I’ve been called a fluffy, cookie pusher/treat dealer, briber, wimp, and the oddest of them all a hippie pot smoking trainer, among other terms, but those were the ones that stood out in my mind. I have been told our methods (positive dog trainers) are CRAP right to my face (as well as had people laugh at me, and belittle me), or have people state my line of work is a wish wash of a method that only works if you have a treat in hand….I have been told that dogs forget our training methods after a short time and never remember the command. And also that our methods only works on certain dogs. I have been bullied around because I am a Positive Reinforcement trainer (Online and offline). I have even had people try to claim I do not understand dog behavior due to the fact I use Positive Reinforcement, even though I have gone through school for it as well as working towards my PhD in animal behavior, not to mention years of hands-on experience. Yet I for some reason do not know a thing because I decided to go with up to date science when it comes to dog behavior. But you know what? When it comes down to the truth, it’s about a lack of education for those who would call positive reinforcement any of the previously mentioned statements. But that can be remedied.
I would like to point out some quick facts/statements about Positive Reinforcement:
1: It DOES work with all dogs… if it did not work you are doing it wrong. This even means aggressive, fearful, man eating dogs can be worked with and become a better member of society.
2: Dogs do NOT forget everything you train them with Positive Reinforcement. There have been award winning dogs in competitions that are only trained with Positive Reinforcement.
3: No I do not need a treat every time I ask for a command. Treats (could be a toy praise or yes even food) are weaned off from the dog over time and eventually the dog responds to the command without the treat.
4: When we compare dogs to humans we are not saying the dog is a human or should be treated as such. We are referring to the fact that science has PROVEN dogs have the brain power of at least a child of 2-4 years of age. We then ask owners/ trainers to ask themselves how do you educate a being with that kind of thought power and have the best results with no fallout issues. With dedication, that intelligence can get to that of an adolescent human.
5: We are not telling owners to let their dogs walk all over them. Positive Reinforcement doesn’t mean you be a push over.
6: Positive Reinforcement is working towards getting your dog to think on its own, to work out the issues and gain a reward for figuring it out. Out in the wild dogs will avoid pain, and other harsh things that are used in pack theory/negative Reinforcement, but dogs will WORK HARDER and longer to gain something that increases something good such as a food reward… Think of it this way; you go to work to get paid so you can feed yourself, cloth yourself and so on. This same theory works for all dogs.
7: There is a difference between a leader and a bully; a Leader shows and teaches a dog what to do, while a bully uses force and pain in many forms to get what they want.
8: Your dog does NOT view you as another dog. Do you look like a dog? No, thus your dog will not be eyeing you as a “Pack leader”. Dogs are also social groups, not pack groups. They have different learning styles and living styles than that of a wolf pack. Your dog looks to you for guidance and to show them what behavior you want out of them. This is the leader they are eyeing you to be.
9: Positive Reinforcement has been around for a while now, sadly there are some “celebrity” T.V trainers who are unable to get with the times and the science so they can spread the word worldwide of what truly is fact. It is stated that it can take 10-20 years for newer theories to catch on with the general public, for that theory to be general knowledge.
10: Yes, science has backed us up and will keep on backing us up. Science is the mainstay of our modern world for finding out all the answers of the world and the lives in it, including behavior. There is no sense in denying it.
11: We are NOT saying negative training does not work (shock, prong, choke), it’s more so the execution of the method that matter’s most, as well as the outcome. On the surface it works, but at what cost? Health issues have been linked to these types of training methods as well as massive fall outs in behaviors leading to aggression, fearfulness and feelings of helplessness. There is no real fall out if I miss a click with my dog clicker or miss a food treat, but giving a nice shock or “pop” will give a negative association to whatever you were trying to train the dog with in negative terms. It is easier to retrain a behavior if a client or I messed up with positive methods rather than the opposite, where we could end up getting a dog that is willing to bite my face off for it.
12: Have I been bitten? No, does that mean I must suck as a dog trainer?? NO, it means I do not push the dog over its limit when it comes to their flight or fight mode. I have known trainers or even dog walkers to state they have gotten aggressive dogs to bloom and they have the “Bites” to prove it. If they had updated their education they might have been able to get the same results if not better and without getting bitten. Is there a chance I could get bit? Yes, but most likely that will be because it was an off day and I was not paying attention to what the dog was trying to tell me.
13: We understand your dog is a living breathing thing and as such you cannot find a quick cure/rout when it comes to educating your dog. Yes, shock collar trainers can get your dog to stick around (though I have seen dogs run away from their owners … (wouldn’t you run away?)- But a lot of times when a shock collar trainer or owner removes the collar the dog couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the human, owner or otherwise. However, with Positive Reinforcement we have dogs coming back to us because they want to. Yes, we are able to train for snake avoidance and deer avoidance and that is not using slave like training methods.
14: Are our dogs perfect? No, and nor are the negative trainers’ dogs… Once again they are living beings; they have their off days just like humans. No human is perfect, but nor is any other dog. There will be those days where a behavior that needs changing keeps on happening, but then you just need to refresh the training of the behavior you want (and yes that happens with the negative training methods as well.. if you don’t use it you lose it).
As a trainer and as a human being I want people to know that yes we do keep up with the science that is WHY we are Positive Reinforcement trainers. We believe the human race is or at least should be evolved enough to move pass using painful methods when there are OTHER methods out there in the world proven to work. And most of all we are here because we care about animal behavior and want to encourage a healthy education for your dogs. Positive Reinforcement does not mean passive. We work hard and we get the results.
So please bullies, whether you are an owner or a negative trainer don’t waste your time on bullying me; go read a book that has updated education about dog training. I don’t need to hear you yell or even type yell as you try to force your outdated methods down my throat. This doesn’t mean you can bully the people who are trying to cross over, or has started off right away with Positive Reinforcement. We are no less of a trainer because we may use clickers, toys, or some form of reward to initially mark a behavior we want. And our results are no less than the results you are getting by kicking, hanging, popping, shocking, rolling and god knows what else you use in your “tool box”. I am happy that Positive Reinforcement is getting more of the spot light and the more it does bullies/negative trainers will have to catch up with the times or be left out on the side lines.