Understanding Different Training Methods
There is a lot of misinformation out there, especially on the Internet about training methods, tools (visit Training Tools) and what is right/wrong. What many professionals won’t tell you is that there is not one specific cookie cutter way of training that works. You cannot help every dog in front of you if you are only willing to use one or two tools, only use treats or only use corrections.
We are going to go over how we do things as balanced trainers and the misconceptions on balanced training as well the other main ‘camp’ and the misconceptions and hidden truths.
As balanced trainers our philosophy is to guide/lead/teach, positively reward good behaviours with a combination of food, toys and praise and to correct bad/dangerous behaviour.
Leadership and direction is critical to a well behaved and well balanced dog. Remember, 99% of their DNA is still wolf, they are predators and they are programmed to follow their pack leaders (usually there is an alpha male and female who share this leadership position) all day. Some dogs are far more primal than others and the stronger their primal instincts, the more leadership they require.
Your best friend is an apex predator, not an infant (yes it’s ok to love them like one of your children but you need to recognize and respect what they are and provide them with those needs, not human needs).
Often there also is a lot of misunderstanding about corrections. 95% of what we do with dogs is calm, gentle guidance using what is called positive reinforcement – the other 5% is the correction/negative association to the bad behaviours that were not removed after all the guidance and reward for the good behaviour was not enough (sometimes it is). We always quickly find out works best for each individual dog and use that.
To correct a dog does not mean you have to cause harm, be mean, ‘dominating’ or abusive in anyway! Corrections can certainly vary in type and intensity as it depends on the individual dog and the severity of their issue.
For example: Your dog sees ‘red’ when a car comes, lunges and tries to bite the tires. You could be dragged into the traffic if you’re caught off guard or your dog could be hit/run over if they get loose. This is something that needs to be corrected in order to make sure it stops. In a situation like this that is so intense and life or death, the correction may need to be quite uncomfortable but you would rather cause your dog 3 seconds of discomfort to ensure they’re not going to be severely injured or die? I certainly would choose the 3 seconds of discomfort to make the point that cars are dangerous rather than take the chance they get hit.
We strive to always be open minded and always be learning from other respected and accomplished professionals. And, never say never! Just because we frequently use a couple tools doesn’t mean we don’t need to switch to something we don’t normally use for the dog that’s in front of us.
Our goal is to be as gentle as possible as much as we can and as firm as we need to be whenever we need to be.
Pure positive/positive reinforcement training means only rewarding good behaviour and completely ignoring the bad (including aggressive behaviour). This concept in thought is great! Who doesn’t want to just have love puppies and rainbows?! Firstly, their motto is ‘death before discomfort’ (doesn’t sound so positive to me). You are not allowed to touch your dog. You are usually only allowed to use a harness, head halter, flat collar or in some cases you are allowed to use a martingale collar and for the ones who are accepting of some form of correction when it comes to barking, a citronella collar(see Training Tools).
For example: If the dog is jumping on and scratching you repetitively you are only supposed to turn your back and ignore them and hopefully they stop and then you can reward them (once in a while this works, great). Often this behaviour persists and can start causing harm to you, your children and/or seniors.
Or in the above scenario with the car, you would just keep trying to bribe your dog out of their hysterics with treats. In some cases with a more educated trainer, they would at least be working the dog at a distance where the dog can more easily be distracted by the treats but in most cases this is not enough to keep the dog from the behaviour once they’re closer to the vehicle.
This started because people wanted to be humane and everyone loves their animals and doesn’t want to cause them harm, but this is causing a lot of problems in the dog world and doing animals more harm then good. Purely positive is unfortunately a lie. You can’t fix true aggression or other serious behaviour issues this way but the people that preach it will tell you science says this is best. They don’t seem to actually have any real science that backs up their claims. The only studies that are ever referenced are how punishment can affect a dog negatively which of course is true. But this comes from dogs who were being ‘trained’ by people who only used negative punishment and very little positive rewards.
These people and their followers tend to spread a ton of misinformation about tools that they have not received education in and they bully other trainers and dog owners who are using a prong collar or e collar because they are so certain that they are in humane.
In actuality the tools themselves have the ability to be more gentle then their beloved head halters.
This information is not talked about enough because a lot of trainers and owners are scared to speak up. They are turning off the reviews on their business pages because groups of these people will start giving them fake one star reviews and will even start harassing their clients. Not very positive loving behaviour if you ask me.
Let me be clear, this is NOT about bashing pure positive trainers at all because they aren’t all like this.
There are lots of ‘positive reinforcement’ trainers out there of course who do not fall into this category exactly, they don’t all bully people or spread lies about tools they don’t understand. They simply prefer to do things that way in the situations that it works.
Those are the main types of training. I feel it’s important to mention that balanced trainers also do have people out there giving us a bad name as well. Some are extremely harsh with their corrections and use them far more then rewards. They often do so with anger as well.
Just like in every industry, there are some people who are honest and kind and trustworthy and provide great results but there are some who are/do not and when someone has only encountered the one who does things poorly/negatively, they often believe that’s just how it all is.
In the end, you have to do research, look for proof of results, look for someone who is capable of handling your dog (even if your dog has a bite history or is showing signs of aggression) and look for someone who does not make you feel like you’re the problem (even though in many cases part of the issue is technically caused by you, that’s only because you did not have the right information!) and look for someone who is continually learning from other professionals. Of course if you’re not willing to follow the instructions given to you by your chosen professional, you are definitely at fault and if it was me, I would fire you as a client.
If you are committed to your dog, we along with our colleagues will be just as committed to helping you and your dog. If you’re looking for local help, just ask us for recommended balanced trainers near you!