Dog training based on positive reinforcement is the most popular training method of our times. Educating your dog with physical power or dominance is fading away and The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior named dominance based training as ineffective and possibly dangerous, especially in the hands of an unskilled nonprofessional. So what is positive training?
Positive training is based on the idea that if you reward and praise the behaviour you want to see, your dog will be more likely to offer and repeat it. A reward is usually a treat, a small bite size piece of food. You can also reward with your attention, praises, with the toy your dog adores or with a fun activity like playing fetch. Be creative! Sure food is a great motivator for your dog but it is also important to spend quality time together and have fun!
Hopefully you will have a long relationship with your furry friend. You want this friendship be build on trust and understanding not fear or dominance. Most of dog bites and aggression stem from anxiety, insecurity and fear. So instead of intimidating and punishing your dog when he/she misbehaves and making things worse, you should work on such situations by desensitising your dog, by teaching him to avoid and become unreactive. Whenever your dog is in a fearful situation, try to redirect his/her attention to other activities. For example your dog reacts to passing cyclists by barking and pulling on the leash. Every time you see a cyclist coming, give your dog a command that it knows well, e.g. sit, keep rewarding your dog for sitting or redirecting your dogs attention, to his toy or playing fetch, until the cyclist is in view. You have to be consistent and patient when working with your dog. So your dog builds an association that whenever cyclist are there, he sits and gets rewarded or plays a game. In the end those cyclist are not that bad.
Does positive training mean, that my dog does not know the word “NO”? Of course, not. You should use your firm, loud voice as negative cues, like ‘No’, ‘Stop’, sharp whistle. So your dog knows that he is misbehaving. We suggest you choose a negative cue, that you don’t use in your daily speech. For example word “NO” is not the best cue, as you use it a lot in casual conversations. Choose something short like Pssss, Phu, Ehh, so it would be directed only to your dog. Another negative reinforcement could be your attention or toy withdrawal for a short time.
In the Dogo App we use clicker based positive training. So what is clicker? Basically it is a sound cue to tell your dog “Yes, this is exactly what I want”. You can use built-in App Clicker or buy one in a pet store:
In the first trainings you will teach your dog to associate the clicker sound with a tasty snack. Clicker works as a reward marker, every time dog hears the sound, good things happen. What is crucial when using clicker, is timing. The clicker sound follows immediately after the wanted behaviour. It should be used without a delay, within less than a second. With clicker it is much easier to teach your dog complex behaviours, where you have to break exercises into smaller steps. For example you want your dog to learn to take of your socks. It is a bit naive to expect, that just by pointing your feet your dog will figure out to pull on the socks and take it off. In the end you do not want your dog to be such free spirit, nibbling on everything and trying taking off your clothes without being asked 🙂 So you break the exercise into smaller steps 1. dog touches your feet, click+treat; 2. dog gently bites the tips of the socks, click+treat; 3. dog pulls on the socks, click+treat; 4. dog pulls so long on the socks until they are off, click+treat. Most of our exercises in the Dogo app is divided into levels and subdivided into little steps, so your learning process is smooth.
Have fun with Dogo!
The Dogo app is a great helping tool when training your dog. But keep in mind, your dog needs socialisation with other animals and people.