Chapter 2

Which dog training method should you choose?

You want to train your dog, but you don’t know where to start? In this article, we will introduce you to the different training techniques, as well as their pros and cons. This will allow you to choose the training method that best suits you and your pet dog.

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Welcoming a dog in your family is an exciting event. But to ensure a healthy relationship with your canine friend, it is important to set a structure and boundaries.

You should keep in mind that a dog is an animal, not a child, and should not be treated as such. Some people tend to forget this and will not train their dog, scared of being too bossy and mean. This can be very detrimental to the dog’s well-being.

But why does dog training have such a bad reputation? Because it is often associated with the coercive method of training, using submission and compliance. However, one should favour the positive dog training method when training a dog. So, what are the differences between the two dog training methods? Let us explain.

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The Alpha dog training method

beagle looking sad

Largely used in the early 2000s, the Alpha dog method is nothing of a gentle approach to training. The Alpha dog method establishes a relationship of a dominant and a dominated, the dog being submissive to the all-powerful owner and alpha of the pack. The handler uses an aggressive and punitive method, as well as threats to bring the dog to submission.

Training collars

The training collar or choker collar is used to teach a dog to walk on a leash without pulling. The steel, woven rope or leather choker collar works by sliding, choking the dog at the slightest pull.

A different type of collar is the half check collar, also known as a steel force collar, with spikes. This type of collar strangles the dog to a lesser extent, but the spikes penetrate the skin as soon as the dog pulls.

Electric collars

Do you want to train your pooch not to bark? You can choose an electric collar with an anti-bark feature. They are triggered and send electric shocks as soon as they detect the vibrations of the vocal cords emitted by the barking.

Other electric collars sold with a remote control are designed to train the dog to recall. If the dog does not return to the recall or wanders too far away, the owner activates the remote control, and the runaway dog receives an electric shock.

Anti-runaway collars

These collars work the same as anti-runaway fences, specially designed for runaway dogs. It is a virtual barrier connected to an electric collar worn by the dog.

When the dog tries to run away from the pre-set limit, they receive an electric shock that strongly encourages them to return to the authorized perimeter.

Whether it is a choker collar, an electric collar or an anti-runaway collar, the dog will associate the behaviour with unpleasant aftermath and will correct their behaviour to avoid the negative experience. This is negative conditioning.

The limits of the Alpha dog method

The Alpha dog training method seems to be very effective, at least on the surface, but at what cost to the dog! The physical and psychological consequences for the dog are devastating. Choker collars can cause damage to the trachea and cervical spine. Spiked choke collars can cause deep wounds all around the neck.

Electric collars have much more serious consequences. In addition to the immediate pain, they cause electrothermal burns that result in skin wounds. In addition, in pregnant females, it can lead to the death of the foetus.

However, while these physical effects may seem terrible, they are nothing compared to the psychological trauma caused. The psychological shocks are such that it is not uncommon for some dogs to show compulsive reactions such as excessive licking or systematic fear of contact with the head and neck.

Other physical disorders include limping, various ear and eye conditions, digestive disorders, hypersalivation etc.

These dogs develop unpredictable behaviours, sometimes leading to aggressive or even dangerous developments such as unexpected bites. Please note that these techniques are strictly forbidden for the education of a cat.

Fortunately, over the last twenty years, mindsets have changed. The after-effects of these practices have been widely observed, by dog owners, veterinarians, and dog trainers themselves. Dog trainers have now turned to natural, gentler methods, also known as positive reinforcement methods.

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The positive reinforcement dog training method

Jack Russel playing with a frisbee

In contrast to Alpha dog training, positive reinforcement training is a gentle method that proves that it is entirely possible to train a dog without resorting to coercion or domination. On the contrary, it proves that it is possible to train a dog by showing them affection. This method has the advantage of not damaging the dog's integrity and also takes into account the owner who may be reluctant to use force to make their dog obey.

Understanding the positive reinforcement training

This method respects the dog's nature and temperament. Moreover, it does not undermine the dog's trust in their owner. It also facilitates communication, understanding and even strengthens the relationship between the owner and the dog. Therefore, this gentle method can be used for both dogs and puppies.

But what is positive reinforcement dog training? This method is a combination of several techniques. It is about conditioning, motivating the dog and working hand in hand with them.

The power of positive dog training

Positive reinforcement is an excellent way to motivate a dog to behave appropriately. It is also very successful in rehabilitating inappropriate dog behaviour. Punishment is not an option in this type of training. If the dog behaves well, they receive a reward, if not, they receive nothing. The aim is to encourage the dog's adapted behaviour by rewarding them.

On the other hand, conditioning also offers very satisfactory results. Conditioning is based on a study by Ivan Pavlov who, at the end of the 19th century, carried out a study on digestion and, more specifically, on the salivation of dogs.

In this experiment, Pavlov realised that dogs would start salivating in the presence of the technician who normally fed them, rather than salivating in the presence of food.

He associated a stimulus (the ringing of a bell) with each time he went to feed the dogs. Very quickly, at the mere sound of the bell, the dogs would start to salivate. Pavlov had just demonstrated the association between a stimulus and a reaction, which is now known as classical conditioning, or Pavlovian.

Clicker Training

Clicker training is based on Pavlov's classical conditioning, although this positive education method was developed and popularised by Karen Pryor in the United States and by Catherine Collignon in France. The clicker is a small plastic box with a metal tongue that is activated and always makes the same sound: click.

At first, the owner simply activates the clicker and gives the dog a treat or a pat. Then the owner suggests simple actions. If the dog behaves correctly, the owner presses the clicker and gives a treat.

With repeated practice, the dog will understand what is expected of them. The treats will become less frequent over time, but the clicks will continue. Clicker training is a very useful method that gives excellent results. It is best to keep the training session short but regular, and to be patient and consistent.

Although the Alpha dog method is successful in terms of dog obedience, it is nevertheless detrimental to the integrity of the dog, causing both physical and psychological damage. Obedience is achieved through fear or apprehension, but what about the dog's trust in its owner?

Many dog trainers are now specialised in positive reinforcement training, which is probably the best dog training method. They are perfectly capable of informing or guiding owners who wish to preserve their relationship with their dog while instilling a positive education for the greatest happiness of each.

Continue reading our guide

This article is a part of a complete guide on the subject. Do not miss the next chapters.

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