The Power of Positive Dog Training

August 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Puppy Training Reference

The Power of Positive Dog Training

A renowned dog trainer gives you the positive training tools you need to share a lifetime of fun, companionship, and respect with your dog. Plus, you’ll get: information on the importance of observing, understanding, and reacting appropriately to your dog’s body language; instructions on how to phase out the use of a clicker and treats to introduce more advanced training concepts; a diary to track progress; suggestions for treats your dog will respond to; and a glossary of training terms.

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3 Responses to “The Power of Positive Dog Training”
  1. I. Westray says:
    380 of 388 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Worthy Successor to Culture Clash, February 4, 2002
    I. Westray (Minneapolis, MN USA) –

    The cover of “The Power of Positive Dog Training” has a quote from Jean Donaldson. Makes sense to me, because this book is a wonderful successor to “Culture Clash,” Donaldson’s classic set of essays about the value of operant conditioning and the flaws of other training methods.

    “Culture Clash” is the word-of-mouth classic that clicker-training dog people recommend most often, at least in my experience. It’s a lively, engaging book, but it’s basically written as a sort of argument for operant methods rather than other training approaches, not as a practical training guide. Because of that “Clash” is not well-organized for use as a how-to title. It has no index, the chapters aren’t organized around typical training issues, and so on.

    Well, “Power of Positive Dog Training” is the practical version. The book is organized around a six-week training regimen — there’s one chapter for each week. Pat Miller does address all the differences between operant training and, say, punishment-based approaches, but she does so largely in her introductory chapters, in a way that complements the approachable, clearly-stated training course she’s describing. She doesn’t seem to be attacking the methods she’s describing, just laying out the advantages of positive methods to win you over. When an author describes “team you and your dog,” you know her heart’s in the right place, don’t you?

    When it comes to the training chapters, you’ll love the structure of this book. Each week has some Core Exercises and some Bonus Games. They’re written with a careful sense of how you’re going to use them, which just works.

    Take one of the core exercises from week 3 — “Wait.” First Miller explains what the behavior is and why you need it: Wait tells your dog to stay back for a moment or two, and you might use it to keep your dog from rushing out the door when you open it. Then you get simply-stated instructions for how to train the behavior: do this, do this, when the dog does that reward it in this way, and so on. At the end of this section there’s a little “remember” paragraph that helps to frame the instructions in terms of the overall approach. (In this case Miller reminds us we’re trying to set the dog up to succeed, not trying to lure her into making a mistake we can correct.) Then we get Training Tips, which is a sort of “usual questions” category that addresses some of the common questions or problems that come up in teaching a given behavior. (“My dog wanders off when I try to train this, what should I do?”)

    Simple enough, isn’t it? Good technical writing has a way of seeming so simple that anyone could have written it. (Bad technical writing, well, that’s like wading through the six languages in your VCR manual and never being sure which language you’re in.)

    The rest of this book serves to complement the training course. First you have those introductory essays. For most readers, for people who don’t have a stake in punishment-based traditional methods, these six brief chapters would be a perfect introduction to positive-reinforcement training. (If you’re completely convinced that the purpose of training your dog is to establish your dominance as alpha dog, well, maybe you need Jean Donaldson to needle you some.) Then you have section two, the training regimen, with six chapters for six weeks of training. Section three is built around common challenges: separation anxiety, housetraining, resource-guarding, and adjusting to children are four of the seven topics that get treated in detail.

    The good organization continues into the back of the book. “Power” has five appendices with useful information like sample calendars you might use, or a list of possible treats you might not have thought of using. Finally, the index is actually useful and complete. (For some reason this is a real problem with lots of dog books; I’ve got a few “Which breed is right for you” books that don’t even list breeds in the index, and “Culture Clash” has no index at all.)

    Basically, this is the training book I’ve liked best so far. The writing style is candid and engaging, the structure is thoughtful and consistent, and as a book it just has the feel of a more mature work than most of its competition. I don’t give too many five-star ratings, but I’ll give one here.

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  2. NYR "Blueshirts" says:
    98 of 102 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Training Methods that Work and are Fun for You and Your Dog, November 14, 2001
    NYR “Blueshirts” (Ashburn, VA USA) –

    The Power of Positive Dog Training sounds like a book which should have been written by Tony Robbins and advertised on an info-mertial though it is a quality book.

    The training methods are based on studies done by behavioral scientist B.F. Skinner. Many college level psychology classes teach this material. It stresses training through operant conditioning which in a nutshell is rewarding good behaviors thereby increasing the likelihood of them being repeated.

    There are many references about these principles and training but this book is good because it is geared specifically towards training a dog and maps out a six week program for you to follow.

    Even though I believe in the principles I was skeptical that my new puppy would learn the exercises in the book during a short period of time. Much to my surprise I saw results within a day or so. Included in the training plan is a number of progressively harder exercises to teach your dog for each week. A description of exercise, instructions, and training tips are included for each.

    I highly recommend this book if you are interested in training a dog through the previously mentioned methods.

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  3. "kangarex" says:
    55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Excellent Book, September 4, 2002
    “kangarex” (Keokuk, IA United States) –

    This is one of the best dog training books out there (believe me I’ve read lots). It’s clear, concise, and covers a multitude of useful things, starting with a reasonable synopsis of the fundamentals of clicker training, then taking you through a 6 week dog training course, and then addressing a number of individual concerns seperately (Housebreaking, Aggression, Socialization, etc.). If you want a fuller explanation of operant conditioning theory, or broader application, I would suggest Karen Pryor’s “Don’t Shoot the Dog”, but Pat Miller includes a perfectly decent abbreviated explanation.

    My only gripe is in the Housebreaking section, where she gives a decent rundown on the theoretics of how to housebreak, but then gives a “sample” day from a theoretical family. The family in question has four adult equivalents (Mother, father, 2 teenagers), and all are actively involved in the housebreaking. This makes it pretty irrelevant (and downright depressing) for someone like me who is trying to housebreak a puppy with Mommy, no help from Daddy, and two preschoolers, who are certainly no help in training the puppy – after all we’re still working on housebreaking THEM.

    On the other hand, this is a minor gripe, especially as I’ve never found a dog training book that did provide realistic housebreaking around toddlers, and the book is otherwise excellent.

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