There is a trend in modern dog training toward kinder, more dog-friendly training methods. Training that seeks to remove everything unpleasant for the dog and to make learning more enjoyable. But is kindness enough to teach our dogs? Is there more to being effective trainers than just being kind to our dogs and not using force?
Canine Nation is a series of essays by Eric Brad CPDT-KA, a certified professional dog trainer. He writes about living with dogs. Canine Nation is about discovering what is TRUE about dogs and discarding centuries of myth and folklore about we train and work with our dogs. It’s about challenging what we think we know and asking the dogs to tell us what’s real. It’s about giving science, scientific method, and collected data more credibility than hearsay, anecdotes, and the authoritative assertions of self-proclaimed “experts” about dogs.
Canine Nation Podcasts are also available HERE!
Modern reward-based training methods are based on some pretty simple concepts. And they can be amazingly effective. But things that are simple are not necessarily easy. Three simple guidelines can make all the difference, especially to those new to this kind of training. Sometimes you can make simple things easy!
Modern, reward based training has not only proven to be as effective as more traditional training methods. It has actually stretched our definitions of what is possible in training our dogs. We are teaching our dogs more behaviours more quickly than ever before. The most exciting part is that the dogs themselves are teaching us how to go even further into these new frontiers!
It’s amazing that we can train dogs. That we can train dogs in so many different ways and that most of them work is almost miraculous. But how we teach our dogs is evolving. We have new and better ways to get our dogs to give us behaviours. Animal and learning science is making our training not just more effective but more fun!
It doesn’t matter how you train, timing is important when we communicate with our dogs. We don’t have the benefit of just explaining things to our dogs. It can be like a guessing game where telling the dog they are right (or wrong) at the right moment can mean the difference between understanding and confusion.
We don’t want our dogs deciding for themselves. Or do we? Maybe it’s actually not up to us humans. Our dogs make choices all the time whether we want to admit it or not. It can be a problem if we try to control something we can’t control. I think the answer might be in managing and influencing their choices instead of trying to decide for them!
Sometimes the most important thing we can do when we are training out dog is…nothing. How else will we find out what our dog knows if we don’t pause to see what they know? It’s a lesson my own dog taught me years ago. It has led to a delightful give and take that allows me to learn from her as as learns from me. Sometimes you just have to wait for the dog!
Most people call them “Time Outs.” That moment when we have to correct our dog for not doing what we ask by depriving them of something they wanted. Does it really work? It can. But it may be trickier than you think it is. Sometimes Negative Punishment turns into just plain retribution or retaliation and isn’t about teaching the dog at all!
“I just want my dog to sit when I ask.” Be careful what you wish for. How you get there may be more important than what you get when training your dog. Experience has taught me that getting what you want sometimes isn’t worth the cost of training your dog a certain way.
Science is not just a body of knowledge. It is a way of learning about and understanding our world. It’s a great way to learn about and understand our dogs too. If we approach our training with some understanding and a consistent approach, the results can be amazing. And don’t we owe that much to our dogs?