Every dog training school will use various methods to train canines. From learning how to respond on cue up to performing more complicated tasks, there’s always a way to go around the process.
Dog experts have divided opinions about which method works best. For the most part, schools will use positive reinforcement to encourage the dog to follow commands. But aside from that, there are other methods that might suit at any moment.
Here, I discussed seven of the most popular methods used in dog training along with some crucial skills that your Pittie should learn:
7 training methods for dogs
Here are the seven training methods that might work for your Pitbull:
1. Positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is the most common and widely used method of training dogs. The main premise is to reward good behavior and teach consequence for negative behavior. This is a violence-free and humane method that the likes of the American Kennel Club (AKC) and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) promote.
By repeating the same command and rewarding good response, the dog will associate the act to something positive. Slowly, the physical reward will be removed while ensuring that the dog will remember the command.
Remember, in the positive reinforcement method, there’s no room for punishment. If the dog responds unfavorably, it will only suffer the consequence of not having a reward.
The positive reinforcement method uses three kinds of rewards which also serve as dog training tools:
Low-value rewards. This reward is small treats like kibble, frozen carrot, or tiny biscuits.
Medium value rewards. These treats are usually meat-type and commercial training treats that are bigger than low-value rewards.
High-value rewards. This can be premium treats that are very stinky. Some of these are salmon flavored chew treats or soft bones.
Do you want to know more about positive reinforcement? Here’s dog trainer Victoria Stilwell:
2. Dominance or Alpha training
The Dominance or Alpha training is a method on which the handler or owner imposes his or her authority as the alpha of the pack. As you know, dogs have a natural hierarchical instinct. A canine that stands out in personality and behavior is often seen as the alpha.
Cesar Millan, the famous dog training school owner and behaviorist, popularized this method.
However, some experts say that the Alpha training is a bit outdated and that dogs are no longer relying on the sense of dominance in a domestic setting.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to try this method in a force-free and humane manner.
The other dogs will respect and follow their Alpha. This is why dog owners train their dogs to see them as the leader of the pack.
You can perform this method by being in charge of when your doggo can leave the room, what toys it can play, and what kind of food it can eat. Once your Pitbull notices that you’re providing all its needs, the pooch will consider you as the leader.
Here’s Cesar Millan and how he became the ‘leader of the pack’:
3. Clicker training
Next to the positive reinforcement method, clicker training is another widely used training strategy. It’s a conditioning method on which the trainer will use the sound of the clicker as a sign of positive behavior.
The clicker training is sometimes grouped as a type of positive reinforcement. At first, the click is accompanied by a reward. Once the dog associated the click to the reward, the trainer will soon skip the treat randomly. Such a thing will be done until the treat is totally removed from training.
The clicker is one of the effective dog training tools in re-shaping your dog’s behavior and teaching new tricks. However, the clicking sound can only be used when a dog does something right. Randomly clicking will only defeat the purpose of this method.
Remember that the clicker training method has its limits. If your dog is aggressive and lacking discipline, this may not be an effective way to train it.
Still, you can pair the clicker training with other methods to see better results.
Here’s Zak George and how clicker training is done:
4. Scientific training
A science-based way of training dogs is founded on understanding dog behavior and body language. Through this, the trainer can curb negative behavior and teach new tricks. In his method, the trainer will have to factor in the canine’s trainability, instincts, predisposition, and other traits.
Understanding dog psychology can be tricky, though. Most animal behaviorists that practice this method rely on previous studies which may not be conclusive across all breeds and situations.
It’s important to know that the scientific approach isn’t used as a standalone method. As much as trainers and behaviorists will study the nature of each canine, they will also resort to positive reinforcement.
However, some purists on the scientific method discourage the use of rewards. They argue that it’s more important that the dog learns a specific behavior without expecting anything in return. This makes perfect sense since the use of rewards can easily border to bribery.
Overall, this method is best used by a professional dog training school. Since studies may not always suit a situation, it’s important to practice expert deviations from time to time.
5. Mirror training
The mirror method is a unique yet tricky way to train a dog. The idea is to portray the good behavior with the belief that the dog will mimic it.
For example, a dog owner can ask someone to perform a task. Once it’s done properly, the dog owner will then praise the person. The goal here is to let the observing dog identify that there’s a reward awaiting him if he does the same drill.
This method somehow uses the essence of competition to force a dog to learn and follow commands. Practitioners of this method believe that the dog will try to outperform the person he perceives as a competitor.
In short, the dog is supposed to learn by example. Which, in my opinion, won’t work for all dogs.
First, you need the dog to pay attention to. If your pooch is always distracted, the mirror method might be impossible to use. At the end of the day, this method will need the help of positive enforcement, clicker training, and so on.
Wondering how to do the mirror training? Here’s a short guide:
6. Relationship-based training
The relationship-based method of training is basically the combination of other training methods combined with a customized approach based on the dog and owner’s relationship. It’s about strengthening the bond of the dog and its owner as a way to correct bad behavior.
Here, the dog owner has to understand his or her dog’s body language. This is something that’s unique for each dog as their behavior can be affected by various factors including its relationship to the owner.
By controlling your dog’s behavior, you can increase the difficulty of the tasks based on how successful the previous ones are. And in the event that the dog fails, it’s the owner’s responsibility to figure out why such a thing happened.
Instead of punishing the canine, the owner or trainer will use a different approach based on the behavior and their relationship with the dog.
Take note that this method needs a lot of time and patience. If your dog doesn’t trust you that much, it might be difficult to see results with the training.
Here’s Levi as she discusses how this method works:
7. Electronic training
The last method on our list is electronic training. Here, a shock collar is worn by the dog. If the pooch tries to escape or go beyond the set boundaries, an electric shock will be delivered through the collar.
Those who don’t like the idea of shocking their dog use citronella sprays instead. If the pooch tries to evade a task, a spray of the citrus fluid will be released. This can be intoxicating and irritating for the dog.
Advocates of these dog training tools claim that the dog won’t get hurt by the shock. But the fact that it actually scares them off to repeat the negative behavior means that the shock is strong enough to inflict pain.
I personally don’t recommend the use of this method. It won’t help dogs and it will only induce aggression and slowed learning. Also, this is the total opposite of the positive reinforcement. The electronic method punishes bad behavior. No dog training school will use this.
What is the best training method?
If you are to ask me, I prefer using positive reinforcement methods. It could be the combination of the classic reward system, clicker training, relationship-based approach, and the scientific method.
As much as the intentions of the electronic training are good, it doesn’t justify the means. Studies have found, time and again, that violent training methods would only hurt more than it helps.
7 basic commands your Pitbull should learn
If you’re planning to train your doggo, make sure that you cover these seven basic commands. These are the gold standard for all dogs regardless of breed:
All dog owners want their pooches to come when they call their pet’s name. It can be a lifesaver, especially if you and your doggo are outside.
Also, there are times when your dog will escape from your door. If you trained it to go back upon calling its name, you can spare yourself from the hassle of chasing and luring the doggo back.
This command is one of the easiest to teach. You can use rewards to force your pooch to put its bottom on the ground. And when the dog associates the reward to the act of sitting, it will sit on cue upon command.
Learning how to sit is a basic training command which will be useful on many occasions. It will also help you as the dog owner to control your dog outdoors.
Teaching your dog to “stay” is a matter of honing the dog’s patience and discipline. For example, you are outdoors and your Pitty tries to bolt the moment you released it from the leash. But if he knows how to respond to the “stay” command, you won’t have to face the dilemma of running after the canine.
This command is a partner of the “Come!” cue. The “stay” command will be helpful if you need to clean a certain area or if you don’t want your dog to get into your valuables.
4. “Leave it!”
This will help your dog avoid distractions and other things that can be harmful to its health. For example, you accidentally dropped food from the table. A hungry Pitty will devour this no matter what. But if you train the pooch to leave it, you won’t have any worries about diarrhea and other problems.
This command is also a matter of discipline. If your dog knows how to respond to this, he will know that there are limits he needs to follow.
Like the “Sit” command, the “Down” cue is helpful for outdoor settings. This will get your dog used to lying down. By letting your Pitbull get used to social settings, it will be less seen a threat or a vicious animal.
Heeling is an important skill that’s even included in AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test. The dog should learn how to walk calmly on the leash beside its handler. This will be useful outdoors or when walking in a crowd or pedestrian.
Pitbulls are playful dogs that love chewing. To inhibit this bad habit, you can teach your dog when to bite and release. Playing tug toys is a good way to do this. At all cost, utilize humane and safe methods only.
Training a Pitbull isn’t an easy task. But with the right method, you can skip some mistakes that other dog owners committed in the past.
Always choose methods that will uphold your dog’s safety and animal rights. As much as you want your pet to learn new tricks, you have to understand that it’s a long process.
Each dog differs from the other. Your Pitbull may take some time to learn compared to other dogs in the neighborhood. This is totally fine as long as you have the patience and the proper means. If you can’t handle training, a dog training school can help.