Positive reinforcement and clicker training have improved the lives of millions of dogs in recent years, but some people may still be wondering “What’s the problem with using punishment? Don’t we have to punish the dog so he knows what not to do?” A better approach is to ask what you WANT your dog to do, and figure out how to get the dog to do what you want instead of what you don’t. The problem with punishment is with all the potential unintended consequences. Dogs trained with fear and punishment are more likely to be aggressive. Dogs trained with positive reinforcement will of course be happier dogs!
Clicker training basics
Critics of clicker training sometimes protest; “My dog isn’t food motivated!” The only dogs that are never food motivated are stuffed animals. All living things are food motivated! You may need to use better treats (low cal. peanut butter/liverwurst) or wait until your dog is hungry, but food is a universal motivator.
Rover feels your pain, and happiness too!
Dogs will often mimic their owner’s emotional state. When people impatiently reprimand a dog for barking, the dog’s reaction is often; “Wow, he’s just as upset as I am, this IS scary!” Teach your dog to do something else instead, something fun!
What kind of collar should I get for my dog?
When picking out a dog collar you’ve probably seen a few, like choke and prong collars, that look like medieval torture devices. I would not recommend those! Choke collars and prong collars are designed to prevent pulling by painfully choking the dog if she pulls, but this can cause more problems than it solves. A simple flat collar is usually fine. For dogs that can slip out of those easily because of the shape of their head a martingale collar is appropriate provided it’s affixed properly and does not choke the dog. For long walks a front clip harness or gentle leader is best, because they don’t apply direct pressure to the neck.
#1 most important dog training tip: Hire a professional trainer that understands classical and operant conditioning!