Philosophy of Dog Obedience Training

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The philosophy for dog obedience training has changed quite a bit in the last few decades. It used to be that many dog obedience schools operated by teaching the dog, “you better obey me, because I’m your master. And if you don’t obey me, bad things will happen.” And plenty of dogs were trained this way, and trained well. They obeyed, but they obeyed out of fear. But now there has been a shift in the thinking of many trainers, though some still do it the old way. If the old way was punishing disobedience, the new way could be characterized as rewarding obedience. In this new way of training, you don’t strike the dog, you don’t yell at him any more than a firm “no!” But whenever you catch him doing something good, he gets praise and rewards. The thinking here is that the dog is going to want to do the things that make you happy, because positive things happen to him when you are happy.

Both obedience philosophies get results, but they produce very different dogs. The old way produces a dog that is terrified to do the wrong thing. The new way produces a dog that is eager to do the right thing. And these two schools of thought work not just for dogs, but maybe you’ve seen children raised by these two ways. And this should be nothing new for us, since basically we are talking about the difference between Law motivation and Gospel motivation. In our lives, sometimes we do things, like hitting the brakes when you see a cop car, that would be obeying out of Law motivation. It is the fear of punishment that motivates you to slow down. But now let’s say that you are driving your children in the car with you. You are so happy for the gift of a family that God has given you, that you want to drive as carefully as possible, and so you don’t even think about breaking the speed limit. That would be Gospel motivation. You are motivated by thanks and love.

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