When I first became obsessed with dog training, I had no idea about the differences in methods. But I soon found out that even mild leash corrections were enough to take the joy out of training, for both me and my dog. Thankfully, there are positive, gentle methods that work even better! Here’s why we love them.
1. Easy for beginners to learn
Colonel Robert Milner tells the story of when he was tasked with training teams of military personnel and dogs to search through the ruins of the World Trade Center after 9/11. At first, they used the traditional training methods (check chains, e-collars, etc.), but Colonel Milner soon discovered that at the rate training was progressing, it would take approximately 18 months to completely train a dog-handler team. And this was with top-notch dogs and handlers. He switched to gentle, positive methods, and his handlers were able to pick up the techniques much faster. They cut the training time from 18 months down to 6. Yes, you read that right. For beginning trainers especially, positive training methods are way easier to learn. Even if you do make a mistake, there aren’t negative consequences like fear or avoidance in the dog.
2. Better long-term results
Many people like to use some level of force in dog training because they get to see almost instant results. For example, correction is applied > dog stops pulling on the leash. The catch is that when the force is removed, the dog will almost always go back to the old habits of pulling on leash, or whatever the bad behavior is. For best results long term, we need to train a behavior to replace the bad behavior. For example, dog focuses on owner as they walk together > dog gets rewarded > pulling stops.
3. Safe for children to participate in training
One of the drawbacks of using force to train a dog is that children are put at a disadvantage. Since they lack the strength and skill to issue a correction, dogs trained with force will not listen to them. Positive, gentle methods are so easy to pick up, that even a child can help train the dog (with adult guidance and supervision, of course).
4. No negative side effects
Another thing I love about positive, gentle methods is that even if you mess up and give your dog a reward at the wrong time occasionally, you don’t have to worry that you’ll harm your dog. If you make a mistake when using force, the stakes are much higher. Force used in the wrong way, can cause a dog to be fearful of his owner, or whatever he was focused on when he received the correction. This can lead to anxiety, stress, and even fear-based aggression.
5. Builds the human-animal bond
This has got to be my favorite thing about gentle, positive training. You become an absolute hero in your dog’s eyes! You’re the source of great things for your dog, and he’ll love being with you and working for you. You’ll build a relationship based on trust and respect, not fear of correction, which will lead to better behavior from your dog!
No doubt about it, positive, gentle training is the bomb. Give it a try, it’s a blast!
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