So you’re going to bring home a puppy soon and are looking for the best dog training method to get your furry friend off on the right paw?
Or you already are a proud owner of a pooch, but with how you currently train your canine buddy not working out so well, you want to explore other options.
No matter the reason, you’ve come to the right place!
Here, we’ll look into the seven most popular types of dog training, so you can determine which is best for your pup.
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1. Positive Reinforcement Training
One of the most popular forms of dog training, positive reinforcement training, also known as reward-based training, force-free training, or R+ training, is based on the concept of rewarding the dog when they display good behavior.
With this method, you’ll be using a marker, such as “yes,” “good boy/ girl,” or a clicker, to indicate to your pup when they’ve done something correctly, then follows with a reward, such as a tasty treat, verbal praise, petting, playtime, or anything your dog loves.
The idea behind this technique is that when a positive experience follows an action, your pooch will be more likely to repeat this action in the future. And the key is to mark the exact moment when the desired behavior occurs and reward your dog immediately.
If your pup does something you don’t like, you simply ignore it or redirect their attention elsewhere. And if a correction needs to be made, it’s done by their rewards being taken away rather than punishing them.
Basically, this type of training is about reinforcing good behavior through rewards and ignoring bad ones. It’s an effective method of teaching any dog good habits and a perfect choice for those who don’t favor the idea of punishing their canine friends.
Why Choose Positive Reinforcement Training?
- It encourages positive behavior in a fun and rewarding way for your pup.
- No punishment means it’s unlikely that your pup will develop fear- or anxiety-related issues.
- Dogs quickly learn what is expected of them.
- Dogs are excited to learn and look forward to training sessions.
- It helps create a healthy, trust-based relationship with your dog.
Why You May Not Want to Choose Positive Reinforcement Training?
- It can be a hassle to carry a treat pouch with you.
- It requires a lot of patience for successful results.
- Your pup is not reward-motivated.
- The timing of marking the desired behavior needs to be spot-on.
2. Clicker Training
Based on operant conditioning, clicker training is essentially a subset of positive reinforcement rather than its own type of training. It relies on the same principle of rewarding good behavior, but instead of using marker words, you’ll use a clicker that produces a quick, sharp sound to mark the exact moment when your pup does something right.
Why clicker training? Why bother if you can just say “yes” or “good boy/ girl”? Well, that’s because our tone of voice and body language can vary when we speak. What’s worse is if you have several family members training your pup using different tones. The inconsistency can confuse your dog, hence far less effective results.
On the other hand, a clicker doesn’t have any of those issues. It always produces the same sound regardless of who uses it, and more importantly, it allows you to be specific with what behavior you are rewarding. That also means there’s no confusion, no misinterpretation, and more efficient learning for your pup unless, of course, you accidentally click at the wrong time.
Why Choose Clicker Training?
- It allows for better communication between you and your pup.
- It is effective as it eliminates any inconsistencies in tone.
- You can train complex tricks more easily.
Why You May Not Want to Choose Clicker Training?
- It can be tricky to use at first as you need to click at the exact right moment.
- You may accidentally reinforce unwanted behavior if your timing is poor.
- Not all dogs respond well to clicker training, especially those who are not food- or toy-motivated.
3. Alpha (Dominance) Dog Training
The alpha or dominance dog training method is based upon a pack mentality and aims to center around establishing the dog owner (yourself) as the “alpha,” “top dog,” or leader of the pack. The idea behind this type of training is that if you can get your pup to see you as the “alpha” in the family, they will trust and respect your leadership and, therefore, look up to you for guidance and follow your rules and commands. Cesar Millan is probably the most well-known advocate of this alpha dog theory.
This method of dog training involves the use of positive punishment, which includes physical corrections such as an alpha roll (rolling your pup onto their back into a submissive position, though this is highly controversial), as well as corrections using a static collar.
But more often than not, it’s about setting boundaries for your canine in terms of the rules you have set out. For instance, not allowing them on the couch or bed unless you invite them up, always entering and exiting doorways first, leading the way while on walks, only allowing them to eat after you’ve finished your meal, etc.
Why Alpha Dog Training?
- Based on the alpha dog theory, dogs are pack animals. And being pack animals, they will look to their leader for reassurance, security, and safety. So if you establish yourself as a good, calm, confident leader and set a good example for your dog, they will feel more secure and supported, thus leading to a better life.
- You’ll be able to set clear boundaries and expectations for your dog. This can help you turn them into well-behaved, obedient pups who know what’s expected of them.
- Being the pack leader also means you can gain control in a matter of seconds in situations where your canine may get too excited or misbehave.
Why Don't Use Alpha Dog Training?
- Studies have shown dogs are not pack animals and that they don’t have a hierarchical structure the same way wolves do, so this dog training method may not be effective.
- It uses an authoritarian approach by imposing rules, restrictions, and corrections to control your dog’s behavior, which may negatively impact your relationship with your canine.
- Many modern trainers deem the alpha dog method outdated and have moved away from this approach due to the potential risks of damaging a canine’s well-being.
- Many also believe this method often doesn’t consider any underlying issues causing the unwanted behavior. Unfortunately, this means the root cause of the bad behavior is never addressed and could lead to more serious behavioral problems down the line.
- Certain aspects of this method are highly controversial and unnecessary if you use the positive reinforcement or reward-based approach to gently and effectively teach your pup good manners.
4. E-Collar Dog Training
E-collar dog training, also referred to as “shock collar training” or “remote collar training,” relies on the use of an electric shock collar or e-collar to correct a dog’s unwanted behavior or reinforce commands. While also controversial, it is used by many professional trainers and is, in fact, a very effective tool for training dogs.
These training devices allow you to communicate with your pup without needing to physically touch them or have them in your immediate presence, which is why it is so popular, especially with hunters and those working on reinforcing their dogs’ off-leash recall. They allow you to do things that you wouldn’t be able to do with other methods, opening a whole new world of possibilities.
Now, before you get angry and make any snap judgments and say, “that’s cruel, and no way am I going to use an e-collar to shock my dog,” hear me out. Though shock collars were indeed originally invented to punish dogs for correcting bad behavior, these devices have come a long way since then. They now offer a wide range of features, including adjustable intensity levels and different stimulations like vibration, beep, and tone to help train your dog.
And as a matter of fact, the static stimulation from the modern e-collars is not painful whatsoever. It is similar to the sensation of static shock you’ve probably experienced before when walking across a carpet and touching a doorknob. If you’ve been to a chiro, the sensation is also similar to TENS therapy. And, of course, that’s provided you are using the e-collar properly and not cranking up the intensity to the highest level.
It’s crucial to note that the purpose of modern e-collars is not meant to be used as a form of punishment but rather to better communicate with dogs. They are designed to grab a dog’s attention and serve as an interruptive mechanism to help redirect them if they happen to be doing something inappropriate or undesirable.
Think of it like having an invisible leash or a remote control for your canine. By using an e-collar, you can get their attention and ask them to do what you want, like sit, stay, or come back to you at a distance without having to yell at them or be physically near them.
Why Choose E-Collar Dog Training?
- It allows you to communicate with your pup from a distance, even when they’re not in sight or unable to hear your commands.
- With e-collar training, you can build the reliability of your dog’s off-leash recall and be confident that your pup will come back to you when you call them, regardless of the distractions. This also means that you can confidently let your pup off-leash when outdoors, giving them more freedom to run and explore without worrying that they’ll get lost or wander away.
- It’s perfect for deaf dogs or dogs with hearing impairments since you can still communicate with them even though they can’t hear your verbal commands.
Why You May Not Want to Use E-Collar Dog Training?
- If done improperly, you risk hurting or traumatizing your pup. Therefore, you must use extreme caution and ensure you are informed and educated about proper e-collar use before attempting to try it.
- E-collars are not for everyone. If you easily become frustrated and let your emotions take over, you may want to skip this type of training and opt for another method.
- If you plan on using an e-collar to punish your dog for bad behavior and hoping it will make the problem disappear, then this isn’t the right approach for you. E-collars are not a magic wand. They will not miraculously fix any behavior problems your pup may have with one push of a button.
- It is also unsuitable for very young dogs or puppies below six months of age because they are still learning basic skills. E-collars are designed to reinforce commands your canine already knows and correct unwanted behavior (again, only if your dog has already nailed down the basics). It is not meant to be used to teach your dog new things.
5. Model-Rival (Mirror) Dog Training
When you start a new role, the manager or mentor will usually “show you the ropes” by letting you shadow a full-time employee so you can learn on the job by closely watching them. This concept of learning from someone who is already experienced in certain things is exactly what model-rival dog training is all about.
It involves having another trained pup or person as a model for your canine companion. You will need to ask the trained dog to perform certain tasks and behave the same way you would want your canine to, be it greeting people nicely, sitting, staying, or coming when called, then rewarding them when they do. And your pup will learn by observing and mirroring the model’s behavior.
Will this even work, and will this be effective, you ask? Absolutely! This method of dog training has been proven to be just as effective.
Why Choose Model-Rival Dog Training?
- It makes training your dog easier as there’ll be a model demonstrating the behavior you want your fido to learn.
- It allows you to show your furry friend what you expect from them in a way that is more natural for canines by having them observe the behavior of another dog.
- Your pup will be less likely to feel overwhelmed and confused as they’ll have a clear example of the behavior they need to learn.
- It’s more fun for your pup because it feels like playtime rather than a strict lesson.
Why You May Not Want to Choose Model-Rival Dog Training?
- It may take longer to see results because your pup needs to observe the model multiple times before they can imitate it correctly.
- Model-rival dog training requires an extra person or a trained dog to be involved in the process, which may not always be feasible.
6. Relationship-Based Dog Training
The name of this type of training says it all. Rather than trying to establish an unbreakable hierarchy with the human as the undisputed leader and the canine at the bottom, it is you and your pup’s relationship that will be at the core of this training method. It is the strong bond with your four-legged pal based on mutual trust, respect, and understanding that drives everything.
How does relationship-based dog training work?
Well, with this method, you’ll be using a combination of different training techniques but with an emphasis on your dog’s feelings. So you have to consider your pooch’s likes and dislikes and recognize their limits.
That means you’ll need to learn to read your fido’s body language so that you understand how they are feeling and why they are acting in a certain way. You’ll also need to teach your canine companion in a way that is easy for them to understand (starts from the easiest and gradually works up to complex ones) and reward them for good behavior with praise, treats, or playtime. And, more importantly, allow them to learn at their own pace.
In a nutshell, relationship-based dog training is all about keeping your pup’s well-being and happiness at the forefront of your training, making sure they are happy and comfortable throughout the process.
Why Choose Relationship-Based Dog Training?
- It is stress-free for your dog.
- It will help you understand your pooch better since you’ll learn to read their body language.
- It creates a concrete foundation of trust between you and your pup, making future training easier.
Why You May Not Want to Choose Relationship-Based Dog Training?
- It requires a lot of patience and dedication as the training progresses at your dog’s pace.
- It may take longer to see results, especially if your pooch is a slow learner, stubborn, or easily distracted.
- Because keeping your dog’s happiness is a top priority, it is easy to give in to them too much, and you may potentially end up with an unruly pup who knows how to push your buttons and get away with things, especially if they are opportunists!
7. Science-Based Dog Training
This is a very different type of dog training based on hard, proven facts about canine behavior and psychology. Instead of relying on assumptions or theories, it relies on concrete evidence from research to determine the best course of action when it comes to training your pup.
What that means for you then is if you were to consider this type of training, there would be a lot of reading to do since you need to educate yourself on the latest findings in canine science.
Why Choose Science-Based Dog Training
- You’ll be able to trust that the training you’re using is based on sound evidence and research.
- Since this type of training is backed by evidence, it will be easier to identify when something isn’t working and adjust accordingly.
- You’ll also learn a lot about your dog’s behavior, which will help you create better training plans and stronger relationships with your furry family members.
Why You May Not Want to Choose Relationship-Based Dog Training?
- This form of dog training can be difficult and time-consuming because you’ll have to read up on the latest research to keep yourself up-to-date on the topic since the information it relies on is constantly evolving and improving.
Which Dog Training Method is Most Effective?
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as every pup is different. What works for your neighbor’s Golden Retriever may not work for your dog, and vice versa.
Plus, as you can see, all training methods have their pros and cons. So, the best way to determine which type of dog training is the most effective for your furry friend is by trial and error, and don’t be afraid to switch things up if something isn’t working.
That said, you should choose whichever training method you are most comfortable with. Also, you don’t necessarily need to stick to one method. Instead, you can combine different approaches to create a more tailored training plan.