Dog Training

Getting a new dog is an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. Whether you’re a first time owner or a veteran dog trainer, each new dog presents a number of challenges because they’re all different. Some dogs are lazy, stubborn, and want nothing more than to lie around all day. Others are high energy, bark all the time, and constantly need attention. Each dog has his or her own unique personality and temperament. While this makes getting a new dog difficult, learning about each new dog and developing that new relationship is what makes having a dog an enjoyable experience.

Training is stressful. Teaching a dog to not pee in the house and not chew on the furniture is difficult. However, when done correctly, training a dog is a rewarding experience that can lead to a lasting friendship between the two of you.

While many owners go into training with preconceived notions of how they’re going to teach and what equipment they will use, professional trainers agree that it is important to be flexible and willing to try new things. Just because one method worked with a previous dog, does not mean it will work again with your new dog. Every dog is different, and so it is important to work with your dog and his or her unique personality in order to find the training method that works the best for the both of you.

Training Overview

Currently, there are two main methods used for training, the positive reinforcement method and the traditional behavior correction method. For many years, the behavior correction method was used by the majority of dog trainers. However positive reinforcement training has grown in popularity and is now the style used by the majority of current trainers. Behavior correction, also known as the punishment method, has fallen out of favor because of questions regarding safety and potential for injury to dogs.

This is no way meant to be a complete examination of dog training. The goal of the following sections is to provide background information in order to help you better understand what kind of training methods are available and what equipment you will need.

However, owners that are interested in a more complete training experience should understand both the operant conditioning theory on which training methodology is based and some key terms that are often misused by inexperienced and uninformed trainers. A better understanding of the theory and concepts behind dog training will make you better equipped for teaching your dog.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement training works by rewarding a dog for good behavior. When a dog behaves correctly, he or she is rewarded with a treat or some form of encouragement from the owner. The dog learns, because the desirable reward will reinforce his or her actions. Simply put, our dog will continue performing the behavior in order to continue to receiving the reward. Once your dog has performed the behavior enough times, he or she will be able to do it even without receiving any reward. When training using positive reinforcement, it is important to reward the dog quickly. If you do not, the dog will not learn because he will not know what behavior you are trying to reinforce.

Rewards commonly used in the positive reinforcement method of training include small treats or encouragement and attention from an owner. Some trainers suggest using attention and encouragement instead of treats, because they will be able to train even if you do not have treats with you.

Trainers recommend using this method with any breed and any temperament of dog. Owners may have trouble controlling high energy breeds or dogs that are very stubborn without punishment or behavior corrections. However, trainers agree that consistently rewarding good behavior and ignoring bad behavior will cause your dog to learn to behave properly and will not carry the potential for injury associated with some behavior corrections.

Pros

- Helps to build a strong and positive relationship with your dog

- Recommended for use with any breed or temperament

- Safest training method, does not use any potentially dangerous behavior corrections

Cons

- Can be difficult to control high energy dogs

- Reinforcement needs to occur immediately or it will be ineffective

Positive Reinforcement Training Gear

Buckle Collars are the most popular collar for use with positive reinforcement training. They will work for any breed or temperament of dog and buckle collars can also be used by trainers of any experience level.

Martingale and Half Check Collars are designed to offer a trainer more control than a buckle collar. They can be used for owners who have had a difficult time controlling a dog through positive reinforcement, or for an owner who wants to perform safe behavior corrections. Martingale and half check collars are necessary for use with Greyhounds or other large necked breeds and dogs that have escaped from buckle collars.

Clickers are an additional tool that some owners use to help with positive reinforcement training. Clickers allow an owner to pair a click sound with treats or other rewards in order to further reinforce correct behavior.

Behavior Correction

Behavior Correction, or the positive punishment method, works by punishing a dog for behaving incorrectly. By punishing bad behavior, the dog will learn what they should not do in the future.

There are a number of collars including the choke collar and prong collar that work on this principle. For example, when walking a dog on a prong collar, if the dog pulls, then the prongs will pinch in the dogs neck and teach him not to pull anymore.

The behavior correction method, was the standard training method for years. However, many modern trainers have stopped using it because there are a number of potential problems associated with it. For one, continued punishment has been found to cause increased aggression in dogs. If you punish a dog over and over again, they can begin to associate the punishment with you and learn to fear you, instead of the lesson you were trying to teach. This can cause a dog to act aggressively or even violently towards you as a reaction to their fear. Also, punishment does not provide a dog with a lot of information and the information it does provide is not specific. If you do not punish a dog immediately after misbehaving, the dog will not associate the correction with the behavior that you’re trying to correct. This can hurt the training process and make it more difficult to teach your dog in the future.

Pros -

- Trainers have been using this method successfully for years

Cons -

- Certain punishments can result in injury

- Punishments can cause aggressive behavior

- Punishments need to be performed immediately or they are ineffective

Behavior Correction Training Gear

Choke Collars are used to perform strong behavior corrections. They are most often used on large aggressive breeds. Choke Collars should never be used by inexperienced owners or on dogs with weak tracheas because of potential for injury. There are fabric versions available which provide less potential for injury and can be used on smaller dogs.

Prong Collars allow an owner to perform strong behavior corrections. They are most often used on large, high energy, or aggressive dogs. Prong Collars should not be used by inexperienced trainers because of potential for injury if misused.

Electronic Collars use electronically administered stimuli to correct a dog’s behavior. They are often used to control high energy dogs and dogs that constantly bark. They can be used on most breeds, however they should not be used by inexperienced trainers.

Head Halters are used to correct a dog’s behavior and for training to walk properly. They allow an owner to control a dog’s head movement, much like the halters used on horses. They can be used on all breeds and temperaments of dogs and are recommended for use with dogs that have been difficult to walk.

Additional Gear

Harnesses are used to help owners walk their dogs. They will not train a dog to walk properly, however when used they will provide assistance. They can be used with any breed and by owners of all experience levels. Harnesses are necessary for use with a dog that has previously suffered a trachea or neck injury.

Leashes are an essential tool for training and walking a dog. There are a number of variations and styles available which all serve different purposes.

Hunting Equipment: Many hunters use dogs for help in the field. Specialized equipment has been developed to assist owners in training and keeping track of their hunting dogs.

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