Types of Dog Training – Which Method Is Best For Your Puppy?

Types of Dog Training – Which Method Is Best For Your Puppy?

When you get your first puppy, your attention offer turns to how to properly train them. With a short window of around six months to train them with ease. Alongside getting them used to socialization and different situations, you have to think fast. There are many types of dog training for you to choose from. Some owners do not realize that different forms of training may be better for their dog’s breed or learning style. Furthermore, each training style has its own benefits and level of effectiveness to consider.

In this article, we will be evaluating the different training styles for all their good points and bad points. In some that we mention we will be discussing how they have become outdated. With others, how scientific data has shown that certain training can benefit specific individuals more. So let’s dive right in.

Clicker Training

Clicker training is arguably one of the most effective methods of dog training available. Furthermore, it is completely humane, and your dog can learn tricks very quickly using this. It is a form of learning through association, also known as classical conditioning. This means that your dog is associating the clicker with positive reinforcement, a form of operant conditioning. This combines the two forms of learning to create a very effective training style. You can use clicker training by clicking the clicker when your dog performs the behavior or trick you want them to. Upon clicking the clicker, you must then reward your dog straight afterward.

Rewarding your dog immediately after using the clicker means they begin to associate the clicker with a positive feeling. The clicker then becomes a training tool to help the dog associate the behavior or trick with a positive feeling. An example of its use may include learning to sit. You can do so by holding a treat in your hand and gently moving your hand back from the front of your dog’s head to the back. They should naturally sit and this is when you click the clicker and then give them a treat. Make sure to keep saying the word sit throughout the process. This is so they begin to associate that behavior with the trick name.

Possible drawbacks of this type of dog training include weight gain. Using treats repeatedly could lead to huge contents of carbohydrates and fat building up in their diet. This is why we recommend putting aside a certain amount of time or number of treats to use daily for training. So they do not overindulge. Another benefit of using this technique is it means your dog is not spending too long training. This could lead to them getting bored or feeling overwhelmed.

You can use a clicker, or even a clicker training app to get better at this type of positive reinforcement!

clicker training
Clicker training is inspired by Pavlov’s theory of sound-reward association.

Alpha Dog (Dominance) Method

To start off we would like to note that we personally do not support the alpha dog dominance training method. To start with, the alpha theory has been disproved by many behaviorists in recent years. In both domestic dogs and wolves. Instead of a strict hierarchy, in wolves, it appears that there is an alpha male and female and the other wolves remain on a lower but equal level. As for domestic dogs, research has concluded that they view us as family members as opposed to a hierarchy. Therefore, by using this training method, you may actually be using fear, intimidation, and negative reinforcement to get your dog to behave. Of course, this can work, but it can also weaken relationships. Furthermore, it can cause your dog to have increased anxiety and minimized trust towards humans.

But how does this type of dog training work? Although each trainer does it differently, it all runs under the same premise. Your dog is not given the same privileges you are. In many cases, they are not even allowed to be on your level. For example, some sources tell you to never bow to your dog’s level to maintain higher dominance. As for privileges, they are not allowed on the sofa, in the bed, or to ever eat anything from the table. Disobedience is often punished by ignoring your dog, yelling at them, or isolating them in a room by themselves. As for walking your dog, you must not allow them in front of you and it is often advised to yank them back or hold their leash tight enough to not allow it.

Concerns

Your dog learns through negative reinforcement and that if they perform a behavior you don’t like they will be punished. As the punishments can cause them to be left alone, or receive some pain from someone yanking their leash, it can cause anxiety and fear. Which can lead to aggressive behavior. Although some dogs will become very well behaved through this training method with no side effects, they can achieve this state without negative feelings. This is the reason we do not advise using this method. Your new dog is your best friend and trusts you wholeheartedly. Training is very important, but that does not mean it needs to be a negative experience.

Model/Rival (Mirror) Training

This type of dog training is your dog learning through watching you and another and copying. You and another individual discuss and display the command. For example talking about how to sit and upon saying the command, displaying it. You then address the trick to your dog and either punish them or retry the conversation if your dog does not perform it. Once your dog performs this trick, you then give your dog a treat and praise them with baby talk and lots of cuddles! This technique has had positive results but requires more patience than other techniques.

Dogs that excel with this training method are those with high IQs and those that have a close bond with their owner. Some breeds such as the Border Collie who is very intelligent and bonds very strongly with their owner excel in this technique. Other breeds that do not form as close of bonds, as well as those that are a little bit less intelligent, may either stop watching you or may wander off halfway through. If you have an interest in this training method then depending on your dog as an individual and your dog’s breed, it may be a great tool to do so. However, note that some dogs may struggle with this training method. So an assessment of your dog is very important.

Isolating any distractions is also crucial in this training method. As if your dog is not focusing on you then the chance of them mimicking you will be minimized by distractions. A room without many noises or toys is a great place to try training. Furthermore, making sure that you do not spend too much time or too many treats each day on your dog. As this could lead to frustration, boredom, and even weight gain.

Relationship-Based Training

This type of dog training combines different techniques to achieve goals whilst strengthening the bond between you and your dog. This method is motivated by understanding your dog and making sure they are being treated well and with high welfare, a method we thoroughly support. Firstly, assess your dog’s state before every training session. Ask yourself if they are physically and mentally well enough to be involved in training for the next ten minutes or half-hour. If yes, you then want to figure out what motivates your dog. Some are food orientated, some toy, some affection. When you find what drives your dog, you know what you can use as positive reinforcement.

The main principle of this rule is to never punish your dog and make sure the whole experience is enjoyable for them. So next time they want to revisit it. Yelling, isolating, tapping their nose, anything averse behavior should be avoided. You should keep the environment calm and if your dog’s emotional state alters dramatically, pause the session to return them to a neutral state. As for the actual training method, the general use of positive reinforcement is used, but otherwise, it is what you feel works best. Whether this is mirroring, association, or other techniques.

There are multiple ways that this method strengthens the relationship between you and your dog. Firstly, the whole experience is meant to be one that is enjoyable and full of tailored positive reinforcement. Therefore, your dog associates this time with you as safe and fun and will want to repeat it. They also will associate these emotions with you. This gives your dog a more positive view of you, increasing their trust in you and overall opinion.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can be classified as a stand-alone technique to help your dog learn. This can be easily summarized as giving your dog something positive after they perform a behavior you wish them to achieve. Many owners think positive reinforcement is just limited to food, however, this is not true. Anything your dog loves can be used as positive reinforcement. If your dog loves to play you can give them a toy and play session after they perform a trick. You can also call your dog over after they have done a trick and give them lots of attention. Stroking them and praising them in a baby voice call all reaffirm that this trick was the right thing to do. It can also build up an association between doing the trick and the trick’s name.

Furthermore, positive reinforcement has been shown to help a dog learn much more quickly and generally effectively than negative reinforcement. Positive emotions behind learning can encourage memory development and help develop the bond between you and your dog. They begin to associate the positive feelings they have from receiving attention or toys with you. That helps to strengthen your bond with your dog, and in turn, they are more excited and ready to train. It is an ongoing positive cycle.

training with positive reinforcement
Gentle leaders are advocates of positive reinforcement.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement can be summarized as punishment for an unwanted behavior being displayed. This can be as minor as telling them no or as severe as physically maiming them. Although dogs can learn from negative reinforcement, it can also weaken bonds between you and your dog as well as their human relationships. They start to mistrust humans and believe that punishments may occur upon behavior they don’t entirely or at all understand is wrong. Therefore, they may begin to flinch, yelp, cower, isolate themselves, or stay to themselves more.

It is often misunderstood that simply yelling at your dog could not result in such a negative outcome. However, even minor negative reinforcement can have a big impact on your dog’s behavior and relationships. Shouting at them could take more time for them to draw an association between the action they are doing and your negative approval. Therefore they may become anxious that you could shout at any time and start to worry about what they are allowed to do. This causes many dogs to become withdrawn and less affectionate. Furthermore, they may start to show signs of aggression to protect themselves. Yelling can be considered a sign of aggression and your dog may feel that they need to protect themselves before you escalate to do something physical.

Types of Dog Training – FAQs

More questions about the different types of dog training? Let’s get into it.

What are the most basic dog commands?

Some of the most basic dog commands include sit, lie down, stay, and come. Teaching your dog these basic commands first allows you to develop the commands and teach them more advanced ones.

How many commands can a dog learn?

Stanley Coren, author of How Dogs Think, found that dogs on average can learn 165 words once they are an adult. Dogs of a higher intelligence though, according to his ranked list, can learn around 250. This means your dog can learn many more commands than just sit and lie down! Even a breed type with a typical low IQ can still learn many different commands. Furthermore, it has been found that training dogs with their memory and learning can allow them to improve their cognitive abilities. Therefore, the more training they do, the more capable they will be to do more.

What age is the best to start training a dog?

You should start training a dog as young as possible, on average though 7-8 weeks of age. Some breeders even begin to train their dogs for very short periods of time under this age but making sure that they are not disturbing the puppy and their mother too much. Gradually introducing your dog to touch, socialization after they have had all their vaccinations, and general training gets them used to it throughout their life.

How do I discipline my puppy?

We argue that positive reinforcement is better to pursue than punishment. However, the key rule of punishments is to never be physical, regardless of the type of dog training. One stern no and correcting the behavior is the best technique. If your dog wees on the carpet, say no, move them outside, and reward them for urinating there. Disciplining your puppy can lead to a lifelong fear of training, people, and general anxiety. Learning and growing should be fun and it is your job to support that in the best way possible.

What is the best reward to give my dog?

This depends on what drives your dog. High-value treats, toys, and even attention and verbal praise can be perfect. Analyze your dog for what makes them the happiest to find their true motivator. This can be done by seeing their reactions to each type of stimulus and what gets them the most excited.

As you can see, there are so many different ways to train your dog. Some are better suited for intelligent dogs, others for those with close human bonds, and some for any type of dog! We support the use of positive reinforcement and personalizing the training method towards what benefits your individual. Making sure both you and your dog are comfortable is key to help to learn and maintaining or improving your and your dog’s relationship. It should be an enjoyable time and not one of fear or dread. Hence why we do not advise punishing or using negative reinforcement to train your dog. Remember, the means do not justify the ends and your dog deserves to feel safe and happy.

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