Positive Reinforcement vs. Alpha Dog Training

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The debate between which method is better for training a dog is always heated. Positive reinforcement has proven results with benefits far extending anything that can be measured. Owners and advocates of positive reinforcement over dominance-based training all attest to the intense emotional connection that is strengthened. However, the gradual bonding and building of positive associations is a process highly criticized by alpha dog training enthusiasts.

Total obedience is questioned due to the way that a dog is left open to its own will instead of responding to commands immediately, overriding all urges. There are many arguments for and against both types of training. Here we’ll be debating positive reinforcement vs. alpha dog training, helping you decide which is the best for your beloved canine companion.

What is Positive Reinforcement Training?

Positive reinforcement relies on operant conditioning to help your dog learn commands and obedience. Operant conditioning is a learning process whereby positive reinforcement is used to strengthen an association. Animal trainers were applying operant principles before the term itself existed. Leading programs like Brain Training for Dogs are specifically designs to unlock your dog’s intelligence by means of reward-based responses.

The most commonly used form of positive reinforcement training involves supplying a primary reward, for example dog training treats, when a command is successfully followed. A clicker or other impulse is used directly after issuing a command. When the dog responds as desired, the treat is given. As the canine completes consecutive steps of a complex command or performs the action better (such as jumping to an ever-higher height), more rewards are given.

The reward response steadily builds a positive association to the command without any negative connotations. Training is carried out until the command is accepted and automatic, making the reward no longer necessary. Animal training using positive reinforcement is used by professional trainers across the world. Even the animals at SeaWorld are trained using operant conditioning.

Service dogs trained to assist humans to develop their socialization skills thanks to positive reinforcement. The American Humane Association monitors the training of service dogs and dogs within entertainment.

The Benefits of Positive Reinforcement Training

Positive reinforcement training for dogs relies on rewards and ignoring any action or response that you don’t like. When you use positive reinforcement and a clicker or other audible command, there are tons of benefits. Family members of all ages can get involved in the training. This helps your dog and the rest of your household bond without any supervision being needed. Positive reinforcement has no actions which threaten your pet. No stern voice. No punishment. No corrective measures. While more difficult at the start of training, positive reinforcement opens a clear, sincere channel of communication with your dog. This gets stronger and clearer as time passes.

Reprimanding your pet instilling dominance can cause intense fear leading to complete confusion. The domineering that it takes to shift your dog past its state of panic an into receptivity is not the same as clear communication. Adversely, when you reward your dog for urinating outside or any other positive behavior, they quickly learn that there is only a reward for that behavior. Your dog won’t even have the urge to misbehave as it will be actively seeking the reward.

What is Alpha Dog Training?

Alpha dog training is also known as dominance training; it takes a completely different approach to training. The term alpha dog itself inspires countless methods but at its core, this philosophy involves establishing yourself as the alpha, or dominant figure, in your dog’s “pack.” Alpha dog training methods include alpha rolls – or pinning your dog to the ground in a show of dominance or flooding the dog with something that it really doesn’t like, in excess.

This approach often uses choke chains, electronic “shock” collars, and other tools. Certain tools are harmless. For example, electronic collars often use slight vibrations and a Pavlovian tone to entrain a habit. The pulse emitted is technically an electrical emission but it is felt like a light tapping rather than a sharp shock.

While alpha dog training is often misunderstood, it can be used as part of a training program which blends dominance and positive reinforcement techniques. Properly executed, alpha dog training does no harm and helps shape behavior without damaging the bond between owner and pet. Dogs have a natural hierarchy and once you establish yourself at the head of its pack training becomes much easier across all methods.

The Benefits of Alpha Dog Training

Almost all domesticated dogs will benefit from a few aspects of alpha dog training. There are lots of healthy, beneficial ways to establish yourself as leader of the pack. You need to be the first to eat, the first to enter a room, traverse stairs, climb on the sofa, etc.

Owners employing alpha dog training techniques will always put humans first. If your dog wants something, then alpha training dictates that an action must be performed in order for response conditioning to develop the command. This guarantees that your dog’s first reaction to new external stimulus is to wait for your instructions.

From a more focused pooch to the safety of your pet, alpha dog training done properly does have its benefits.

The Importance of Balanced Dog Training Procedures

Fear is not a learning tool. Even when a training establishes dominance, fear induced by acts of anger does nothing other than disturb a dog. Extreme examples of alpha dog training whereby every command is entrained forcefully can actually lead to behavioral issues.

The pressure which having to override natural, logical urges brings without any positive association results in anxiety, anger problems, and erratic behavior. A great example of an all-inclusive training program delivering an excellent balance of techniques rooted in positive reinforcement is Brain Training for Dogs.

The best forms of dog training will be rooted in positive reinforcement with alpha dog training protocols used in only the slightest of forms. After all, the only time that you can truly reprimand your dog is when you catch them in the act. Creating a negative situation in order to teach your dog the ‘value’ of punishment in order to keep them in check is cruel and unnecessary.

You need to be the ‘alpha dog’ of your home but remember that any alpha is a good leader and role model to be followed, not a judge and juror to be feared.


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