Dog training is teaching a response to commands, or the performance of actions not necessarily natural to the dog, and also raising a dog accommodated to his environment by modifying natural digging, barking and eliminating behaviors.The common characteristics of successful methods are knowing the animal's attributes and personality, accurate timing of reinforcement and/or punishment and consistent communication.
Strictly following the model set out in the Koehler Method of Dog Training, some 50 years later, the Koehler method continues to be taught in both class and private training formats. The method is based in the philosophy that a dog acts on its right to choose its actions. Koehler explained that a dog's learned behavior is an act of choice based on its own learning experience. When those choices are influenced by the expectation of reward, the behavior will most likely be repeated, and when those choices are influenced by the anticipation of punishment, they will most likely cease. Once the dog has learned that its choices result in comfort or discomfort it can be taught to make the correct decisions. Action→Memory→Desire encapsulates the learning pattern used by the method; the dog acts, remembers the consequences, and forms the desire to repeat or avoid those consequences. Adherents believe that once the behavior has been correctly taught, it should be performed, thus making any correction, fair, reasonable, and expected. While the model has been used consistently since 1962, some of the punishment procedures described in the book are now not considered necessary, humane, or appropriate by many trainers.
Purely positive or motivational training employs the use of rewards to reinforce good behavior, and ignores all bad behavior. It is based in Thorndike's Law of Effect, which says that actions that produce rewards tend to increase in frequency and actions that do not produce rewards decrease in frequency. Motivational training has its roots in captive animal training, where compulsion and corrections are both difficult and dangerous, and ignoring bad behavior is not problematic as the animal lives under controlled conditions. As a dog training strategy, purely positive training is feasible, but difficult, as it requires time and patience to control the rewards the dog receives for behavior. Some activities such as jumping up or chasing squirrels are intrinsically rewarding, the activity is its own reward, and with some activities the environment may provide reinforcement such as when the response from dog next door encourages barking. Ruff Love is one program based on the method. Stating that "positive is not permissive" the program controls the dog's environment using crates, tethers, and head halters to ensure the dog has little opportunity for bad behaviour and to ensure that the owner delivers all reinforcements.
Clicker training is a nickname given to a positive reinforcement training system based on operant conditioning. The system uses conditioned reinforcers which are able to be delivered more quickly and more precisely than primary reinforcers such as food. The term 'clicker' comes from a small metal cricket adapted from a child's toy, however some trainers using the method use a whistle, a word, or even a light as the conditioned reinforcer. The basis of effective clicker training is precise timing to deliver the conditioned reinforcer at the same moment as the desired behaviour is offered. The clicker is used as a 'bridge' between the marking of the behaviour and the rewarding with a primary reinforcer such as a treat or a toy. The behaviour can be elicited by 'luring' where a hand gesture or a treat is used to coax the dog to sit, for example; or by 'shaping' where increasingly closer approximations to the desired behaviour are reinforced; and by 'capturing' where the dog's spontaneous offering of the behaviour is rewarded. Once a behaviour is learnt and is on cue (command), the clicker and the treats are faded out. Clicker training uses no physical compulsion or corrections and uses almost entirely positive reinforcements. Some clicker trainers use mild corrections such as a "non reward marker"; an "Uhuh" or "Whoops" to let the dog know that the behaviour is not correct, or corrections such as a "Time out" where attention is removed from the dog.
Based on the principles of social learning, model-rival training uses a model, or a rival for attention, to demonstrate the desired behaviour. The method was used by Irene Pepperberg to train Alex the African Grey Parrot to label a large number of objects. McKinley and Young undertook a pilot study on the applicability of a modified version of the model-rival method to the training of domestic dogs, noting that the dog's origins as a member of large and complex social groups promote observational learning. The model-rival training involved an interaction between the trainer, the dog, and a person acting as a model-rival, that is, a model for desired behaviour and a rival for the trainer's attention. In view of the dog, a dialogue concerning a particular toy commenced between the trainer and the model-rival. The trainer praised or scolded the model-rival depending on whether the model-rival had named the toy correctly. It was found that the performance times for completion of the task were similar for dogs trained with either operant conditioning or the model rival method. In addition, the total training time required for task completion was comparable for both methods. A Hungarian dog training group called Népszigeti Kutyaiskola use a variation of model-rival training which they describe as the Mirror Method. The mirror method philosophy is that dogs instinctively learn by following the example of others in their social sphere. Core to the program is including the dog in all aspects of the owner's life and positive reinforcement of copying behaviors. Mirror method dog training relies on using a dog's natural instincts and inclinations rather than working against them.
The concepts of "pack" and "dominance" in relation to dog training originated in the 1940s and were popularized by the Monks of New Skete in the 1970s. The model is based on a theory that "dogs are wolves" and since wolves live in hierarchical packs where an alpha male rules over everyone else, then humans must dominate dogs in order to modify their behavior. However, recent studies have shown that wolves in the wild actually live in nuclear families where the father and mother are considered the pack leaders, and their offspring's status depends on their birth order which does not involve fighting to attain a higher rank, because the young wolves naturally follow their parents' lead.
Animal behaviorists assert that using dominance to modify a behavior can suppress the behavior without addressing the underlying cause of the problem. It can exacerbate the problem and increase the dog's fear, anxiety, and aggression. Dogs that are subjected to repeated threats may react with aggression not because they are trying to be dominant, but because they feel threatened and afraid. Researchers have described several reasons why the dominance model is a poor choice for dog training. First, a relationship based on dominance is established to gain priority access to scarce resources, not to impose particular behaviors on the less dominant animal, so the dominance model is irrelevant for most of the behaviors that people want from their dogs, such as coming when called or walking calmly on a leash. Second dominance-submission relationships, once established, are constantly tested and must be regularly reinforced. Thus people, particularly children and the elderly, may not be able to retain their rank and are at risk of being injured if they attempt to do so. Third, dominant individuals gain priority access to resources, but only while they are present, establishing dominance over a dog does not guarantee its behavior when the dominant individual is distant or absent.
Derived from the theories of symbolic interactionism, relationship based training exploits the patterns of communication, interpretation and adjustment between dogs and their trainers. Building on a positive relationship between them, the method sets out to achieve results that benefit both the dog and the trainer, while at the same time enhancing and strengthening their relationship. The basic principles include ensuring that the dog's basic needs have been met before beginning a training session, finding out what motivates the dog and using it to elicit behaviours, interpreting the dog's body language to improve communication between dog and trainer, using positive reinforcement to encourage desired behavior, training incompatible behaviors to replace unwanted behaviours, and controlling the dog's environment to limit the possibility of unwanted behaviours. A relationship-based approach to dog training is not reliant on using particular training aids or treats, the relationship is always there, and the connection between dog and trainer is sufficiently powerful to achieve the training goals.