History of Dog Training

10January 2011

Before WWI, dogs were responsible family members that had various important jobs to do, such as:  personal protection, herding, guarding property, killing vermin, hunting, pulling sleds and carts, and finding lost people.  When WWI began, people found a need to have dogs help them in a new way.  Many dogs were used in the war to assist our armed forces, and the need for trained dogs rapidly grew. This brought about the birth of formal dog training and the compulsion method of teaching dogs.  When the war ended, many military trainers that were discharged were now educated in the new compulsion training methods.  As people began transitioning from farm work to factories, dog owners began to find it necessary to “train” their dogs.

Because so many military trainers were now available, society accepted punishment as a proven method of training dogs.  The idea of now training the family dog through this method caught on quickly.  The door for compulsion training was opened by our society’s acceptance that learning is done through punishment.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) introduced obedience training in the late 1930s in the United States, using compulsion training for competition dogs.

The release of military trainers after the Korean War (1950s) and the Police Action of Vietnam (1960s) brought about the wide use of physical punishment and choke chains.

As people began training their dogs themselves with help from new books and television in the 1970s, harsh training methods began to take a turn.  Even though operant conditioning research was done in the late 1800s, it did not come into use by the masses until the 1990s, in the form of clicker training.  As trainers started noticing the positive effects of this new method, they began to change their ideas.  Although operant conditioning uses negative reinforcement, negative punishment, and positive punishment, the main component of this training is positive reinforcement.  Using positive reinforcement training can produce greater results in a wide variety of dogs.