With so much conflicting information about dog training online and the fact that dog training is unregulated in B.C., trying to find reliable dog training information can be overwhelming.
That is why we bring you the five elements of humane dog training. Learn to recognize them for a happier dog and a happier you.
“I want my dog to be happy” is a common feeling among dog guardians. Wanting their dogs to walk without pulling, bark less often and politely keep paws on the ground is common too. Who wouldn’t want a dog who reliably follows cues and is relaxed and happy?
Training is necessary to achieve those goals, but it doesn’t have to come at the expense of your dog’s happiness. In fact, if done right, training will enhance your dog’s life by helping them learn the skills they need and increase their happiness. That is what humane dog training is all about.
What is humane dog training?
Humane dog training is training that does not scare dogs or use punishments like shouting, pushing, hitting or leash corrections. Instead, it is training that is positive, effective, and builds the human-animal bond.
Some trainers define humane training as helping dogs to learn and treating them with the respect and love that all dogs deserve. We agree.
5 elements of humane dog training
1. Humane dog training uses rewards like food and play to help dogs learn.
Rewarding dogs when they get something right (i.e. positive-reinforcement) motivates them and increases the likelihood that the behaviour you want will reoccur. A good example is a treat that is given to a dog when they follow a sit cue. The treat is the added element that builds the dog’s desire to continue to sit when asked – their paycheque! Positive elements to add go beyond treats. A “good boy!”, petting, play and toys can all be valuable tools and will result in your dog eagerly looking forward to a training session.
2. Humane training requires dog guardians to participate and learn along with their dog.
Dog guardians need to learn alongside their dog. Even when a trainer is working alone with your dog, it is essential that you learn training skills so you can continually reinforce your dog’s learning. Humane training relies on building strong guardian-dog relationships – your dog can’t do it alone, they need you!
3. Humane training educates guardians on dog body language and communication.
Dogs “tell” their guardians their feelings with every movement their bodies make. In humane training guardians learn to recognize what their dog’s body language is communicating about their emotions. This allows the guardian to anticipate dog behaviour before it happens, and intervene in a positive way if needed.
4. Humane training does not use punishment-based methods that cause pain or scare dogs.
Fear or pain-based training methods have no place in humane training. Choke, prong or shock collars and punishments like shouting, pushing, hitting or leash corrections should not be used. These methods are unnecessary for learning. Evidence shows that they can increase anxiety and aggression, and even make dogs afraid of their guardians. That is something you do not want.
5. Humane training is fun for you and your dog and makes your bond stronger.
When training activities are fun and enjoyable, both the dog and guardian stay motivated. It is not fun for either of you if you find yourself continually punishing your dog to train them, and it is likely not the relationship you dreamed of when you got your dog. Humane trainers know that a positive approach that treats both dogs and guardians with respect and kindness is the key to learning.
When it comes to dog training, learning to recognize what’s best for your dog is not an easy task. Remember, dog training is unregulated, which means anyone can call themselves a dog trainer and give advice.
Guardians need to be informed and know what’s best for their dogs.
The BC SPCA can help – we have created a community of AnimalKind accredited dog trainers who use humane training methods and are ready to help. Find the right trainer and give you and your dog the positive experience of happy training!