Which dog training method works best is certainly a subject that can cause a lot of debate. Whether you’re talking to a dog trainer, a dog owner or a veterinary behavioral behaviorist, you’ll hear lots of different advice and reasons why one method is better than another.
Personally, I prefer positive dog training methods. I like them because they do not cause discomfort or pain to the dog. I also like them because they allow the dog to make the right choice between one behavior or another, based on feedback he has received from his owner/trainer. But I hear a lot of different reasons from dog owners and even from some dog trainers explaining why positive training methods cannot work successfully.
Myth #1: Positive Dog Training Methods Create Spoiled Dogs
This is one of the most common reasons I hear for not using positive methods to train a dog. And it could not be further from the truth.
Positive dog training methods encourage dogs to perform the tasks we want them to perform by offering them a reward for doing so. However, these training methods also teach dogs alternative responses to inappropriate behaviors. So, instead of just punishing a dog for doing something wrong, we actually teach him to replace that inappropriate behavior with a more appropriate response.
Let me say that again. We’re not spoiling our dogs. We’re teaching them, without hurting them, not only what not to do but also what they should be doing instead. That’s huge. What could be more confusing to a dog than knowing he is not supposed to do something but not knowing what to do instead. This is especially true if the behavior is an instinctual response. For instance, barking is a normal dog behavior. Why would you want to simply punish your dog every time he barks? You could instead teach him that he can bark once or twice to let you know that there is something you should be aware of and that once you acknowledge the bark, he should be quiet.
Myth #2: Aggressive Dogs Cannot Be Trained with Positive Methods
This is also untrue. In fact, positive training methods are, in my opinion, the safest way to train a dog that is showing aggressive tendencies. Whether the aggressiveness is rooted in fear (the most likely scenario) or is true aggression, the worst thing you can do is punish the dog.
If a dog is aggressive because he is fearful, do you think he’s going to become less fearful when he is punished for expressing that fear? Of course not. Punishment is likely to make a fearful dog even more fearful!
Punishment is also more likely to make a dog that is acting in an aggressive manner escalate that aggression. Stated another way, punishing an aggressive dog is likely to make that dog more aggressive. As such, punishment is an inappropriate response to the situation and may actually make the situation much worse.
Shock Collars and Other Aversive Dog Training Techniques Are Not Necessary
Many new dog owners are under the impression that punishment is not only the correct way but the only way to teach their new puppy manners and encourage good behavior. This extends to many other dog owners also. Many simply do not realize there another way.
Using shock collars, choke chains and other methods that punish your dog is not necessary. There are more humane methods that are just as effective, if not more so, than these negative aversive training methods.