Force Free Dog Training, Positive Reinforcement Training, Modern Dog Trainer.. Maybe all of these phrases are self explanatory but maybe they aren't. In this article I want to discuss the topic of Force Free Dog Training and what that really means.
There are thousands of dog trainers all over the world, some who are highly regarded and some that have techniques that make you feel perhaps a tad uncomfortable. These days there is a lot of light being shone on 'Positive Reinforcement' methods and 'Force Free Training', but it's funny how many of our clients don't actually know what they are asking for the first time when they come to us. Clients will ask "are you a positive trainer?", our simple answer is of course "yes we are"! But we always ask the question "do you actually understand what you are asking?", with which we get the response "no, not really".
Positive Reinforcement and Force Free Dog Training come hand in hand, you can't really be "Force Free" unless you use Positive Reinforcement, simply because there is no other way to train your dog force free.
Force Free simply means what it says, the dog training method used doesn't force the dog to complete the task. So for instance, to teach a dog to 'Sit' using Positive Reinforcement a dog would be guided into the sit position or the trainer would wait for the dog to initiate a Sit by him or herself and then that behaviour would be marked/rewarded and reinforced. Using the opposite to a 'Force Free' technique, and this still happens today, would mean the dog is forced into a Sit position by maybe pushing their hind quarters to the floor with sheer human force, this may be rewarded or it may be "insisted". Perhaps a more head scratching way is when a 'Lay' or 'Down' command/cue is performed. Using force free methods a trainer may show the dog food in front of their face to lure them down to the ground, again once the task is complete they would mark/reward the behaviour. The alternative for dog trainers that use forcible methods may put a dog on a lead, step on the lead, hold the handle and pull the dog so they are pulled downwards into position, again this may be marked/rewarded or "insisted"!
What do I mean by "insisted", well, if the dog moves out of his or her position that he or she was put in the trainer may punish the dog or use a method of Negative Reinforcement, in essence until the dog returns to it's commanded position they will endure unpleasant stimulus or feelings.
When you force a dog to complete a task, particularly one that is new to the dog, this method can be frighting to the dog, it might stress the dog, it might stress a dog even further if they are already in a stressed state. If you have children or if you work with children then, I hope, you will understand the need to educate them with the most fun of exercises, they should be heavily regarded for tasks they complete, they should be encouraged to understand not forced. I have 3 beautiful children plus 1 on the way, 5 amazing dogs and a beautiful Fiancee My children and my animals are all encouraged the same way when I teach them something new, we always make the learning fun, informative and exciting so it's then something they want to learn. Of course dogs brains are far simpler than the human brain but the principal for me is the same, make it fun, make learning fun and exciting there is no need to teach a new skill to any animal using force.
Make the right choices in life :-)