In today’s world everyone seems so polarized, you are either for or against something and there seems to be little or no middle ground for people to stand on. I myself have chosen in my life to live as in the middle as possible and always attempt to see things from both sides of a story and create my own opinions based on the facts that I can find.
In the dog training world we see extremes as well. There is positive only, balanced, and dominance. Now I am going to preface this with I never will agree with the extremists who believe dogs need to be beaten and dominanced in to submission, any trainer who believes that should really take a look at the research and see that even wild animals aren’t like that. But I do believe that every dog is an individual and needs to be treated and taught as such.
Positive only dog training means only using food/toys as rewards and not adding any punishments or corrections for incorrect behavior. This works for a large majority of dogs. If you have a dog that is motivated by food or their favorite toy they will learn quickly and retain the information because they do associate what they do correct with that reward. The reward is all based on what motivates the dog the most.
The downfall of this is there are some dogs that are not motivated enough by the reward and will ignore it, especially in certain situations. If you have a dog who is bred for a certain task (hunting birds, guarding, herding) and their motivation for that is higher than any other reward they can and will ignore a reward. Now again, I say some dogs. There are many, many dogs who will happily be distracted by a different reward and you can move on with your training. In my opinion positive training should always be attempted first.
Balanced Training or Operant Conditioning
Balanced training uses the operant conditioning cycle. It uses words like positive and negative a little differently than the positive only training. You must take the emotion out of Positive and Negative. In this style of training Positive means Add and Negative means Subtract. That is it. So to positively punish you ADD something such as a stimulus like a prong or electronic collar, to negatively punish you take something away, they do not receive the treat for doing an incorrect behavior. Negative reinforcement adding pressure and then removing it. This could be when your dog is pulling on the leash and there is pressure on the collar, they get rewarded when they stop pulling because the pressure is released. Positive reinforcement is adding something to encourage behavior, like treats.
The downfall is sometimes the dog can easily be confused if not done properly and consistently. The tools used NEED to be used responsibly and under the right guidance or they could cause serious injury. If a person is to use this method of training it is beyond important to find a trainer that has experience and will always used the least aversion for training each individual dog. This is not a form of training one should tackle on their own.
This is training the goal is to become the dominant one of the relationship, usually by using force. Now, it has been disproven that wolves use a dominance hierarchy, yes dominance does play a role, but it is much more complicated than the meanest, toughest always wins. That’s probably a post for another time. The dominance training methods usually rely on pinning dogs down, or even hitting and in some cases biting the dog (yes, biting your dog). Another thing we need to remember is that dogs have been domesticated and their social pack has migrated into ours more and more and while they are still animals and are different than humans, they not longer would fit into the world of wolves either.
This form of training has worked for some people, in fact its the type of training that was used for years before other methods came around. But I think we now have much more improved ways to create a relationship/partnership with our dogs and this is probably not the best style of training.
The biggest thing you need to remember when finding a trainer and training style is do your research. Find the training style that you feel most comfortable with and find a trainer who has years of experience working with dogs. And ask to see their dogs. See how they interact with their own dogs and see if that is what you see for yourself and your dog. Every dog learns differently. Every person learns differently. There should never be a one size fits all approach to any way of learning. Tools are tools and any tool if used improperly can cause pain and suffering. Lets all come together and love dogs. As long as your dog is happy and healthy then you are doing the right thing.
This blog is opinion. Please do not take it as fact. Please make your own decisions and respect mine 🙂