So a few people have asked about what kind of methods I use for training and why, particularly when it comes to reactive dogs. This is going to be a long post but I promise it will be worth your time 🙂
I use positive reinforcement which is also known as; reward-based training, science-based training, force/pain-free training where a dog learns that good things come to them when they do what you like/want. The good things are rewards such as praise, play, food, toys, going for a walk etc etc. Meaning the behaviour you wanted is more likely to happen again.
Punishment or 'pack leader' training methods are more based on fear, intimidation, pain and discomfort, so your dog won't want to repeat the behaviour you don't want based on these consequences. Despite what you may see on TV these methods have nothing at all to do with dogs being pack animals and you needing to be the leader of the pack, if you watch closely and break the behaviour down correctly, it is simply the dog (in most cases) avoiding pain/discomfort/fear etc. It does not deal with the underlying issues the dog has.
For example say a dog is reactive towards other dogs and barks and lunges, a kick to its side or a yank on the lead may well stop the dog from barking at that time as it will learn that barking causes pain/discomfort from you, but what about the 'WHY', why is the dog barking/lunging? If you don't understand and solve the underlying issue then it will never go away, 'results' will be short lived or you will be forever yanking on your dogs lead. Not only that but if you look at the dogs body language closely you will see a very unhappy dog, which is often mislabelled as being 'submissive', this isn't so, the dog is tense, unhappy and shut down (shows very little if any other behaviours) this is the kind of relationship I DO NOT want with my dog!
Positive reinforcement modifies and changes a dogs behaviour by giving your dog the ability to learn and feel differently, this is extremely important when it comes to reactive dogs. Every single undesirable behaviour cannot be down to you not being a good enough pack leader, there is no one size fits all reason behind undesirable behaviour. Not allowing your dog to sit on the sofa, eat first, go through doors first, walk in front of you ,and all the other misconception we so often hear, are nonsense! Not allowing your dog on the sofa or to walk through doorways ahead of you WILL NOT solve behavioural issues. After all, how many doorways and sofa's have you seen in the wild? Dogs are not wolves, the same as we are not chimps therefore attempting to replicate more than basic body language or pretending to 'bite' them with your hand is quiet frankly ludicrous and insulting to these wonderful pet dogs we share so much of our lives with and who give us so much more in return.
However what we do KNOW is that learning theory applies to all species of animals and studies have shown that they ALL learn quicker, longer, and more efficiently using positive reinforcement. Think about your work life...how would you feel if you had just started a new job and instead of someone showing you HOW to do the job and giving verbal praise and encouragement when you do it right, they sat you in front of the computer and every time you pressed the wrong button they smacked you around the head, again and again, you have to guess what is the right thing to do but after 20 minutes and a sore head you would probably be on the verge of tears or have walked out, would that make you feel good? or put you off wanting to work ever again? or make you angry? Take a minute to think about how you would feel in this situation. We don't appreciate this kind of method being used on us so why should we use it on dogs! A lot of people say that positive reinforcement is bribery and 'why should a dog do something for something, they should do it because I said so', again, how would you feel living in that kind of environment, you work for a paycheck, so do dogs. If done correctly then no it is not bribery and your dog WILL still behave despite the lack of food on your person.
Dogs that are taught using positive reinforcement methods are more tolerant, self-controlled, confident, happy and behave much more predictably in different situations.
In my opinion a good dog trainer is one who isn't set in their ways and continues to use the old fashioned, old school techniques but one who continually educates themselves. Science is advancing and this gives us a much better insight into dog behaviour and how they learn, this should be utilised to its fullest and any opportunity to be kinder to our best friends, understand them better and move away from forceful/old fashioned techniques, should be leapt upon.