Those of us at Midwest Australian Shepherd Rescue believe force free training – also commonly referred to as positive reinforcement – is the only method of successful training. The heavy-handed approaches that were commonly used in years past for training were born out of an attempt to apply what people thought they knew about animal behavior to our domestic canines. Science is ever evolving and our job as trainers and dog owners is to continue our quest to better understand these fascinating animals by staying up-to-date with what the modern behavioral scientific community is learning about animals and dogs, in particular.
We’ve known for a while that training dogs with aversive methods, including electronic collars, has risks for animal welfare. Positive reinforcement training is effective and does not have those risks. Studies have shown increased fear and stress in dogs trained with electronic collars and it is possible for dogs to associate this with things other than the behaviour being punished. There is no research that suggests electronic training collars are more effective; in contrast, there is some research that suggests positive reinforcement leads to better results.
Your dog learns that good things happen to him when he does the thing you like. Positive-reinforcement teaching techniques use non-confrontational methods to work a dog’s brain – rewarding positive behavior, establishing rituals and training actions that are incompatible with negative behavior, and lessening a dog’s anger and frustration – all while enabling the dog to feel good inside. If you reinforce a dog’s desirable behaviors, there is less of a chance that she will indulge in other behaviors that you do not like. Decision-making is influenced without the use of force, and the dog’s trust in the owner is not violated through threatening treatment.