There are many different opinions held on how best to train a dog, not just amongst the dog-owning community but also within the professional training community. For a new dog owner it can be overwhelming and confusing deciding which way to go – what is best for me and my new dog?
Training methods have changed over time and different methods often become popular based on who is supporting the method – a celebrity trainer, political party, rescue group…the list goes on!
With so many opinions available on the subject it is important when you choose how to train your dog that you take a look at the facts. As we discussed in an earlier post, training behaviours is about showing the dog the outcome of their actions. We may show the dog their behaviour is successful using reinforcement, or we may show them their behaviour is unsuccessful using correction. Remember, correction is not limited to physical correction – a correction can be as simple as missing out on a reward! Put simply, we are telling the dog either Yes or No.
The method of training that we favour could be broadly catogorised as “balanced training”. Balanced training is heavily biased towards reinforcement, but allows for correction where appropriate. Once a dog clearly understands the task at hand after many repetitions and ample reinforcement there is on occasion a correction required in order to communicate to the dog that another behaviour is not appropriate and to use the behaviour it has now been taught.
Corrections must be only enough to stop the behaviour and no more – that is, the dog should not be corrected at an unfairly high level, too frequently or if it does not understand the alternative behaviour.
Balanced training allows for the use of lots of different methods of reinforcement – food, play and affection are a few examples. Balanced trainers make use of lots of different pieces of equipment in training; a good trainer will never put equipment on your dog without discussing it with you first, educating you on how it works and ensuring you are comfortable in how to use it correctly.
Many people at some stage in their dog’s life will reach out to a professional trainer for assistance with their training. If you are seeking the assistance of a professional trainer, keep these questions in mind:
1) Can the trainer show you results. Take a look at the trainer’s dog; are they motivated, stable and well mannered? Does the trainer have good engagement with their dog and do they work well as a team?
2) Is the trainer qualified and experienced. It always pays to chat with a prospective trainer about their experience in the industry, and any qualifications they hold. Dog training is an unregulated industry – be sure you are working with a qualified, experienced professional.
3) Can the trainer explain their methods. A good trainer should be able to explain their training plan and proposed methods to you, in a way that you understand. If you are unsure of or uncomfortable with anything proposed, be sure to seek clarification.
If you require the assistance of qualified professional dog trainers on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland feel free to get in touch with Unleashed via our contact page to discuss the best training options for you and your dog.