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What's in a word? Basic Obedience vs. Basic Manners

The world of formal dog training has come a long way since its humble beginnings back in the early 1900s. In recent years, professional trainers have been focusing less on forcing dogs to obey us and more on fostering a mutual understanding between owners and dogs. This mutual understanding is due to the more recent focus on what's called positive reinforcement training which focuses on rewarding your dog for doing things you like so your dog is more likely to repeat that behavior in the future. As part of this philosophy, dog trainers have even changed the words they used when talking about dog training. Positive trainers often will use words like "cue" instead of "command" and "basic manners" instead of "obedience training." These linguistic choices are an effort to break away from the idea that dogs must "obey us" and instead we must help them learn how to navigate our world through training.

The term "cue" is often favored by modern trainers because it reflects the idea of communication rather than coercion. A cue is a signal that prompts the dog to perform a task or behavior. It implies a partnership between dog and handler. By using cues, trainers encourage dogs to think, make choices, and respond willingly rather than obeying out of fear or force. This approach fosters a stronger bond and a more enjoyable training experience for both the dog and the owner.


Trainers understand that dogs are more motivated to learn and cooperate when they are actively engaged in the training process. By shifting the focus from "obedience training" to "basic manners," trainers emphasize the importance of teaching dogs how to navigate daily life situations with good manners and appropriate behavior. This approach promotes the dog's understanding of what is expected of them and encourages them to willingly participate in the learning process, leading to long-lasting behavioral changes. This type of training makes it more likely that the dog will continue to act mannerly when the owner is not actively training them or nearby to make sure they behave. By focusing on reinforcing good behavior the dog wants to continue performing that behavior because that is the behavior with a strong history of being rewarded. A dog that is merely punished for poor behavior, doesn't really know what they should do otherwise and will perform that poor behavior when it is safe to do so, when the owner is away or out of sight.


Positive training requires communication between owners and dogs.

Using positive reinforcement methods and emphasizing basic manners instead of strict obedience training helps to empower dogs and build their confidence. When dogs are taught using force-free techniques and are rewarded for desirable behaviors, they gain a sense of control and become more self-assured. This confidence extends beyond training sessions and positively impacts their overall behavior and social interactions. By focusing on their abilities and strengths, trainers can bring out the best in dogs and encourage them to thrive in various environments.

The language we use plays a significant role in shaping our attitudes and interactions. By replacing terms associated with dominance and control, such as "command" and "obedience training," with positive and inclusive language, trainers set the tone for a nurturing and encouraging training environment. This shift promotes a positive mindset among both the dog and the owner, enabling them to build a relationship based on trust, respect, and cooperation. By embracing these approaches, dog owners can cultivate a stronger bond with their pets and achieve harmonious and well-behaved companions. Remember, positive reinforcement training is not just about shaping behaviors; it's about nurturing a lifelong partnership built on love and understanding.



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