Types and methods of dog training
Listing all possible types of dog training is impossible. Are you a beginner who has just started to take his first steps in sports dog training? Are you an owner who has just bought his puppy? Have you adopted a dog in a kennel for the first time? Are you an experienced dog handler but trying to expand your knowledge? I can understand the confusion you’re in: the offer is varied and choosing what it really does for us is very complicated. Similar but differently called methods, aggressive marketing campaigns, methods that are actually tools, orienting yourself in the choice of the instructor that is right for you can be very tiring and you risk choosing according to inappropriate criteria, such as price or proximity from home.
Dog training types – first of all try to understand what kind of service you need:
– Education: these are pedagogical paths for puppies and adult dogs aimed at building fruitful relationships within the family. It is for the dog to become a good pet and for the owner to become the best two-legged friend. Usually these paths are not performative, they last about 3-4 months and provide the teaching of key competences for the correct integration in urban and domestic environment. During these trainings teams learn the rules of good management (dog care, kennel management, resource management, dog needs), basic behaviours (walking on a leash, visit to the vet, sit down, stay, recall…) and relational skills (play, environmental socialization, socialization with humans, socialization with other dogs). If you are a new owner and you have just adopted a dog or you have just bought a puppy then this service is a good starting point! In this types of dog training you will lay the necessary foundations for a good relationship with your dog, you will be able to prevent the appearance of problematic behaviours and you will be able to orientate yourself in the dog-training world to eventually start a sporting or professional activity.
– Sports training: these are courses aimed at teaching a sporting activity with both purely recreational and competitive purposes. In this type of work it is taken for granted that the team already has a solid base of education, that the basic behaviours are learnt and all the focus is given to the learning of technical skills necessary for the construction of the behaviours required by the sport in which one wants to participate. Obviously, the expert dog-trainer will very often approach sports training directly, already having the skills to meet the needs of a basic education of his puppy.
– Professional dog training: these are training courses aimed at training the dog to search for missing persons, detection, guide dogs and other activities that the dog is called to perform in aid of man. Contrary to what you might think, if all dogs can carry out recreational activities, only a few dogs can become good working dogs. Therefore, professional training starts very early, when the puppy is selected at the breeding farm. Obviously a good professional training will take into account all the physiological and relational needs of the puppy and the adult dog, which very often lives together with its handler not only during the working activity but also during daily life.
– Behavioural modification: these are training protocols aimed at modifying problematic behaviours for the correct integration of the dog into the family or society. If your dog barks incessantly, shows phobias, has attacked people or other dogs, then you should look for a dog centre that offers behavioural modification pathways so that unpleasant behaviours can be replaced with more functional ones.
Is it clearer now? Well, keep following my reasoning and I’ll help you choose more precisely.
Once you have established the macro-category of dog training type that is right for you, you need to understand which is the working method that best suits your ethics.
– Electronic training: it is banned in many European countries. It provides for the use of electric impulse collars for building behavior. The electric collar is used both as a negative reinforcement (the dog by acting the correct behaviour interrupts the negative electric stimulation) and as a positive punishment (the dog receives an electric shock when emitting unwanted behaviour). Consequences of this type of training are escape, avoidance and in some cases aggressiveness. In addition to obvious ethical implications
– Alpha dog: This is a method based on the idea that the owner is the alpha, i.e. the dominant subject of the pack, while the dog is a lower-ranking subject. This method uses management rules such as the fact that the owner eats first, passes through the doors first, is the only one to get on the couch, etc. Obviously these methodologies are dated and whose validity has been questioned by recent scientific research that shows how in reality the wolf pack is organized differently from this pyramidal hierarchy.
– Relationship based dog training type: it is a teaching based on the relationship between dog and owner, it is based on communication and is a method usually used for basic education.
– Positive training: Professionals who use this methodology claim to use positive reinforcement only, i.e. they reward desired behaviors and ignore unwelcome behaviors. In reality behind this types of dog training there is only a marketing operation because when you ignore a behavior you are applying a negative punishment (subtract something that the dog wants, i.e. food, or attention or pampering).
– Scientific training: this is a method in continuous evolution, based on the latest scientific discoveries. It uses the principles of operating conditioning and is evidence based. It has a solid ethical framework and is respectful of the dog’s welfare.
At this point in the article it should be easier to choose the right dog centre for you! Remember: dog training is also and above all relationship. Choose an instructor with whom you feel you can build a relationship of understanding and trust and don’t be afraid to ask.
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