To me ‘Positive Training’ means ensuring that your pet learns in the most effective and enjoyable way possible. It does not have to mean a lack of boundaries, consequences or leadership
‘Leadership’ does not mean putting your pet down in order to elevate your status. Dominance theory really is a myth!
Your pet has to rely on you for food, shelter, keeping them healthy as well as love and entertainment – we even get to influence whether they have a romantic life! Therefore if your pet is acting up, they are not trying to ‘dominate’ you – but just trying to figure out how to live with you. Your pet needs to know that you can be relied upon. In short that ‘You’ve Got This’. It is, therefore, important that you have a relationship based on trust and reassurance.
Boundaries and Consequences
It is important that your pet knows what behaviour is and is not acceptable.
Sadly they do not speak English and so will only learn by interacting with you and the rest of your family. Clear and consistent boundaries and household rules are very important so that your pet can predict what may happen and therefore relax.
I don’t use aversive methods such as shock collars, spray collars, rattle cans or water bottles as these have been shown to cause increased stress (see research), unpredictable behaviour (see research) and increased incidents of aggression (see research).
Positive training, however, does not mean a lack of consequences following an undesirable behaviour. Often the consequence is to make sure that the behaviour is no longer effective – i.e. we have removed the outcome that was causing the animal to repeat the behaviour and we encourage them to do something we do want instead. In my view, pets can be taught consequences without the addition of something which induces fear or unnecessary stress. The trick is to teach them that providing an alternative more desirable behaviour has a positive consequence and therefore makes it more likely to be something they will repeat!
If you want to know more about positive training methods and the science behind it, click on the links below to discover some fantastic articles all about the subject. You can also follow my Facebook page and subscribe to this site so you don’t miss any updates.
- The Science Behind Positive Training (Victoria Stilwell)
- The Squirt Bottle Controversy (Pam Johnson-Bennet) A great article on why punishment with cats doesn’t work.
- Fairy Tales – Top 10 Behaviour Myths (Jean Donaldson), Behaviour Magazine, January 2008 Issue
- Why Avoid Aversives in Dog Training? (4Paws University- facebook page)
- Training Dogs With the Help of the Shock Collar: short and long term behavioural effects (Schilder, van der Borg) Applied Animal Behaviour Science 85 (2004) 319–334
- Dominance in domestic dogs-useful construct or bad habit? (Bradshaw, Blackwell, and Casey) Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 4(3), (2009), pp.135-144.