Force Free Dog Training Techniques: Tips from an Expert

13 Minute Read
Updated September 1, 2022

Dog Training takes time, patience, and an understanding of how your dog learns. Using the force free dog training method reinforces positive behaviours that will build the bond between you and your dog and improve your dog’s quality of life.

An Intro to Dog Training Techniques

It’s not easy, and there is no quick fix for bad dog behaviour. Training your dog is a commitment that you will need to maintain for your dog’s entire life. Just like any skill, you need to practice it every day, and so does your dog.

The best dog training methods involve building a bond with your pet. Popular force free dog training methods can help you and your furry friend achieve their desired behaviour.

basic dog training techniques

We connected with Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Joanna Scott from For the Love of Paws Pet Service Dog Training (FLOPPS) in Edmonton, Alberta, to talk about the benefits of Professional force-free training services.

What is Force-Free Dog Training?

The best method of dog training is called force free dog training. Many professional trainers practice only force-free dog training and discourage the use of force and punishment-based correction methods. This science-based training can correct bad behavior and encourage good behavior in your pup.

Force-free dog training uses humane techniques to instill positive behaviours and routines, including clicker training, for example. This rules out any methods that use tactics to scare, startle, intimidate or inflict pain on a dog.

Tools like bark collars, chain or prong collars, slip leads, e-collars, and citronella sprays are all designed to punish, not reward. Puppy training methods that use punishment usually fail miserably because they cause the young dog to become fearful. 

When implementing force free dog training techniques, you NEVER use the following:

    • Pinch or prong collars
    • Choke collars or chains
    • Manipulation of the dog's body by forcing it to change positions
    • pushing or pulling the collar or leash
    • Hitting
    • Kicking
    • Grabbing the scruff of the neck
    • Yelling

The force free dog training method has been backed by the support of dog psychologists and certified animal behaviourists that understand how your dog processes different types of reinforcement.

Force Free vs Balanced Dog Training

Balanced training combines reinforcement with punishment. The technique involves giving praise or rewards for good behaviour and punishing or removing rewards to respond to bad behaviour. While initially, this may seem like it's working, you may start to see fearful or anxious responses from your dog over time.

Sadly, with many canines, balanced training actually causes a buildup of distrust between the dog and the handler. The canine is not enjoying the training sessions and only obeys to avoid negative consequences.

Force free training is the opposite of balanced training. It is gentle and focuses on creating good behaviour in the canine through the use of positive reinforcement with treats or toys. You can even reward the dog with a fun activity that they enjoy, such as going for a walk after a job well done. 

When using force free training, if the dog does not obey, then you walk away, which immediately lets the pup know you are displeased. 

With force free training, the dog learns when they are exhibiting unwanted behaviour through non-violent techniques. Your pup learns how to behave properly through the use of kindness and gentleness versus fear or pain. Many Edmonton dog trainers have started to embrace force-free training and abstain from old-fashioned balanced dog training methods. 

The Best Way to Train Your Dog: Positive Reinforcement

The best way to train your dog is to use positive reinforcement. The concept focuses on giving the canine something they want or desire, such as a favourite toy or treat, which acts as a driver to ensure that the pup continues to repeat the task or behaviour to gain the reward. 

If your dog starts to misbehave, then you need to realize that your canine companion might be reacting to stress, anxiety or even fear. Reprimanding the pet during the training session only causes the uncertain emotions of the dog to escalate.

Ultimately, it has a snowball effect by building a dog’s insecurities which only causes bad behaviour to take hold and become even more of a problem.  When learning how to train a dog, force free dog training provides the best results when dealing with an uncertain or fearful canine. 

If your pet starts to behave badly, then you’ll want to try to understand the dog’s emotions and then implement respondent conditioning which is a protocol that focuses on changing your dog’s emotional balance from negative to positive, so your pup starts to feel calm, happy and more focused. 

When learning ‘what is force free dog training, you’ll discover that the technique is science-based and effective because you form a solid bond with your dog.  You’ll need to remain patient, stay persistent, and be committed to success.

Operant Conditioning

When we talk about reinforcement, we refer to the concept of operant conditioning. It is a method of teaching new behaviours through the use of either reward or punishment-based techniques. There are four quadrants of operant conditioning:

best dog training methods

1. Positive Reinforcement | R+

Adding a desired stimulus or reward. Treat training is a form of R+. You ask your dog to sit, and if he does, you would reward him with a treat or praise.

2. Negative Reinforcement | R-

Removing a harmful or unwanted motivation or punishment. This is paired with positive punishment, like the use of a shock collar or choke chain. The P+ is pain or punishment from the collar, and the R- is the release of that punishment when the unwanted action stops.

3. Positive Punishment | P+

Adding a punishment. This means punishing your dog for unwanted behaviour, like yanking on their leash when they pull or rubbing their nose in an “accident.”

4. Negative Punishment | P-

Taking away or denying an expected reward. Ignoring your dog's bad behaviour when you enter your home is a good example. P- will teach the dog that jumping, barking, or other signs of over-excited behaviour will not be rewarded with attention.

You may have noticed that the words positive and negative in the chart do not refer to good or bad; instead, they refer to the act of adding or removing.

Force-Free Dog Training at Home

Can you guess which one of these is considered force-free training?

If you guessed positive reinforcement or R+, then you’re right! Positive reinforcement is the core concept of force-free dog training. When using positive reinforcement techniques, your dog will learn to connect a positive action with a reward or praise.

Negative punishment or removing an expected reward also applies to force-free training. This is the process of correcting unwanted behaviour in a force-free manner.

An example would be when your dog jumps at you to get your attention. Force-free correcting would involve you turning your back to your dog and ignoring him. This tells him that his behaviour will not get him the attention or reward that he is looking for.

How Can Force Free Dog Training Help You?

Applying this training style at home is easier than you think. You may already be using force-free dog training methods, and you just don’t know it.

Simple tasks like treat training are a great way to teach your dog good behaviour. Start small, and work up to more challenging behaviours. Force free dog training can be used to help correct some of the most common behavioural concerns in dogs.

  • How to stop a dog from pulling
  • Leash aggression in dogs
  • Recall training in dogs
  • How to stop a dog from jumping on people
  • How to stop a dog from digging
  • And much more

The possibilities are endless. With the right techniques, you can teach your dog good doggy behaviours and some cool party tricks. Here are some simple lessons you can start with to help you build a trusting bond with your dog:

1. Basic Treat Training

puppy training methods

This is the foundation of most training. Simple one-word commands can be used in many situations and can help to keep your dog safe and attentive to your commands.

Start with easy commands like sit, stay, or paw. Reward quickly for each successful attempt. Once your dog is confident demonstrating these commands, you can start to apply them to new situations.

For example, using the sit command when guests come over will be challenging for excited dogs, but it will help to keep them calm and prevent behaviours like jumping. In time, that behaviour will become second nature, and your dog will start new interactions with this action.

Make sure that you continue to praise this behaviour well after it is learned. A simple good dog or a pat on the head will let them know that they are doing the right thing.

To make treat training fun, you have to have fun treats. Find your dog's favourite in The Best Training Treats for Dogs.

2. Good Walking Behaviour

most effective way to train a dog

Teaching your dog to walk beside or at least very close will give you more control over your dog's safety. This is called loose-leash walking.

Whether you are at a dog park, on a walk, or in a pet store, you can keep your dog safer if they are close to you and paying attention to your movement.

Directing them by not letting them lead is a great way to teach this. Force free best dog training methods for loose-leash walking use both positive reinforcement and negative punishment.

When your dog pulls, stop and casually walk in a different direction. By taking away their control over the direction of the walk (P-) and then reinforcing and rewarding them when they turn to follow you (R+), you are telling your dog that following your movements and directions is correct.

For more tips on good walking behaviour, check out How to Stop Your Dog From Pulling on Leash.

3. Homecoming

basic dog training techniques

It’s very common for dogs to be excited when you come home. Teaching them to stay calm until you are ready to give attention can be tricky, but with some repetition, not impossible.

Using the P- technique, ignore your dog. He may jump, bark, roll or do anything to get your attention. Don’t look at him, speak to him, or pet him.

Once he calms himself, sits, or otherwise stops the unwanted behaviour, then you can reward him. For some dogs, this can be a minute or two; for others, it could be an hour. By not reacting to them and only rewarding the good behaviours, your dog will learn that calm, quiet behaviour is correct.

Do You Need a Professional Trainer?

No one said that training your dog would be easy. The fact is, some dogs require more training than others. Whether you are handling a new puppy, a fearful rescue, or an easily excitable dog, working with a professional trainer will get you there more efficiently.

When asked about what to look for in a dog trainer, Joanna recommends doing some research about the trainer and the classes they offer.

“If you are looking to hire a dog trainer, it’s important to make an informed decision to keep your dog safe and make sure they’ll be treated humanely. To do this, look for a Certified Professional Dog Trainer.”

Look for a trainer with these letters behind their name to tell you if they have the proper certification:

    • CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed)
    • CBCC-KA (Certified Behaviour Consultant Canine - Knowledge Assessed)
    • IAABC (International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants)

What is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT)?

This refers to an experienced professional dog trainer that must stick to the highest codes of conduct and must be committed to only giving the highest levels of dog training education.

To obtain this certification, trainers must complete hundreds of hours of training under the supervision of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, as well as taking an intensive exam to test their knowledge.

Here are some helpful resources to find a certified trainer near you:

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the type of classes available. Finding the course and trainer that best suits your dog will ensure a more successful training experience. You may have options for group classes, one-on-one, or even at-home visits to make sure that your dog is set up for success.

Tools for Success

Once you find a trainer and a class type that suits your dog, make sure that you ask about what you need to bring or do to prepare for your training classes. There are some important tools that you should bring to every class. Your trainer may also recommend specific equipment to help you and your dog learn.

best dog training techniques

These items are on the “must-have” list for the team at FLOPPS:

A Flat Collar

Not a martingale, slip lead or choke chain. A flat well-fitting nylon collar. Avoid anything that tightens or pinches. This type of training technique is not compatible with force-free training.

A 6-Foot Leash

Not a retractable lead, just standard nylon. This gives you more control and keeps your dog safer, not to mention close enough to easily get their attention.


Make sure they are treats that your dog loves. Opt for small treats, or treats that you can cut into tiny pieces. This will prevent overfeeding them during training.

A Toy

If your dog is not very dog food motivated, then bring a toy that will hold your dog’s attention. If you are in a group setting, avoid toys that will be disruptive to other dogs. A ball or a stuffy will do the trick. Even if your dog is food motivated, a toy is a nice change of pace when your dog starts to lose focus.

A Treat Pouch

A Ziploc bag in your pocket will work, but a treat pouch is the best for quick and timely rewarding. You will be doing a lot of rewarding, so come fully stocked. Extra picky dogs may need something out of the ordinary, like hot dogs or cheese, to keep them attentive.

A Harness

Harnesses are a good idea if your dog tends to choke themselves by pulling. If you are not familiar with dog harnesses, ask your new trainer what style they would recommend for your dog.

A Positive Attitude

Go into training classes with the mindset of success. Your dog will feel your stress, anxiety, and frustrations. Don’t let yourself get bogged down if your dog requires more time or attention. Every dog is different, and your trainer will ensure that your dog gets the most out of their classes.


Ask the Expert

best dog training methods

To further help you succeed in your dog training goals, we asked Joanna about the dos and don’ts of working with a professional dog trainer:

1. What can dog owners do to prepare for their first class?

All vaccination records should be reviewed before class to ensure the health and safety of all dogs in the class.

2. What are some positive routines that pet owners should incorporate at home to help maintain lessons from class?

Look for positive behaviours in your dog and be diligent about rewarding them. When they get something wrong, show them the correct way and then praise them for it.

Implement the Learn to Earn Rule around the house by asking your dog to do something in order to get what he wants.

Stick to routine things, like asking for a sit before meals or before greeting guests. This instills and helps maintain polite puppy behaviour. This is a fun activity that is simple but effective for training and bonding at home.

3. What are some of the top mistakes that pet owners make that are more harmful than helpful when it comes to their training?

Punishing a dog verbally or physically not only damages the bond between a dog and its owner but it causes the dog to avoid doing those behaviours in front of the owner. It doesn’t teach the correct behaviour. Without teaching correct behaviour, your dog will continue to make mistakes.

4. What should a dog owner expect from your services?

FLOPPS promises effective dog training with lasting results. We offer force-free and humane positive dog training techniques by a certified trainer that has experience dealing with everything from puppies to fear and reactivity cases.

Our classes are unique because they are kept to a small number of dogs so that you and your dog get more help and attention from our trainer.

Flopps also offers one-on-one training sessions. Depending on your dog’s needs, we can make it easy by coming to you. Giving you and your dog their undivided attention will provide extra support to handle more severe cases.

Beyond your typical training, FLOPPS also offers classes during the winter months to help you continue your dog’s training with indoor activities. Try out a Scent Detection or the Trick Class to keep your dog mentally and physically active, even when the cold weather limits outdoor activities.


Are You Ready to Make a Change?

puppy training methods

There is no shame in needing help. That’s what professional dog trainers are for. They share their extensive knowledge and experience to make a difference in your dog’s life. No judgment for you or your dog.

Training should be a fun and enjoyable experience for both you and your dog. It will strengthen your bond with your pet, build trust, and help you build a safe and healthy routine in your home.

Whether you are a new pet owner or just trying to teach an old dog new tricks, investing in professional dog training services will help you to reach your goals.

It’s never too late to train your dog. Have you had success with force-free dog training? Share your story with us in the comments below!

Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channeling some crazy cat lady vibes with her four lovable, but rebellious cats.


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