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Positive Method Training vs. Dominance or Punishment Based Methods
Best Dog Training:What you need to know in choosing a dog trainer



So many websites, so much conflicting information, it's confusing and makes choosing a dog trainer even harder.

I am in a unique position as a trainer having worked for 20 years as a "no food reward" punishment based trainer. When I started my career 33 years ago, that was the current method being used and taught. I was never comfortable with punishment based methods, and always felt there must be a kinder, gentler, and more effective way to train animals. Unlike a lot of other trainers who are against reward based training, (but never really tried it),I am in the unique position to make some comparisons.

1. Positive trainers do not bribe dogs. Food is used as a reward to motivate the dog to repeat a behavior we are teaching, or to change an old behavior pattern or association. Example: A dog hates being brushed, and will actually growl or bite the owner. Positive trainers will use what is called "counter-conditioning"and will present the brush and give a treat. When the dog is happy to see the brush (because the brush means good things happen), then we would slowly proceed to brushing, rewarding all the way. We changed the dog's emotional reaction to the brush, which has been the real problem all along.

2. You will not need to use reward forever. Positive methods are just that,  methods to achieve the end goal of a trained dog. Once the dog is trained & understands what you want, and is also accustomed to obeying you, the treats are faded out.


3. Your dog will respect you. Positive trainers may make the training more rewarding and motivating for the dog, but that does not mean we don't have rules and expectations. Your dog will understand what you want more quickly with positive methods and you will build a relationship with your dog based on trust.  Your dog will come to respect you through time spent training her, and your providing consistency, structure, and clear boundaries.


Alpha, Schmalpha: Here is a good link explaining the newest scientific research on wolves, and how scientists no longer like to use the term "alpha". This is also applicable to dogs, as they are essentially domesticated wolves.

So much of the punishment based theory was based on a human created wolf pack, which was then studied and written extensively about. Unrelated wolves will fight for dominance, but that is an unnatural situation. Wolves actually live in family groups, like people, and the pups and juvenile young respect Mom and Dad as we respect our parents. Here is the link: www.kmtr.com/content/petsource/training/story/What-does-Alpha-mean/sqyzCjoxLUW-NoKqqYb2JQ.cspx


What the other guys don't tell you, Punishment based trainers speak in code to disguise the fact that they will physically punish your dog. These are some of the things you will read and hear.

1. We teach your dog based on respect, trust. love and praise.  If using only love, praise, respect and trust training dogs worked, most people would not need the services of a trainer. Truth be told, while some dogs might respond to just praise and love, most don't. For the average dog, and especially any problem dogs, this just won't work. Dogs like to please themselves, and have their own interests and agendas. After all, it is more fun to chase the squirrel than to come back to you when you call at that time. 

There are really only a few ways to train any animal, either you are using positive methods, or punishment based methods, or sometimes a mixture of the two. Many trainers use choke collars (code words: slip collars), prong collars, shock collars, ear pinches, throw chains (they use these to throw at your dog and hit him with it), and roll overs. In other words, instead of your dog learning pleasantly and without stress, your dog will learn and work to avoid the punishment. So really, they are learning through fear.

2. More Code words. They will refer to these methods as a leash correction (translate, a hard jerk with a choke collar on), leash pop, corrective jerk, slight electrical stimulation, no more than a static electricity shock, a tingle. If you have any doubts, I would say try all of these methods on your own neck, the leash correction wearing a choke (or slip) collar, the electrical stimulation wearing a shock collar on your neck, not your arm. Only then will you know what your dog will experience, and whether or not it really hurts.

3. Force used in the actual teaching process. Learning while being forced physically to do something often triggers a flight or fight response in many dogs. It is an unpleasant way to learn a new skill. Many dogs put most of their energy into resistance, rather than learning and acquiring the new skill. Since I have done it both ways, I can tell you from experience, not just my opinion, that force takes longer and can create a dog that really hates the training.

4. Correcting unwanted behaviors. This can actually do a lot of harm. This is where your dog can have negative fallout from these methods. Example: A dog that growls when you approach him while he is eating. Punishment based trainers will correct the growling. This is potentially dangerous since growling is a form of communication.The dog is trying to tell you to stay away, he is not comfortable with you near his food. If you just suppress the growling, without changing his feelings, it can actually increase the likelihood of his escalating to a bite. After all, he knows he will be "corrected" for growling.

5. Liftime Training Guarantees.

No trainer can really guarantee results.  Much of the success of training is the owner's responsibility, as owners live with their dogs and need to practice and keep using the training techniques they have been taught by the trainer. Dog Trainers can no more guarantee results than a tennis teacher can guarantee your becoming a good player. You would need to practice, and be committed to learning, same thing with your dog.

What the other guys really guarantee is that the dog will work for them, if you are having problems, good luck getting them to come for the lifetime of your dog. If it sounds too good to be true, you know that it is. In the case of problem behavior, such as aggression, trainers can only make an educated guess as to the chances of success, the dog has to have to ability to change, and you only know that after you have started working with the dog.

6. Sending the dog away to be trained. First of all you are not part of the process, which is very important if you want your dog to obey you, not just the trainer. You will still need to continue the training after the dog comes home, and change any of your behaviors that were causing your dog to be a problem. Also, you will not know what techniques were used with your dog. Personally, I wouldn't trust anyone else training my dog without knowing exactly what they were doing to my dog.



1. Positive methods are proven methods that give great results. Your dog will be less stressed and less likely to suffer unwanted side effects. Fearful dogs will grow more confident by participating in a method that is predictable, positive and motivating . Like most things in life, there are no real shortcuts or miracles. It takes hard work, consistency, and some environmental management to achieve success. Aggressive dogs will change their outlook, (changed from the inside out), and you can relax knowing that the methods will not make them worsen.

2. Positive methods will be easier for you to learn. You don't need to be strong, big, or physically talented. It is not easy to give an effective "corrective jerk" to a dog, and when I used those methods most of my owners were not really effective at applying them.

3. Punishment based methods are risky, and can have negative side effects or fallout. Fearful dogs can become more fearful, aggression can worsen, nice normal dogs can be pushed and feel they must defend themselves. This is especially true with the roll over or scruff shake school of thought. Based on information learned by watching captive wolves (who were probably not acting entirely normal, due to captivity), it is based on dominating a dog like wolves dominate each other. The problem with this is we are not wolves or dogs, and we don't need to resort to these methods to train our dogs. We have brains, let's use our intelligence instead.  Punishment based training is stressful, both for the dogs and the owners.

4. Why use aversive or punishment based methods if positive methods work? Ask me for referrals, come to observe a group class, and you will see how you can train with reliability, solve behavior problems, housetrain your pup, all using reward, kindness, patience, and lots of practice. Don't use 30 to 40 year old techniques, dog training has grown and adapted as the science of dog's behavior, and how they learn has been examined and updated.


Don't Believe me, here are some high quality links. Educate yourself and be an ethical owner.




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