Now and then, people will ask what my training philosophy is. It’s a very good question, and one you should ask any trainer prior to hiring them.
There are basically two camps in the dog training world – All Positive, and Balanced.
All Positive is just as it sounds; the trainer uses positive approaches to teach behavior and to solve behavioral issues. All Positive works well for puppy training and for teaching tricks, which is the reason we go through a lot of treats during our puppy preschool classes.
All Positive trainers point to scientific studies that prove dogs do learn better, and are less stressed, than training that uses discipline. This may be true for a small number of dogs with calm, submissive, “want to please” temperaments. If you have a calm, submissive dog, congratulations. I have never owned a dog like that, but I like confident, high energy dogs that like to have fun.
I have hired two trainers from the All Positive camp, and have had clients that tried the All Positive trainers first but still had issues with their dogs. Those clients usually say the training made things a little better, but the dog was still not listening when outdoors, and still jumped on people. The All Positive trainers I hired have even acknowledged that my methods are better.
I am a Balanced trainer because that method works. In Balanced training techniques, you use both positive reinforcement and consequences. In the All Positive world, you either ignore the behavior (which in theory will diminish it) or you reward good behavior. For example, to train a dog that jumps on people, the All Positive camp will tell you to turn your back, fold your arms, and ignore the dog. Good luck with that.
For Balanced training to work, there are consequences. For a jumping dog, communicate “no”, and then give reward or attention when all four paws are on the ground. “No” is paired with something unpleasant (consequences), such as a poke in the neck, leash correction, or a shaker bottle. You just need to find the technique that works for your dog.
The All Positive camps talk about science-based training, but the reality is, the science of learning theory has four quadrants (BF Skinner). In operant conditioning, the four quadrants are positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment and negative punishment.
These are –
1. Positive means to add something
2. Negative means to remove something
3. Reinforcement means to increase behavior
4. Punishment means to decrease behavior
I am not going to get too deeply into the science of learning, but when All Positive trainers point to science, the science can be skewed. It’s important to read the research, and also how it was conducted.
In graduate school, I read a lot of science-based periodicals about changing human behavior. I realized it would be far too expensive for our society to implement the suggestions made by these studies. My background is in the criminal justice field, and the studies had to do with changing criminal behavior and drug addiction.
The most important aspect of forming acceptable human behavior is to start when kids are young. Teach your children morals, ethics, how to make good decisions, and to lead by example. If you abuse alcohol or drugs, it is likely your children will grow up believing that is acceptable behavior. There is not an animal on the earth that doesn’t use discipline to teach “no” to their own young. Parents have consequences for their children, so why in the world do we not have consequences for our dogs? It doesn’t make sense.
With dog training, consequences can be the clap of your hands and a loud “NO”! It could be a shaker bottle, water spray bottle, nose slap, training collar, or leash. Any training tool can be used inappropriately, the key to success is knowing the proper technique for the tool of choice. I have a lot of tools in my training box – they are positive and negative, reinforce and punish. The key is clear communication.
I love my dogs, but I also expect my dogs to stay under control and to behave. The same goes for my children. Practice the piano and you earn tablet time. We say “please” and “thank you”. if you cannot do that, we will not be going out for dinner.
The difference between humans and animals is that you cannot reason with animals. I cannot tell my dogs that, if they don’t jump on people I’ll go outside and play fetch with them. People mess up their dogs by attempting to apply human psychology to them. You cannot talk your dog into good behavior, and you cannot ignore your dog into making good decisions.
The key to dog psychology is to teach your dog to follow. This is Lesson 1 at our training facility. You follow me, I do not follow you. I go through the door first, and then you follow. You work for treats and food, nothing is free. You have to do something before I start petting you. The dog learns to earn the good things in life. If everything is free for your dog, then you will have a pushy, bratty dog. It kind of sounds like child-rearing, doesn’t it? Communicating clearly with your dog is two-fold. Say “yes,” and say “no.”
I want you to have a happy, well-behaved dog that listens to you all of the time. A dog that is a joy to be around, and one that you can take anywhere. I love what I do because I can give this result to dog parents. I can teach you how to properly communicate “yes” and “no” so you can have a great relationship with your dog.