Training methods and owner-dog interactions: Links with dog behaviour and learning ability

Nicola J Rooney, Sarah J Cowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

122 Citations (Scopus)


The methods by which owners train their per dogs range widely, with some exclusively using rewards, and others using a combination, or only punishment-based methods. This paper examines links between the way in which owners reported to have trained their dogs and observations of the dogs' subsequent behaviour. It also explores associations between behaviour of owner and dog when tested in their own home. A total of 53 owners were surveyed about their preferred methods for training each of seven common tasks, and were each filmed interacting with their dog in a series of standardised scenarios. Dogs owned by subjects who reported using a higher proportion of punishment were less likely to interact with a stranger, and those dogs whose owners favoured physical punishment tended to be less playful. However, dogs whose owners reported using more rewards tended to perform better in a novel training task. Ability at this novel task was also higher in dogs belonging to owners who were seen to be more playful and who employed a patient approach to training. This study shows clear links between a dog's current behaviour and its owner's reported training history as well as the owner's present behaviour. High levels of punishment may thus have adverse effects upon a dog's behaviour whilst reward based training may improve a dog's subsequent ability to learn.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-177
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011




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