How to train your dog? The simple answer to this question is by understanding how your dog thinks.
There are many training methods used to train dogs and broadly they can be divided into two main methods as we’ve outlined below.
- Traditional Dog Training Methods. Traditional Dog Training Methods employ pack-oriented techniques to teach a dog right from wrong. These methods implement tools such as choke or pinch collars and compulsion techniques.
- Modern Training Methods. There are also many Modern Training Methods. Although most of those methods use canine pack philosophy, some focus on inducement techniques instead of compelling a dog to perform. They also use less harsh tools such as treats or clickers & spray bottles or penny cans to teach a dog right from wrong.
Blend Training Methods
All training methods have merit. The method and techniques you chose to train your dogs should fit into your comfort level and your philosophies. It is okay to blend traditional and modern methods of dog training as long as you understand dog training and it can be invaluable when searching for the right techniques to train dogs. Simply put, different things work on different dogs.
It is vital to be open-minded and knowledgeable about all training methods. Whether you decide to use a traditional or a modern method, some fundamental training theory applies to all dogs. The theory involves understanding how dogs think. The better grasp you have of a dog’s motivations and emotions, the more successful you will be at training your dog; regardless of what training method you may use.
Beginners Dog Training Theory
The phrase ‘Beginners Dog Training Theory’ does not refer to training a puppy. It refers to the fundamental process of training a dog of any age whether it is a puppy or an older adopted dog. It is the first step to learning how dogs think.
More intermediate and advanced steps will be discussed on other articles throughout this website. At this point, you should think of this information as being more about training you to understand your dog innately. Thereby, in turn, enabling you to train your dog.
The best dogs trainers are those who ‘think like a dog’.
Think Like A Dog
Training your dog is based on the notion that a dog will pursue what is in his best interest. Therefore if the consequences of a dog’s behavior are positive, something good happens as a result of what he just did, which will increase the chances he will perform that behavior again.
If the consequences of a dog’s behavior are negative, something bad happens as a result of what he just did then that will decrease the unwanted behavior and therefore increase the behavior that you are looking for.
Basically, dogs learn right from wrong based on good or bad things happening to them.
Right From Wrong
We use positive and negative things to teach our dogs right from wrong. What is right and what is wrong is up to you. You make the rules. For example, some people don’t want their dogs to jump upon them. Others don’t mind (especially if it is a small dog). And there are some people who encourage it!
From the start, you need to determine what is right and what is wrong. And then you can use positive and negative consequences to teach your dog right from wrong. These are also known as Positive Reinforcement and Negative Reinforcement.
Reinforcement: Positive & Negative
Positive and Negative Reinforcement both increase the desired behavior. An example would be that if the dog sits when you command him then he gets a positive consequence such as praise. If the dog does not sit when you command him then he gets a negative consequence such as being scolded. Since he does not want that negative event to happen again he will avoid it by sitting. So desired behavior is increased and unwanted behavior is decreased.
Punishment is not a tool that is used in most dog training methods. Punishment is very different from Negative Reinforcement.
Negative reinforcement increases the desired behavior because when the dog does the wrong thing then something unpleasant happens. He then quickly learns that if he does the right thing he will remove the unpleasant action and receive a good thing. So with Negative Reinforcement, you are increasing behavior, whereas with punishment you are decreasing a behavior with an unpleasant consequence. We will focus on using Re-enforcers (both Positive and Negative) to shape our dog’s behavior.
Generally speaking, Positive Reinforcement to a dog are things such as
- Food treats,
- Praise in a high pitched voice
- Games such as throwing a ball
- Petting them
- The sound of a clicker.
Negative Reinforcement to a dog are thing such as
- Telling the dog ‘no’ in a low-pitched voice,
- Guttural noises of disapproval,
- Various tools such as penny cans, spray bottles, choke collars and pinch collars.
Why Do They Work?
We can use these positive and negative consequences to shape our dog’s behavior. They show our approval and disapproval in the mind of the dog. Of these tools outlined above, “Voice Tonality” is the most important.
Dogs connect with the tone of your voice instinctively. Dogs think of a low-pitched voice as disapproval because mom dog growled at the pups if they did something wrong. Therefore dogs think of a high-pitched voice as approval and a low pitched voice as disapproval.
Further detailed information on Canine Vocalizations can be found in the article “Canine Body Language & Vocalizations.“
Other types of good and bad consequences are helpful in the learning process. However, controlling a dog through the high and low pitch of your voice is not only the most effective way to train your dog but the method that makes the most sense to a dog. A dog understands your pleasure or displeasure with their behavior by the tone of your voice just as they understand the motivations of other dogs by the tone of their voices.
For example, a puppy litter-mate may be encouraging play by making high-pitched yipping noises at a dog. Yet the next day that litter-mate may be discouraging play advances from a dog by making in a low-pitched growl.
Think of voice pitch as dog language. Dogs communicate pleasure and displeasure with their voice so it only makes sense that we do so as well.
Dog Personality & Dominance Level
What dogs find positive and negative is a function of their personalities and dominance level. Therefore the positive and negative reinforcements will only influence your dog’s behavior if he finds them compelling.
Ultimately, we would like our dogs to respond to our voice pitch. However, if they are dominant in nature they may be less likely to accept that control in the beginning. Pleasing you may not be important to a dog when you begin to train him.
An adopted dog may have other learning experiences that make him resist, distrust, or not respect your voice control. This is where these other negative and positive re-enforcers become important. They can assist you in conditioning the response you want from the dog. And within short order, your dog will no longer need these techniques, just the sound of your voice.
Knowing how to use all of these tools and techniques and even being open to developing ideas of your own relative to know what your dog finds rewarding or otherwise can make the difference in getting off to a good start in your first steps of beginner dog training. Whether you have a new puppy or giving a second chance to an adopted dog it is best to start training them from scratch. Consider them to be a blank slate, Tabula Rosa, as it were.
Beginner’s level obedience commands are the best place to start and the free secrets to dog training would be a great help to set you on your way to training your dog.