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Reward training leads to a better-behaved dog

Reward training leads to a better-behaved dog

According to the Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI), from 2016 to 2018 the Canadian dog population continued to grow. Dog population figures went up from 7.6 million in 2016 to 8.2 million in 2018.  

Many family dogs receive basic training at home or in a more formal setting like a training school. The training methods people use vary from mostly punishment (sometimes called “correction”) methods, to the use of rewards to encourage the dog to repeat wanted behavior, and methods that use a mix. 

It’s important to train dogs in a way that results in a confident, sociable and well-behaved dog free of the anxiety that often underlies aggressive behavior. 


Jane’s dog London was reward-trained, which leads to a more confident, relaxed dog. Jane Bowers photo

A team of researchers at the University of Porto in Portugal set out to determine the long- and short-term effects on the welfare of dogs trained in a variety of ways. Earlier studies indicate training dogs with punishment (for example using shock collars, prong collars, yelling, striking, yanking the leash) leads to stressed dogs and compromised long and short-term welfare of the dog and this study set out to measure the effects of various training methods on family dogs. 

Dogs and owners were recruited from training schools using reward training and from schools using aversive (punishment) methods for the study.  

Results showed that the dogs attending the training schools using aversive methods showed more stress related behaviors (body turns, salivating, moving away, rolling on the side, yawning, lifting a paw for example) during training and that the frequency of the stress related behaviors increased with the frequency of the punishments. They spent more time in a tense state than the dogs from the reward trained group. The cortisol (stress hormone) levels in dogs trained with aversive methods were elevated after training sessions but were not in the reward trained dogs after training sessions. 

The science is showing that training with rewards results in a more confident, relaxed, well trained dog. 

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