By Joel Monroe &
Please direct any questions or comments
to Joel Monroe firstname.lastname@example.org
With so many dog trainers advocating
different obedience training methods, it is often difficult to figure
out which is best for your dog. In order to help you make the most
educated decision, it is important to understand the underlying
principle of dog training. All training methods and techniques fall
under one simple concept- dogs learn from pleasant and unpleasant.
Dogs will perform certain behaviors and actions if the result is
pleasant and avoid certain behaviors and actions if the result is
The use of rewards is based on the
thought that the dog will perform a desired action in order to receive
the reward. In obedience training, food is the most common reward.
So when it comes to the use of reward in obedience, a dog will be
self-motivated and eager to obey because the result is pleasant.
This is very good method to introduce obedience, to keep training
fun for the dog, and develop a high energy look when performing.
I believe the use of rewards should be some part of any training
program. However, trainers that only use the positive-reinforcement/motivational/reward-based
methodology are also training under the assumption that the reward
holds greater value to the dog above all else. If you look at most
dogs, this assumption is simply untrue. For example, if a dog is
chasing after a cat, the dog has far greater interest in pursuing
the cat than any treat the owner may be holding. The only time food
holds greater value than nearly anything else in the world is when
the dog is practically starving to death, but that is not a state
in which you will find most family pets. If a dog has good food
drive and the distraction level is low, training that is solely
reward based can work well. On the other hand, in later stages of
training, it is simply impossible to get a dog to obey solely with
that training method when the distraction level is higher than the
desire for the reward being offered by the owner.
If the owner does not have a reward
that holds greater interest than the distraction, then the only
way to get a dog to obey is to make the result of continued pursuit
or engagement with the distraction (thus ignoring the owner's command)
to be negative. In other words, the dog must be taught that is it
unpleasant to disobey. Since every dog has a different personality,
the level of unpleasantness needed to discourage disobedience will
vary. It must be noted that the unpleasant result must be greater
than the self-fulfilling urge for satisfaction (pleasant result)
brought on by the distraction. So if we at once again take the example
of the dog chasing the cat, simply yelling, "NO!" when
a dog does not return when given the "come" command is
not a result that is unpleasant enough to make the dog want to stop
the chase and obey. So if the trainer or owner is unwilling to enforce
a consequence that is unpleasant enough to ensure compliance, then
you will have very little or no reliability under high distraction.
The explanation mentioned above should
make logical sense. Now that you have a good understanding, you
should think about two factors- the genetics/personality of your
dog, in addition to the level of obedience you would like to achieve.
Armed with this knowledge, you can intelligently determine whether
the methods and techniques used in an obedience class have the ability
to attain the goals with obedience you would like for your dog.