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Why You Should Avoid “Obedience” Training Tactics for Dogs and Consider this Alternative Instead

By Animal Courses Direct

dog training class
The most effective dog training encourages positive interactions between the trainer and the dog © HighwayStarz

Firstly, let’s look at the definition of obedience – ‘It is a form of social influence that involves acting on the orders of an authority figure.’

The word ‘obey’ is all over the internet when it comes to training dogs, and unfortunately, it is giving the wrong signals to dog guardians and their position of power. Whilst trying to achieve a status of authority could be a desirable outcome for a parent, teacher, or law enforcement, it’s not the same when it comes to your dog.

Firstly, dogs do not respond in the same way to speech, body language, or emotions in the same way we do. We need to avoid is the idea of ‘how I can get my pet to obey me’ and reframe this concept into ‘how I can get my dog to understand me.’

An authoritative status as a pet caregiver can be safely achieved without using any obedience tactics. You want to encourage your dog to feel comfortable in seeking your guidance. The most effective dog training will encourage positive interactions with you and your dog. It will provide the skills a dog needs to learn what is acceptable and what is not.  The success rate of this will be entirely dependent on your behavior, and therefore we could reposition obedience training to be intended for humans, and not for dogs.

If you look at most reputable dog companies, they will not endorse any sort of ‘obedience’ training for your dog. They will and should talk about building a good relationship with your canine companion and will encourage force-free training. However, if you are concerned and the dog is showing any signs of aggressive behavior, destructive behavior, or phobias and anxieties, you should seek out a canine behavior professional.

Another misconception is that puppies can be trained from the age of six months. Unfortunately, this is far too late. Dogs age differently from us humans, and by the age of six months the dog has already learned a core behaviors and picked up skills he/she may use for the rest of his/her life!

Unfortunately, one of the reasons dogs can end up at rescue centers is because valuable training was not introduced in puppyhood. It is very much the caregiver’s responsibility to treat their new puppy with respect, patience, and understanding. A puppy will learn from you the moment you bring them into your home for the first time. And in terms of goals, you should be focused on showing the puppy important life goals such as:

– Dealing with certain situations (staying calm)
– Creating positive manners (greetings and Interactions)
– Housetraining (sleep, eat, play and poop)
– Physical boundaries (safe vs. out of bounds)

dog training
The ideal goal for any caregiver when training a dog is to avoid any stress and to reward good behaviour © michaeljung

There is an abundance of research into canine training that demonstrates that using positive, force-free and reward-based methods is the most effective type of learning for dogs.

If force-free behavioral training is taught correctly, and as an guardian, you can remain in a consistent, calm, and positive manner then you and your dog will reap many benefits from these positive tactics. Studies show that it will increase the bond between dog and caregiver, it will reduce behavior problems and improve the puppy’s confidence in learning and development capabilities.

However, going back to the idea of authority, we need to consider that dogs will need to be trained to respond to certain cues from their caregivers. As well as these vital life skills, dogs also need to be able to respond to cues sometimes. A cue is a signal that tells your dog what you would like him/her to do. This sounds a lot like getting the dog to do what he/she is told but it’s actually very different.

The ideal goal for any caregiver when training a canine is to avoid any stress and to reward good behavior. Positive cues are important, and you must give the dog the option to respond to the behavior, and if they do not respond, then they are not rewarded with a treat or praise. They will quickly pick up the idea of positive reinforcement and will enjoy the rewards when they get something right, and that can include your pleased reaction – many dogs respond to praise regardless (but of course they would prefer the treat!). Once mastered, treats can be phased out and he/she will start to adapt their behavior to the cues you have created.

However, if you believe your puppy needs a bit more support, then there are plenty of puppy classes that can help this learning process. Just be mindful and check that they do not use any obedience tactics and look for positive reinforcement classes that might be labelled: ‘Puppy Good Manners’ or ‘Canine Coaching’. Classes like these are also important for canine socialization, and enrichment. The classes should be fun and enjoyable for both caregiver and dog.

Animal Courses Direct is a supporter of force-free training and we have always produced courses that include positive techniques and behavior based training. We believe that forceful and obedience related methods for any type of animal training should be avoided at all costs. Only experienced canine behavior consultants will be able to identify problems and will be able to implement training and provide support to improve the animal’s well-being.

If you are interested in becoming a qualified canine behavir consultant, then we have many options for you. Our Ofqual regulated qualifications in Canine Behaviour and Welfare range from Level 2 to Level 6. The Combined Canine Behaviour Management Diplomas Ofqual Levels 3, 4, 5 and 6 combine the required levels of study and provide in-depth knowledge with full tutor support. Upon completion of this combined course, students will have the equivalent of an honors degree, such as a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Hons.

Please visit our website at for more information or contact our friendly student support team on +44 (0) 1202 006 040.

About Animal Courses Direct
Animal Courses Direct is the largest organisation in the UK, offering Ofqual approved qualifications that meet government-regulated standards. They offer a comprehensive selection of accredited practical and online courses and have been improving animal welfare through education since 2005. They are approved and accredited by National Awarding Bodies: City & Guilds, Lantra, AIM Qualifications and Open College Network West Midlands and their Ofqual approved qualifications comply with Defra Animal Activity Licensing (AAL) Regulations.

Animal Courses Direct training and behavior courses only promote force-free methods. Their courses emphasize ethics, environmental enrichment, behavior, compassionate handling and stress relief. From the UK and Europe to Africa, the Americas and beyond, Animal Courses Direct offer practical courses working hands-on with animals where students can make a real difference to animal welfare and gain valuable experience. 

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