Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists
Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists

Active and Passive Training -- a Winning Combination


Nature and society teach all animals, human and canine alike, in both "active" and "passive" ways. Active training involves formal structured lessons which take place at dog obedience classes, or in private training sessions. Instructors lead handlers and dogs through a series of organized activities designed to elicit specific behaviors. Dogs are rewarded for correct responses to commands and quickly learn to sit, to stay and to come. Active training is highly organized and is a very efficient way to present a great deal of information in a short time.

Passive training is more subtle, and models a natural approach to learning. It might include taking a puppy for a walk with a well adjusted older dog. While the puppy follows the older dog, it begins to learn its place in the pack. Puppy soon understands if it pushes an older dog too far, the older dog will swat the pup with a paw, or give it a light nip or growl. A well adjusted mature dog will only use enough force to let the puppy know it needs to modify its behaviour. All puppies want to be accepted and included by their pack and willingly adjust their behaviour to fit in.

In this instance the owner was passive and did not actively teach the puppy. The puppy learned in response to an action from the older dog. The owner intentionally placed the puppy in this situation knowing it would be a great learning opportunity. Had the owner walked the puppy with a nervous or aggressive dog, the puppy would have learned a poor lesson. Puppy would have learned that it is appropriate to display excessive suspicion and aggression.

Passive learning takes place continually--it is a natural response to the environment. While at the lake, throw a floating toy to the waters edge. When your dog splashes in the shallow water, praise them. Start to throw the toy into deeper water. Their enthusiasm for playing with the toy will encourage them to swim and enjoy the water.

If your dog is scared to walk on stairs, place treats on each stair. Don't hurry your dog, let the dog explore at their own pace. Soon, your dog will be bounding up and down the stairs looking for treats. Expose your dog to a variety of safe and positive learning opportunities. A balance of active obedience lessons and passive training opportunities is a winning combination.

Treat your dog with respect. Set clear boundaries, and most of all love your dog!

Noel Pepin -- Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists

Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists