Training classes and Behaviour Modification
using Positive (Force Free) Training
What does "force free training" or "positive training" mean, and why should we use it?
I am very clear about the training methods I use on this website, and on social media. I don't use vague language or generalisations or "trainer speak", because I have nothing to hide and I am happy to explain my training methods to anyone who asks.
There are dozens of scientific research papers and articles written by acknowledged animal behaviour experts as well as veterinary bodies and various animal centred organisations, all of which are available online. All this research shows that using punishment to train dogs is damaging to a dog’s physical and mental wellbeing and the relationship between dog and owner. It also shows that using force free training is the most humane and effective way to train animals. Please click here for a list of links to scientific articles about why punishment should not be used in dog training.
I call myself a “force free trainer” which is someone who uses positive training methods. Some trainers might call themselves "purely positive" or simply "positive". Training with force free methods means that your dog will not be jerked on the leash, or be wearing a prong collar or shock collar. He won't be yelled at or intimidated either, because he didn't get it right. He won't be manhandled, or pulled around. Research shows that if a dog is constantly punished for not getting it right, then the dog may eventually cease to try, shut down and lose confidence. Using positive training is about setting the dog up for success, and giving the dog every opportunity to get it right, which increases the dog's confidence. When a dog doesn't get it right with positive training, we assume it is the trainer who has got it wrong, not the dog because we have not sufficiently helped the dog to understand what we want or there are circumstances in that moment which are the reasons the dog does not comply. In training that uses punishment, it is very often assumed that the dog is purposely being "wilful", "stubborn" or "disobedient" and he is punished for it by a jerk on his neck from the leash or something more severe.
Positive training is based in science. Your dog will not be "bribed" with treats. "Bribed" is a myth and it is not what we do. If you hear someone using that term, then it simply shows they do not understand what positive, science based training means. The reason we use food in force free/positive training is that food is often the strongest reinforcement your dog will decide upon, but some dogs may find access to toys, or mere praise instead is sufficiently reinforcing for them. It is the dog who decides what the reinforcement is, not us.
Once we are sure that a dog has a solid grasp of the behaviour we are teaching, we aim to phase out the food rewards and then reward occasionally.
Zoo keepers can, and do train dangerous predators in their care to cooperate with them for medical checks, procedures and for enrichment purposes using positive training. Science tells us that every species learns in the same way, (this is called **Learning Theory**) be it dog, human or any species you care to mention (and surprisingly, this includes fish!) Therefore, because we are using Learning Theory, we understand there is no dog that ever needs "tougher methods" in order to train it. A modern, educated trainer NEVER needs to use physical punishment of any kind because the science we follow has demonstrated to us that there simply is no need.
In the training world, there's often a saying that "punishment begins where knowledge ends".
(** please click on the link to read about Learning Theory)
This is a biologist called Soham Mukherjee who specialises in reptiles. He trains crocodiles, one of the world's most dangerous predators, using positive training only. All he has is a large chunk of meat as a reward, and a target stick (which is not, by the way, to protect himself with!) He doesn't need a shock collar or a prong collar to train a predator that could kill him easily. He's so relaxed, he's not even wearing shoes! Click on the photo for a short video of him training crocodiles.