Positive Dog Training – Are There Any Negatives?

By on November 30, 2012

Have you ever heard people discuss positive dog training and wondered what it actually was, how it could help you and your dog, and if it was really all that different to other methods? Alana Stevenson explains all.

I am a positive trainer. I am opposed to the dominance/submission approach to training that is so popular today. I work with fearful and reactive dogs, and implement behaviour modification to help people humanely and successfully resolve their dogs’ behavioural problems. I am frequently asked how to establish oneself as “alpha” over a dog, or to teach a client to be a “boss” over her dog. Instead of teaching people to “dominate” their dogs, I teach them to understand how their dogs learn, and how to reinforce and reward wanted behaviours.

What Is Positive Dog Training?

Positive training means rewarding your dog for performing a behaviour you desire. When your dog exhibits a behaviour you like, you show your dog that you appreciate that behaviour by rewarding your dog. A reward is anything your dog may enjoy. Food, throwing a tennis ball, playing tug, giving your dog a massage, praising your dog, giving your dog a kiss, and running with your dog are all examples of rewards.

By rewarding your dog for performing a behaviour, your dog will want to repeat the behaviour again. By repeating the behaviour, your dog will get very good at practicing it. He will then exhibit that behaviour regularly without you having to reinforce it so often.
So, How Is Positive Training Different From Being “Dominant” Over A Dog?

Positive training is very different from the methods used by those following a dominance/submission approach to training. When people try to be dominant over dogs, they often employ harmful techniques that can be quite confrontational. 


Good Advice For All Dog Owners

Be kind to your dogs. Exercise your dogs. Appreciate your dogs and reward your dogs for good behaviours. Do not yell at your dogs or bully them. Set your dogs up for success and manage problems early on instead of creating problems, or trying to undo problems you may have created. Teach your dog humanely, and both you and your dog will benefit!

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One Comment

  1. Gary Wilkes

    December 2, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Positive reinforcement cannot inhibit behavior. If you choose “positive” training you cannot stop anything. The common suggestion of “teach and alternate behavior” is senseless. Learning to ride a horse doesn’t erase your knowledge of riding a bike – no matter who much you are rewarded for riding horses. The first time you must go someplace and a horse is not available, you’ll use a bike if one is handy. Meaning, if you lure a dog away from jumping on people with treats, the original behavior is still there. By any logical analysis, a leash is “negative” training because it punishes the animal’s freedom. Do “positive” trainers use leashes? Yes. Why do “positive” trainers not admit that they use negative methods? Because then they can’t call themselves “positive.” The claim to be “positive” is a rhetorical tool that allows them to fool either themselves or those they wish to pursuade. In this case, only “dominance” forms of training as listed as an alternative to “positive” training. Why? Obedience training is readily available and has been for 100 years. All manner of working dogs are trained to dependable performance using a balance of positive and negative – intentionally incorrectly labeled “negative” or “punishment based” by positive trainers. This begs two questions. First, if using “negative” training is bad, why don’t Seeing Eye dogs or service dogs look terrified? If using “postive” training is so good, why don’t any working dog schools use it?

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