Dog Training Confusion

The title is somewhat of a misnomer and could read, force-free dog training or training without pain, intimidation, bullying, and coercion vs. traditional and/or balanced dog “training.” If you are not one for suspense, there is a huge difference. It is important to help the general public understand and to define all of these terms that dog trainers, behavior specialists and people in the pet field throw around before you have any understanding of what is best for you and your loved ones. Please note, before I am strafed with a barrage of emails, we do use negative punishment (P-), removing something the dog wants thereby decreasing the likelihood that the undesired behavior will reoccur, such as removing your attention when a dog jumps on you, making it clear you are ignoring your pet thereby reducing that behavior. In addition, we seldom employ negative reinforcement (R-). Which is when an aversive stimulus is removed to increase or strengthen a future behavior. But for the sake of simplicity, the focus will be on force-free and intimidation-free, positive reinforcement dog training (R+), the training protocol that should be utilized 99% of the time for behavior modification and obedience/agility training.

We follow a higher ethical standard than that of, least intrusive minimally aversive (LIMA) mandate and the humane hierarchy of behavior modification protocol put forth by Dr, Susan Friedman.1

Occasionally we are asked by a potential client why use a force-free positive reinforcement dog training and behavior modification service verse another traditional and/or balanced dog “training” service?  We serve Los Angeles California and most of South Florida, but we see some resistance to science-based, force-free positive reinforcement in many of the areas we serve. We speak to veterinarians daily and there are some great veterinarians and some not so great ones. The veterinarians we don’t recommend still extol outdated force, bullying, intimidation, and coercion rather than the numerous benefits of the science of force-free positive reinforcement dog training.  Science and positive reinforcement dog training are on your side and have proven to help pets and their owners in the most effective and efficient manner.2

My Dog Training Experiments

It was not too long ago as a young child growing up when I used to train my family’s eight dogs and two cats. Yes, my mother was that crazy dog and cat lady who had to rescue everyone (I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). Even at the young age of ten, I distinctly remember trying any method I could to make my dogs do my bidding. Having an older brother that practiced “force-based training” on me (as only brothers could), I naively and ignorantly thought that might also work on my dogs. I tried yelling loud commands, popping the leash, forcing them into sit positions and making loud noises when they wouldn’t listen to me or were doing something wrong. It was “me” versus “them.” In all my frustration it was apparent, they weren’t learning fast, and their stress levels were high. Their body language was distinct and spoke volumes if only I could read a dog’s body language when I was ten years old…sigh.

It wasn’t until I began to read every book I could get my hands on that I started to realize that force-free positive reinforcement training methods were far more effective for training my dogs and cats than the forceful and punitive ones I had been using. I didn’t use a clicker or marker until later in life, but I did notice an immediate, huge difference when I was calm, peaceful and had something the dog wanted (a reward), like food, toys or exercise. These rewards gave me leverage to create motivation in my dogs and all of a sudden I had an obedient dog and their full attention like I was the center of their world. That was back in the 1970s, and 80’s when I was quite fond of Curious George (the inquisitive monkey), probably because I was just like him and never stopped questioning everything. That curiosity and burning desire to communicate with my best friends, my dogs, and cats, led me to some very influential speakers and educators such as Dr. Ian Dunbar, Bob Bailey, Patricia McConnell Ph.D., Karen Pryor, Dr. Sophia Yin, Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., etc. all of whom were/are well educated, accomplished scientists, and shared my passion for understanding animals.

I still have that insatiable burning desire to learn more about dog training, behavior, psychology, ethology, and cognitive ethology as I did when I was a little boy. I now have over 30 years of dog training and pet care experience and am the head dog trainer, behaviorist, and owner of Fun Paw Care. I am a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT). I have tried both traditional, and/or balanced style “training” methods and force-free positive reinforcement training methods and if science wasn’t enough to convince you already, I can tell you empirically and definitively that force-free R+ dog training is not only the humane the way to work with any animal but the most efficacious and expedient as well.

Looks can be deceiving especially on a reality show. As a lifelong practitioner and advocate of martial arts, I invite you to watch this presentation on how a minute seemingly innocuous, benign movement can deliver a devastating and even deadly blow. Place this on the soft part of your dog’s neck and trachea via a choke chain leash pop or a finger “poke,” and you can only imagine the damage and outcome.





Positive Dog Training vs. “Traditional” Dog Training: Semantics or Huge Difference? (part 2)

Positive Dog Training vs. “Traditional” Dog Training: Semantics or Huge Difference? (part 3)