Positive reinforcement methods for training and managing a dog’s behavior are always the preferred choice at Handi-Dogs. Positive reinforcement means the dog will be rewarded (reinforced) for performing desired behaviors. The dog learns through rewards such as treats, praise or play that when he does something the handler wants him to, he will be rewarded and he will be more likely to repeat the behavior in the future. These methods encourage the dog to be comfortable volunteering new behaviors and trying new things without fear of punishment. Positive reinforcement training builds trust and establishes a cooperative spirit between dog and owner that form the foundation of their relationship.
The choice of type of equipment used during positive reinforcement training depends upon the needs of the individual dog and handler. Acceptable equipment includes flat-buckle collars, martingale style collars and no pull harnesses. In certain instances, in the interest of safety, it may be necessary to employ the use of head halters such as a Gentle Leader. In addition, positive reinforcement methods include the use of event markers such as a clicker or verbal marker to enhance communication between dog and handler.
What happens if repeated attempts with positive reinforcement methods do not produce the desired results? In some cases it might be appropriate, with the guidance of a professional trainer, to use some type of mild aversive for a short time in conjunction with positive reinforcement methods. Some examples of mild aversives include spray of water, shaker can or high-pitched noise device. The goal of using aversive techniques is to extinguish undesired behaviors, not for the on-going management of the dog.
We also advocate the use of positive reinforcement training for all dog training outside the scope of Handi-Dogs’ work. This includes competition obedience and rally and all dog sports training such as agility, nosework, barn hunt, flyball, dock-diving etc.
We do not advocate the use of choke, electronic collar (shock), citronella spray, or prong collars, or any other device designed to inflict pain to punish the dog for an undesired action. We include invisible electronic fences and electronic scat mats in this category.
With that said, we acknowledge there may be rare exceptions when a dog's or person’s safety is in jeopardy and positive reinforcement methods followed by use of mild aversive methods have failed. In these extreme cases the short term use of a prong or electronic collar used by a professional trained in the proper use of the particular type of equipment might be necessary as a last resort.