Wow, how exciting! My first Fido blog post. What should I discuss on this momentous occasion? Politics? Religion? Or something even more controversial; traditional vs positive reinforcement training.
If you’re even a little bit interested in training dogs, you’ve likely read articles or websites extolling the virtues of choke chains, dominating your dog, and alpha rolls. You’ve probably also read the opposite; the wonders of clicker training, the magic of No Reward Markers, and the benefits of training with treats. Maybe you’ve seen trainers on TV, using one method or the other, with apparently instantaneous results.
The truth is that training is hard work. You won’t get lasting results in 24 minutes plus commercials. You have to commit to training your dog on an ongoing basis, and you have to be consistent.
But which method is best? Obviously, all I can give you is my opinion, but it is an opinion based on hours and hours of reading, watching, and applying my preferred training method and seeing the results. It doesn’t mean I’m the last word in dog training, but it does mean that I know my way works. It works with aggressive dogs and shy dogs, it works with bouncy dogs and silly dogs, it works with scared dogs and it works with lazy dogs. It works with all of these dogs and it is positive reinforcement training.
Wait! Don’t go! I promise it isn’t all cookies and kisses, we really are the Leaders of the Pack with PRT, and it’s not about giving our dogs permission to do as they please. What it is about is being firm but fair. PRT means that we are consistent with our dogs. We reward them when they do right, and we prevent them from doing wrong. We don’t choke, hit, or kick our dogs when they make the wrong choice, we teach them self-control and we make our expectations clear so that that know what we’re asking them to do. It creates a beautiful relationship with our dogs, one based on trust and love instead of fear and avoidance. Our dogs do what we ask because it is rewarding to them to do so, not because they are afraid of what will happen if they don’t.
No, you won’t be stuck carrying treats around forever (although would that be worse than having to rely on a choke collar for compliance?), and you don’t have to use the clicker if you don’t like it (but it is kind of awesome, at least try it). What you will have to do is make an effort to understand your dog, and communicate with her in a way that makes sense to her. Don’t you think that that’s a fair trade for stinky dog-food kisses, muddy paws, and chewed slippers? Oh wait, bad examples… How about this face then?
In future posts I’ll be talking about practical applications for PRT, and talking a bit about how to get started with it. If you have no idea what I’m even talking about with this whole “traditional” and “positive reinforcement” business, I’ll explain that a little further as well. If you’re bored with the whole thing and just came to see pictures of cute dogs, here ya go