The "Positive Training" Fad

'Positive' training is our main approach here at The Woof Pack.

The LIMA protocol explains what positive training should be and states that as trainers, we must do what is least intrusive and minimally aversive to the dog. What your dog finds aversive (meaning something they seek to avoid) may be different from that of another dog. So it’s the job, as an effective, humane trainer, to determine the least intrusive and minimally aversive methods available to the trainer for each individual dog. “Purely positive training” doesn’t mean there is no discipline or boundaries involved in the training. “Purely positive training” doesn’t mean there is no discipline or boundaries involved in the training.

Food is not only a brilliant motivator, but when used correctly, it has the power to change the way a dog feels about something that upsets them. There should not be bribery involved when using treats in training. We are not just shoving treats in a dog’s mouth. In order for food to be used efficiently, it must be delivered with precision. Trainers must be clear in what and when they reward, and their timing has to be spot-on. When using food to condition a new behaviour, the behaviour is then proofed and once the behaviour is reliable, the reinforcements are eventually faded out, and are then used only intermittently. Trainers are not shoving treats in a dog’s mouth as a distraction or bribery.

Force-free training does not mean that the training is free from punishment or boundaries. In fact, punishment can be a critical component of helping your dog learn. The difference is that a force free trainer will never use force, pain, fear, or intimidation in order to gain compliance from your dog. So along with Positive reinforcement trainers also use negative punishment.

Negative punishment = taking away something the dog wants (as a consequence of the dog practicing an unwanted behavior) in order to decrease that unwanted behavior. Example: Your puppy bites you during play, and you leave for 30-60 seconds. The punishment is that we removed what your puppy wants (playtime with you) in order to decrease the mouthing behaviour. Not scary, not painful, but effective.


Too often people misinterpret “positive” or “force free” training as being completely permissive when that couldn’t be further from the truth. If it’s effective enough for zoos to train lions to give blood samples, orcas to urinate into a cup on demand etc. then it’s effective enough for a domesticated dog who was literally bred to want to please.


Aversive (punishment) techniques can appear to work in the immediate term however they cause discomfort and distress to the dog which can lead to major issues in the future. Positive training helps build the dog's confidence along with your relationship with your dog. Why use aversion methods to train your dog, when you can get the same results without causing the dog distress and being able to enjoy your canine best friend?




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