have current fads all vying for our allegiance as well as Granny or Great Uncle Jeff telling us what must be done. We have non-trainer pet professionals dispensing advice when they have no education to do so and essentially everywhere you look people have their own opinions. And you know what they say about all of that…


Be wary of who you take advice from. The lady at the dog park or the friend of a friend that used to breed her pet dogs are not necessarily going to know anything about you, your strengths and weaknesses, your dog’s strengths and weaknesses, what you have been doing already and what breed of dog you own (which is a big factor!!!)


The guy on television is there for a reason and that reason is not to help you do right by your dog and your family. Television stars are there to bring in ratings to bring in money for the station. Their job is to be as interesting and dramatic to watch as possible. Never forget that television starts are actors. They may not be telling you what they really know, feel or do themselves. They are telling you what they need to tell you to make a show watchable and edited to look amazing and magical. They are bringing in money with endorsements for products and their popularity so they can hire someone to write a book for them. This is not to say that all television stars talking about animal training are full of the proverbial “it”. I am merely saying that you cannot stake all your hopes on the accuracy of something you see that is intended to entertain people (and the demonstrations that “prove” the efficacy of their technique are heavily edited). Just be aware of your source of information at all times. Take what you feel is helpful from whatever you’re hearing or seeing and leave the rest.


Your veterinarian is a great guy to listen to when your dog needs medication for an infection or is suffering from mysterious diarrhea. But your average veterinarian dispenses terrible advice regarding dog education and behavioral science (as well as being a source full of misinformation and propaganda regarding canine nutrition). Picking a veterinarian to trust is an important step in dog ownership and deserves its own post, actually.


You need to listen to a trainer that helps you understand exactly why some behaviors are going on, and they can’t have the same answer to every single behavior. Dogs are very complex and complicated beings. They feel emotions just like people do. They feel insecure at times, afraid, abandoned, bored, curious, defiant, jealous and happy. They mourn the loss of loved ones and they cherish their family members just like we do. They do not walk around with a one-track mind. This is almost insulting the intelligence and emotional abilities of our dogs (which is a special quality that has made the canine the most beloved companion animal in all of the world and in all of history). So you definitely should be getting the majority of your advice from books and other materials written by dog behaviorists that you feel you can trust and respect or services provided by a dog trainer that once again you can feel their passion for their job and their belief in the canine-human bond and why it is important to preserve. They should obviously be aiming to teach your dog in a way that will give you the ability to live in the same household together as happily as possible.


Ultimately, the very bottom line here is that you need to listen to someone who can not only explain to you exactly what you should do and why you should do it, but they should also be willing to listen to what you’re saying about your dog. Because that is just it, isn’t it? This is your dog. Pretending that all dogs are the same, even within one breed and even within one litter is just an absurdity. Dogs have their own quirks and traits and experiences in life and so forth that makes each one unique. Most of us with dogs realize that our little guy is sort of his (or her) own “person”. In much the same way as our human children siblings may be similar but also have had their very own personalities since they were only hours old.


Because ultimately the very best person to train your dog in the whole wide world is you. No one knows your dog better than you (except in the case of a brand new puppy and a very excellent quality breeder. Then the breeder will know quite a lot for some time, until you become the expert on your dog.)


Listen to yourself and your intuition. Trust your natural parenting instincts and apply them to the care and education of your family companion dog. He is, after all, a furry child in his ability to think and reason and in his dependence on you to meet all of his doggy needs. So stop trying to be his “master” and start thinking more like his parent. That is the biggest thing you can do for your furry family member.


The Methods




Dog training methods lie on a spectrum. You’re going to find on one end of the spectrum (we’ll call this the “stone age” end of the spectrum) the dominance-theory methods or sometimes called “force training” or “punishment training” by its opponents. Here you will see the completely false idea that a dog is a “pack animal” and that dogs in a pack have a specific pecking order that is constantly being challenged and changed. Here you will see the ridiculous idea that your dog thinks you are a dog and will be constantly trying to challenge your position as the “alpha” dog.


A sample of ideas behind this stone-age model of dog training:

  • Your dog constantly wishes to usurp your authority and gain complete access to all of your resources. They want the feeding, sleeping and breeding rights that only the “alpha” in the pack has.
  • Your dog isn’t your companion, friend and family member. He is, in fact, your adversary.
  • You are forever locked in conflict. An eternal canine-human power struggle for superiority.
  • You cannot give your dog affection without being the instigator of such affection. If your dog requests affection you must ignore your dog or shove him away from you.
  • You cannot carry your dog, reassure your dog, allow your dog to sleep on the bed or sit on a couch.
  • You cannot let the dog ever be higher/taller physically than you are (like a crazed scene from Anna and the King).
  • You must constantly focus your efforts on keeping your dog “in his place” for fear of a loss of control and power.
  • You cannot relax with your dog because he is constantly vying for your position as “alpha”.
  • If your dog leans on you it is because he is trying to challenge you and not a gesture of affection or a wish to be close to you.
  • If your dog steps on your foot it is intentional and some strange method of letting you know he thinks he is your boss.
  • If your dog looks you in the eye it is a direct challenge and not because he is bonded to you and loves you (despite scientific studies that prove it is an affectionate behavior).
  • You cannot play tug of war with your dog or he will think he is the boss.
  • You cannot let your dog walk ahead of you, walk out of a doorway first or eat first or he will think he is the boss and chaos will ensue.
  • Your entire relationship with your dog relies on how well you can keep your dog “in his place”, which is clearly very far beneath you and all other human beings.
  • A dog in a position of authority in a “pack” of humans is a dangerous, unpredictable and destructive force. Do not let this happen.
  • If you have any behavioral problems or canine psychological problems such as anxiety, it is a direct result of your failure to maintain status as the alpha.
  • In order to assert your alpha-status you must walk your dog in a strict and unpleasant manner every day in an effort to keep him in constant check as well as exercise him so much that he is too exhausted to try to be the alpha.
  • Try not to smile at your dog, seem happy or excited because that will make your dog think you are “submissive” to him and he will immediately begin to become a complete disaster.
  • In order to remind your dog that he is not in charge you must wrestle him when he doesn’t obey you after several attempts at physically punishing him. He must give up and appear to have a broken spirit before you may allow the dog to get up off of the floor.
  • If your dog appears to be frightened of something you must force him to do what you like despite his fear, even if that seems to be really unpleasant for your dog. Wrestle him and force him to confront his fears and this will show him that no matter how upset he is he must do what you say or he will be physically forced to do as you say. This will somehow remove his fear of whatever has been frightening him because all he needs is to see that you’re unafraid and his forceful master and he will stop thinking for himself.


In order to maintain your position as the “alpha” you must do what you sometimes see dogs doing when they are having a squabble. If you are not studying dogs or paying very close attention it would seem that when dogs fight eventually one dog forces the other dog onto the ground and into a submissive position.


This is sort of like a UFC fighter being strangled into tapping out (or passing out). This is what you must do every time your dog “challenges” you. Unfortunately, every single thing your dog does that you don’t like is a direct result of your cheeky dog making an effort to control and challenge you. Otherwise it is because you are not beating him up enough to make him feel confident and reassured that he does not have to think for himself because you are there to think for him.


In order to force your dog to submit you must pin him to the ground by his throat and force him to expose his belly. Unfortunately, when dogs are studied it becomes evident that one dog does not force the other to submit against his will. The “submissive” dog is actually voluntarily ending the argument by showing signs that he does not wish to fight with the more aggressive dog. He is waving the white flag so to speak. He is saying “ok, ok. I don’t want to fight anymore”. This is typically followed up with the two dogs either making up or going to their respective corners to fume and lick their wounds. When the two dogs come together again they will often make-up and many times it is the “winner” of the argument that gives the sweetest of apologies to the “loser”.


Since dogs submit voluntarily there is absolutely no evidence that suggests forcing your dog into a submissive position will cause the dog to feel like yielding his position agreeably as though some formal exchange has been done and all parties are satisfied. Your dog may “give” because he is being forced to but don’t pretend he thinks it has anything to do with a natural order of things. He probably feels you are dangerous and untrustworthy and doesn’t understand why you were so mean to him. He may comply with your commands but it is because he is afraid of you and not because he accepts your leadership due to your display of domination.


This type of training requires the application of punishment onto the dog, usually in the form of physical force by restraining him or even kicking the dog and making threatening noises. Here you will see the use of “corrections” like a yank on a leash or a zap with an electric shock collar done regularly in between larger displays of domination. You will see choke chains being used to control the dog by cutting off his air supply and otherwise you will be instructed on how to apply minimal and well timed pain to the dog during all interactions. You will also see this type of training falsely claim that you need to behave constantly ego-crazed and aloof and confident in order to maintain your role as the “alpha”.


This barbaric training style requires a harshness that many of us simply don’t possess. This type of training seems to aspire to some sort of absurd machismo and is especially unfriendly toward our female dog handlers who simply cannot comprehend behaving in such a manner toward anything, much less a beloved companion animal. Essentially this training methods asks us to be in a domineering and subtly abusive relationship with our friends. Because dogs are our friends. Not our slaves.


When I think of this kind of trainer I imagine the Cartman character on the cartoon “South Park” in his police uniform pinning down a frightened dog while saying “you must respect my authorit-eye”


Hopefully you will avoid the glittery language and fancy showmanship of those that encourage this kind of science-less approach. Hopefully by now you will see how ludicrous this entire theory really is! Training predominantly by punishment really is not an effective approach. I choose to avoid having a “dominant/submissive” relationship with my dog as I personally feel that it is abusive, ineffective and unnecessary.


Now at the very other end of the spectrum you will see a type of training primarily known as “positive” or “force-free” training. This type of training focuses entirely on the absence of any form of punishment whatsoever for unwanted behavior or incorrect guesses during a training session. This type of training is focused on motivating the dog to cooperate and encouraging the owner to not desire to force the dog to obey or do anything it isn’t fully motivated to do. This type of training requires a lot of food and toys and other things that can otherwise motivate the dog to do as you request. This method focuses on gaining compliance because there is something “in it” for the dog.


The main opponents of this type of training complain that this method takes “too long” and is therefore very inefficient at achieving full success as the dog is only compliant when she feels like being compliant. All of the energy is based in encouraging the dog to cooperate willingly but what do you do when the dog refuses?


This is a very science-based approach and is kinder and gentler as well. It focuses on the true behavior of dogs and the understanding that dogs are animals.


And right smack dab in the middle of the spectrum you’re going to find me. Because isn’t that where the answer usually lies? Ok to be honest I’m probably more like ¾ of the way on the spectrum on the side closest to “positive”.


I call this the “Family Model” method, although at times I think I should simply call it the “Common Sense” method. In this method of training you are going to be your pet’s parent in the same way that you would parent a three-to-six-year-old child.


You see all the science (and all of my experience) indicate that dogs have social structures practically identical to humans. They live in family groups with humans and blend beautifully into the dynamic that is set up for them in their particular family setting. They do require leadership and guidance in the exact same way that a child requires leadership and guidance. You do not wish to “dominate” or “control” your children and should not feel that way about your dog. You base your relationship on love and a bonded sense of family and affection. Your dog trusts you and depends on you to meet all of her needs. And in return she does the best she can to follow your instruction and behave in a way that keeps the family unit functioning smoothly. When there are upsets in things and family arguments usually there are answers to each situation in the same way as there are for human family problems. These answers are often dependent on the situation and cannot be answered with a uniform “force your child to obey by physically punishing and dominating him”.


You are going to be the leader and the dog is going to be happy to have that. You are going to recognize that dogs have family group structures with people and they are not “pack” animals. You are going to recognize that the only body so-labeled “difficult” dogs wish to control is their own. These dogs simply want to be free to make their own choices a little more often and might not like always doing what they are told. And sure, I don’t like being told what to do either so I really do empathize with dogs that have this sort of personality.


Dogs are all different. You have your stubborn dogs, your wall-flower dogs, your insecure dogs and your boisterous, social dogs. You have your dogs that could potentially be labeled as “attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder”. You have dogs who are deep thinkers and those that accept things at face value. Just like humans.


The best thing you can do to help yourself out is to pick your breed, breeder and specific dog wisely in an effort to match your new dog to your desires, needs and abilities. This is exactly why different breeds exist and unfortunately the current (American only) culture of “rescue” tells us that a dog is a dog and they are all similarly suited to every home and family dynamic. This is a dangerous lie and has caused lots of human heartache in our country. Dogs are bred to be different from breed to breed and every breed or mutt out there is absolutely not for every family situation. It is not one of those things you can pick out based on size and looks and availability.


In this “Family Model” method you are going to offer your dog lots and lots of rewards for doing what you ask. After all you are rewarded for going to work and doing other things that you don’t necessarily want to do, right? Why do we expect our dogs to have some sort of noble idea of duty? Or an all-encompassing love and adoration that causes them to do whatever we say at any given moment even if their own needs and desires are in direct conflict? Can we expect our children (or our spouses) to behave in such a way? We all aim for that as humans capable of higher thinking, sure. We also realize that it is really quite difficult and impossible to maintain at all times.


In this method we are going to allow our dog to “earn” his food with training. Instead of giving him “free meals” we are going to help him learn to get rewards for complying with our requests. We use mealtime to our advantage so that we have a hungry (and motivated) dog to teach. We use tasty and desirable food instead of having all our training sessions in between meals so our pooch fills up on healthy meals instead of less-nutritious treats and snacks. Good parenting all around!


We are going to encourage our dog to want to work for us by making it fun and rewarding. We will give heavy praise. We do not over-use the word “no” but we still do say it because sometimes our dogs can just be a little naughty or fresh. We only say the word “no” when we want our dog to know that we are really very unhappy with a particular behavior. And typically we use this word only in situations where we will consistently be unhappy with this particular behavior. This way there is never any confusion on your dog’s part. He will know that when you say “no” it means you are always unhappy with whatever he is doing. He will want to avoid that unhappiness because he loves you (not because he is afraid of you) and so you save this “no” weapon up for times that really call for its use.


Instead we employ other words (dogs are capable of learning a large vocabulary of English words) such as “whoops” and “easy” and “freeze” to help us teach our dogs to guess again or to lessen in intensity or to stop immediately. So much more descriptive than a harsh “no! You got it wrong and now I’m unhappy with you!!”


While we use “no” and let our dog know when we are displeased with certain “naughty” behaviors we really mostly rely on positive association and voluntary cooperation. Will we put the proverbial foot down when we require compliance and our dog does not wish to mind us? Sure we will. Just as we would with our children. Just as we would with a stubborn toddler refusing naptime. But we also give our dog every reason in the world to trust us, love us, and desire to make us happy. We bond with our dog and make him our family as he makes us his. This is the true natural relationship we have been designed to have with our canine companions.


We accept that sometimes dogs have bad days or feel unwell or grumpy and we don’t think this is some kind of move to usurp our totalitarian grasp over him. We give our dogs grace just as they give us so much in return.


We treat our dogs with respect and unconditional kindness and love. We do not “punish” our dogs. There is a difference between “consequences” and “punishment” and we understand that difference and make use of “consequences” while never punishing our dogs.


We communicate unhappiness with unacceptable behaviors and also understand which behaviors are natural, instinctive and not necessarily intentionally “naughty”. Our primary form of “correction” for undesirable behavior is helping our dogs avoid making the bad choice in the first place. We make a good attempt to anticipate our dog’s needs and keep him from being too bored, over tired, hungry, requiring a place to eliminate and full of excess energy. We meet our dog’s breed-specific needs and work to understand our individual dog and what he requires to feel complete and content.


We try giving the dog options to perform desirable behavior in place of undesirable behavior and we employ distraction whenever necessary. We may say “no” but we will follow that up with an effort to re-direct a wayward dog in a loving and positive and consistent way. Essentially we give the dog a way to earn praise rather than shouting at the dog and leaving him to figure things out on his own. There may be consequences for behavior (if you refuse to stop biting too hard you don’t get playtime) but we do not view these as intentional application of unpleasantness to punish.


One More Example


The word “training” isn’t really an accurate word to describe what we are doing with our dogs (in my opinion, anyway). Really we are educating our dogs. The word “training” gives off this sort of idea that we are teaching a dumb beast to do memorized tricks for food rewards. But really your dog is a thinking, feeling being. He is considering everything, analyzing it and working to comprehend all the time. You aren’t just teaching him to copy patterns but are actually teaching him to communicate with you. Alas, our task is complicated by the human-dog language barrier.


Imagine teaching a foreign student (you only speak English but the child speaks only Japanese) and you need to cause that child to understand the basics of a subject. Let’s say you need to teach the child how to play soccer.


Can you imagine taking on this kind of job? Imagine how difficult that would really be to start off, before you found a rhythm and method that worked not just for you but for that specific child as well.


Do you suppose you would show the child what you want him to do, then ask him to do it and when he doesn’t do what you asked or he does it incorrectly you might grab him by the arm and jerk him sharply toward you?


What if the child became distracted and was looking around the big, lovely field you’re standing in? (And remember you’re speaking a different language and this soccer-playing-education attempt may be boring for the little boy). Would you grab his arm and yank it with a sharp snapping movement in order to restore his attention to you? Would you squeeze his neck if he failed to comply?


How could you know if he is truly being willfully disobedient? Or if he is simply unmotivated or confused? How do you know that he is being “bad” and not just misunderstanding your attempts at communication? Just because your explanations are clear to you doesn’t mean they are to that little foreign boy. Do you think you would build a relationship based on trust, affection and mutual respect by teaching in this manner? Clearly not.


What if he takes a guess at what you’re asking him to do? He gives a swing of a foot but kicks the ball in the wrong direction and you shout “NO” at him and yank his arm again.


Would he be afraid to try again, perhaps?


Ok, well dogs may not be children, but domesticated dogs have a lot in common with the human child’s mind, so it is an extremely valid analogy. If you’ve ever parented a two-year-old then you’re prepared to own a dog as dogs have a cognitive function comparable to a two-year-old human child. And you wouldn’t treat a child that way because it is cruel, but also because it wouldn’t be very effective.


I mean, sure, it will sort of work eventually because the child will become fearful and eventually his little spirit will be broken and he will figure out what you want and pay attention all the time out of fear of punishment. But it would never work to accomplish your actual goal (which would be to teach the child to play soccer and to enjoy the game!) And I cannot imagine you’d have a close, loving bond with a child being educated in such a manner. And it would take a whole lot longer than trying to teach in a less punitive way!


I do believe we would all consider it illegal child abuse if a teacher grabbed a defiant youngster, perhaps a 7th grader feeling too much of his testosterone, and slammed him on the floor, pinned him down onto his back or side and held him there by his throat.


The older child, especially the older male child, may react in a pretty angry way. He may scream and curse and scratch and struggle.


But if the teacher is bigger than this helpless child eventually the child will give up. He will give in and lay in a heap on the floor. A human child would feel all kinds of horrific emotions. An experience like this would actually be very traumatizing. The feelings of helplessness breed intense fear and distrust. A sacred line has been crossed. The child always inherently trusted the teacher and while the child may have pushed the limits with his behavior he never thought the teacher would actually harm him or render him humiliated and powerless in some undomesticated display of sheer strength.


What a horrible experience that would be. And if we as a society allowed that kind of behavior from teachers do you suppose it would decrease the incidents of children misbehaving and acting defiantly? It might possibly scare some children into behaving better. But mostly it would be polarizing. Some kids would be “scared straight” and others would become much more defiant and reckless in their behavior. Perhaps only the most frustrated children would dare push the limits in a school like that.


But would it accomplish the actual goal that society has for our school-age kids? Would it teach them to be responsible, respectful, kind or considerate? Would it stimulate and nurture a deep love of learning that would last a lifetime? Of course not! In fact, it would very likely create a tremendous increase in aggressive behavior and physical abuse and violence peer to peer. We would create a more physically violent society and would see an increase in domestic abuse and random incidences of assault.


These so-called “dominance” dog training methods can never accomplish our goals with our dogs; which is to give them understanding of what we want from them and to encourage them to cooperate and comply.


It would be downright foolish and irresponsible to attempt to educate children in such a manner now that we “know better” as a society. Furthermore, it would be cruel and inhumane. So why do we continue to train our domesticated companion animals in such a way? For some reason this idea that “dominance” is a real necessity still persists in the homes of average dog-loving and owning families. And we have yet to really educate otherwise responsible owners of the damage they could be causing their beloved pet.


Beautifully well-mannered and loving pet dogs can be created without ever needing to pin a dog on its back or refuse affection when asked or refuse a spot up on the couch. You don’t need to believe that some kind of magical “energy” is going to change your dog’s behavior or your abilities as a trainer or that if you just bully your dog and out-will him you will build a relationship based on trust and love and receive endless willing compliance and cooperation.


We want to communicate effectively to our dogs and have them provide us with accurate, prompt and enthusiastic responses to our commands because they want to. They are motivated not by fear but by affection, joy, love, fun and food. Most dogs really are quite biddable. Meaning they genuinely want to make you happy. They want to work for you just for the sheer joy of working with family and experiencing life. Dogs are beautiful like that. You do not need to motivate them with fear in order to get them to do as you wish. And you do not need to assume that they fail to comply because somehow they seek to overthrow you as commander in chief of your human-dog “pack”. Also lets just be real about this for a minute. Your dog is not so stupid that he thinks you are a dog or that he is a human. He is aware that you are different species. Dogs behave differently with humans as they do with other dogs. Just as we behave differently with humans as we do with dogs. Give these poor creatures just a smidge more credit.


So how the heck can we teach a whole different species of animal to understand what we want without breaking the animal’s spirit, without misunderstanding the animal’s reasons for making certain choices, and without causing emotional or physical damage? Can it be done?


It Can Be Achieved with Love


Animal behaviorists do this all the time with all kinds of animals. This kind of training works on animals as small as a hermit crab to the largest land mammal, (the elephant), and animals as magnificent and other-worldly as whales and dolphins.


Dog training is no different than dolphin or elephant training; except that dogs are special in their drive to be with people, their level of domestication and their convenient size (your dog can’t accidentally crush you and that is a plus in my book). But the principles, the science behind the training, are exactly the same. You see, training requires very little actual special technique and skill. It isn’t some mystical gift that a few lucky humans are endowed with. There are no animal witch-doctors or whisperers or any of that garbage.


{I feel compelled to note that a “whisperer” is, by definition a person that trains an animal without the use of any physical contact (like jerking a leash or holding the animal down or kicking an animal, or hissing and prodding the animal like a demented cat). This person (the whisperer) is communicating to the animal with gentle encouragement, body language and by gaining a deep level of trust and understanding.


The only type of trainer that can successfully accomplish dog training in the true whisperer’s way is the so-called positive training (the type of training I am encouraging). It can be done without even touching the dog or saying a single word. Force training (or dominance-style training) can be done without speaking, but they are impossible without applying some sort of physical contact or force to apply punishment such as a collar, leash, or e-collar/remote trainer (electric shock collar). So when you see certain people calling themselves “whisperers” and they use physical force to train their animal they are bastardizing that word and lying to you about who they are.}


The Proof


Is in the pudding, or so I’m told.


Science backs up these “positive” training methods and countless behaviorists have proven it with their animal(s) of choice. Positive training works faster and stays in the animal’s memory much longer than traditional punishment “dominant” training methods. This method assures that the animal wants to comply with commands, and actually sees it as a game (for the more intelligent species).


This encouraging and intuitive “positive” method is the fastest way to communicate with the animal because you can directly tell him what you want him to do, instead of only telling him what you don’t want him to do. You reward incorrect guesses with positivity (“whoops! Try again”) while encouraging the animal to continue guessing. You let the animal know he guessed incorrectly without implying that you are unhappy or angry with the incorrect guess. (The “whoops!” is said in a high-pitched, friendly way.)


Dominance-theory training makes dramatic over-use of the word “no”. This type of “no” training causes the dog to become fearful of making guesses to figure out what you do want him to do. When incorrect guesses are responded to with a verbal “no” which, during other types of activities may also be accompanied with a physical “correction” of some sort you teach your dog that “no” is a punishment. They become fearful to guess at the risk of guessing incorrectly and displeasing the handler. This is unfortunate as it extinguishes novel behaviors and spontaneous guesses, slowing your training efforts significantly.


It doesn’t matter if a woman tells me that she’s been teaching children history through copy work for years and years and that it has always worked very well for her. She may believe what she is saying but I know that the science doesn’t support it and she is likely incorrect in her own observations. She has been training these children’s minds incorrectly for the past 20 years and instead of embracing new science and technology she is insisting on doing the training the hard and ineffective way. Why? I suppose because humans are creatures of habit (and far too much pride). Learning new things is scary and you lose some of your previously gained experience, but you have the chance to do things in a better way.


If a dog trainer says he has been training dogs for 20 years and traditional “force” methods are the only thing that works for him then I would not recommend hiring him as your trainer or listening to his advice. He is probably an animal loving and well-meaning person but the science behind his methods just isn’t there. A responsible pet professional would learn the proper way to do their job, specifically when there is currently a huge movement in the dog-training professional community to eradicate this reprehensible and stubborn “pack” and “dominance” myth.


The observable long term success is simply not there for punishment-based training methods. It might get the job done (eventually) with some dogs (while breaking and ruining others or causing serious aggression problems) but I’m not taking the hard route when there is a smoother and shorter path to a better destination. And let’s face it; such a trainer simply does not have the education to back up his claims. Those with education in science, psychology and animal behavior are those that have the evidence to support their claims… and they are all sitting pretty somewhere on the positive side of the spectrum.


Why should you choose to train somewhere in between the Family Model and the Positive Method? Because it is nicer? Kinder? Gentler?


Because it works better, faster and lasts longer, pure and simple.


Do not buy into the “dominate your dog” nonsense. It is based on one bad study which has repeatedly been proven to be inaccurate over the past several decades. Your dog doesn’t need to be punished constantly to learn and your dog doesn’t need to be grabbed violently by the neck, shoved onto the floor and pinned down into a fearful, trust destroying “submissive” state.


Train your dog using mainly positive reinforcement. Reward your dog. Pay him for his successful work instead of punishing him for mistakes in his work. He will learn much faster and have a lot more motivation to keep trying to get it “right” when he is paid for his efforts. It doesn’t mean that you will be required to feed your dog to do anything you like but it does mean that your dog will like you, trust you, and not be afraid of you. And that is worth all the liver snaps and bacon bit treats in the world to me. After all I like to be paid for my hard work. Don’t you? I certainly don’t like to be punished for guessing wrong when trying to communicate with someone speaking a different language.


So “force” training methods and “dominance theory” based training methods are old science; old news, and cruel and ineffective to boot.  So-called “positive” training using earned rewards is really the only way to teach a dog how to be a polite doggy citizen and member of your family.

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