Researchers have described several reasons why the dominance model is a poor choice for dog training. First, a relationship based on dominance is established to gain priority access to scarce resources, not to impose particular behaviors on the less dominant animal, so the dominance model is irrelevant for most of the behaviors that people want from their dogs, such as coming when called or walking calmly on a leash. Second dominance-submission relationships, once established, are constantly tested and must be regularly reinforced. Thus people, particularly children and the elderly, may not be able to retain their rank and are at risk of being injured if they attempt to do so. Third, dominant individuals gain priority access to resources, but only while they are present, establishing dominance over a dog does not guarantee its behavior when the dominant individual is distant or absent.
Clicker training is a nickname given to a positive reinforcement training system based on operant conditioning. Clicker training can also be referred to as marker training. The system uses conditioned reinforcers which are able to be delivered more quickly and more precisely than primary reinforcers such as food. The term 'clicker' comes from a small metal cricket adapted from a child's toy that the trainer uses to precisely mark the desired behavior; however, some trainers use a whistle, a word, or even a light as the conditioned reinforcer. The trainer delivers a primary reinforcer, such as a toy or treat, after the noise or signal. A common critique of clicker training is that it is prone to the overjustification effect.
Training clubs that run the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme - the largest dog training programme in the UK are a sensible place to begin. Here you will learn about every aspect of dog ownership from the Puppy Foundation Courses through to Bronze, Silver and Gold award levels. Go to GCDS Training Clubs in your County to find one near to you or email the GCDS Team ([email protected]) or call 0207 518 1011.