Science-based dog training can be difficult to define as it relies on information that is continually building and changing. It aims to understand dogs’ nature, their ability to be conditioned, and the effectiveness of rewards and punishments. Animal behaviorists are constantly creating new studies and experiments to shape our understanding of dog psychology, and trainers rely on these studies to work with dogs. Before a behavior is corrected, everything about that behavior must be understood. Because science-based dog training is so broad, it’s hard to pinpoint an overarching methodology behind it. In fact, a lot of the methods used in scientific dog training are used by other forms of training.
For the most part, there is a reliance on operant conditioning, which mostly includes positive reinforcement and, less often, some forms of punishment. Some scientific trainers believe that it is also important to learn how to strengthen good behavior without the need for rewards and to rely on dog psychology to find ways to improve off-leash relationships between owners and their pups. Scientific training relies on doing a good deal of research and staying updated on the latest studies.
For that reason, it may be best for professional trainers, since the methods that are used are often effective whether you know the science behind them or not, and other forms of training already employ those methods. Also developing new methods based on research may not be appropriate for everyone. Still, it’s a good idea for dog owners to stay informed and pay attention to new research when it becomes available.