Last week BestBullySticks tipped off our discussion on dog training with the first installment of our Training Methods blog series. In today’s followup post to Training Methods Part 1, we’re delving into specific training methods.
Origins of Modern Dog Training
Modern dog training developed dramatically during the 20th century. Most notably, advances in psychology furthered dog training and led to the creation of new training methods. BestBullySticks recently talked about this fascinating evolution in our post on The History of Dog Training.
In recent years, older training methods have been labeled overly aggressive or unnecessarily physical. In some instances this may be the case— BestBullySticks encourages all dog owners to use their discretion in the matter. Just be sure to avoid any training methods that are outright abusive. There are many factors to consider when training your dog — refer to our post on How Dogs Learn to gain some more insight into what your pup has on his mind!
A training system that would fall into this category is the Koehler Method. The cornerstone of the Koehler Method is to let dogs make their own mistakes. In doing so, it gives the owner the opportunity to provide consequences for both desirable and undesirable behaviors. The punishments of the Koehler Method are generally more physical, sometimes advocating “alpha rolling,” where a dog is pinned on his back to assert dominance.
It should be noted, this “alpha rolling” technique, while still used today —and even by big name trainers— the “natural” action it is supposed to mimic is an action where submission is actually given, not forced.
Dominance-based training methods like the Koehler Method rely on the theory that dogs are in fact wolves and there are hierarchies in their pack with an alpha-figure at the top. However, the Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) has argued against this idea of aggressive-submissive positions. Additionally, attempting to physically exert dominance could cause your pet to lash out.
There are numerous publications on this method’s proper use as well as debate surrounding it’s humane practices. Some punishments advocated by Koehler are excessive and most owners wouldn’t be comfortable administering them. However, given Koehler’s massive contribution to the early development of modern training, we can’t ignore a system that has produced so many impeccably trained dogs! With this in mind, BestBullySticks encourages owners — even experienced ones — talk with a certified trainer before using any techniques similar to the Koehler Method.
More common and less physical than the Koehler Method, Clicker Training is a system utilizing positive reinforcement based on operant conditioning. The crux of this method relies on delivering timely positive reinforcement — like a treat or loving praise — with a desired behavior. The greatest benefit of this system is how specific an owner can be with a command. By delivering a click immediately following reinforcement, a trainer can rapidly train new behaviors with precision limiting confusion. Small, low-calorie snacks like Zuke’s Mini Naturals Chicken Flavor Dog Treats are great for training routines.
Many dog owners enjoy Clicker Training because it is almost entirely comprised of positive reinforcements with only mild corrections — hardly any of which are physical. Many people find this system a bit more to their liking as it’s less aggressive and less stressful on dogs compared to other systems. Also, since it isn’t physical, there’s far less of a chance for physical injury.
Clicker training is just one example of conditioned reinforcement training. Any sensory stimulus may be used to produce the same effect as long as it is used consistently.
Finding the Balance
Modern dog trainers tend to favor the use of non-corrective training methods. However, some dogs can be stubborn and gentle corrections are just the same. As an owner, it’s up to you to find the balance between corrective and non-corrective training methods. There’s no shortage of people or books to learn from, either. And now, since you’ve got a good handle on the basics of training methods, do a bit more research to find what’s right for you.
BestBullySticks suggests you consult a certified trainer before starting any training regimen. Both the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) are great resources for finding quality trainers in your area.
The options are endless so get creative, and more importantly, have fun!