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The importance of training positively

At the core of every positive relationship, is trust. 

Just like the relationships we forge with our human family and friends, the bonds that form between us and our pets are based on trust.  If trust is broken, the relationship will be damaged, sometimes beyond repair.

Because we don't speak the same language as our pets, communication is often challenging.  Animals view the world very differently than humans, and humans commonly make the mistake of assuming our pets understand what we want them to do, when they usually don't.

Rewarding behaviors that we want while ignoring behaviors we don't is referred to as Positive Reinforcement Training, and it's the only method of training we recommend.  Punishment-based (or aversive) training methods confuse pets.  To pets, this punishment seems to come "out of the blue", causing them to expect it at any time.  Rather than trusting their owners, these pets learn that their owners are unpredictable and cause pain and fear randomly, so are not to be trusted.  This causes unnecessary stress and can even lead to a pet becoming aggressive in an attempt to prevent future punishment.  

To build the bond between you and your pet,
reward - don't punish.

Dominance and Dog Training
 
Courtesy of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers

The use of dominance and pack theory in explaining dog behavior has come under a great deal of scrutiny as of late. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers wishes to inform the dog owning public about the ramifications of a reliance on dominance theory as it relates to understanding dogs, interpreting their behavior, and living harmoniously with our canine companions.


Theory and Misconceptions
Contrary to popular thinking, research studies of wolves in their natural habitat demonstrate that wolves are not dominated by an "Alpha Wolf" that is the most aggressive male, or male-female pairing, of the pack. Rather, they have found that wolf packs are very similar to how human families are organized, and there is little aggression or fights for "dominance." Wolves, whether it be the parents or the cubs of a pack, depend on each other to survive in the wild; consequently wolves that engage in aggressive behaviors toward each other would inhibit the pack's ability to survive and flourish. While social hierarchies do exist (just as they do among human families) they are not related to aggression in the way it is commonly portrayed (incorrectly) in popular culture. As Senior Research Scientist L. David Mech recently wrote regarding his many years of study of wolves, we should "once and for all end the outmoded view of the wolf pack as an aggressive assortment of wolves consistently competing with each other to take over the pack." (Mech, 2008)

 

In addition to our new understanding of wolf behavior, study into canine behavior has found that dogs, while sharing some traits with their wolf cousins, have many more significant differences. As a result, the idea that dog behavior can be explained through the application of wolf behavior models is no more relevant than suggesting that chimpanzee behavior can be used to explain human behavior. Unfortunately, this idea that dogs are basically "domesticated wolves" living in our homes still persists among dog trainers and behavior counselors, as well as breeders, owners, and the media.


One of the biggest misconceptions we find ourselves faced with is the definition of "dominance." Dogs are often described as being "dominant" which is an incorrect usage of the term. Dominance is not a personality trait. Dominance is "primarily a descriptive term for relationships between pairs of individuals." and moreover, "the use of the expression 'dominant dog' is meaningless, since "dominance" can apply only to a relationship between individuals. (Bradshaw et al., 2009) Dominance comes into play in a relationship between members of the same species when one individual wants to have the first pick of available resources such as food, beds, toys, bones, etc.

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