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Dog Training Methods

How to Choose the Right Dog Training Methods for Your Dog

New training influencers and dog behaviorists are popping up every day on TikTok, YouTube, and other social media platforms, so how do you figure out which dog training methods and tips to safely use with your pup?  If you find the sheer number of options overwhelming and confusing, you’re not alone! 

 

Below, we’ve listed a few popular dog training methods–click on a method to see a brief overview of the philosophy, main training points, pros and cons, and where to learn more. Keep in mind that not all professional dog trainers agree on which methods are the most effective or most ethical, so we note any controversial issues within each method. Also, there’s no one “best training method for all dogs”–you may find that you have to try several methods to find one (or a combo) that works best for your pup!

alpha dog training prong collar

Traditional (Outdated?) Dog Training

As researchers learn more about how dogs learn and think, these older methods are losing popularity. Includes punishment, dominance, alpha dog, pinch or prong collars, Koehler Method, and "Cesar's Way".

Operant Conditioning

Operant Conditioning

One of the most popular training methods, it involves four quadrants, including Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, Positive Punishment, and Negative Punishment.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement Training

One quadrant or part of Operant Conditioning, this method rewards a dog immediately after desired behavior. "Bad" behavior results in no reward but also no punishment or reprimand.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative Reinforcement Training

Another part of Operant Conditioning, this method involves taking something away in order to increase a behavior; e.g., a dog can relieve strain on a leash by moving toward you, which reinforces the behavior of walking in line.

Clicker Training

Clicker Training

This popular method involves a tiny hand-held device that marks a desired behavior the moment a dog performs it. Starting out, reward good behavior with a click and a treat, but eventually, the dog will associate the click with a reward--no treat needed!

E Collar Shock Collar

Electric Collar Training

Useful in training at a distance when a leash can't be used or when training a dog to stay within an unfenced area, this method is generally best left to the pro dog trainers because overusing e-collars can cause distress in your pup.

Model Rival Training

Model-Rival and Mirror Training

As social creatures, dogs learn by observation. When we provide a good behavior model or a rival for resources, dogs learn to mimic desired behaviors. Model-Rival is more commonly used to train working dogs like sheepdogs rather than pet dogs, but some studies show these are effective methods for training canines.

Comparing Dog Training Methods at a Glance

Method

Pros

Cons

Response to BAD Behavior

Response to GOOD Behavior

Training Newbie Friendly

Science-Informed Method

Type of Reward for Dog

Alpha Dog Training

Outdated ideas, not supported by most recent research

Clicker Training

Yes--only requires a clicker, some treats, and a lot of practice and patience

Typically based on Positive Reinforcement

Click (starts with click + treat)

E-Collar Training

Zap

None

No--could cause distress and anxiety in dog without the guidance of a pro

Model-Rival Training

Yes--popularly known as the method that trained Alex the African Gray Parrot to recognize shapes, colors, and to say the names when asked about them. A few studies have suggested that this method is as effective in training dogs as operant conditioning, perhaps better!

Mirror Training

Negative Punishment

None

Negative Reinforcement


Improved comfort, less tugging

Operant Conditioning

Positive Punishment

Positive Reinforcement

NO reward, NO punishment

Reward, praise

Treat only when dog performs desired behavior

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