Dog Training Methods - games are bad!

When dog owners are thinking about joining a dog training class, they usually Google the closest one (sometimes flick through reviews) and sign up.

Not many people do a research on dog training methods. We trust the “professional” and follow their instructions.

Did you know there is no regulatory body for dog trainers & behaviorists in the UK? Anyone can set up a dog training business without any experience or qualifications. Hopefully this will change soon!

Personally, I attend more courses, workshops, seminars I can afford! Ha ha! But personal developments is super important for me. I want to deliver best service possible and be on top with new methods and researches.

Yesterday I have read on someone’s Facebook page that training dogs through games and enrichment is wrong!!
We all know there is lots of false information online, but I felt like this one is something I should clarify because I know what I’m talking about.

 

Few years ago, I had a dream – I wanted to be a dog trainer 😊

Since then I’ve seen the ugly and the beauty of the profession. Not only there is lots of different training methods, but often dog trainers disagree – this can only creates confusion for pet dog owners.

Main training methods are:

Alpha/Dominance methods – the theory suggest that dogs see their family as their pack, and they should submit to and respect the alpha (human in charge). Generally, with alpha theory you don’t let your dog go through doorways first, they can not eat before you, go on furniture, look into human eyes, etc. Now we know this technique is outdated as dogs do not rely on pack and dominance mentality as wrongly suggested years ago.

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Old school methods – punishing a dog for not performing correctly, using aversive/painful tools, shouting and other horrible things ☹

Balance methods – punishing for wrong, rewarding for good. Very confusing…

Force free – ideally putting no pressure on dog at all which is not possible, because we cannot predict animal’s feelings.

Positive reinforcement – incorrect use of word ‘reinforcement’. Reinforcement mean increase in behaviour. This can happen through positive or negative experiences. For example if dog bites someone’s arm, the person kick the dog to protect themselves and the dog bites again harder.

Reward based methods – using reward when our dog is doing something we like to increase the bahaviours in the future (learn more about rewards here: https://mamda.co.uk/blog/2019/9/20/food-or-toy-which-reward-is-better-for-dogs)

Game based training – teaching dogs through play and fun.

Positive methods – creating positive experience for the dog during a training session

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Clicker training – use of a device to make a quick, sharp clicker signal to a dog when wanted behaviour is accomplished. Great for teaching tricks or micro behaviours.

Model / mirror methods - using the dog owner as a model, then offering rewards for mimicking good behavior. It uses the dog’s natural instincts to operate socially instead of working against them. To put it simply, the dog learns by example

Relationship – meeting dogs needs and showing them love. Some people think this way they dog will be well behaved and do not need any type of education.

Enrichment – providing mental stimulation in order to decrease boredom and unwanted behaviours.

 

So far, I have explained you 12 different training methods. There is more, but these ones you more likely have or will come across.
During my journey I have seen it all. I was watching TV programmes, reading books, following different trainers from all over the world (Poland, UK, Spain, France, USA, Australia). I was assisting at different classes, hiring trainers for private consultations etc.

Once I have booked a local trainer to help me with lead pulling. Shortly after he arrived, he put a prong collar on my dog – I have finished the session at this point.

The other time I took my girl to a group class. One of the exercises was an emergency stop, I have asked the trainer to demo it. She started calling my dog and suddenly shouted STOP! Everyone in the room jumped, my dog was terrified…

I’ve seen dogs being dragged, pushed, punished… I have seen desperate, hopeless, frustrated, angry dog owners…

And I have seen places where people are happy and proud of their dogs. Dogs are relaxed. Everyone is having fun (including the instructors).

I have seen ex police dog trainers. Because of years’ experience they are very popular. There is one thing you must remember – police or military dogs are bred to do their job; they are carefully selected through lots of tests during they puppy-hood. They are not pet dogs; they work most of their life. A rescue spaniel cross will less likely ever perform on the same level as police dog.

I use methods that are kind and effective. It is a combination of science, concepts, games, reward techniques, obedience exercises and enrichment.

Why this combination?

Because it’s working! We use games to help dogs become more confident, responsive, focused, to have closer relationship with their owners, be happier and have good quality of life. Dogs are learning 24/7 regardless being trained or not. It’s our job to teach them to be polite. Just like children, if they have fun they learn better.

Enrichment help dogs to relax. Eating breakfast out of a snuffle mat provides mental stimulation and allow dogs to use their superpower – scent!
Enrichment is better than boredom. Your dog will appreciate if you give him something to do.

Reward – dogs remember what a good deal is and what isn’t. Rewarding what we like will increase the behaviour in the future. Not using a reward in training is just not fair. Would you go to work every day for free? Dogs are not robots; they are family members.

Science is progress! Just like everything else, if tests are showing what works what doesn’t why would we not use it?

Is a dog learning anything through this methods or are they just distracting unwanted behaviours?
Imagine you have a carpet cleaner at home. Which scenario is better for your dog:
a) jumping up at the stranger or barking/crying while being locked in the kitchen?
b) calmly munching around the garden, searching and consuming the kibble you have scattered around

Are you distracting? – Yes
Is your dog learning? – Yes, your dog learns a visitor is non event, nothing exciting or nothing to worry about.

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Are this training methods tiring?
Yes, any type of training is tiring, physical or mental.
How long the training sessions should be in order to have well balanced dog? Read our magic 3 blog: https://mamda.co.uk/blog/magic-3

If you have full time job, young kids, family to look after you don’t have hours to train your dog every single day. I’m 100% sure you are not over training your dog :-)


I hope this blog has clarified what is available for dog owners in terms of training methods and why I believe the methods we offer to our student are effective.




Justyna Marszalek