Pet Tips

Dog Training Styles – Pet tip 206

Although most dogs are ‘good dogs’ many dog owners are faced with the occasional behaviour problem. Normally dog behavior problems are pretty straightforward; jumping, over-barking, chewing on inappropriate things are all common examples of dog behaviours that humans don’t appreciate. The crux of the problem is usually miscommunication because dogs and humans do not speak the same language. In general all dogs want to do is please us and their behaviours (even though some of them go unappreciated) are set to achieve that goal.

Take jumping for example; one of the reasons many dogs do this is because they simply want to greet you. They want to touch your nose with their nose and/or lick your face often to show that they are subordinate and are happy to see and greet the leader. Since this is a normal dog behaviour that many dog owners want to extinguish, they need a training technique. Some behaviour problems are fairly easy to treat and advice from an Internet search or advice from your vet is enough to solve the problem. Sometimes though, correcting the problem is beyond your skill-set and then you may need the help of a professional dog trainer.

When choosing a dog trainer, of course you want a reference but you may also want to be aware of a trainer’s style or philosophy before you hire him or her. The training philosophies of dog trainers will likely fall into three categories. They will be positive trainers, compulsion trainers or balanced trainers. All three training philosophies can be effective when used by a professional trainer that has experience. Positive trainers will only use positive rewards like foods when dealing with problem behaviours. They will never use corrections or punishment in their training. Compulsion trainers will use punishment and leash corrections to try to extinguish problem behaviours. The dog is motivated NOT to demonstrate the problem behaviour in order to avoid punishment. It should be stated that physical harm like hitting a dog or rubbing its nose in urine if it has an accident is very old school compulsion training and should be avoided. Balanced trainers will use a mix of both approaches.

Which approach you choose is personal and will often depend on the severity of the problem behaviour as well as the breed, age and personality of the dog performing the behaviour. If we take jumping behaviour, a compulsion trainer may suggest (among many other suggestions) that the dog should have a leash on during the training and the owner can step on the leash. That way the dog gets a tug when it jumps and learns to stop jumping. A positive trainer might watch the dog carefully and ask the dog to sit as it’s about to jump and reward the dog for sitting. The dog learns to sit instead of jump. A balanced trainer might turn away from or ignore a dog that starts jumping and then reward the dog when it has settled down.
In conclusion, so long as you are dealing with a professionally referred trainer whose methods you approve of, it doesn’t really matter what school they came from. The result is what is important and the ability of your dog to maintain that result.

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