What is positive dog training?

Positive dog training is a way to train dogs by giving them rewards rather than punishing them. Traditional dog training methods often involved the use of choke collars and shock collars to punish dogs for behaving badly. Positive dog training focusses on rewarding dogs for behaving well instead.

The basics of positive dog training are very simple. You ask your dog to follow a command and when they do they get a reward. By gradually rewarding different commands the dog will start to behave in the way you want, following a range of different commands.

Positive reinforcement training has been demonstrated by animal behaviourists to be an effective way to train a range of animals including dogs. It is also a more humane way to train your dog rather than inflicting pain and fear on your dog as some traditional dog trainers would recommend.

What counts as a reward?

Positive dog training involves rewarding your dog for positive behaviour. The easiest reward to give your dog is food, and especially dog treats. However, you can use all sorts of rewards. Lots of affection, games and toys are all good ways to reward your dog. If you use positive vocal reinforcement alongside food you will eventually be able to wean the dog off the food based treats.

Eventually just telling your dog that they have been a good dog (with a bit of fuss) should be reward enough for them. Some trainers will also use a clicker or other sounds alongside food based treats. The principle is the same, eventually the dog will start to associate the sound you have chosen with being good and will behave the way you want without needing lots of food treats. This is very similar to the classic Pavlov’s Dogs study which is one of the foundations of modern psychology.

Use of punishments

Positive dog training definitely does not include the use of fear or pain to train your dog but that does not mean that there are no punishments. If a dog fails to follow a command then you withhold a treat. If they have been really bad you may take one of their toys away for a short period of time or deny them your company for a short period of time. These non-violent punishments help to give the dog boundaries and show it there are positive and negative consequences for behaviour. Following a command will result in a treat. Not following a command will result in no treat.

Positive dog training can be used on puppies and young dogs but it can also be used on adult dogs who are exhibiting problem behaviour. While anyone can use positive dog training methods a qualified dog trainer will make sure you are using them appropriately in a way that will help your dog.