How to Train Your Dog

Is There An “Only” Way?

Ask any dog owner about how to train your dog and they’ll assure you they know the correct way, the only way to train your dog. To me, however, that sounds a lot like child rearing. One school of thought says to ignore a baby when it cries. Yet other parents find that barbaric and harmful to the infant’s growth. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” has long since evolved to a host of new ideas about child rearing. Should parents be permissive? Authoritative? Whatever style they follow, parents insist they are doing it the right way and their kids will grow up to be responsible, well-mannered adults. How owners teach their dogs manners aren’t terribly different.

positive reinforcement in dog training
Using Positive Reinforcement for Dog Training

Evolving History of Training

In years gone by, if your puppy peed in the house, you rubbed his nose in it. That’s was called housebreaking. Then along came a more refined version: dominance training and the belief that dog owners need to assert themselves as the alpha or pack leader. (By the way, the idea of alpha dogs has pretty much been disproved.) Dominance training’s most well-known proponent is Cesar Millan, who burst on the scene almost 15 years ago with his hit tv show, “The Dog Whisperer.” He was America’s darling, his methods impeccable, until the next correct way to train a dog began gaining traction: positive reinforcement.

Unlike dominance training, which corrects unwanted behavior, positive reinforcement is like it sounds. Bad behavior is ignored, good behavior rewarded. In the time-honored practice of adoring celebrities until the inevitable backlash that tears them down, we have done our part to eviscerate poor Cesar and label his methods cruel and ineffective. I don’t have a beef the Dog Whisperer. I think he has done enormous good in educating people to adopt, not buy their pups. And he has used his fame to promote the need to spay and neuter, and to quite good effect, it appears.

Millan was far from the first dog trainer to use television as a way to educate (and make money), by the way. “The Dog Whisperer” was long preceded by “Training Dogs the Woodhouse Way” a British show that first aired in 1980. Barbara Woodhouse will always be known for her signature command, “Walkies!” However, we can point to Millan for opening the floodgates to ever more experts on the air: “Lucky Dog” “Me or the Dog” and “At the End of My Leash” to name a few.

Now all you need to do is choose a method and then you, too, will know the “only” way to train a dog. (Check out our philosophy for how we care for our pup clients.)

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