Training Styles: What’s Best For You and Your Pup?

When it’s time to start training, you may be confused by all the different training methods that exist.

You’ll find a variety, ranging from the traditional to the contemporary.

Some of these training methods, though different, have plenty of common ground, so that it’s hard to distinguish one from another.

Some rely on rewards, others on punishments, still others on balance between the two.

Which training method should you use with your dog?

Here’s our breakdown of the various training methods, with the pros and cons of each. 

Alpha Dog/Dominance Training Method

This type of training focuses on establishing dominance. It’s based on the old-school idea that dogs perceive the family unit as a kind of “wolf pack” in which there can be only one “alpha.” Proponents of this method believe that owners must project authority by insisting that dogs never go first through a doorway or eat before their humans. 

This traditional method is not as popular as it used to be and generally is considered outdated. But establishing yourself as a reassuring authority figure to your dog can be helpful in other kinds of training, too.

Positive Reinforcement

This is the most popular training method these days, often used by celebrities. The premise is an immediate reward for desired behavior, while unwanted behavior is ignored. One example of positive reinforcement is crate training; your dog gets a treat or a reward every time she enters the crate. (It helps if you have a relaxing, pleasant space like the SlumberPod Pet.)

Positive reinforcement requires plenty of time and patience but generally has good results.

Scientific Training

The scientific method simply means keeping up with the latest research on dog psychology and behavior. Keeping up with this information can eat up a good chunk of time since scientists are making discoveries all the time. But if you’re diligent, you may find plenty of new knowledge about what works and doesn’t work in the dog training process.

Electronic Training

In this type of training, a dog wears an electronic collar which automatically administers a shock or a splash of Citronella every time your dog engages in undesirable behavior. Owners have found this method helpful in teaching dogs to stay within their yard or to work in the field herding or hunting. However, this method can lead to anxiety issues in your dog and harm your relationship with him.

Model-Rival/Mirror Training

In this approach, dogs observe humans receiving rewards for positive behavior. The dog learns by example as he watches the same behaviors get rewarded over and over. It’s especially effective if your dog already has a strong bond with you. But this method is relatively complex and time-consuming and best used by a professional.

Relationship-Based Training

This method relies on your understanding of your dog’s personality and needs. You start with some simple commands, free of distraction or stress. Then, based on your dog’s response, you can gradually work your way up to more complex behaviors, always taking her personality into account.

Clicker Training

This strategy is used alongside the Positive Reinforcement technique. Using a device called a “clicker,” you can make a noise that signals to your dog that he has completed the desired action. Pairing the “click” with a treat (or some other reward that is meaningful to your dog) will eventually cause your dog to form an automatic association between the action and the reward.

The choice of a style of dog training depends on your dog’s personality, the goals you want to achieve, and the amount of time you can invest in the training process. 

With the proper training, you and your pooch will be well on your way to success.