What is Positive Training?

Posted by Sheena Neil on Tuesday, November 19, 2013
What is Positive Training? How does it apply to training your dog? How do you choose a positive trainer?

Positive Reinforcement by definition is "Positive reinforcement occurs when an event or stimulus is presented as a consequence of a behavior and the behavior increases" wikipedia

Positive Reinforcement Example: You present your dog with a toy, treat, or praise (event or stimulus) as a consequence of a behavior (sit, down, shake a paw) and the behavior increases. Any behavior that is rewarded will increase. 
Think: pay check!!

Positive dog trainers understand that your dog is a dog, not a wolf. Your trainer should work WITH your dogs instincts and capabilities, not against them. Positive training works to build your dogs confidence and willingness to work with you and for you.

What Positive Training is NOT.
Positive Training does NOT include punishment.

"Punishment is the authoritative imposition of something undesirable or unpleasant upon an individual or group, in response to behavior that an authority deems unacceptable or a violation of some norm" wikipedia

Punishment Example: presenting your dog with a leash jerk or collar correction (undesirable or unpleasant) in response to a behavior that is unacceptable (pulling on the leash when walking).
For information regarding safe collars and harnesses visit www.drsophiayin.com

Training that relies on punishment will use physical force, intimidation, alpha theory, and punishment in the forms of choke/prong collars, and loud and startling noises (to interrupt undesirable behavior). There are several draw backs to punishment. Including but not limited to: fear, unwillingness to cooperate, avoidance, and aggression. These behaviors are an attempt to avoid the pain and/or discomfort of punishment.

So how does this apply to dog training?
There are many outdated theories and myths regarding dog training. Everyone (and their dog..) seems to be an expert these days. If you've just added a new puppy to your life you will most likely receive a plethora of how-tos, what-to-dos, and what-not-to-dos. Your information will come from dog owners, people who have never owned dogs, television celebrities, and various websites and books.

How do you find a Positive Trainer?
Dog Owners. Ask dog owners who have hired a professional trainer what types of equipment was used, their dogs response to training and the trainer, were they comfortable with their trainer.
Veterinarians. Ask if they have any recommendations and if they know the training methods used.
Pet stores. Same as above
Trainers Website. A trainers website will explain their personal philosophy and how and why they train the way they do.
Professional Directories. The Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers has a searchable database of trainers who are members of their association and follow their Code of Ethics www.cappdt.ca

Questions to ask a potential trainer.
Many trainers call themselves Positive Trainers simply because they use treats and rewards in training.
While asking this question is important it is also important to dig a little deeper.
Training that uses punishment is beginning to come into question as more and more scientific evidence begins to disprove many of the outdated philosophies. For this reason, a trainer who uses punishment may be vague in their answers, 
Therefore it is important to ask a few of the tougher questions outright.

What type of equipment do they use? Are there circumstance where they recommend a choke or prong collar?
What do they recommend if your dog jumps on visitors, pees on the carpet or runs away when you call them?
What type of education have they received?
When was the last time they updated their education?
Do they belong to any Professional Associations? 
For a more extensive list of questions visit the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (www.apdt.com) Tips on How to Choose a Trainer

Warning Signs.
As with any professional you are looking to hire there are several warning signs.
Dominance and Alpha Theory. Often used to describe why a behavior may be occurring (your dog jumps on you because he/she is trying to dominate you), or used to describe the reason your dog will not listen (you need to teach the dog that you are the Alpha, not them). The APDT has an excellent example of many dominance theory explanations, it can be found Here.
Choke, Pinch, or Prong Collars. These styles of equipment do nothing to actually teach your dog the desired behavior. They can not only cause physical harm (collapsed trachea or development of scar tissue on the trachea) but psychological damage as well (fear, fear aggression, fear and/or aggression towards people and dogs)

There is one last article well worth reading. When choosing a dog trainer, buyer beware!

Keystone Training is 100% force free, correction free, and punishment free.
We use methods supported by science and based on Learning Theory.
It is our goal to gain and maintain the trust of all of our clients, human and canine.

Tags: positive reinforcement  punishment  choosing a trainer 

About Me

Sheena Neil Owner/Trainer Keystone Training