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Relationship Based Dog Training

At A Glance

Relationship based training method is an empathetic way to teach your dog proper behavior while socializing them with your family and lifestyle.

It is a slow-paced process of building trust between dogs and you so that training becomes easier over time. It also helps build your dog’s confidence in the long run.

Last Updated on: Feb 28, 2022

An innovative approach to training dogs that doesn’t alienate or threaten them – that’s relationship based training for you.

In the post pandemic times, this method has gained popularity due to its undeniable effectiveness. But, what is relationship based training? Why is it one of the best ways to train your dog? Why is this method perfect for dog parents who treat their pets as their own?

Continue reading to get a head start on relationship based dog training and its many benefits.

custom oil-painted dog portraits by Poshtraits

owner playing with the dog in the living room

What Is Relationship Based Dog Training?

It is an empathetic canine training method that places importance on building a relationship of trust between your dog(s) and you. Your mutual relationship is at the crux of the training.

Relationship based dog training leverages your emotional connection with your dog. You gain an in-depth understanding of your dog’s personality and psyche. Meanwhile, your dog’s perception of you helps it conform to your definition of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Your dog learns good behavior, but in a meaningful way. In the process, your pet becomes an integral part of your life and household. Because relationship based training is all about treating your dog as part of your immediate family.

In this training method, the most prized element is developing trust between the dog and you (or the trainer). Ample socialization and frequent interaction with your dog aids in bridging the emotional gap between your new pet and you.

The connection you share becomes a positive reinforcement. In the best instances, training the dog becomes a lifestyle.

Also Read: The Scientific Dog Training Method

Traditional Dog Training Versus Relationship Based Training

What are the best dog training methods? Let’s study traditional methods versus relationship based training to gauge the difference.

Traditional Dog Training

Also known as the alpha dog method, traditional dog training bases itself on establishing dominance. This approach focuses on establishing you as the head of the pack. Therefore you train your dog through negative reinforcement.

A concrete example of this is the usage of shock collars to punish a dog for performing bad behavior or disobeying commands.

Relationship Based Training

A more modern approach of how to train a dog is a relationship based training that utilizes positive reinforcement. Every time your dog obeys a command or behaves well, you reward it with its favorite doggy treats or toys.

This reward system helps the dog understand what good and bad behaviors are. This method is great for teaching dogs tricks or commands, especially when juxtaposed with clicker training.

The Difference

Relationship based dog training differs largely from traditional dog training as it is more empathetic towards dogs.

This emphasis on emotional strengthening and trust-building is anchored on scientific studies that have observed that dogs experience feelings much like children. Dogs can even recognize human emotions.

As this research argues, even you and I seek refuge in our dogs when we are sad, stressed, unhappy, etc. The American Kennel Club even stated in one instance that “They [dogs] seem to possess a special skill for knowing exactly how we’re feeling.” This is testament to the importance of strengthening emotional ties between your dog and you in understanding one another.

dog sitting with the owner

How To Successfully Do Relationship Based Dog Training?

In conducting your relationship based dog training, you must remember that success is a result of patience. This method is all about giving your dog its own time and own pace of learning.

Do not get frustrated if your pets do not immediately respond to the training. After all, building trust and emotional connection takes time. Keep in mind that your dog’s learning curve may be affected by its age or past experiences.

Here are some actionable steps you can take in conducting relationship based dog training:

Raise Your Dog As Your Own Child

Dr. Stanley Coren from the University of British Columbia, a renowned canine researcher, discovered that canines have the same intelligence as 2 year old babies. According to him, dogs are on par with 2 to 2.5 year old human babies in terms of mental abilities and intelligence. They are instinctive, adaptive, and have working abilities.

Fun fact: The average dog is linguistically inclined and can learn the meanings of words, signals, and even human emotions.

Treating your dog like your own child has its benefits. Start relationship based training when your dog is still a puppy. Earlier they receive emotional support, the earlier you can build a relationship of trust with them.

Puppy training in this manner is more like a parent slowly teaching their child manners and proper etiquette. As a dog parent, you prioritize the welfare of your pet first. Then teach them good manners and proper conduct through constant reminders and communication.

Only in this sense, repetition is supplemented by positive reinforcement.

boy and a dog at the park

Be Patient and Kind

Relationship based training is a long term method to train dogs. Emphasize on your pet’s wellbeing, emotional stability, and sociability. Dogs require time to develop social skills to be able to also effectively communicate with their owners. Even you need time to familiarize yourself with your pet’s moods and whims.

Over time, your dog will become as much a part of your daily life as anybody else. This gradual integration is key to a harmonious relationship between your dogs and you.

Set A Conducive And Healthy Learning Environment For Your Dogs

Much like human babies, puppies and dogs alike require an environment where they can flourish and have some autonomy with guidance.

Building a home that is physically, mentally, and emotionally secure for your dogs is an essential part of relationship based dog training. This is especially true when dogs are adopted in their middle ages or advanced ages and have experienced traumatic situations.

Dogs with traumatic experiences can slowly unlearn bad behaviors and attitudes. Unsurprisingly, it may take a longer time to reform than puppies.

Don’t forget to pace your dog’s training well. Dogs are intelligent beings and experience the brunt of failure. Train your dogs in a manner and pace that is comfortable for them.

Start with easy commands or tasks to follow. This builds confidence with the dogs and subconsciously, in you as well. Slowly build this confidence so that you and your dog are not overwhelmed or frustrated with training. This also makes the journey more enjoyable for both!

Understand Your Dog’s Personality

You must learn how to listen and comprehend what your pet is communicating to you. If you start when your pet is still a puppy, you will have ample time to learn your dog’s personality over time. Then you can influence the shaping of these behaviors while they are still in their formative stages.

Dogs may also have different types of preferences for rewards. Once you have learned how to capture the attention of the dog, you can use the reward to now shape their behavior. You can supplement these lures with a visual or verbal cue.

dog with the owner

Pro-Tips for Successful Relationship Based Dog Training

  • Without building trust with your dog, this method will be useless. Build trust through regular socialization and dedicated quality time with your dog.
  • Have patience and be consistent. Supplement the training sessions with positive reinforcements.
  • Focus on TLC, lots of it! Sometimes dogs may have a difficult time understanding you. Find out where the problem lies, provide a loving and fun solution to it.

dog sitting in the park with the owner

What’s the best method to train a dog? It’s the method that combines empathy, patience, love, and positivity. The relationship based training method is all that and much more. It is as much of an enriching experience for you as it is for your dog.

Try it and experience the difference relationship based training can make to your dog’s wellbeing.

Remember everything I said in this article. I hope it helps you build your family with your beloved companion. Cheers!


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Meet Paul, a devoted dog dad to the delightful French Bulldog, Cofi. With a flair for humor and a deep understanding of Frenchie quirks, Paul brings a lighthearted touch to his writings. His relatable stories and practical insights are a blend of laughter and valuable advice and resonate with fellow dog owners.

Through his words, Paul aims to celebrate the joys and challenges of being a dedicated pet parent, reminding you that life is simply better with a four-legged, snorting sidekick by your side.