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Force Free Training—It’s the way forward

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

With so many different training methods out there it’s easy to feel overwhelmed! Keeping up in a whirlwind of information can be tricky. Let’s take a look at what we believe in here at Rosier Days Dog Rescue…

Force Free:

“What is force free?” I hear you ask, and I’m glad you did. It’s a training method that prioritizes the animal’s comfort, happiness, and mental health in day to day life. Positive reinforcement (food rewards, for example) and close monitoring of body language are key to allowing the animal to communicate discomfort and learn with encouragement. The force free method also avoids use of any negative tools or intimidation including fear, pain, yelling, e-collars (shock collars), prong collars, and choke chains.

Why Force Free?

Although there isn’t a single training rule book, there is consensus on what effective handling and training looks like. Unfortunately, it has yet to become common practice in the animal training world.

With the best intentions, many use methods that are no longer recommended and are left to deal with the side effects including aggression, fear, and anxiety. Not addressing the underlying cause and punishing the behaviour can cause it to worsen and create greater distress.

We all get stuck in our ways and think we know best. But if we are willing to learn and put the work in then both us and our four-legged friends will reap the benefits!

“My dog doesn’t work for food!”

There are some common myths and misunderstandings when it comes to dog training and behaviour. It has become all too easy to be misled.

For example, your dog isn’t particularly motivated by food, so you believe that he cannot be trained using force free methods. It may not be that the food isn’t motivating, but the circumstances or application is wrong. Your dog may be distracted, have recently eaten, or the treat may not be high enough value compared to the difficulty of the task or environment.

There are numerous factors that can account for a lack of motivation. Training when hungry and distancing from any distractions is a great start! (Why not wait to eat your burger until you’re home too? Well, fair is fair!).

So, what kind of reward should you use? The approach we suggest is to make a list of all the things your dog loves and put them in order. This can include food, toys, affection, or car rides. Anything your dog is willing to work for can be used for positive reinforcement.

“All dogs are different and need to be trained differently!”

Another common myth is that all dogs learn differently and need different training methods. While it is true that dogs differ in their natural abilities and skills, all living beings learn in two ways:

1. Learning by Consequences (operant conditioning)

From micro-organisms to humans, we all change our actions to achieve the results most beneficial to us. We learn to change our footing depending on the ground we are walking on (for example, doing the “penguin walk” on ice). We learn new skills that in turn pay our wages, so we can buy what we need to survive. When things work, we tend to stick with them. When they don’t, we try something new. This is called operant conditioning. Without this process, wild animals don’t survive -- it’s hardwired into all of them.

2. Learning by Association (classical conditioning)

Classical conditioning occurs when two or more events consistently happen close together. We begin to anticipate the second event and our actions are based upon that anticipation without us even realising. You arrive at work and smell the coffee brewing, so you automatically get yourself a cup. You put your boots on and pick up your dog’s leash for a walk and before long, they are already waiting at the door and you’ve only got one toe in your shoe! This is classic conditioning. If you think about, I’ll bet you can come up with at least one or two “classic conditioning” actions that you do without even bringing your pooch into it! Step one, morning alarm goes off, step two -- coffee! Yup, me too!

Learning should be inspiring, uplifting, and encouraging!

Hopefully you’re more enlightened to the force free method, or if it’s the first time you’re hearing about it you are intrigued to learn more. There are some amazing resources for further insight and training below:

Don’t forget, Rosier Days Dog Rescue is a non-profit organization and runs solely on donations from awesome people like you!

If you would like to donate or have a special place in your heart to foster or adopt a dog in need then visit our website.

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