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Owning a dog can be an mazing and rewarding experience. It can also be frustrating when your dog decides not to listen to you. Proper training is the key to making sure your pup grows up to be an obedient dog, creating a healthier and happier bond between the two of you. Training can take all kinds of forms, from basic obedience training (sit, stay, lie down) to dealing with major behavioral issues.

For decades, research led trainers to use an “Alpha Dog” approach to training. This method taught dogs “their place” in the pack. But new research has led to a shift in philosophy, emphasizing the use of Positive Reinforcement training. But what’s the difference, and how do they relate to your needs?

Positive Reinforcement Training

Positive reinforcement training, or reward based training, is a method that matches good behavior with high valued rewards. When a dog obeys a common (sit, stay, etc) they are met with high praise and rewards (treats, toys). The idea behind this method is that the dog will learn to follow basic commands given by the owner, and eventually the owner can slow down the amount of reward until he dog can simply follow the command for nothing but a pat on the head.

Clicker training, in which a desired behavior is met with a ‘clicking’ sound, is one common method of Positive Reinforcement Training. The “click” sound is met with praise and treats, so the dog learns to associate the clicking with reward. Trainers prefer this approach as it takes a less physical toll on the dog compared to Alpha training.

“Alpha Dog” Training

The “Alpha Dog” approach is based on the idea that the dog’s owner needs to be the leader of the pack, not the dog. This method was born from research on captive wolves, and how they seemingly established hierarchies within their packs. This training method requires the human to assume the role of Alpha over the dog, often times using physical corrections to put the dog in its place.

Undesirable behavior is met with a physical correction, eventually conditioning the dog that a particular behavior is bad and will have negative consequences. Trainers utilize choke chains and pinch collars with on leash dogs, and often use electronic collars (or E Collars) when dealing with off leash dogs. Because of the physical nature of this method, many trainers have denounced the “Alpha Dog” approach as cruel.