History of Dog Training Philosophy: Guest Post by Louise Baker

Dog Training Philosophy

There is nothing more frustrating to a pet owner than an ill-behaved dog. Ever since the rise of the “unnecessary” dog in seventeenth century Europe, owners have been trying to find the most effective method of training pets and service dogs. Over the last fifty years, training techniques have gradually become less draconian and more humane.
World War II

Though dog training had been practiced to a limited degree for several centuries, dog trainers found that dogs were dying off in battle faster than they could be trained. This led to the development of several high-intensity and sometimes violent training methods to speed up the process. In particular, the choke collar or slip chain became very popular in canine military training. This is a length of chain that is looped around the dog’s head (not the throat as popularly believed) that a trainer can pull sharply to correct a dog in training. This method is generally opposed today on the grounds of animal cruelty.

Barbara Woodhouse

In the 1970s, Barbara Woodhouse became the most recognized dog trainer in the world, and her techniques inspired a whole new generation of dog owners. Woodhouse argued in her books and lectures that most canine behavioral problems were really “people” problems. In other words, the dog’s actions reflect the personality and habits of its owners. She recommended using techniques like forceful yelling for bad behavior and soothing petting for good behavior to train a dog. She also continued the use of choke collars, though she emphasized that they needed to be used properly so as to get the dog’s attention without hurting it.

Dominance training was an outgrowth of Woodhouse’s philosophy. Since dogs are descended from pack animals, proponents of dominance theory argue that a dog will attempt to establish a hierachry of authority in any relationship. Therefore, if an owner does not assert himself, the dog will assume that the dog itself is the alpha animal in the relationship. Opponents of this theory argue that a dog’s pack mentality means that owner and pet can work together without aggression.

Clicker Training

Today, one of the most popular training techniques is “clicker” training, in which a small beep or whistle is used. Rather than relying on a trainers voice that may change in pitch or intensity, a clicker always uses the exact same sound to indicate that a particular behavior is desired. This helps the dog develop habits faster and with less confusion than voice commands. The speed of the clicker response coupled with an immediate reward has been shown to be an effective method of training dogs without resorting to more aggressive measures.

Louise Baker is a freelance blogger and journalist who writes for Zen College Life, the directory of higher education, distance learning, and online schools. She most recently wrote about the top online colleges.