The How to Tell When Someone Claims to, but Doesn’t Actually Understand Dog Training Starter Kit:

✔️Won’t use “corrective” tools in dog training, but yells at their dog constantly for not listening.

✔️Allows their dog to pull on a “gentle” leader with the strap almost in the dogs eyeballs, but touts that prong collars are inhumane.

✔️Gives unsolicited advice on the internet and says things like: “Try humane ‘science based’ dog training instead,” implying that only positive reinforcement is science-based.

This is the age we live in. We live in a sea of experts simply because people have a keyboard and Google. Believers in positive reinforcement (+R) only training, from my experience are some of the most critical, confrontational folks out there. I’m not writing this to draw a line in the sand. I actually think that the more people talk about +R versus balanced, the more of a divide it creates in all of us. But because I see so much of this nonsense, I need to speak up. Aren’t we all in this for the same reason, to help dogs and live a happier life with them? But here’s the thing. It’s all bullshit. It’s a fear mongering façade that certain personality types like to force onto others. I’m here to give some much needed clarification on this topic.

All of science works: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, negative punishment. It’s ALL science and it ALL works to increase or decrease the likelihood of a behavior happening again. The next time you hear someone refer to +R as the only part of the four quadrants that is “science-based” laugh, and then ignore everything else they have to say.

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Oh and here’s the kicker. There’s no such thing as positive-only training. In order to achieve that your dog would have to live completely off leash, free range. The second you have a leash on a dog you’re using negative reinforcement. If you tell your dog “no”, or use your leg to quickly block them from bolting out of a doorway, you’re using positive punishment. Dogs are ALWAYS being trained by the cause and effect patterns that take place within our homes day to day, whether we realize it or not. Let’s stop the madness and not have such harsh opinions or choose sides on topics we don’t thoroughly understand. 

Aren’t we all in this for the love of dogs anyway? And if we respect dogs for who they are in their most pure form, WE WON’T BE AGAINST THEIR INNATE WAYS OF LEARNING; as Mother Nature isn’t exactly keen on positive reinforcement only.

Corrections: Your Environment is Trying to Tell You Something

I loved letting my puppies out in the snow this morning. I loved watching them romp and frolic. I loved watching them find little treasures like pieces of ice or sticks in the snow. I also enjoyed watching their communication of correcting one another over and over again when each puppy tried to steal the other's find.

To say that dogs don't need to be corrected is the most preposterous concept. Quite frankly, it's ruining the dog training industry. It's also making dogs more aggressive due to lack of consequence. We have seen more aggression in domestic dogs in the past 15 years, than ever before in history. We have also seen a rise in positive-only training methods. There is a correlation there. As always, mother nature knows what she's doing. The first correction a puppy ever feels is from its own mother. She is sure to let the pup know when it's nursing too hard by giving the pup a hearty nip. Picture wolf pups exploring their wondrous new environment. When you stick your head down a porcupine's den, you only do that once. Hopefully the quills don't hurt too bad coming out. It is ingrained in all of us to avoid things that could harm or kill us. We learned to avoid those things through environmental correction. That's what survival is all about.

When you're making dinner and you accidentally touch the flame of the burner, you vocalize, and immediately pull your body away. You remember that lesson as you do not want to hurt yourself and get burned. It never makes you afraid to cook.

Imagine you are in a foreign land where you do not speak the language or have any understanding of technology, architecture or any man made hazard.  Let's say you wandered onto a train platform walking too close to the edge of the tracks. Just as you're about step over the yellow line and off the edge, a stranger grabs your body and firmly pulls you back. He saved your life. Was the stranger's grasp on you painful? No. Even if it was momentarily uncomfortable, would you really care when it came to a life or death situation? This is a dog's reality. We must manually teach them hazard avoidance through the use of properly timed corrections. Running after cars, bolting out of the car, barging the front door threshold are just three examples of daily hazards for our beloved dogs. 

Dogs need to be corrected properly, timely and fairly. Just like anything else there is a right and wrong way to go about it. It is my belief that both positive-only training and correction-only training is unfair to the dog. We must always reward behavior we like and correct behavior that is unacceptable at home or in society. That is your job as your dog's advocate. Find a local "balanced" trainer in your area that can help you communicate with your dog properly if you are struggling. Do you want a happy, safe dog that understands his role in this world and your environment? Tell him when he's doing it right and tell him when he's doing it wrong.