How To Train Your Dog The Right Way

Training your dog is a time to bond, not only with your dog but with other dog lovers as well.  For many people, this means connecting on a new level with a community of like-minded individuals, all sharing a common goal: such as potty training your new puppy.

For many years, dogs were trained using negative reinforcement or “alpha-dog” style training. Research has shown, however, that those techniques are not as effective as a newer type of dog training known as positive reinforcement training, sometimes referred to simply as positive training. This method rewards desirable, or “good,” behavior and ignores undesirable, or “bad,” behavior.  In other words, your dog will understand what he/she is doing right, so you can reinforce that behavior many ways.  We learned through our dog training community of experts and their shared branches in the MrOwl community that there are four pillars positive training, including:

  • The use of positive reinforcement

The use of positive reinforcement methods when teaching a dog has been universally endorsed by the behavioral scientific community at large as the most effective, long-lasting, humane, and safest method in dog training. Positive reinforcement means that if you reward “good” behavior, there is a better chance of that behavior being repeated.  And let’s be honest about my training efforts with Rudy and Bella, when they get a treat, they listen.  Animals, like humans, tend to have selective listening disorder at times.  In other words, when they want to listen, they will; however, by developing good habits (like going to the bathroom outside instead of inside), after approximately 17 solid reinforcements of them successfully doing what you want them to, your dog will likely come to you when he/she needs to go out.  My dogs, for example, come over to me and circle me and look toward the door….and then I know it’s time for them to go out.

  • Avoiding the use of intimidation, physical punishment or fear

Scientific studies have shown that the use of confrontational, punitive training techniques on dogs not only does not work long term but actually exacerbates aggressive response and can make already aggressive dogs even more aggressive. Behavioral science advocates against compulsion training. Simply stated, it is not only more humane to reward than to punish, but it’s also more effective.   You can learn more about this by visiting and you’ll even find advice from famed dog behaviorist John McGuigan and others.

Until doing my own research on MrOwl when I got my puppies, I never knew how important “mooching” is with dogs.  And if you’re reading this now, you’re likely to want to learn about it yourself, especially since there is a great video with adorable dogs attached to the information!  When you find links you like, add them to your MrOwl Nest so you can create your own branch which will become a searchable and shareable resource that you can refer back to again and again.

  • A comprehension of the often-misunderstood concept of dominance

The misunderstanding of what dominance is and how it works within the dog world is the single biggest challenge facing people’s ability to develop truly healthy, functional relationships with dogs. The thinking has been that dogs seek to “dominate” and that a person’s task is to assert themselves as pack leader and not allow dogs to be the “alpha dog.” Behavioral science has shown this thinking to be wrong.

  • A commitment to understanding the canine experiencefrom the dog’s point of view

A strong bond cannot be built with a dog unless a person truly understands how the dog perceives the world around him or her. To do this effectively, one must first learn the dog’s language and appreciate its sensory experience. Staying up to date on the behavioral science of dogs is most helpful in this regard.  And just when you think you may know the dog’s language you will realize that you only know part of it.  For example, is your dog trying to communicate with you by bark or by action?  What do the licks (kisses) mean and does that change at different times?  And, most importantly, is your bond strong enough and growing or are you like roommates who happen to be sharing the same home?

Our community frequently talks about the importance of understanding your dog’s perspective(s) and how to make them understand yours.  Not only that, there are literally training tools on our branches that enable you to grow what is likely to become one of your most important relationships (if it isn’t already).

The philosophy behind positive training is that dogs learn good behavior by being rewarded for doing well and punishment doesn’t have to come in the form of a harsh reprimand or physical force. Positive reinforcement trainers often use verbal cues, hand signals, treats, clickers, toys, voice changes, or games to help modify behavior, correct bad habits, and teach tricks. One benefit to positive reinforcement training is that it can be used with both puppies and adult dogs. This positive training branch provides lots of helpful information, collected and collaborated with many, many sources, on positive reinforcement training, like timing and cadence for training, and includes some of the behavioral science behind it.   When I saw the great information on this branch, I grabbed it to save it for later and texted a link to it with some friends who were also in the midst of training their new dogs.  And, if you’re like me and you love watching tv or videos, you can find ones that show you how to train properly within the branches!  Remember, training is hard work, but it should also be fun and inclusive for everyone in your home!

Sit, stay, and come are some basic commands that all companion dogs should be taught. To train a dog to sit using positive training would follow a regimen like this: when you and your dog are in good moods, have some small treats ready. Get the dog’s focus on you by saying their name. Show them a treat and let them sniff it, but not eat it. Slowly move the treat up in front of the dog’s eyes, over their head and towards their back. As you do this say the dog’s name and “Sit!” in an upbeat, yet firm voice. Our MrOwl community says this is the most efficient way to get the dog’s attention and to train it.  As the dog tries to follow the treat with its nose, their rear will naturally go down. As soon as the dog sits, say something like, “Good dog!” and give them the treat. This can take some time; but, keep practicing it several times a day at random intervals and soon the dog will learn the command.

In fact, it is important to make everyone in your house participate in the training process and add everyone as collaborators to your dog training branch so they can put in the things that they’ve found which worked as well.  To learn more about training other commands, visit this dog training branch.  Here, you’ll find intuitive and insightful suggestions, training programs and timing, and most importantly, stories from other dog owners about how they trained their dogs.

Training a dog with positive reinforcement has several side benefits as well. It will improve communication with the dog, create a stronger human-dog bond, burn off excess energy, and it can be fun for everyone – especially your new four-legged family member. In doing so, you’re creating an unbreakable bond of trust, love, and respect.