Help! My Family Disagrees About Dog Training

Dog sitting on command
Conflicting training styles will only stress out your dog. Make sure your whole family agrees to use positive, rewards-based training methods.

My family and I are at odds about how to train our dog. I've been trying to use praise and rewards, but everyone else is convinced that scaring or punishing her will be more effective. What’s the best approach to teaching the dog how to behave — and how can I handle this conflict with my family?

It is important that you and your family all be on the same page when it comes to training your dog. I am a firm believer in reward-based training; using rewards to encourage desirable behavior can help to increase your dog’s confidence and strengthen her relationship with you. Punishing or scaring her, on the other hand, only teaches her that people are unpredictable and frightening, which can make her anxious and afraid.

Mixing reward-based and punishment-based training strategies can be confusing for your dog. Conflicting human messages, unpredictable consequences and uncertainty about what behaviors are acceptable can heighten stress and anxiety. Inconsistent training methods may also cause your dog to be inhibited around people and less likely to respond to commands or requests.

Why Rewards Work Best

Reward-based training is the best way to change and shape your dog’s behavior. Consistently rewarding specific behaviors, such as keeping all four paws on the ground when greeting people or walking calmly on a loose leash, allows your dog to learn what is expected of her. Ignoring unwanted behaviors like leash pulling or begging help teach your dog that they are not worth the effort.

Reward-based training also teaches your dog that she can trust you by creating predictable and consistent patterns of interaction: When she does what you are asking, she receives a reward, every time. Rewarding her for acceptable behavior also helps to build her confidence, both in herself and in you. And positive reinforcement strengthens the bond between you and your pet.


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