Dominance Training & Positive Reinforcement For Your Dog

No dog is the same as another. They all have different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. In the same way, no one dog training method will work perfectly for your new pup. Choosing a method or a combination of methods can be stressful and controversial when brought up at the office watering hole.

my dog at the beach

Tread carefully when you are asking around for advice. Do some research first! That’s why you are here in the first place, right? This is an unbiased look at both training methods. A lot of sites will be very polar on this issue, and you will have a hard time deciphering what’s right or wrong.

Cesar Millan and Dominance Training

This is sure to bring some controversy to your life. Cesar’s method is very strict and can be forceful. While he doesn’t intend for you to beat or kick your dog, some may view what you are doing as cruel and unusual punishment. He believes in being your dog’s pack leader and staying in that position.

“Wolves are disciplined not only when they hunt but also when they travel, when they play, and when they eat. Nature doesn’t view discipline as a negative thing. Discipline is DNA. Discipline is survival.”― Cesar Millan, Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems

I would say if you are struggling with your dog or have adopted a dog with some behavior issues, Cesar might be someone to look into for dog training. It just depends on you and your dog. If you lose control, there’s no getting control of your dog.

For instance, we had a very large dog and I am not a big person. After a few months of having him, he started to try and dominate me and it was getting harder and harder to control him. If we wouldn’t have used some of Cesar’s methods such as asserting dominance, the pack mentality, and making sure not to let him get his way when he pushed his boundaries, we would have been in a bad situation with him.

Picking parts of Cesar’s training is not harmful to your dog. You need to make sure you are doing this training properly. If you opt for this method, I would suggest buying one of his books or checking out his site to do some really in-depth research on it.


Victoria Stilwell and Positive Training

Victoria believes almost the opposite of what Cesar does as far as training goes. The theory behind positive training is to catch your dog being good and not constantly disciplining them. It is a different approach than your grandpa’s hunting dog was trained with, and you may see some different results because of it.

“Positive training puts the emphasis on teaching dogs what to do, not continually punishing a dog for not doing what we want.” — Victoria Stilwell, creator of Positively, a dog training curriculum for positive dog training.

Many new dog owners of this generation are flocking towards Victoria’s type of training. It feels less inhumane and easier to do from the outside. However, when you are in it, you have to have some serious patience.

New puppies mess up and a lot. It’s hard to remember you are doing positive reinforcement training when your adorable little fluff ball just shredded your favorite rug. Positive reinforcement means not screaming your head off and swatting them on the butt when they do this. It means taking a deep breath and redirecting your puppy.

When I think of positive reinforcement, I think about dealing with a toddler. A lot of this generation is viewing their dog or any pet really as a replacement or filler until they can have kids. The positive reinforcement training is very appealing to that crowd for obvious reasons.

If you opt for this method, do more research. Also, ask yourself if you can remain calm. One thing positive reinforcement relies on is your ability to stay calm. If you can’t, this method likely will be ineffective. Remember, dogs pick up on more than the words you say. They can feel what you are feeling and any changes in tone will be noticed.


Finding a Happy Medium

Like I mentioned in the beginning, you don’t have to be straight dominance training or just positive reinforcement. You can find a happy medium type of training that works best for your dog. Maybe you don’t let them on the couch, but you don’t get aggressive with them if they do. Just yell “off!” and behold, the dog listens to you.

Establishing a relationship with your dog so they trust you is key to training no matter which option you go for. They need you to stay in control and keep a level head. When you don’t, they cannot and will not listen or adhere to what you want.

Don’t Discount a Professional Trainer

All right, so you’ve been training your dog. You’ve tried Cesar’s way, you’ve tried Victoria’s way, and nothing is working. Your dog is peeing on your rug, eating your shoes, and biting everyone that comes within a mile radius of him. What’s the next step?

If you can swing it, opt for a professional trainer. You can look up dog trainers or obedience classes in your area. You would be surprised how quickly you will see a change in your dog. We took our dog to obedience class, and he excelled. It turned out; he felt he needed a combination of both methods.

He also really enjoyed having a job. Working with him and teaching him new skills made him feel proud, and he wanted to do well. When you are spraying him with a water bottle for barking and he is chomping at you, your training methods really aren’t being effective.

The professionals know what they are doing and they will help you find a training plan that will work best for your dog and you. You will leave feeling empowered, less stressed, and most likely with a very happy dog.

In Conclusion

I don’t think there is any issue with either method of training, whether it be dominance training or positive reinforcement. It all boils down to you and your dog. Both of you need to remain calm and have lots of patience. Since a new puppy likely can’t do that very well, you have to have the patience of a saint.

Both of the methods require just that, patience. If you don’t have enough for a dog, reconsider getting a dog. Otherwise, I would highly recommend finding an obedience school or professional trainer in your area to help you get through the rough patches. It really makes a significant difference.

Having a well-trained dog is a thing of beauty. You both trust and respect each other. That’s when the fun comes. You and your dog can go on adventures and really enjoy that bond you have created. No two dogs are alike. You are buying a new friend. Nurturing that relationship and building on it can be one of the best things you can do for your life.