My Dog Training Philosophy

Positive reinforcement, reward-based training, cookie trainer, fear-free training, dominance, science- based, punishment …???

Maybe you have read or heard some of these terms and scratched your head wondering what they all mean? You might be confused by what you’ve seen on the Internet, YouTube or from well-meaning friends and family members.

Without going into lengthy definitions of various dog training methods, I do want to tell you about my personal dog training philosophies and methods. 

Small tan puppy wearing graduation cap

All living creatures learn through experiences. These experiences are based on an animal making a choice and then, depending on the outcome or consequence of that choice, determines whether or not the behavior will be repeated again in the future. One example is when a child accidently touches a hot burner on the stove. A consequence of that behavior is feeling pain when the child’s hand touched the hot burner. As a result of that painful consequence, there is a good chance the child won’t touch a hot burner again in the future. Another example is when you have been working long and hard on a presentation for your manager at work. As a result of your hard work, you receive a bonus in your pay. This positive consequence will most likely increase the likelihood of you performing well at your job in the future. In these two examples, one resulting behavior is based on a painful outcome or consequence (positive punishment) and the other example demonstrates behavior as a result of a rewarding consequence (positive reinforcement). Both consequences resulted in behavior changes. Dog training is based on the same basic learning principles.

Old dog sleeping on a couch

Punishment, as a tool for learning, can achieve the desired results. But, at what cost to the learner? And why not use the kinder, gentler and just as effective training methods that are based on rewarding and reinforcing desired behavior?

I use science-based training methods that are positive and force-free. I believe in rewarding the dog when he offers a desired behavior, ignoring the unwanted behavior when possible, teaching different behaviors to replace the unwanted behavior and changing factors in the dog’s environment to prevent unwanted behaviors from occurring in the first place. I follow the LIMA guidelines and the Humane Hierarchy. I strongly believe in using training methods that will not physically or emotionally harm the dog; have the potential to worsen behavior; cause fear or anxiety; or fracture the trust between a dog and his human.

black dog in snow