I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a training consultation with a trainer who was very pro-positive reinforcement. She never administers any kind of discipline, she only redirects and uses treats heavily. Positive reinforcement training has become extremely popular with the rise of the Petsmart training classes and proponents such as Victoria Stillwell from Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or The Dog”.  The entire philosophy of this training method is built on the presumption that your dog will understand that all behavior that is ignored is unwanted. If your dog jumps on you or lunges at another dog, ignore the behavior and reward him when he stops.

In many cases there is improvement. But it is dependent on the presence of treats and an unlimited amount of patience. The trainer that I observed informed the client that their dog would always exhibit aggression towards other dogs and should not go near another dog for 6 months. I was inwardly groaning! By using some sort of discipline (either vocal, “ah ah” or even “whoops”; or physical: a touch, or leash correction) you are helping the dog understand what is unwanted behavior. This quickens the training process by eliminating the guess-work for the dog. It is my personal training philosophy to reward a dog when they are behaving how you want them to, and discipline when you want to communicate unwanted behavior.

If you hire a trainer or behaviorist to work with your pooch, it is extremely important to understand their training philosophy. I am so proud of the clients I worked with to get some second opinions about their dog’s antics, and do whatever it takes to help him understand what they want from him! Every outside training experience is useful to you. As you read books, articles, and watch tv training shows, be mindful of the philosophy behind what you are seeing and evaluate it! If you like what you see or read–apply it and let me know how it goes! Lead your dog!

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