Published on Monday, 13 December 2010
By Lance Tan, Resident Trainer at Shiloh Dawg Skool
In the past decade that I have been training dogs, I have seen methods that swung from one extreme to the other. In the 1980's, the overly harsh and “one-size-fits-all” negative reinforcement method was the most commonly used. This often came with punishments which do not seem to fit the “crime”. Training using treats, toys or play as motivators was frowned upon.
Dog training embraces different beliefs based on different premises resulting in different training methods. If you have read enough books, and attended enough seminars, you'll probably be more perplexed than enlightened in finding the "right" way to train dogs! Training will only be successful if you fully understand how it should be conducted and feel comfortable applying it.
Good dog trainers are always open to new ideas and searching for more effective techniques. The newest trend in dog training is “Purely Positive”. This technique discourages trainers from verbally or physically reprimanding the dog. Instead of using the word “No”, clickers are used to mark good behaviour. Dogs learn best by instant feedback so trainers click whenever the dog performs a desired behaviour; following shortly with a treat to reward good behaviour.
My objection to using a clicker is this: How well would you learn when you are only praised/rewarded when you do something right; not knowing if you did something wrong? Letting the dog know what NOT to do is just as important as giving positive reinforcement whenever he has done right. I prefer to use a combination of both positive and negative reinforcements. I use food, praise, petting, play, and toys for positive reinforcement, and leash, collar, and/or verbal corrections for negative reinforcement. The goal is a happy, well-adjusted pet which responds reliably.
There are practical, sensible and effective techniques that are based on mutual respect and trust, and focused on the psychology of the relationship between the owner and his pet. These techniques transform the dog owner into a dog trainer himself. The owner can be taught proper posture, timing, body language, voice intonation, inflection and attitude to bring out the best behaviour in his dog. The bottom-line is, the dog responses well to the owner. That is the ultimate aim of a good dog trainer.