Dog training is one of those professions that is more experienced based than academic or scientific. Although there are theories that are scientific backed they are for the biggest part just theories. I am neither a dog trainer nor a canine behaviorist. I am a dog owner who has tried many forms of training. These are my observations on the four major schools of dog training facing owners along with what I am currently using. My dogs are companions and simply part of our family. Dogs that are trained to do special functionality for humans are not a focus of this article.
There seem to be four major schools of dog training that is available to the dog owner in the current market place. These are the ones that I have researched in order to make an informative decision on which one to adopt and stick to for my two dogs. As I started the research when I got my two Labrador I was keyed in on the fact that I was going to train these dogs not for any trials or competition but just to have control in situations when I needed them to be safe. Situations such as crossing the road or when they meet other dogs or kids. These are two strong sporting dogs with a drive to retrieve and hunt. Two seventy pounds dogs that are driving towards a kid can be quite frightening and posses a liability for the owner.
Dominance Based Training
This is the type of training popularized by the National Geographic Channel’s hit series “The Dog Whisperer”. I have to admit I caught the bug for this show and watched many episodes. The trainer in this series is Cesar Milan and as you watch him handle his Pit Bull Terriers and the dogs on the series that he “rehabilitates” you can see that his techniques work for him. The basis of his training is in a theory that says dogs come from wolves and observing wolves in a pack system that there is always one leader referred to as the “Alpha Dog”. This system uses techniques that mimic an alpha dog correcting a subordinate such as forcing the dog on its back and mimicking a bite to the neck. There are experts that disagree now with this particular thought on how dogs are or should be trained. Some have even said that this type of training is cruel to the dog.
I do not use these techniques as I found them to be a little harsh for just a regular pup. Mr. Milan is usually working with very aggressive or dogs that have other problems that need professional intervention.
Correction Based Training
This is the classic dog training method that came out around the decade of the 1960’s. In particular on Barbara Woodhouse from Britain that had a very popular dog training series on British TV during this time. The basis of this type of training is to make a quick and short “correction” to the behavior of the dog when the dog does something that needs to be corrected or an unwanted behavior. Usually for the training session the dog wears a training collar usually a chain, slip collar or sometimes known as a Woodhouse collar or choke collar. The correction is delivered by a quick side snap of the leash that quickly closes on the dog’s neck in order to bring the dog’s attention back to the handler.
Positive Reinforcement Training
Recently many trainers have come out in favor of some form of “Positive Reinforcement” training. This is where the dog is rewarded, either with praise or food or combination of the two, for doing the right behavior as opposed to being corrected for the wrong behavior. This type of training includes the popular clicker training developed by Karen Pryor and the popular TV series “Me or the Dog” with Victoria Stilwell. I like this form of training as the focus is on promoting positive behavoir rather than demoting the negatives.
Natural Dog Training
NDT is brand new and is a type of training that was founded by Kevin Behan and is being taught by a couple of his students Neil Sattin (naturaldogblog.com) and Lee Charles Kelly. This backbone of this type of training is a bit on the complex side as it teaches a totally new way to look at the dog human relation. The idea is to make yourself the number one driver in your dog’s life. This idea is presented in a fashion that through exercises and play you become the focus of your dog’s attention no matter what else is happening. The shift from a dominance based pack theory that we have followed for years is perhaps the biggest challenge. This is the training that I am following now. I find the sessions to be a bit of play mixed with some work. I have found that in the short period of time I have been using these techniques that there is a difference in my oldest dog and the younger one is starting to respond. A form of training without dominance and punishment has been exactly what I have been looking for.
As there really is no standard in dog training, certification or rules that apply it is up to the owner to make a decision on how their dog gets trained. You can ship your dog off to dog camp and get them back in a month trained to the nines by someone else or you can take responsibility and do the training yourself. For me owning dogs are a journey and I choose to be an active participant in that journey.