Dog Training Confusion
The title is somewhat of a misnomer and could read, force free dog training or training without pain, intimidation and coercion vs. traditional 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 what 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 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 as well as negative reinforcement (R-) on very rare occasions 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 positive reinforcement dog training (R+), what training protocol should be utilized 99% of the time for behavior modification and obedience training.
We always follow least invasive 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 dog “training” service? We serve most of the South Florida area but we see the most resistance to science based, force free positive reinforcement in our Miami dog training office. We speak to veterinarians daily and there are some great Miami veterinarians and some not so great ones. The veterinarians we don’t recommend still extol outdated force and coercion rather than the numerous benefits of the science of force free positive reinforcement dog training. Science and positive 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 thought that may 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. 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 dog’s body language when I was ten, I would have changed then.
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 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 1970’s 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 (thanks for putting up with me Mom). That curiosity and burning desire to communicate with my best friends, my dogs, 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, ethology and cognitive ethology as I did when I was little boy. I now have over 25 years or dog training and pet care experience and am the head dog trainer, behaviorist and owner of FunPawCare. I am a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) and have tried both traditional 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 the way to go.
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 devastating and even deadly blows. Place this on the soft part of your dog’s neck and trachea and you can only imagine the outcome.