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? You’re not alone if you find the sheer number of options overwhelming and confusing!
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.
Be Careful Using Dog Training Methods:
Traditional (Outdated) Dog Training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".
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.
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.
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!
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 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
Response to BAD Behavior
Response to GOOD Behavior
Training Newbie Friendly
Type of Reward for Dog
Alpha Dog Training
Outdated ideas, not supported by most recent research
Yes--only requires a clicker, some treats, and a lot of practice and patience
Typically based on Positive Reinforcement
Click (starts with click + treat)
No--could cause distress and anxiety in dog without the guidance of a pro
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!
Improved comfort, less tugging
NO reward, NO punishment
Treat only when dog performs desired behavior