We are in the midst of a long-overdue cultural revolution in training. Many training techniques in current practice are punitive and military-based and were developed around the time of World war II, They are rooted in thoroughly discredited theories of wolf pack leadership and dominance.
Dogs are being studied like never before, and dog training is evolving in step with a growing body of scientific evidence shows that dogs have feelings and opinions. The scientific work of Pavlov and Skinner more than half a century ago has stood the test of time and are far more relevant and useful than pack theory.
Their work has successfully been applied to training huge and powerful animals such as lions, elephants and killer whales to cooperate with puny humans and willingly offer all kinds of behaviors in exchange for something the animal enjoys. Zoos worldwide show us daily that force and fear are not needed to elicit behaviors we desire.
Sadly, many dog trainers still espouse the use of tools and techniques that cause pain and elicit fear in dogs, justifying their use by saying it is the only way. It is not. And the fallout from these techniques can be fear and aggression, and a breakdown in the bond you have with your animal.The American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior recently issued an updated position statement against the use of punishment in dog training. You can read the full statement here.
Dogs can be effectively trained without threats or coercion. I am not just talking about encouraging the stuff we like such as teaching a dog to sit or lie down, nor even changing a dog’s preference from surfing the counter to laying quietly on a mat. Even severe and entrenched problem behaviors like stranger aggression and resource guarding can be modified without force, simply by the strategic presentation and removal of things that dogs want.
If you can train your dog using kindness and respect rather than force and fear, why wouldn’t you?