If you’ve recently come across the force-free method of dog training and you’re wondering exactly what it is, you’re in the right place. Below, we’ll go over everything you need to know about this modern evidence-backed strategy. We’ll go over the basic tenants, the benefits, and some tips for success. We have much to discuss, so let’s get started!
What is the Force-free Method of Dog Training
First, it’s important to understand that force-free dog training isn’t a single strategy but rather a philosophy encompassed by numerous evidence-based training methods.
The force-free dog training method is a strategy based on animal behavior science. It uses positive reinforcement to reward desired behaviors and redirects or prevents undesired behaviors. Essentially, force-free dog training entails using positive methods to teach your dog what you want, rather than using punishment to teach him what you don’t want. This method is effective and humane and builds a strong bond between you and your dog.
This type of training is based on the theory that dogs learn best when rewarded for desired behaviors. The method relies heavily on positive reinforcement, such as treats, praise, and toys, to reward dogs for good behavior. Force-free training strategies teach owners how to communicate effectively with their dogs instead of overpowering them through physical punishment or negative reinforcement techniques.
Benefits of Force-Free Dog Training
There are many benefits to using force-free methods when training your dog. Let’s look at the most notable:
- One of the most important benefits is that it helps to build a strong bond between you and your dog.
- Dogs who are trained using force-free methods are less likely to be fearful or aggressive and more likely to be responsive and obedient.
- Additionally, force-free methods are often more fun for the trainer and the dog, making the training process more enjoyable for everyone involved.
- Finally, research has shown that dogs trained with force-free methods learn faster and retain information better than those prepared with traditional methods.
Tips for Positive Dog Training (What to Do & What NOT to Do)
The force-free method of dog training is all about positive reinforcement. That means rewarding your dog for good behavior instead of punishing them for bad behavior. With this approach, your goal is to build a strong bond with your dog based on trust and mutual respect.
Here are some suggestions for training your dog with positive reinforcement:
1. Be consistent with your commands.
Dogs respond best to consistency in training, so make sure you use the exact words for the same behaviors every time. For example, if you’re training your dog to come when called, pick ONE command, such as “come,” or “here.” Don’t switch back and forth between them.
You can, however, mix in a hand signal with the verbal command. In fact, I recommend it, as sometimes you may need to call your dog from across a distance (like at the dog park). Again, though, make sure it’s always the exact same signal.
Check out the video below for some tips on how to teach your dog hand signals
2. Be patient & Keep Your Cool
I can’t stress this enough. Dogs develop at their own pace, so don’t get frustrated if they don’t catch on right away. Just keep rewarding them for good behavior; eventually, they’ll get it. Losing your cool with Fido is a surefire way to stress both of you out. If you feel yourself getting annoyed, end your training session for the day.
3. Use treats wisely.
Treats can be a great way to reward your dog but don’t overdo it, or they’ll get overweight. Stick to healthy treats like pieces of fruit or veggies or very small amounts of lean meat. Green beans make great training treats, as they’re very low in calories. In fact, some vets put dogs on a green bean diet to help them lose weight.
One way to avoid overdoing it is to use praise in conjunction with treats from the beginning. Basically, at first, you’ll give Fido both a treat and a bit of praise when he follows a command. As time goes on and he masters a task, use treats less and less often, until you replace them entirely with praise.
4. Get creative.
There’s more than one way to reward your dog for good behavior. In addition to treats, you can also use verbal praise or even a good belly rub.
Keep in mind, though, that some breeds just aren’t people pleasers. Honestly, these dogs couldn’t care less about whether or not you think they’re the “best boi ever,” so praise doesn’t really do the trick. If you have such a breed, you’re going to have to find another way to reward them that doesn’t involve food. A walk, a game of fetch, or playtime with a toy that you only bring out as a reward are all good alternatives.
5. Be aware of body language (Both Yours and Your Dog’s)
Force-free training isn’t just about not hitting or yelling at your dog when he doesn’t quite get something right. It’s also about your overall demeanor. As I mentioned above under “be patient,” dogs are very in tune with our emotions. If you’re standing there with your arms crossed and an angry look on your face, chances are Fido is going to pick up on it. Practice keeping your expression neutral for times when training isn’t going so well.
You also want to be aware of your dog’s body language. Every dog is different, but the video below has a good overview of the more common ways dogs communicate with their body language:
Training should be a pleasurable experience for you and your dog. It will help you establish a safe and healthy routine in your home, strengthen your bond with your pet, and build trust.
Whether you are a new pet owner or simply trying to teach an old dog new tricks, following the force-free method of dog training is by far the best way to create a lifelong bond build on trust between you and your pooch.
Have you used the force-free method of dog training? Share your thoughts below!