Which Training Method Is Best For Your Dog?

By Alberto Roy

Updated on:

Is your family bringing home a new puppy or rescue? In this exciting time, it’s important to decide on a training method so everyone is on the same page and the newest furry family member is set up for success.

Below is a brief look into three popular training methods and how they might help get your pup on the path to good manners.

Positive Reinforcement

Most often, training a pet of any age or intelligence calls for positive reinforcement. In fact, most vets and trainers recommend this route, since the theory behind it is straightforward and it has a high success rate.

Essentially, the dog will learn to repeat a behavior when rewarded. Conversely, undesirable behaviors or failing to listen leads to no reward or possibly the removal of rewards.

It begins by introducing the desired behavior or command. Every time your dog follows instruction or does something right, a reward is given.

Doing so reinforces the association in its mind between good behavior and positive outcomes in a process referred to as operant conditioning.

Incentivizing the dog is done continuously until gradually the switch is made to intermittent rewards as the behavior becomes consistent.

Owners must be careful not to inadvertently reward unwanted behavior. They’re also advised to build up training in stages, make the experience fun and praise all the little steps along the way.

A main component of this training is that owners do not use harsh reprimands or physical punishments. Consistency is another vital aspect, meaning the whole household should stick to the same commands and reward system during training.

The given rewards do not need to be packaged treats, since these may be high in calories. Instead, owners could show approval with cooked chicken bites, toys, pets and praise to avoid overfeeding.

Model or Mirror Training for Dog

Another popular option is the model approach, also known as mirror training. Its methodology is based off the fact that dogs learn by observation and mimic the actions they see. To carry out this method, either another human or pet is used as a model.

The model completes tasks on command or is scolded for unwanted conduct by the owner. The dog-in-training watches as these actions are repeated and learns to mirror positive or avoid bad behaviors for a reward.

Put simply, a dog will learn desired behaviors by following another’s example. This approach relies heavily on the same principals of positive reinforcement and operant conditioning while also incorporating a canine’s natural instincts to operate socially.

Graphic created by Unleash Fido

The technique often works best with a young pup, a treat-motivated dog or one with a strong bond to its owner.

Clicker Training for Dog

Also based on operant conditioning, clicker training is another method using a reward to encourage desired behaviors. Actually, it’s so closely related, it’s often grouped into positive reinforcement, rather than classed as a method in its own right.

Clicker training incorporates a device designed to make a quick, sharp noise. It could be a whistle, a specific tool called a clicker or anything to signal to the dog that a task has been accomplished.

To start, the dog must be conditioned to recognize that a click means a reward. Once this association has been established, the signal is used at the exact moment a trick or wanted behavior is finished.

Basically, it’s sit (or any other instruction), click, reward and repeat. A verbal command can be added after the dog is successfully following the click to form a new association. While this method is well-suited to teaching new or complex tasks, it’s not very effective when trying to curb bad or unwanted behaviors.

Professional Dog Training Solutions

Training a canine companion properly takes time and patience. If you’re in search of help tackling this endeavor, there is a wide range of professional training solutions available.

Check your area for dog training classes offering the method that most appeals to you or contact a trainer for expert advice on the matter.

During your search, pay close attention to client reviews, or reach out to other pet parents for references on trainers who get great results with behavior modification and management.

For further information and additional examples of training methods, please see the accompanying resource created by Unleash Fido.

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