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…and Where to Find a Positive Trainer

Training is a very, very important part of ensuring that your new family member settles in and successfully integrates into the family. Much of this success can be determined in the first few months of bringing your new dog home – but training can also be a lifelong commitment. With so much information out there these days online, on television and at your local pet stores it is difficult to choose between so many options.

There are many types of training and not one type will fit every dog. But what should always be consistent is that the training type be positive. But what does “positive” mean? How do you know if the trainer you choose is truly qualified? What if your dog needs help beyond a trainer in the form of a behaviorist? What does that mean and who is qualified to be a behaviorist?

The following article is courtesy of Fur-Get Me Not, an Arlington-based doggy daycare, pet sitting and dog training business.

Positive Dog Training: What Does The Term Really Mean?

There are two main approaches to dog training: traditional and modern. Traditional dog training evolved from the use of dogs in the military during WWI and WWII. It relies on using physical force and the standard equipment includes: choke chains, pinch collars, or shock collars. Modern dog training was introduced to the public in the 1980s and originated from scientific studies of animal behavior and the application of learning theory. The main scientific application in the training field at this time was with wild animals, particularly marine mammals. Studies followed a formal scientific process requiring trainers to base their results on solid data that could be replicated by other trainers and scientists. Karen Pryor, a marine mammal trainer, played a major role in popularizing positive training methods and expanding them to dogs. Her book Don’t Shoot the Dog (1984) was ground breaking. It translated behavioral concepts to a practical level and dispelled the myth that force and coercion to “show who is boss” was required to get an animal to respond. The positive dog training movement has never looked back.

Rachel Davino

Rachel Davino


What is positive dog training?

The Pet Professional Guild defines it simply as: “No Shock, No Pain, No Choke, No Fear, No Physical Force, No Physical Molding, No Compulsion Based Methods are employed to train or care for a pet.”


Characteristics of positive dog training

  • HUMANE: Does not use any methods that will deliberately hurt or intimidate the dog. Uses equipment such as buckle collars, martingales, no-pull harnesses, and head-halters. Applies the principles of the Humane Hierarchy as defined by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT).
  • SCIENTIFIC: Emphasis on learning theory (classical and operant learning) and animal behavior. Knowledge of canine body language and the ability to use techniques based in behavioral science to keep a low stress level and provide the optimum opportunity for learning.
  • MOTIVATIONAL: Recognizes importance of finding foods, objects or activities that motivates each individual dog.
  • RELATIONSHIP BUILDING ORIENTED: Understands the training experience is a partnership and the more you learn about and know your partner, the more effective the training. Takes into consideration the entire dog, including personality, genetics, past experiences, living environment, and immediate needs. Appreciates dogs are living beings with good and bad days and will adjust the expectations of the dog accordingly.
  • PROFESSIONAL: Realizes high standards are important.  A national and independent certification system has been developed.  Dog trainers are able to sit for exams (certification level #1 – CPDT-KA), and provide videotaped clips teaching a student how to train their dog (certification level #2 – CPDT-KSA). Continued education by attending seminars and participating in workshops in order to remain certified is required.

Positive dog training benefits:



  • It teaches the animal that paying attention to humans is rewarding so they do it because they want to.
  • It is an effective method for all dogs. All dogs have something they are motivated by that can be used in training.  The final behavior we are looking for is always broken down in many small steps to make sure we build on success.
  • It takes into account the entire dog, both physical and mental well-being. The goal is to change old behaviors and develop new  – not suppressing bad behaviors.
  • It encourages the dog to think, to be creative, and to problem-solve by offering a safe learning environment.
  • It teaches the dog what we want him to do – not punishing him for behaviors we do not want him to do.
  • It builds on success for both you and your dog. Errors are an integral part of the learning process, you both get more practice and improve your skill set but no one gets hurt in the process.
  • It will build your dog’s confidence level.

The below links are also excellent resources to ensuring that you select a qualified, positive trainer or behaviorist for your dog.

 Here are positive trainers in the DC area and an excellent organization that focuses on helping adopters secure positive training for their dogs: