Dog trainers who use mainly or all positive reinforcement methods while training dogs and teaching clients frequently come under fire from balanced (trainers who use both positive reinforcement and positive punishment) and aversive trainers (trainers who almost all positive punishment techniques includes prong collars, shock collars and e-collars).
Many of them think we don’t believe in leadership, they think we let the dogs walk all over us, the most ridiculous of them claim that we are using treats to bribe dogs into doing what we want. What these trainers don’t have is a true grasp on classical and operant conditioning, knowledge of the dangers in behavior suppression or long term effects of aversive techniques.
Dog training is a very technical profession. I actually spent about three years watching dogs for roughly 40 hours a week. That comes out to about 6,000 hours of hands on experience in dog-to-dog behavior. I thought I knew a lot. I really thought I knew what various behaviors meant, the cause and effect of corrections, red flags and a general understand of dogs. But really I just knew exactly that- what I thought.
I moved forward with learning how to become a dog trainer about two years ago. I finally opened a book and started reading. I found webinars and started watching. I interned with a local certified trainer through the ABC program. I was shocked by how much I really didn’t know. Many of the behaviors I believed to be one thing, turned out to mean something entirely different. As a matter of fact, I am reading a new book and just yesterday learned something new about a behavior I’ve been watching dogs do for years! Dog training is one of those fields that requires us to stay on our toes for better or for worse because the field is constantly evolving.
Dogs are awesome creatures. They are opportunists, they are smart, they have impeccable timing and they have an incredible ability to learn way more than we give them credit for. Taking the time now to understand how your dog learns and what his true motivators are is crucial to forming a loving, respectful and positive relationship with your pet. The days of dominating are over and no it’s not because we like to hand out free cookies; it’s because actual science has proven there are more effective (and humane) ways to train your dog.
If you are interested in learning more about forming a better relationship with your dog, contact me! It’s seriously never too late to start!