Positive dog training: principles and good practice

Positive dog training is a philosophy of life. It focuses on the dog's psychic well-being. Masters using this method aim to bring a real fulfillment to their animal.

In this article, we will see the basic principles and some good practices to help you understand what it is all about.

The basic principles and practices of positive education
This method is based on the latest research on canine behaviour. They have shown that the results in terms of training are much more convincing when a dog is positively led to listen to its master. The primary goal is that the dog takes pleasure in his training. The mutual bond is the key to success in getting the dog to listen to its master.

The vocabulary used in positive training is: mutual respect, social groups, signals of appeasement, ...

The tools used are: anti-traction harness, clicker training, flat collar, sweets, ...

We are not unaware that there is an old method known as traditional or coercive. Contrary to the positive method, the principle of this method is to force the dog to obey. The most important thing is to get the dog to obey, and if necessary, it can resort to intimidation. We know today that these constraints are generating stress for the animal. Stress prevents the neurons from functioning properly, so this method is counterproductive.

The vocabulary used for the traditional method is: domination, hierarchy, submission, pack leader, ...

The tools used are chain, choke, spiked, torquatus or electric collars.

Here are now the good practices and behaviors in positive education that the master must have towards his dog:

  • We'll value the dog's good deeds. They are to be commended. In this way, your dog will learn to reproduce them.
  • The dog's bad deeds will be ignored or redirected. It may be a matter of learning an alternative behaviour. For example, a dog that jumps, will instead learn to sit.
  • Good obedience must be built through the use of motivation (treats, toys, praise, ...). This motivation must be equivalent to the difficulty of the order requested. For example, during the foot-walking exercise which requires a lot of concentration, your dog must be amply rewarded for liking to stay close to you. We will then use what he prefers, it can be a tasty treat, or his favourite toy.
  • A master/dog relationship needs to be based on trust. A dog needs to be able to rely on his handler, and in order to achieve this, he must not be reprimanded. As stated above, bad behaviour is systemically either ignored or redirected, i.e. replaced.
  • A framework and limits must be taught to the dog, as he needs to feel reassured. Positive training is not synonymous with excessive permissiveness.

With regard to ignoring bad behaviour, it is a question of not looking at the dog, not touching him (neither caressing him, nor pushing him away), and not talking to him, for example, not saying "no". Ignorance is the best punishment. To take the example of the dog who jumps, the simple fact of ignoring him when he does it, will stop this undesirable behavior. The dog jumps to get attention, since he no longer has any, he naturally stops this bad behaviour. This principle is called the law of extinction.

In summary...
Positive education allows us to learn in good conditions and with respect, the educational bases for a puppy or a dog to flourish in our society. This method also makes it possible to re-educate all the behavioural problems that one can meet with his dog, such as congenital / human aggressiveness, bad listening, separation anxiety, untimely barking, ...

Moreover, the positive method is often used in sports disciplines such as obedience, dog-dancing or agility. The binomials, master and dog, obtain fabulous success in competition.

Many more results are possible by encouraging and cooperating with your dog. On the other hand, one should avoid always pointing the finger at bad behaviour, so as not to reinforce it against one's will.

In conclusion, this philosophy of life asks the owners to question themselves and to adapt to their dog. There is not a single method valid for everyone, but solutions for everyone.