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Training your Dog for Success

Responsible pet owners share a common desire to raise dogs whose behaviour and temperament ensure their health and safety, as well as the health and the safety of other animals and people. Much of companion animals’ behaviour arises from the way in which people train and interact with them, particularly during the critical imprinting period when they are puppies. It must also be noted for pet owners who adopt older dogs that, contrary to a familiar old cliche, old dogs can learn new tricks, too. Training and reinforcing good behaviour in adult and senior dogs is equally important. 

As veterinarians, we recognize that behavioural issues in dogs impact the human-animal bond and are a leading cause of surrender and euthanasia. Commitment to appropriate training methods plays a substantial role in ensuring a positive outcome for dogs, as they become good canine citizens, as well as ambassadors for their respective breeds. 

While there are a variety of methods people use to train dogs, the ABVMA embraces those that are humane and based on current scientific knowledge related to learning theory. These do not include any methods that cause fear, distress, anxiety, pain or physical injury to dogs. 

The ABVMA supports training methods that reward desired behaviour. These positive reinforcement-based training methods include using clicker training, food, toys, play and praise as motivators.

The use of positive reinforcement is linked to a lower number of undesirable behaviors and reduced attention-seeking, aggression and fear.

Aversive training techniques, which were promoted and embraced in some circles in previous decades, are strongly discouraged. These methods can include confrontational and sometimes physical methods of training, including the use of force, rolling dogs, scruffing, growling, muzzling, jowling, shaking, or staring dogs down.

While the intent of these methods is to encourage desirable behaviours, they also place animals in fearful states and can increase the likelihood of aggressive responses from dogs. Similarly, the use of aversive devices such as choke, pinch, or prong collars are considered a last resort in favour of more humane alternatives such as head halters.

Before getting a puppy or adult dog, pet owners should seek out training material that is breed and age-specific. The material should also provide information on appropriate behaviour and development and sensitive developmental stages influencing socialization, as well as strategies for managing and minimizing fear and distress brought about through environmental and social exposures.

Effective and humane dog training takes time, effort and consistency, but it’s well worth it. Well trained dogs are a lower risk to themselves and others, and they’re safer to have around family and friends. Having a well-trained dog who is responsive, happy, relaxed, and easy for you to manage will make it easier to have them around the family and friends, and, ultimately, will lead to a stronger bond. 

For more information, consult the resources below. 



American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior

ASPCA explanations of different types of behavioral professionals

Association of Professional Dog Trainers site on Train Your Dog Month

Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers

Canadian Dog Trainers Association

CVMA - Humane Training Methods for Dogs