Train Your Dog Positively!
I’ve been publishing Modern Dog now for over 10 years and during that time I’ve read countless dog-related books about health, breeds, training, behaviour, spirituality, and even psychic communication. I’ve learned a lot, but most importantly it’s brought about a significant change in how I perceive and relate to dogs (and animals in general). For instance, I now know that dogs not only experience emotion but that their intelligence and understanding is equivalent to that of a two-year-old child. Most people would shudder to think of anyone hurting a vulnerable toddler, yet dogs, just as vulnerable but less protected, are mistreated on a regular basis, oftentimes under the guise of “training.” The recent popularity of negative reinforcement—training by exerting dominance over a dog—is not only heartbreaking, but I fear has set dog training back decades.
The dominance model promotes the human as the “pack leader” or “alpha” and uses force, confrontation, intimidation, restraint (like the “alpha roll”) or punishment in order to achieve a desired result. Such methods are inhumane and achieve results only because the dog is afraid of what will happen if he doesn’t comply. On the other hand, the positive reinforcement model uses non-confrontational methods to work a dog’s brain by helping them learn that good things happen to them when they do the things you like, (good things being food, play-time, toys or cuddles). If “spare the rod, spoil the child” is no longer our parenting mantra, why would we apply the outdated methodology where our dogs are concerned?
If you are interested in learning more about positive training methods, as I’m sure you are—after all, who wouldn’t rather build a bond of trust and love with their dog rather than one of fear and mistrust?—then I highly recommend Victoria Stilwell’s new book, Train Your Dog Positively (reviewed in our summer issue), it is an excellent one to start with. All of Modern Dog’s trainers from whom we seek advice employ humane, positive training methods and are regular founts of training and behavioural expertise (find positive answers to your training articles here).
Spending positive training time with your dog will develop a strong and healthy bond built on trust, all the while developing the good behaviour you're looking for from your dog. Have fun with your training and should you have any training questions you'd like to direct to our panel of trainers, please feel free to email them to us.