Staying up-to-date on modern dog training techniques is an essential part of providing excellent dog walking services for our doggy friends in Concord, Walnut Creek and surrounding areas. The more we learn about positive reinforcement, the more amazed we are at the possibilities.
When we look beyond the traditional methods, the outdated, disproven Alpha dog theory, and forceful, fear-inducing punishments, we can find much more effective ways to communicate with our dogs in a kinder, more humane way that is easier for them to understand.
Dominant Dogs and the Alpha Roll
The original Alpha dog theory was coined by researchers studying families of wolves living in captivity. Captive wolves seemed to fight for dominance until the weaker wolf submitted, allowing the stronger wolf to be its “leader.”
The problem with this research is that it does not reflect the behavior of domesticated dogs that share our homes. The studies did not even accurately represent normal wolf pack behavior. A wild wolf pack is made up of a mama, a papa and baby wolves – not a group of wolves forced to live together in captivity, a situation that created tension-based aggression.
Dogs do not attack one another to establish dominance. They do not force other dogs onto their backs. In fact, dogs willingly present their bellies as part of play and to show that they are not a threat.
And you definitely, definitely do not need to physically confront, jab, “alpha roll,” pin, shock, or even yell at your dog to get them to listen to you. Physical confrontation has been proven again and again to cause dog aggression and anxiety issues. It has no benefit to learning. And it’s not comparable to a mama dog correcting her pups… not even close.
The most effective way for humans to teach dogs is to set them up for success, reward generously, and teach our dogs the right thing to do – not punish them when they inevitably make a mistake.
Side Effects From Aversive Training Tools
Many people turn to aversive training tools when they get frustrated with walking a dog who just won’t stop pulling. There’s three common types: choke, prong and shock.
Choke and prong collars tighten around the dog’s neck, and, in the case of prong collars, drive metal prongs into the dog’s neck. The dog will feel pain until it stops pulling.
These collars can injure your dog, especially if used incorrectly. They can cause damage to the dog’s trachea, thyroid and the pressure in the neck can actually lead to eye damage.
These tools are not a shortcut, nor a substitute for training. Your dog will continue to pull the moment you stop using them.
Worst of all, the pain induced by these tools can cause stress, reactivity and aggression. If your dog pulls when he sees bicycles, and gets a painful correction every time he sees one, he’ll start to associate bikes with pain – and will learn to fear them, not ignore them.
How To Use Positive Reinforcement To Teach Your Dog
Positive reinforcement simply means rewarding your dog to increase the chance that they’ll repeat a behavior. This usually means giving your dog treats for doing tricks, staying calm around the cat, and walking nicely on a loose leash.
You can also reward your dog with toys. Stow a few toys that your dog absolutely loves, and only bring them out for training sessions.
You can also reward your dog with the very thing he wants most. If you would like your dog to sit politely at the door until you allow him to pass through, instead of allowing him to shove past you the moment you open the door, you can use the Premack principle. Instead of rewarding a calm sit by the door with a treat, you can simply reward the dog by allowing him to go outside.
Positive Reinforcement Tools
Even giant breed dogs can be walked on a loose leash without the use of aversive, painful training tools. A harness with a front leash clip removes the dog’s leverage to dash ahead of you. A head halter guides your dog to walk by your side and makes it impossible for even a strong dog to lunge.
Food is the most powerful tool in your training toolbox. Food rewards make training fun for your dog, and can encourage calm behavior, rather than shutting down “bad” behavior with fear or pain.
Set your dog up for success, reward generously, praise enthusiastically, and enjoy the process. Your dog will be happy to please you when you reinforce good behavior with lots of love.
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