There are generally two approaches to obedience training: positive dog training, also called lure/reward training, and force/punishment. In positive training, the emphasis is on rewarding the dog for correct behavior. Only later in the training process are reprimands used to ensure the dog understands a command. This is the opposite of the force/punishment school of thought where the focus is on punishing inappropriate responses throughout training.
Why positive training
Positive dog training offers numerous benefits over the force/punishment style of training:
Rewards are easy to give
Everyone has the ability to reward a dog for the right response to an obedience command. Even the smallest child can award a treat, say “good boy!”, or give a dog a quick pat on the head. Punishment, however, can be difficult to administer. There are countless techniques to punish or correct a dog, some of which can be dangerous. This is particularly true for a child or petite person or if the dog is large or aggressive.
Rewarding good behavior is an effective way to train
There are countless ways to do something wrong, but only one way to do it right. For force/punishment training to work there has to be a punishment for every wrong action, which is all but impossible. Any inconsistency in punishment will lead the dog to believe that the mistake is acceptable. When practicing positive dog training, an owner only has to reward the dog for the one correct action. Even then, the dog doesn’t need to be rewarded every time. If he’s kept guessing when the reward will come, he’ll constantly strive to obey the command in the hope that he’ll be rewarded.
Rewarding your dog is enjoyable
Giving a dog a treat or enthusiastically praising him for a great performance is a lot more fun than doling out punishment or forcing a dog to obey. Positive dog training makes the time you spend with your dog something to cherish.
Positive dog training improves the dog/owner relationship
Dogs, like people, respond to honest and sincere appreciation better than punishment. Each time the dog listens and obeys, a reward allows him to connect with his owner. Consistently punishing a dog during training, on the other hand, can eventually lead to mistrust or fear. The dog may even begin to associate the punishment with the owner rather than the incorrect behavior, which can derail the training process and bring about behavioral problems in the dog. Positive training may still require that the owner administer appropriate reprimands during later stages of training. However, if done correctly, there’s little chance this will have the same effect on the dog as force/punishment training.
Through positive dog training, you can have a happier dog that respects your authority and looks forward to your next command.