What Is Force-Free Training?


What is Force-Free training about?

- Force-free, or Positive Reinforcement (PR), training is focused on providing your dog something that is reinforcing or desirable, like a treat or praise, immediately when the desired behavior occurs

- The result is an increased likelihood of the dog doing that behavior again in the future

- The PR learning approach applies across all species – from dogs to humans


Why is Force-Free, Positive Reinforcement (PR) Training right for you?

- It is an incredibly effective way to train your dog

- It builds a strong bond with a foundation of trust between you and your dog

- It doesn’t require you to force, hurt or intimidate your dog

- You won’t anguish over hitting or scaring your dog

- It is the most up-to-date, science-based training approach


What is Force-Free training NOT about?

- Force-free training avoids hitting, yelling, kicking, giving correction with a pain-inducing collar, holding the dog down on its back or side, or grabbing the dog by the scruff, etc. 

- There an be many unintended consequences when using physical punishment, including aggression, anxiety and mistrust of the pet parent


That’s not how my parents trained our dog– why the change?

- We know better now!

- Like spanking kids, physical punishment is an outdated approach that is unnecessary

- Dogs are not wolves and haven’t been for centuries, so there’s no reason to act like one!

- We have brains, dogs have brawn, so it is best to use your brain strength to your advantage



Remember when owners used to rub a puppy’s nose in its accident to potty train? We know that isn’t helpful in potty training because:
- It makes the puppy want to hide when he goes potty which results in the puppy secretly having accidents all over the house!

- The “correction” (nose rubbing) is often delivered long after the potty accident, so the puppy cannot put together in his mind the current punishment and the past accident, and thus the correction is entirely ineffective



Force-Free myths debunked!


Myth #1: Dogs trained with PR have no discipline or structure


- PR actually encourages pet parents to provide consistent rules and structure to help their dogs know what is expected of them

- PR trainers often instruct pet parents to set their dogs up for success by managing the environment, interrupting, redirection and when appropriate, ignoring unwanted behavior

- Good training imposes strict criteria for what behaviors get reinforced

- Every reinforcer, from food to toys to petting to life rewards, serves a purpose to strengthen a desired behavior



- Give attention with low-key petting and praise to a dog resting quietly

- Ignore a barking dog when he’s demanding a ball toss or his dinner to communicate that barking will not get him what he wants

- If your dog is barking for attention and you yell at the dog- you have actually just rewarded and reinforced the barking!


Myth #2: PR training doesn’t punish bad behavior


- PR trainers use negative punishment when needed after managing the environment, rewarding good behaviors and teaching new behaviors that are incompatible with the unwanted behaviors

Negative Punishment means removing something the dog likes in response to an unwanted behavior in order to reduce the likelihood the dog shows that behavior again 

- Time-outs are a form of negative punishment 

- Other examples are turning or walking away when your dog jumps on you

- When your dog is used to being rewarded for good behavior, the absence of positive attention actually tells the dog when it has done something wrong! 


Myth #3: PR training needs to be paired with punishment-based or aversive training


- A modern training approach and a dog’s psychological state go hand in hand

- We use training that works for as many dogs as possible with the least amount of unintended side effects

- We emphasize PR and use as few aversive techniques as possible to strengthen the relationship between your dog through trust and predictability

- PR provides the best opportunity for the highest psychological health for your pets and you!



Here are more details about the science behind Positive Reinforcement training and Wagfield’s commitment to it:


Behavioral problems are the number one reason owners give when surrendering their dogs to animal shelters[1]. Some of the most problematic behaviors include aggression to people and other animals[2]; however positive reinforcement training and socialization can reduce the probability of these types of behaviors[3]. Based on research, we trust that by offering an accessible, effective and force-free training resource[4], pet parents will have an unparalleled opportunity to train and socialize their dogs, reducing the risk of relinquishment[5].


Pulling directly from an academic paper by Rooney & Cowan, we can directly compare force-free training with punishment-based methods. 

"Whilst the proportion of reward-based methods showed significant associations with benefits such as enhanced ability in a new training task; the proportion of punishment-based methods only showed associations with potential detriments such as reduced interactivity during play and lower levels of interaction with new people. Thus, we conclude that for dog owners, the use of reward-based training appears to be the most beneficial for the dog's welfare, since it is linked to enhanced learning and a balanced healthy dog–owner relationship." [6].


At Wagfield, our mission is to help save dogs lives by offering affordable, convenient, best-in-class socialization and training solutions.  To do so, we enable every pet parent to learn trusted PR training and socialization methods on-demand. In fact, our online product offering is specifically designed to help pets and their parents live together happily ever after! If you have questions about PR, or training in general, reach out - we're here and happy to help!


[1] Salaman, M. D., Hutchison, J., Ruch-Gallie, R., Kogan, L., Jr., New, J. C., Kass, P. H., & Scarlett, J. M. (2000) Behavioral reasons for relinquishment of dogs and cats to 12 shelters. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 3, 93-106.

[2] Jr., New, J. C., Salman, M. D., King, M., & Scarlett, J. M. (2000). Characteristics of shelter-relinquished animals and their owners compared with animals an their owners in U.S. pet-owning households. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 3, 179-201.

[3] Lindsay, S. R. (2000). Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training: Adaptation and Learning. Aimes, IA: Iowa State University Press.

[4] Hiby, E. F., Rooney, N. J., & Bradshaw, J. W. S. (2004). Dog training methods: Their use, effectiveness and interaction with behavior and welfare. Animal Welfare, 13, 63-69.

[5] Patronek, G. J. Glickman, L. T., Beck, A. M., McCabe, G. P. & Ecker, C. (1996). Risk factors for relinquishment of dogs to an animal shelter.Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 209, 572-581.

[6] Rooney, N. J., & Rowan, S. (2011). Training methods and owner–dog interactions: Links with dog behaviour and learning ability. Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 132, 169-77.