Ask a Colorado Springs Dog Trainer: What is the Best Method of Dog Training?

Apr 17, 2024 | Blogs

One of the questions we hear most often at Dog Training Laurie’s Way is, what is the best method of dog training? That is a great question!

Training your new family member and addressing unwanted behaviors can be challenging, and choosing the right method that suits your dog’s needs is vital to your success and your dog’s happiness.

But with so many different techniques and approaches available, determining the best fit for your circumstances and dog can seem overwhelming. This month, we will break down some of the most popular methods for dog training, providing you with valuable insights and information to help you make an informed decision.

Traditional or Alpha-Dog Training

Traditional, or alpha-dog, training is based on the belief that in the wild, dogs form packs with a structured hierarchy, with an alpha or top dog dictating the behavior of the other animals in the pack.

This training method requires the owner to establish themselves as the alpha or leader by suppressing any attempts by their dog to become the alpha in the family. The training allows dogs to make mistakes with punishments to decrease undesirable behavior.

This was once a very popular method of dog training. However, recent research shows that domesticated dogs do not follow an alpha-dog hierarchy, making this form of training increasingly obsolete.

Model-Rival or Mirror Training Method

One of the most interesting methods of dog training is the model-rival or mirror training method. This approach suggests that dogs learn by observation, imitating behaviors they see in others.

For the model-rivel method, you or a trainer can act as the model, demonstrating ideal behavior and rewarding the dog for completing tasks on command. The targeted model can also act as a rival, competing with the dog to perform tasks correctly for a reward, encouraging the dog to pick up on the behavior and accomplish it quickly.

Mirror training follows a similar principle, with the owner acting as the model and offering rewards for accomplished tasks or good behavior. This method can be particularly effective if you already have a strong bond with your dog.

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning is a method of dog training that involves associating a neutral stimulus with one that is naturally occurring to elicit a desired response.

One of the most famous examples of classical conditioning is Pavlov’s experiment with dogs. By ringing a bell before feeding the dogs, Pavlov could condition them to salivate at the sound of the bell alone.

In everyday life, classical conditioning occurs naturally. For example, when your dog hears the sound of their food bowl rattling, they start to salivate in anticipation of being fed. Understanding the principles of classical conditioning can be a valuable tool in dog training.

Clicker Training Method

Comparable to classical training, the clicker method is a prevalent and effective method of dog training using a handheld device to create a distinct sound, usually a click, to mark the exact moment your dog performs a desired behavior. A reward, such as a treat or praise, follows the clicker sound.

This method allows for precise timing and clear communication with the dog so they understand which behavior is being rewarded. Clicker training is beneficial for shaping complex behaviors and is often used in obedience training, housebreaking your dog and trick training.

At Dog Training Laurie’s Way, we have seen amazing results using clickers, even in aggressive dog training, making this one of our preferred methods for dog training.

Dog Training Laurie's Way- best method of dog training in Colorado Springs?

Electronic Dog Training Method

The electronic dog training method involves using an electric collar to train your dog. The collar delivers a shock when the dog fails to perform desired tasks.

Shock collars can train dogs to obey specific rules, such as staying within boundaries or working in the field. (This is the principle behind Invisible Fence.)

However, misuse of electric collars can cause harm to your dog. This method of dog training must be done responsibly to avoid causing physical or psychological harm to your beloved pet. The abuse of your pet is no more acceptable than the abuse of your child.

Positive Reinforcement Method

We have found positive reinforcement to be a highly effective method of dog training. With positive reinforcement, the focus is on rewarding desirable behaviors rather than punishing undesirable ones.

In this method, the dog receives a reward for performing desired behaviors, with no attention given to unwanted behaviors. By consistently rewarding good behavior, the dog learns expectations and is motivated to repeat those behaviors.

Positive reinforcement training requires consistency and a clear reward system. Everyone in the family must be on the same page, using the same commands and reward system to ensure consistency for the dog.

Negative Reinforcement Method

Let us be clear—negative reinforcement should NEVER involve physical punishment or abuse of your pet. Instead, it should focus on taking away something aversive or undesirable to reinforce a behavior.

For example, if you want your dog to walk on your left side while on a walk, you can gently pull them towards the left. The pressure is released when they move in the desired direction, reinforcing the behavior.

This method can be effective when used with proper guidance. However, at Dog Training Laurie’s Way, this is our least preferred method of dog training – due to the human factor. When not used correctly, negative reinforcement can result in physical punishment or outright abuse, which is never acceptable.

Operant Conditioning or Balanced Dog Training

Operant conditioning, sometimes called balanced dog training, is a learning process that uses rewards and punishments to shape behavior. This method involves associating a behavior with a positive or negative consequence to encourage or discourage that behavior.

When your dog performs a desirable behavior, such as sitting on command, they are rewarded, increasing the likelihood of them repeating that behavior. On the other hand, when your dog engages in undesirable behavior, such as jumping on people, they may receive a punishment or have a reward taken away, which decreases the likelihood of them repeating that behavior.

Balanced dog training has received its share of criticism in recent years because—again—the human factor. This method of dog training should only be attempted with the supervision of an experienced trainer and behaviorist.

Science-Based or Behavioral Training Method

Science-based training, also known as modern or behavioral-based methods, takes into account an in-depth understanding of dogs and their behavior. This method continually evolves based on the insights gained from scientific research on dog behavior.

By following the laws of science and behavior, trainers can train dogs humanely and efficiently.

Related: Colorado Springs Dog Behaviorist or Dog Trainer – Why Your Dog May Need Both

Dog Training Laurie's Way- best method of dog training in Colorado Springs?

Relationship-Based Training Method

Relationship-based training is a method that creates a personalized approach for each dog and owner. It is often conducted one-on-one at home.

By taking into account the individual needs and strengths of the dog, relationship-based training creates a positive and rewarding experience for the dog and the owner.

This, in conjunction with other forms, such as clicker training, is our favorite form of training at Dog Training Laurie’s Way.

With So Many Options, Which Method of Dog Training Is Right For Your Furry Friend?

Let’s face facts—there are as many methods for dog training as there are breeds of dogs. In our many years of experience helping Colorado Springs dog owners get the pet of their dreams, the most effective method of dog training is one that considers your dog’s needs, strengths, problem areas, and goals.

Every dog and family is unique; what works for one may not work for another. If you need help deciding which method to choose or need additional guidance, call Dog Training Laurie’s Way. Together, we will start your dog’s training journey on the right paw!

Personalized training based on your dog’s needs? That’s Dog Training – Laurie’s Way.