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The Power of Positive Dog Training

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A renowned dog trainer gives you the positive training tools you need to share a lifetime of fun, companionship, and respect with your dog. Plus, you'll get: information on the importance of observing, understanding, and reacting appropriately to your dog's body language; instructions on how to phase out the use of a clicker and treats to introduce more advanced training concepts; a diary to track progress; suggestions for treats your dog will respond to; and a glossary of training terms.

288 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2001

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Pat Miller

79 books28 followers

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5 stars
852 (48%)
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648 (36%)
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223 (12%)
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39 (2%)
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13 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 106 reviews
Profile Image for Tim The Enchanter.
349 reviews174 followers
January 5, 2015
If anything, this book has convinced me that Positive Dog Training is the method to employ. It provides a very detailed look at the reasoning and effectiveness of positive reinforcement training. This is helpful for someone who wants to know more than the method of training but wants to know why they are doing what they are doing. It also give some very detailed information on teaching specific commands and a suggested order.

In my case, I was reading this on my Kindle. While I love my ereader, I need paper book for my reference material. While the information was good, I still went out and bought a hard cover training manual for reference.

I also felt that there was not enough information regarding puppyhood and suggested times to teach and train. Overall, if you want the background and then the training plan, this is a good option. If you are looking for more than that, you will want to look elsewhere or supplement your reading.
Profile Image for Michelle.
49 reviews11 followers
June 5, 2009
I think this really is the go-to book for learning about positive training and how to implement it with your dog. I've never beat around the bush with indicating that I'm very pro-positive training and I think Pat Miller is one of the best.

The book begins with a little bit about Pat's history of training, namely that she was a "traditional" trainer at one point, which many were. Traditional trainers focus more on aversives and punishments: leash pops, choke chains, and the like. It tells briefly of her discovery and switch to positive methods. I think this is important: it says that anyone can do it, no matter how they trained beforehand.

From there, the book is divided into three main sections.

The first outlines the ins and outs of positive training: how it works, why it works, why it builds a better bond with your dog. It explains a little bit about how dogs think and learn and outlines some basic training tools you'll need with your dog.

The second gives instructions on how to get your dog to do some basic obedience: sit, down, stay, come, etc. She breaks each of them down into easy steps to achieve them and gives suggestions on common problems people might encounter when trying to teach their dog the particular command. At the end of each section, she gives "bonus games" which are basic tricks you can teach your dog. She stresses, time and time again, that this should be fun: both for the human and the dog.

The third addresses common behavioral problems, such as housetraining, separation anxiety, aggression, socialization, and what to do when there's a baby on the way. Each of these sections can (and are) books on their own, so in the context of a fairly short book they're somewhat glossed over. Miller is, at every turn, careful to note that if your dog has some more serious issues that finding a good positive trainer who can work with you and your dog in person is most important.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to get started in obedience training with their dog. They'll end up with a really well-behaved dog who loves to work for them.
Profile Image for romy.
77 reviews19 followers
February 13, 2022
No rating - work related.

The Power of Positive Dog Training is a book about force-free dog training, a method who is primarily dominating the market in Europe and slowly making its way to America, where the use of aversive tools such as e-collars and prongs are the main tools used to "train" a dog.

I live in Europe, which means that e-collars are illegal in my country and that prongs are very frowned upon, seen as abusive. Do I think the same ? No. Do I still despise aversives ? Yep. In my country, every single licensed trainer is coached to become a force/fear-free trainer only. Our service dogs and police dogs are all trained FF. The only balanced trainers out here are generally older and often using outdated claims such as the alpha theory, etc.

I have heard many times (mostly on the internet) balanced trainers being convinced that FF was a scam and didn't work on the long term, and that FF trainers were more inclined to "kill" their dogs. I am here to tell you that it doesn't. Our working dogs are doing just fine, and I live in the land of Belgian shepherds, one of the most difficult and high-drive breeds to ever exist. The author did a very good job at describing what force-free training and positive reinforcement could do, as well as explaining the different quadrants.

In the first part of the book, Pat Miller has made some very good points, but I've noticed a lot of outdated beliefs as well. The second part being mostly tricks training advice, I don't really have anything to add. I'm just going to list them down below.

The good : they pointed out how dangerous retractable leashes could be, good views and tips on clicker training, strong crate training arguments (and I'm not fond of crates!)

The bad : from what I've gathered, the author believes in the dominance theory (i.e. the owner has to be the alpha, the pack leader), they claim that some harnesses cause and encourage pulling (they do not), recommends bad harness types (julius K-9, PetSafe Easy Walk) that could harm the dog's spine and cervics as well as their shoulders.

Now, I won't go around recommending this book just yet because as I pointed out, there are quite a few things that should be updated, but this is (so far) the best book that has described positive training. I have yet to read more dog training-related books to get a better understanding of the different training methods.
Profile Image for Justin Podur.
Author 10 books36 followers
August 12, 2013
I thought this book was quite good. I have always been opposed to (and appalled by) the use of punishment in teaching and training; so, I am a natural sympathizer of the 'positive' school of thought. The training methods and ideas in this book are specific, and solid, and seem to be proven in the field too. My only question about the behaviourist framework, which I am going back and forth about, is, to what extent does behaviourist training, even the positive kind, waste the innate potentials of the animal? Behaviourists don't put much stock in these innate characteristics, believing that behaviours are what are reinforced. But a lot of great educational philosophy that I have seen that relates to humans (Alfie Kohn's Punished by Rewards is the prize example) is based on the idea that humans innately want to learn, and rewards actually harm this 'intrinsic motivation'. There are dog trainers and breeders I respect who talk about the innate motivations of dogs, and the idea of 'genetic obedience'. If these concepts are true, then taking advantage of these innate characteristics might come into conflict with some of the Skinnerian behaviourist techniques that trainers use. On the other hand, even the most anti-behaviourist educational theorists, like Kohn, say that feedback and communication are crucial in learning. So, maybe the communication or feedback between a human and a dog consists of a piece of cheese - a reward.

Regardless of my confusion between the 'genetic obedience' and the behaviourist schools of thought, nobody with a dog should be without positive dog training techniques and nobody should be unaware of this book. It's a must-read.
Profile Image for Annie.
891 reviews299 followers
February 11, 2019
My new baby, Harriet, will be coming home from the breeder in two weeks. As a result, I’m reading five books on positive reinforcement-based puppy training and comparing them for anyone trying to decide which of the most popular puppy books to read. Links are below.

The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete

Before and After Getting Your Pupppy by Ian Dunbar

How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days by Shirlee Kalstone

Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution by Zak George


Pat Miller is a classic of positive dog training. She’s also . . . kind of . . . well, boring. Definitely the least interesting of the five, and somewhat wordy.

However, I did appreciate her walk-throughs for all the basic tricks. Those were helpful, and the other books didn’t focus on those as much.

She also breaks it down into time (i.e. “week one of your puppy, focus on these things) which was a helpful organization pattern for me.
Profile Image for Benji.
47 reviews10 followers
May 8, 2015
This book was recommended to me many years ago when I asked for advice on a dog forum for training my corgi mix myself (without a dog trainer). I was told that Pat Miller really is one of the best in the field, and when I purchased the book I was not disappointed. I found it at a used bookstore for a dollar or so, and was told I was really lucky to find it there and so cheaply, too. Upon reading it, I understood why. This book guided me through my early years with my corgi mix, and because of it I was able to train her entirely at home with very little outside help other than the book. It is very easy to read, and easy enough for even a novice dog owner to understand. It covers all the basics - from sit, stay, to even jealousy in multiple dog homes - and six years later (give or take), Sandy is still a very well trained, mostly well behaved (except for some barking that we have made progress with over the years) dog. I keep this book on my shelf, and even now will refer to it sometimes if she presents any problem behaviors. It speaks a lot about the clicker, but you could do most of the methods even without the use of the clicker and still be as effective. The book was really wonderful. I bought many dog training books when I first got Sandy, but this was the only one that I read all the way through. Most others left me dissatisfied, and wanting more (wondering "So, now what?"), but this one spoke to me not as though I was an expert in dog training, nor as though I was completely stupid to dog ownership (I find both of these are common ways of addressing the reader in dog training books - I am not a professional dog trainer, but I am no novice in owning dogs, either), but rather as an equal. I really enjoyed that aspect. Pat Miller knows what she's talking about, and she expresses and "trains" it well. I recommend this one to new dog owners quite often, and most of them have been thankful for the suggestion finding that it helped them, too.

A few more things that I would like to add is that it, also, has resources listed in the back (links to more information on clicker training, video links, etc) which were very, very helpful. It, also, has a chart in the back for tracking training. I loved this aspect of the book, and Sandy's tricks are charted in the back. Even today I can look at it and see how fast she learned.
Profile Image for Barb.
649 reviews35 followers
October 10, 2017
A lot of this was familiar to me because my dogs had the benefit of a “positive” trainer. This book not only told you how to train your dogs without punishment but why you should. It was a lot of “preaching to the choir” for me, but I did learn some new things and discovered some things I’m doing wrong. The narration was good but this is a book I wish I had a paper or kindle copy of so I could refer back to it more easily.
August 4, 2021
I read this book in preparation for my CCPDT exam.

Oh my goodness this book is an excellent resource for clearly explaining so much that goes into training a dog properly. Miller wasn't patting herself on the back constantly like other authors have which was refreshing. She did an excellent job at breaking down so many aspects to training your dog and the right way to go about it. I did have additional notes that I wrote into my copy which I will now lend out to any friends or family who are struggling with their dog/thinking about getting a dog before I have them come to me asking any questions. Absolutely excellent book, I would recommend this to all dog owners and to anyone else just starting their dog training career like me.
Profile Image for Inessa.
210 reviews1 follower
May 21, 2021
Honestly, didn’t enjoy this book. I’d just read a different training book two days prior and maybe that’s why I’m rating this one so low but it was too wordy.

The pros:
- Real life scenarios to fix specific problems
- People have common misconceptions on dogs and those “problems” are explained
- Lots of information

The cons:
- The real life scenarios were so wordy I’d forget the point of the “lesson”
- Too choppy - chapters were maximum 3 pages long, but most were 1-2 pages so the book just seemed to jump around non-stop
- While this goes against punishment training I felt it solely focused on clicker training and it’s just something I don’t care for nor feel is necessary.

If you are interested in clicker training it is insightful but I felt the other book I read was much better and straight forward!
Profile Image for Katie.
3 reviews2 followers
Shelved as 'unfinished'
January 8, 2021
I listened to this as an audiobook on loan from my library. The first part of the book was great to listen to as it talked about the general ideas and theories behind positive dog training. The latter half of the book consisted of detailed instructions for training exercises and games. I can see how a physical copy of this book would be great to have on hand for reference as you are slowly training your dog but doesn't quite work as an audiobook, so I stopped listening about 3/4 of the way through. Unfinished because I chose the wrong format, not because I disliked the book.
Profile Image for Alison.
67 reviews
January 4, 2023
Very helpful and informative. Not a ton of puppy specific content which I was hoping for but thorough review of fundamentals that left me feeling confident.
Profile Image for Smoke.
11 reviews
February 6, 2012
This book has excellent insight into how dog brains work and how they process things, which I have found extremely useful in training my second dog, who was far more difficult than my first. It has a premise, that positive training is more effective than other methods, which exploit fear and pain avoidance behavior to achieve the same result. This premise makes sense to me, since pleasure seeking is complex and involves more of the brain than pain avoidance. But some of the suggested methods are impractical to the point of absurdity... example from the book: your dog is afraid of tall bearded men in cowboy hats. (happens. Really.) since this fear is actually a combination of several triggers, you have to handle each one separately. First invite a tall man with whom your dog is unfamiliar to your house. Then you invite your shortest bearded friend, but remember, the dog must not know the man or it won't work. Meanwhile keep cowboy hats around your house and don them occasionally. Next invite a bearded man over and have him don a cowboy hat, and so on. Most of the techniques for dealing with issues involve using people who the dog does not know. These people must like you enough to be willing to help you train your dog, and be available when the dog needs them to be. so... yeah. However, despite all this I still found the book very useful and still refer back to it because, like I said, it does contextualize dog's thinking in a way that helps me deal with problem behaviors with my dog, and I know that it won't involve yelling or hitting or anything else I just can't bring myself to do, however effective it may or may not be. Knowing this about myself, I knew I had to find a method that effectively channels pleasure-seeking behavior and gives enough information to apply to my own improvised techniques. And it doesn't moralize or preach (I returned a dog training book because it was so sanctimonious and based in belief rather than experience or research. This one does not do that, it's pretty straightforward, though very clear about which side the writer is on.) Basically I use it as one of many sources of information regarding how to deal with dogs, one step above the friendly people at the dog park who are open about their failures. It's all useful information.
Profile Image for Julė Jankauskaitė.
30 reviews7 followers
May 5, 2021
I loved this book, and feel less anxious about meeting my new puppy in a couple of months. The book explains the whys and hows of the positive approach, goes through the basic obedience exercises as well as tackling common behavioral problems.

What I especially liked about the book: it splits all of the exercises into weeks (week one: focus on clicker training + sit + down + ...) which helps a lot with feeling overwhelmed by “where do I start” of the new dog owner. I would’ve liked a similar list for the first days home - not only related to obedience.

The book also gets deeper into the psychology of dogs. I found it very useful, as I had had only very limited knowledge of the topic.

Overall, a must read!
Profile Image for Sander.
14 reviews
March 22, 2016
I think every dog owner in the world needs to read this book.

My family has had dogs for pretty much all my life. None of the dogs have been well trained, and as a result, we've had many problematic behaviors in our dogs. We've had:

1) A big mutt who lived in the yard and never listened to anybody
2) A dachshund who would pee a little whenever he got attention and was afraid to go on walks
3) A medium sized mutt who would pull really hard on walks and occasionally get aggressive towards strangers
4) Another dachshund who likes to drive everyone mad with endless barking

The general opinion in my family seems to be that these problems are either inherent to the specific dogs or their breeds, or that the problems appeared because the family members were not 'alpha' enough with the dogs. Whenever one of our dogs would offer a behavior we didn't like, they would get punished, either verbally or physically. Most members of our family used a prong collar when walking the dog that liked to pull (I refused to use it because it looked far too painful). So, as I was growing up, I learned that if I ever want to have a well behaved dog, I would need to basically be mean towards my dogs, and much more consistently than my family had been.

I'm living on my own now, and getting a puppy quite soon. I've been reading some books and a lot of online resources about dog behavior, and I was really surprised at how misinformed my whole family had been. This book clearly explains how my family has actually been reinforcing all the negative behaviors in our dogs by doing the old-school 'alpha' style dog training wrong. In addition, Pat Miller shows that there is actually a much better way of training our dogs, one that does not involve hurting them physically or emotionally.

From now on, whenever anybody tells me that they're having problems with their dog, I will tell them to read this book.
Profile Image for Shawndra.
104 reviews
November 14, 2011
I really liked this book and am sure I will refer back to it many times. I think the way she discusses both shaping and luring with the clicker as a marker is very useful because it both gives the distinction between the two clearly and gives you options for which one you'd like to use.

I liked how the exercises were laid out and made into games, I think that would make things more accessible to people who may be less experienced with training. I will probably recommend it to people for that reason. Its definitely geared toward pet owners, but I think that it would be good for sport/working dog owners to read as well just because its just a good back to basics text. I may not agree with all her philosophical crap about how to keep ones dog, etc. (i.e. if a dog is getting all its needs met chaining/tethering is a fine containment method.... I do not agree with her blatant anti-tethering views at all) but the training stuff is good.
Profile Image for Lori Kobayashi.
36 reviews21 followers
May 1, 2008
I am 100% convinced that positive dog training is not only effective, but fun for you and your dog!
This is a great book for people who are not familiar with positive training, as well as for people who have some experience with it but need/want more guidance.
I can't wait for the second edition to come out!
Profile Image for Sean Howard.
Author 1 book5 followers
August 15, 2012
If I had to recommend a book to someone on how to better train their dog, and I could only recommend one, this is it. In fact, I give this book to my clients. Clear, concise, easy-to-follow and the most powerful methods for truly-dog-friend, positive reinforcement training.
Profile Image for Michelle.
2,314 reviews15 followers
January 11, 2012
Very informative and really helped me with my dog. There is a new edition published 2008
Profile Image for Whiskeyjack.
196 reviews2 followers
April 26, 2020
First book I've read about dogs and training them and this book is very good. I'm far from being an expert, but I did do some research on what to read on this subject and Pat Miller came up a lot and with good reason. It is clearly written, very practical and always with explanations as to why (or why not) you should do things in a particular way.

As a future dog owner, I did find part 3 "Ain't Misbehavin': Addressing behavior Challenges" more useful now than part 2, which is all about the exercises. So I would have turned that around in the book, but would have read the exercises anyway too, so not a big deal.

The exercises are not only very well explained, I also learned about commands that I had not realized will be very useful. Together with some theory and her basic principles like "Think in Terms of What You Want Your Dog to Do, Not What You Want Him Not to Do" make this an incredibly useful and practical guide.

The book is from 2001 but the material did not come across as outdated to me. Again, I'm no expert and research and knowledge will have advanced for this topic too, but it feels very relevant and accurate. From what I've read on sites like Reddit, experienced dog owners and trainers seem to agree.
168 reviews1 follower
October 15, 2020
A really solid intro to dog training book. A lot of focus on really easy tricks and behaviors though. Some good insight but not anything particularly groundbreaking. What this book does well is using concise plain language explanations. Also a good amount of focus on free shaping was nice to see.

Not to dig into this book in particular but it is part of a larger trend of training manuals. This and other books fail to emphasize how much repetition and patience dog training is. This needs to be hammered home to new dog owners. Pat mentions how if there’s regression you need to back it up a step, sure. But there should be at least a chapter in every one of these type of books about patience. Talk about signs of frustration or anxiety in the dog, “it might take weeks or months to learn” is a sound concept to say in a book but readers will not internalize this. Patience, steadiness and consistency.

Profile Image for Matthew Balshaw.
76 reviews1 follower
May 7, 2022
Great introduction to dog training. I haven't read much at all about dog training before, and this book answered questions I didn't know I had.

The writing style and structure of the information was great, and the book seems to cover everything I'd need to know about training a dog to be a good companion and family animal. When I get a dog in the future I'll certainly refer back to this book. Certainly recommended for anyone about to get a dog or even if you already have a dog and are looking to improve its training.

The most important concept for me in this book was using a "clicker". Basically you click a hand-held device that makes a consistent sound, and give the dog a treat. The clicker becomes a reward marker which indicates to the dog that they did the right thing. It seems like it will make a huge difference in quickly training a dog!

I'm looking forward to using these techniques one day in the future.
Profile Image for Hannah.
23 reviews9 followers
August 11, 2021
Fantastic book for those wanting to learn the strengths and techniques of positive, rewards-based dog training from a text that is modern, accessible and, at times, funny. Miller does not at all advocate for force in dog training, but discusses and explains the incredibly rare instance/s in which it may be necessary (when life-saving). The discussions of theory in the book are well-illustrated with analogy and anecdotes from Miller's long career as a certified trainer, and the section in the latter half of the book that serves as a step-by-step, skill-by-skill training plan is clear and comprehensive - I especially love the "troubleshooting" tips for each exercise, as I feel these are often left out of training guides. As a dog-training student, I feel like all dog owners and pet care industry workers would be better off having read this book.
85 reviews30 followers
April 11, 2018
Excellent book on training you to be a good dog owner. Unfortunately buying a pet doesn't require a license (it should), but if it did this would be a requirement of that license. Some major takeaways:

1) Your dog lives in the moment and does not remember what it did before that you're screaming about.
2) Negative reinforcement - crying out in anger at your dog, yelling or kicking, a slap on the nose - does almost nothing to stop bad behavior as the dog is never certain what exactly it did wrong. If you yell at your dog to get off the couch, he might just think its bad to be on the couch when you aren't home.
3) Reward positive behavior, ignore negative behavior. This is the key to the whole method.
Profile Image for Kim.
141 reviews1 follower
September 5, 2018
More like a 4.5.

This book is awesome, I just wish it went into a little more depth on certain things. For example, I would have liked to know more about the different titles your dogs can earn and the different types of competitions they can enter. I would have also been interested in learning how to teach more tricks than the few that she went over. Overall though, it did a really good job of covering a huge variety of things, everything from housebreaking to aggression to clicker training. I already knew that positive dog training was the way to go, but this did a great job going into it more in depth and explaining why.
Profile Image for Ladonda.
256 reviews
August 29, 2022
What a super helpful and informative book. It introduced some concepts I had never thought of before and has shifted some of my thinking on how my dog thinks. I’ve used the concepts in this book to begin training our new puppy and I wish I had gotten this book sooner. I would’ve started training our new puppy much sooner than I did. The exercises I have worked with her on she’s been able to get down quickly. The only thing this book requires is the discipline of spending the time with your dog every day to work on the training. This book makes it easy without having to pay for expensive training classes outside your home. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for P.G..
143 reviews
July 12, 2018
I’ve never trained a puppy by myself, so I was looking for some good resources to help me with my new Bernese puppy. This book advocates for positive reinforcement training, which uses praise and treats to reward dogs for doing well, not punish them for doing unwanted behaviors. Positive training is crucial for training a companion, not a submissive, fearful dog—especially Bernese, who are very people-motivated. This book is an excellent resource for what I needed, and I’ll be using a lot of the practical tips in the upcoming weeks and months with Rosie.
Profile Image for Anastasia Bizyayeva.
138 reviews2 followers
May 18, 2020
Awesome book - really good introduction to the principles of positive dog training, and super simple. What I particularly liked is that she has a 5 week breakdown of training recommendations, and has weekly planners included so you can put together your own schedule and comments! Additionally, Miller has an appendix that contains recommended cues for some key commands. Ultimately, it's just a great way of diving into dog training when you don't have the time (or knowledge!) to develop your own framework.
Profile Image for Emily V.
60 reviews1 follower
June 28, 2021
As a consumer of every positive dog training book I can get my hands on I can honestly say this is one of my favorites. It covers so many different scenarios whether you have a puppy or are adopting an older dog. There is even helpful charts to keep you on track during training. I especially loved the parts nearer the end of the book that touch on common issues (biting, bring a new child home, etc.) and how to deal with them.
485 reviews
November 19, 2020
I thought this was a really nice overview of dog training and how it should be done. There's a section on specific commands to teach your dog, as well as a section on fixing common problem behaviors. There was the occasional thing that felt a little questionable to me, but overall I thought it was good and explained the reasoning behind the way we train dogs.
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