A Critique of Dog Training Techniques

dog training techniques

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, or train a dog for that matter. What makes some dog training techniques better than others? Why do trainers with the same philosophy train dogs using different techniques? Trainers who believe in force-free training can have different approaches to teaching the same skill to a dog. There are many variables that can lead a trainer to use one technique over another. There are likely hundreds of techniques used to train any given behavior, so why does a trainer stick to one way most of the time?


Each trainer has come across a unique selection of dogs and people. No one trainer has had exactly the same experiences. Each venture with a dog and his owner teaches the trainer something new, whether it’s how to teach the person so they understand, how to alter a technique to fit with a physical disability (for the person or dog!), or a challenging living situation that conflicts with the dog’s training goals. Every client and dog contributes to a trainer’s knowledge and skill set. Their history with a technique can make them more or less likely to lean toward a particular technique with future clients.

Ease Of Acquisition

This variable is just as important, if not more important, than experience. If the owner cannot pick up the technique because it is too difficult to juggle tools, then the technique fails to achieve the goal. For themselves, trainers may use a different technique since they are usually much more skilled at juggling their tools (leash, clicker, treats, pouch, toys, etc). When working with clients, though, you want to make sure the technique is simple to understand and implement even if it takes a little longer to get to the goal. The worst thing that can happen is that a client freaks out and gives up on the philosophy of the training itself. If my initial dog training technique is too challenging for my client, I’ll often jump in and suggest a different method with a few less tools even though the dog might not learn quite as fast. (Even though, dogs always surprise me by how quick they pick things up!)

Success Rate

Obviously, a technique should be able to teach the dog the goal behavior. If the technique makes the training very slow or doesn’t achieve the goal behavior, then trainers are not going to use it very often. However, each dog is different, just like no two people are the same. What works for most dogs might not work for ALL dogs so it is a good idea to learn new techniques when you have the opportunity because you’ll never know when you’ll need that skill next.

Being Open to New Dog Training Techniques

dog training techniquesI will always try something once. If it doesn’t work for me, then I might be able to incorporate some part of the technique in another way to teach another behavior. I’ll also have another “tool in my toolbox” that I can pull out in the future if my usual technique doesn’t work. Being open to new techniques is what allowed me to crossover into force-free training after all! I needed to add to my toolbox because what I had was not enough for my situation. You never know when you’ll need that extra tool (skill)!

Check out these 5 different ways to teach loose leash walking. Each technique has its pros and cons (and each trainer will have a different opinion on these) which Bev and I will be looking at this coming month.

So share with us, why to you tend to stick to one technique instead of others? How and when do dogs influence your choice to use it? Comment below!