Training your dog is one of the most important things you can do with and for your canine companion. Positive reinforcement training can help to build a strong relationship between you and your dog, decrease the stress in the owner/dog relationship, and increase the happiness you and your dog experience together. No one wants an unruly, destructive, annoying dog, and your dog doesn’t want to live in an environment where he’s constantly in trouble.
Even knowing the importance of training for your dog, it can be hard to get started. There are so many different training techniques, tools, and equipment out there—it’s difficult to know where to start. After years of trying different approaches, I’ve settled on the Positive Reinforcement Method of dog training to get the best results with my dogs, as well as my clients’ dogs.
There are a lot of people who don’t like the idea of what they consider “treat training” or positive reinforcement. They want their dog to respect them, work for them, and listen to them based solely on the fact that they (the owner) are the “alpha” or the “pack leader”. Imagine it this way, though…
You’ve been offered three identical jobs with equal pay:
• Job A expects you to know exactly what is required of you when you walk in the door. When you get something wrong, you’re given a warning, your boss pokes you with a stick, and you’re told to try again. This happens over and over again until you get it right—then your boss tells you that you did a good job.
• Job B expects you to know exactly what is required of you when you walk in the door. When you get something wrong, your boss ignores you. When you get something right, your boss gives you a penny.
• Job C gives you on-the-job training. Your boss explains what is required of you, kindly tells you when you’ve done something the wrong way, and shows you how to do it the way it’s supposed to be done. When you get it right, you’re given a cash bonus.
Which job would you prefer to go to? Which boss would you rather work for? Which environment would be the most fulfilling? I know I’d choose Job C.
Some people believe that Positive Reinforcement training leads to a dog who will only work for food. In reality, a dog who learns to work by being rewarded is a dog who will happily work for the person who rewards him. He’ll be more willing to learn new behaviors when he knows that “getting it right” leads to a reward that he loves.
Stefani Fortney has loved dogs for as long as long as she can remember. At the age of nine, she and her little Beagle mix, Puppy, learned obedience together for the first time in 4-H. As an adult, Stefani became a professional groomer, then later earned her accreditation (ABCDT) as a dog trainer from Animal Behavior College. She uses Positive Reinforcement training techniques exclusively. Stefani currently shares her home with her wife (Melissa), six dogs (Phaedra, Spectre, Mani, Fritter, Poppy, and Opus), and one cat (Pudge).
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