In considering the natural behaviours of specific breeds of dogs, it is possible to train them to perform specialised, highly useful, tasks. For example, Labrador retrievers are the favoured breed for the detection of explosives. This is because of a combination of factors including their food drive which enables them to keep focused on a task despite noise and other distractions. Most working breeds of dogs are able to be trained to find people with their sense of smell (as opposed to their sense of sight). Cocker Spaniels are able to be trained as part of a termite detection team. Their relatively small size enables them to fit into small spaces, and their light weight allows them to walk on areas of ceiling which would be dangerous to anything heavier. In fact, although unusual, termite detection dogs are much more reliable at detecting termites than humans who rely on a basic system of tapping and listening. Because of their ability to learn signals by sight and for their energetic and athletic natures, German Shepherds are able to be trained for work alongside search and rescue teams and human apprehension teams.
Millan's work focuses on handling a dog with what he calls "calm-assertive energy". He believes that dog owners should establish their role as calm-assertive pack leaders. According to Millan, dogs have three primary needs: exercise, discipline and affection, in that order. In other words, it is the owner's responsibility to fulfill the dog's energy level needs through challenging exercise; then to provide clearly communicated rules, boundaries and limitations; and finally, to provide affection. According to Millan, a common pitfall for American dog owners is to give a great deal of affection with very little exercise and even less discipline. He encourages owners to understand the effect their own attitudes, internal emotions and physical postures have on a dog's behavior, counseling owners to hold strong posture (i.e., shoulders high and chest forward) and to project energy that is calm-assertive.
Electronic training involves the use of an electric shock as an aversive. Common forms are collars which can be triggered remotely, or that are triggered by barking, fencing that delivers a shock when a dog wearing a special collar crosses a buried wire, and mats that can be placed on furniture to deliver a shock. Some aids deliver an aversive such as a spray of citronella when triggered. The use of electric shock aversives for training dogs is the subject of considerable controversy. Supporters claim that the use of electronic devices allows training at a distance and the potential to eliminate self-rewarding behaviour, and point out that properly used, they have less risk of stress and injury than mechanical devices, such as choke chains. Opponents cite the risks of physical and psychological trauma associated with incorrect or abusive use.
There also behavioral issues that can interfere with successful training. Urine marking is a normal dog behavior in which the animal will hike their leg and mark a certain area or object. With separation anxiety, the puppy may have accidents inside when you leave them at home alone. Some puppies become nervous or upset when their owners are away. Other puppies have a submissive or excitement urination problem. This causes them to spontaneously urinate during certain activities. Discuss these possibilities with your veterinarian or trainer if you're not getting positive results.
When you're potty training a puppy, give the dog ample opportunities to relieve themselves outside and no opportunities to do so indoors. To do this, set a strict schedule of taking them out frequently. You'll also need to be aware of the most common times your puppy might have an accident, like when it's waking from a nap, a short time after it eats or drinks, or if it hasn't gone out for a couple of hours.
A Hungarian dog training group called Népszigeti Kutyaiskola use a variation of model-rival training which they describe as the Mirror Method. The mirror method philosophy is that dogs instinctively learn by following the example of others in their social sphere. Core to the program is including the dog in all aspects of the owner's life and positive reinforcement of copying behaviors. Mirror method dog training relies on using a dog's natural instincts and inclinations rather than working against them.
The concepts of "pack" and "dominance" in relation to dog training originated in the 1940s and were popularized by the Monks of New Skete in the 1970s. The model is based on a theory that "dogs are wolves" and since wolves live in hierarchical packs where an alpha male rules over everyone else, then humans must dominate dogs in order to modify their behavior. However, recent studies have shown that wolves in the wild actually live in nuclear families where the father and mother are considered the pack leaders, and their offspring's status depends on their birth order which does not involve fighting to attain a higher rank, because the young wolves naturally follow their parents' lead.
Strictly following the model set out in the Koehler Method of Dog Training, some 50 years later, the Koehler method continues to be taught in both class and private training formats. The method is based in the philosophy that a dog acts on its right to choose its actions. Koehler explained that a dog's learned behavior is an act of choice based on its own learning experience. When those choices are influenced by the expectation of reward, the behavior will most likely be repeated, and when those choices are influenced by the anticipation of punishment, they will most likely cease. Once the dog has learned that its choices result in comfort or discomfort it can be taught to make the correct decisions. Action→Memory→Desire encapsulates the learning pattern used by the method; the dog acts, remembers the consequences, and forms the desire to repeat or avoid those consequences. Adherents believe that once the behavior has been correctly taught, it should be performed, thus making any correction, fair, reasonable, and expected. While the model has been used consistently since 1962, some of the punishment procedures described in the book are now not considered necessary, humane, or appropriate by many trainers.
There are a variety of established methods of animals training, each with its adherents and critics. Some of the better known dog training procedures include the Koehler method, clicker training, motivational training, electronic training, model-rival training, dominance-based training, and relationship-based training. The common characteristics of successful methods are knowing the animal's attributes and personality, accurate timing of reinforcement and/or punishment and consistent communication. The use of punishment is controversial with both the humaneness and effectiveness questioned by many behaviourists.