The Top 10 Most Effective Dog Training Techniques

Posted by Jackie Ly on

woman training a dog with treat

Training is an important part of your dog’s life. Learning to behave properly at home, and around other dogs and people in different situations will help them live life with more security and safety. They learn to understand things more– with your help. Dog training and exercise has many benefits, not just for your dog, but also for you.

However, training a dog can be quite challenging. Especially if you’re a new dog owner who’s just starting to get the hang of things. Meanwhile, even long-time dog owners can still find it challenging, especially if they’re not doing it right.

With that said, here are the most effective dog training styles and techniques you can use to train your dog.

The three dog training styles

Before employing different dog training techniques to your dog, decide first what style you will use to reinforce your commands. You and your dog will need consistency. Here are the three dog training styles applied in dog training techniques, and how some works more effectively than others.

  • Reward-based - Reward-based training is when you give your dog some sort of reward for doing something right. Rewards can either be playtime, verbal praise, or a treat. 
  • Punishment-based - Punishment-based training, in contrast to reward-based training, is usually applied after your dog displayed bad behaviour. Punishments can be physically slapping or tapping your dog's nose, shouting, and/or sending them to their bed or outside.
  • Neutral - Neutral training is when you completely ignore their bad behaviour, or you ignore and give them other things to focus on, like giving them a chew toy.

One study analysed the level of effectiveness of these three styles. Researchers examined obedience at seven basic activities, including sitting when told to and going on potty breaks outside. 

They found out that punishment-based training was not as effective as either reward-based or neutral training, even for bad behaviours that are often met with a punishment such as teething and dragging things. 

Also, researchers observed that dogs who are trained with more reward-based methods are more obedient. Dogs trained with only reward-based methods showed even greater obedience compared to those trained with punishment-based methods or a mix of the two.

In another study, it was found that dogs trained with more punishment-based methods are less interactive and less playful around strangers.

It’s scientifically proven then that rewards-based style is more effective than others, and you may choose to apply that in the dog training technique you’ll use to your dog. 

Here are the top 10 most effective techniques that will help you train your dog.

10 Most Effective Dog Training Techniques

Alpha Dog/Dominance Method

It was commonly believed that, when dogs are left to their own devices, they form "packs" with a hierarchy that is led by the "alpha" dog who rules over all the other dogs. 

Alpha Dog Method, which was made popular by Cesar Milan, then focuses on teaching your dog that you are the alpha or the pack leader. This is considered an effective way to teach your dog obedience and discipline because when you act like a leader, they will see your dominance as a force to be reckoned with. In return, they’ll listen to you and follow your commands.

However, according to some modern trainers, this method is no longer effective as recent studies revealed that dogs do not rely as heavily on pack mentality as previously believed. That’s because the pack dynamic patterned from wolves doesn’t work the same way to animals held captive or living a domestic life.

Even though dominance training can curb undesirable behaviours, modern dog trainers sometimes consider it outdated.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement training is a reward-based technique meant to encourage your dog by either verbally praising them, giving them treats, or playing with them after doing a good behaviour.

This is known as one of the most effective dog training techniques because the reward makes your dog more likely to repeat the good behaviour. 

Positive reinforcement doesn't require taking something away or imposing a negative consequence, that’s why many people find it easier to do than other techniques. Also, it's a lot easier to encourage behaviours than to stop them, making reinforcement generally a more effective tool than punishment.

Negative Reinforcement method

While positive reinforcement sounds a lot better than negative, some trainers believe negative reinforcement isn’t always bad. The word 'negative' here doesn't mean you'll be abusive to your dog, it means taking something bad away. Accompanied by the word ‘reinforce’ meaning encouraging good behaviour.

Some believe that negative reinforcement works more effectively than positive reinforcement-only, especially when training submissive dogs and when trying to unlearn bad behaviours.

Electronic Training

Electronic training, usually called ‘Shock Collar’ training, works by causing a shock– a static shock or a citronella spray– to your dog when they're not doing the desired behaviour.

People who use electronic training claim that shock collars are not really painful for dogs and just give a static correction enough to stop them from misbehaving. This means you can also train your dog even if you’re not right next to them.

Shock collars can be used to teach your dog to follow your instructions’ like teaching them how to work in the field, hunt, or stay inside boundaries. This technique is deemed effective as it instils fear in your dog, making them avoid doing bad behaviours.

This approach does have certain problems, though. Every technique has advantages and disadvantages, and it really depends on you, or the trainer. Misuse with these electronic devices can cause harm, stress, and anxiety to your dog.

Model/Rival (Mirror) Training

The basis of this method is the idea that dogs learn by observing. Trainers, or you, will use other people as role models for showing positive behaviours and receiving rewards.

This is peak "learning by example" technique, and it works best when you and your dog already have a close relationship as they will more likely follow your behaviour. This is considered effective as they personally see you, or another dog, get rewarded after doing something good.

Relationship-based Training

This approach is a combination of several training methods that depends on the bond you and your dog established. As relationship-based training builds on your dog's present accomplishments, it demands greater patience from both sides.

It is similar to mutual understanding and is certainly advantageous to both of you.  Prior to any training session, you must be familiar with your dog's psychology, body language, and basic needs.

Scientific Training

Science-based Training is when you use both classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

  • Classical conditioning - This is used to counter behaviours your dog has involuntarily learned because of repetition. They associated the things you repeatedly do, whether you’re aware or not, with specific things. That’s when you have to do something different to break the “association” and to encourage them to unlearn that bad behaviour.
  • Operant conditioning - This is where negative reinforcement or positive punishment comes. When the “association” is slowly wearing off, try to test their behaviour again. And when they still behave badly, you can either take away something they like and wait for them to behave before giving it back (negative reinforcement) or punish them with something they don’t like (positive punishment).

Scientific-Based Training, therefore, both uses positive rewards and negative punishments. Some researchers believe you should also teach your dog appropriate behaviour without rewarding them every time.

Science-based training is too broad to be properly categorised for now as new research continues to emerge, which can alter the landscape of this technique.

Traditional Dog Training

Traditional dog training includes Alpha Dog/Dominance method which was previously mentioned, and the Fight for Power method.

Several undesirable dog behaviours in the past were seen as evidence of rivalry for the role of pack leader. It includes actions like aggression and disobedience to the owner's commands. In such situations, owners were urged to exert dominance over their dogs by displaying aggressive body postures and intimidating behaviours.

However, relying on these traditional methods may not be as effective as it was before as modern studies have revealed that dog packs are unlikely to organise themselves into such a strict, orderly manner.

These studies gave way to the "modern," dog training method.

Modern Dog Training

The Modern approach uses Positive Reinforcement, Science-based Training, and subcategories of each like Clicker Training and the positive elements of Classical or Operant Conditioning.

Instead of immediately "correcting" unwanted behaviour, the modern approach promotes reinforcement of positive behaviour.

Balanced dog Training 

This approach combines the negative corrections and positive reinforcement of Classical or Operant Conditioning.

Some dog trainers are now asking for the method to be called "Crossover" training because they believe the term "balanced" is deceptive as it suggests a more effective strategy than positive reinforcement alone.

One trainer mentioned that dog training needs balance. It cannot be negative reinforcement only or positive reinforcement only. 

Dog training is indeed a challenge, both for you and your dog, but it’s also a really gratifying feat once accomplished! That’s why knowing how these training techniques work and how effective they are is important. 

You already have something up your sleeve the next time you train your dog, or the first time you choose to train them.

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