Force Free Dog Training Techniques: Tips from an Expert

14 Minute Read
Updated March 14, 2022

Dog Training takes time, patience, and an understanding of how your dog learns. Using the force-free dog training method reinforces positive behaviors 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 behavior. 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 training methods involve building a bond with your pet and pet parents. Popular force-free puppy training methods can help you and your furry best friend achieve their desired behavior.

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 training tips. Many professional trainers practice only force-free 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 training tips use humane techniques to instill positive behaviors and routines, including clicker start 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 puppy socialization classes, you NEVER use the following:

    • Pinch or prong collars
    • Choke collars or chains
    • Manipulation of the dog's body language 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 training method has been backed by the support of dog psychologists and certified animal behaviorists that understand how your dog processes different types of reinforcement.

Force Free vs Balanced Dog Training Tips

Balanced training combines reinforcement with punishment. The technique involves giving praise or rewards for good behavior and punishing or removing rewards to respond to bad behavior. While initially, this may seem like it's working, you may start to see fearful or anxious responses from your dog over every 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 play 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 behavior in the canine through the use of positive reinforcement with dog 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 behavior 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 to get 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 favorite toy or treat, which acts as a driver to ensure that the pup continues to repeat the task or behavior 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 process 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 behavior to take hold and become even more of a problem.  When learning how to train a dog, force-free 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 play sessions 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 tips, 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 behaviors through the use of either reward or punishment-based techniques. There are four quadrants of operant conditioning:


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 an unwanted behavior, 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 behavior when you enter your home is a good example. P- will teach the dog that jumping, barking, or other signs of over-excited behavior 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 techniques or R+, then you’re right! Positive reinforcement is the core concept of force-free dog training services. 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 behavior 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 behavior 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 hand signals and you just don’t know it.

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

The possibilities are endless. With the right techniques, you can teach your dog good doggy behaviors 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


This is the foundation of most crate 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 basic commands, you can start to apply them to new situations.

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

Make sure that you continue to praise this behavior 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 dog treat training fun, you have to have fun treats. Find your dog's favorite in The Best Training Treats for Dogs.

2. Good Walking Behaviour


Walking your dog beside or at least very close to you 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 training tips for loose-leash walking uses both hand signals 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 hand signals behavior, check out How to Stop Your Dog From Pulling on Leash.

3. Homecoming


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 behavior, then you can reward him. For some dogs, this can be 15 minutes or more, for others, it could be an hour. By not reacting to them and only rewarding the good behaviors, your dog will learn that calm, quiet behavior is correct.

Do You Need a Professional Trainer?

No one said that crate 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 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 teaching your dog and dog training education.

To obtain this certification, trainers must complete hundreds of hours of training under the supervision of a Certified Professional Dog Trainers, as well as take 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 and training class. You may have options for group classes, one-on-one, or even at-home visits to make sure that training your dog is set up for success.

Tools for Success

Once you find a trainer and a class that suits your dog, make sure that you ask about what you need to bring or do to prepare for your puppy 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.


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 reinforcement 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 started 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 the house training classes.

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 in the living room.

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 rewards, 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 puppy training classes and clicker training 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 a different type, and your trainer will ensure that your dog gets the most out of their classes.

Are You Ready to Make a Change?


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 with baby gates 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.

Ask the Expert: Frequently Asked Questions 

best dog training methods

To further help you succeed in your 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 and reward positive behaviors in your dog while correcting and praising them for potty training. Implement the Learn to Earn Rule by asking your dog to perform tasks in exchange for what they desire, like sitting before meals or greeting guests, fostering polite behavior and strengthening the bond 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 behaviors in front of the owner. It doesn’t teach the correct behavior and without teaching correct behavior, your dog will continue to make mistakes.

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

FLOPPS provides effective, lasting dog training using force-free techniques by a certified trainer experienced in various cases. A small class sizes ensure more individualized attention, and we also offer one-on-one sessions, including in-home training. 

5. Can force-free training be applied at home, or should I seek professional guidance? 

Force-free training techniques can be used at home, especially for basic obedience training. However, for more complex issues or specialized training, consulting with a professional force-free trainer is often beneficial.

6. Are there any challenges or limitations to force-free dog training techniques? 

Force-free training may require more time and patience compared to punitive methods. It also relies on finding the right motivators for each individual dog.



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 is currently working for one very rebellious cat, Jack, and hanging out with a goofy but loveable doggo named Roxy.


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