There are lots of reasons to use positive reinforcement techniques for dog training. Perhaps the ones that are most persuasive are those that cite the science behind it. It is worthwhile to check out the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior and look at some of the studies – if you are on the fence, you will become a convert.
Over the years, dog training has tended to go in cycles as to what’s popular. When I got my first puppy as an adult, an Old English Sheepdog named Lindsay (she came with that name by the way), the classes that were popular (and many of the books) pretty much all suggested using choke chains. You put a chain around you dog’ s neck, barked at her to sit and if she didn’t, you yanked on the chain. I remember going to class after a hard day’s work at a high-stress job and not looking forward to it at all. I also tended not to practice – again, who wants to set up a time to have what amounts to a confrontation with your dog? In spite of this (or maybe because she had so much hair and she didn’t notice the collar that much) she turned into a good dog – although probably not the dog she could have been.
Years later, I found AnimalSense (this wasn’t meant to be a commercial, but I was a client long before I was a trainer) and the positive techniques they used. It was a revelation. All of a sudden dog training became fun and relaxing. I loved seeing my dog do things quickly and happily and the progress was great. It also made so much sense. Four therapy dogs later, I feel pretty pleased with the results.
In recent years, there’s been a resurgence in dominance oriented techniques on a popular TV show (one which comes with the warning not to undertake these methods yourself!). Instead, give positive reinforcement a try. Don’t just do it for your dog – do it for yourself. You and your dog will be glad you did.