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Dog Training 101: 4 Quadrants, LIMA, Myths + Training Tips | Pupford

November 14th, 2023

Filed under Training

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Welcome to Dog Training 101!

The good news is that there are no tests, pop quizzes, essays, or textbooks here. Just some tried-and-true methods for successfully training your dog.

We wanted to give this introduction so you’re familiar with some of the concepts you might find in the Pupford Academy or in some of our podcast episodes or articles -- plus, it never hurts to give more tips and tricks for training your dog!

Here's some of what we will cover:

  • LIMA dog training
  • The 4 quadrants
  • The Humane Hierarchy for dog training
  • Dog training myths
  • Training tips & tricks

First, let’s talk about some concepts that we feel dog parents should be familiar with for training.

Related Reading: 10 Best Puppy Training Tips


LIMA stands for “Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive.”

The LIMA dog training approach will look at all possible methods of achieving a training behavior and select the least intrusive, minimally aversive one first. In other words, LIMA favors having your dog work for something positive rather than work to avoid something negative or unpleasant.

LIMA encourages positive reinforcement and avoids “punishment” methods of training (choke chains, e-collars etc.). Under this approach, you can achieve desired behaviors without risking any negative effects like fear, aggression, or physical injury.


dog shaking hand of pup parent | Pupford

There’s a theory by B.F. Skinner known as operant conditioning that basically explains how a dog’s behavior is determined by learned consequences. This theory is applied to dog training as what’s known as the 4 quadrants.

Before we define the quadrants, let’s define some key terms:

  • Reinforcer -- a stimulus or action that encourages a behavior and makes it more likely to be repeated
  • Punishment -- a stimulus or action that discourages a behavior and makes it less likely to be repeated
  • Negative -- removing a stimulus or item
  • Positive -- adding a stimulus or item

It’s important to remember that in the sense of dog training, positive and negative are not synonymous with “good” and “bad.”

The four quadrants are simply combinations of positive/negative + reinforcer/punishment:

  • Positive Reinforcement -- adding a reward to encourage a wanted behavior.
  • Negative Punishment -- removing something rewarding to discourage unwanted behavior
  • Negative Reinforcement -- taking away something to encourage a behavior.
  • Positive Punishment -- taking an action to deter unwanted behavior.

At Pupford, we recommend taking a positive reinforcement approach to training. Read why here.

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for a 100% free online dog training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup with Zak George. Get access to videos & daily tips covering biting, leash walking, potty training and more! Sign up for free here! 🐶


The Humane Hierarchy gives you a tool for decision-making during training. It explains how you should analyze certain behaviors and approach changing them. The Humane Hierarchy, in order, is:

  1. Health, nutritional, and physical factors -- are there medical, environmental or nutritional factors contributing to the behavior? If so, they should be addressed by a vet.
  2. Antecedents -- are there setting events, motivations, or stimuli that impact the behavior?
  3. Positive reinforcement -- delivering a favorable outcome after a behavior to increase the chances of it happening again (yes, this is the one with the treats).
  4. Differential reinforcement of alternative behavior -- reinforcement of an acceptable behavior, removing the reinforcement when a problem behavior happens.
  5. Negative reinforcement -- either punishment by removing a positive reinforcer, removing negative stimulus when the desired behavior happens, or remove reinforcers to change behavior
  6. Positive punishment -- delivering a negative consequence to reduce unwanted behavior

UPDATE: A new position statement by the AVSAB states, "Based on current scientific evidence, AVSAB recommends that only reward-based training methods are used for all dog training, including the treatment of behavior problems." So while the Humane Hierarchy states that if all else fails, you can move on to positive punishment, this advises to never get to the point where you are using aversives with your dog, no matter the situation.

The goal is to stay as low in the hierarchy as possible when trying to modify your dog’s behavior.

Now, let’s switch gears away from theories and move into practice.


There is SO much information out there about dog training; unfortunately, not all of it is true.

Here are a few of the most common dog training myths, and the truth behind them:

myth vs truth | Pupford


While specific tips and techniques are a little beyond our 101 syllabus, there are some general training tips we’d like to share for you to keep in mind when you approach dog training:

  • Consistency is key -- there is no quick fix in dog training. It will take time and repetition for your dog to learn. It can even take several months or even a year for your dog to nail down a behavior in all environments. Be patient, and be consistent.
  • Involve the whole family -- you want your dog to respond to everyone in the family, not just one person. Even including children in training sessions is important.
  • Create a training schedule -- this will help with consistency. Try to block out a few short (10-15 minute) sessions if your dog is very young, or less frequent longer sessions for an adult dog.
  • Control the environment -- when you first introduce a behavior to your dog, do it in an area with no distractions. Over time, you can slowly introduce more and more distracting environments, like the back yard or a park.
  • Use high-value rewards -- you want your dog to be enticed by what you’re offering them so they’re motivated to work during training sessions. Training treats or small pieces of plain boiled chicken are great choices.
  • Be patient with your dog and love them! Training is just as much about strengthening your relationship with your dog, which is why we are believers in positive reinforcement training. Be patient as your dog learns and show them love every step of the way!

We have a ton more tips and tricks (no pun intended!) awaiting you for your dog training journey. You can find them in the Pupford Academy, alongside expert-led videos to help you with everything from at-home grooming to crate training, to potty training, and more! Check out the Pupford Academy here! Want to learn more about the 4 Quadrants of Dog Training? Check out our new video in Academy for a deep dive on the subject.

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for a 100% free online dog training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup with Zak George. Get access to videos & daily tips covering biting, leash walking, potty training and more! Sign up for free here! 🐶


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