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Learning Vs Ethology Based Dog Training Techniques

Different Methods of Dog Training

One of the first decisions new dog owners have to make is choosing the most effective dog training technique. There are many different training techniques, each having its own supporters and opponents. However, they all can be divided into two broad groups: learning-based and ethology-based dog training techniques.

Learning-based dog training techniques, which are also more popular than the ethology-based ones, can be further divided into two subcategories: traditional dog training and positive dog training. These groups of dog training techniques will be compared and contrasted to help you choose the best one for you and your dog.

Learning-based Dog Training Techniques

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These techniques are based on the principles of operant conditioning. In other words, they are about creating various consequences for a particular dog’s behavior. Positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and punishment are used as the primary ways of affecting dog behavior. Since the two learning-based techniques are so different from each other, they must be covered separately.


Traditional Dog Training

Traditional dog training was the predominant way of training dogs for many decades. It relies on negative reinforcement and punishment to modify dog behavior. Various devices, such as choke chains as well as prong and shock collars are often used with this type of dog training.

Negative reinforcement aims to encourage a particular behavior by relieving pain or ending an unpleasant situation once a particular action is done. To avoid the unpleasant stimulus in the future, the dog will again do what helped him end the unpleasant situation before.

For example, pushing on a dog’s shoulders will cause an unpleasant feeling for him. If the dog discovers that there is no pushing if he lies down, the dog will most probably do the same thing more often in the future. That way the dog is learning to lay down with the help of negative reinforcement.

In contrast to negative reinforcement, punishment is an unpleasant consequence of a particular action. Punishment intends to discourage undesirable behavior by punishing, e.g., hitting or yelling at the dog.

Even though punishment is sometimes an effective way of preventing an undesired behavior, it almost always has negative side effects. Punishment can lead to your dog becoming aggressive or biting you, and the dog can get injured morally traumatized during the punishment.

Furthermore, punishing your dog will make him afraid of you and distrustful of people in general. If you want to keep your dog morally stable and have a good bonding with him, never use punishment in your dog training.

Traditional dog training is often criticized for its cruelty and potentially harmful side effects.

Positive Dog Training

Positive dog training, a relatively new training technique, relies primarily on the principles of positive reinforcement dog training. Positive reinforcement is used to encourage a particular behavior by providing a positive experience as a direct consequence of it.

For example, if you want to teach your dog the SIT command and the dog obeys to it, you reward him with a little treat, petting, praising or playing a game. You create a positive experience for the dog, which he then associates with performing the desired action. To get rewarded again, the dog is willing to do the same good thing in the future.

Clicker training is one of the most common types of positive dog training. Clicker is a device that is used to produce a click-click type of sound. Using a clicker enables you to mark the exact moment when the desired behavior is displayed.

Positive dog training is a great and rewarding experience for both the dog and his owner. Since the dog is rewarded instead of being punished or traumatized, this type of training is very effective and results in a close relationship between the dog and his owner. For this reason, the vast majority of dog training experts recommend using positive dog training.

Ethology-based Dog Training Techniques (aka Dog Whispering)

Ethology is the study of animal behavior in their natural environments. Rather than reinforcing or punishing a particular behavior, ethology-based techniques try to make use of natural dog behavior and communication patterns.

dog outside

The most important concept in this kind of techniques is that dog owners should establish themselves as the leaders or the alpha-dogs of the pack, trying to emulate the hierarchy that exists between wild canines. This is to be achieved by the use of specific actions and a dominant body language.

Even though this technique sounds promising, it is still relatively undeveloped and there is no consensus on whether it actually works. If you are new to dog training, I recommend that you stick to positive dog training instead.

As long as you are consistent and persistent, positive dog training will enable you to fix any dog behavior issues you may have.

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About the Author Joycey

All my life I've been in love with one big friendly dopey Mastiff family member after another. No other breed has given me so much pleasure. I care about them as much if not more than most of the people I've ever known and now it's a dream to be able to research and write up everything my team and I have learned and are continuing to learn. Hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoy writing :)

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