Dogs 101: Positive, rewards-based training has a number of advantages.

clickertrainingPositive, reward-based training has a number of advantages that are particularly important for shelter and rescue dogs:

  •  You and your dog develop a trusting relationship.
  •  Your dog enjoys training, instead of complying out of fear.
  • Positive methods, unlike harsher ones, cannot create anxiety and fear issues in dogs.
  • Positive trainers look for the root of the problem, rather than just suppressing behavior, which is then likely to re-emerge or express itself in a different way.
  • Owners don’t cause their dogs pain or discomfort by using choke, prong, electronic shock collars or other aversive methods.
  • Your dog learns what you want him to do, instead of being punished for what he does wrong.

Force is never a good idea. Don’t use choke collars (that tighten around the dog’s throat), prong collars (that pinch the dog’s skin) or electronic shock collars, even for training.  They are NEVER appropriate, but can be especially harmful to shelter and rescue dogs. So are other popular punishments, like hitting, alpha rolling, squirting and yelling at your dog.

Punishment is a bad idea because:

  • Punishment is no way to build a trusting relationship.  Some rescue dogs, hit by a previous owner, will still cower when you innocently raise your hand.
  • Think about it: Would you learn better being rewarded for the right answer or being yanked with a choke chain for the wrong one?
  • Your dog may not know why he is being punished or what you want.  For example, you punish your dog for peeing on your carpet, and he decides you must be angry at him for peeing where you can see it.  So, he still pees inside, but behind the chair.
  • You haven’t taught your dog an alternative, acceptable behavior.  When you punish your dog for chewing on the table, how does he know that it would be okay for him to chew on the Kong? Or when you yell at your dog or knee him for jumping, how does he know to sit instead?
  • You may have unintended consequences when your dog forms a negative association with a desired behavior.  For example, if your dog doesn’t come when you call and is yelled at when he finally does come, how quickly do you think he’ll come next time?  Or if your dog is shocked by an electric fence as a child walks by, he may stay in the yard, but develop a fear of children.


Next up: Dogs were bred for a purpose.