A closer look at dog training techniques: part two

By Joan Hunter Mayer

Happy to see you again! In Part 1 of this two-part series, we defined three of the most common dog training philosophies: powerless, aversive, and “balanced”. We looked at how reinforcement and punishment relate to animal behavior and compared how each of the three techniques approaches the use of training collars, the use of rewards in training, and looked at what leading veterinary behaviorists are saying about the effects. animal welfare training styles.

In Part 2, the discussion continues with a more in-depth look at how each technique compares in terms of the time required, the potential for fallout, considering each dog as an individual, the effects of training methodologies. training on animal keepers and finally we think about what it can be like to walk a mile in the paws of our dogs.

Time commitment

Without force The methods encourage pet sitters to take the time to train their dogs and teach them the behaviors they want them to adopt in the future. A parent of a pet on the go may be disappointed that quick fixes don’t really work here. A training plan that helps keepers and dogs achieve their training goals can take time, patience, and commitment.

In order to prepare puppies for success, the emphasis is on prevention, teaching dog sitters to be “problem preventers” as well as “problem solvers”. Dog parents depend on their dog’s environment to plan ahead and prepare for real-life challenges with plenty of short, fun workouts to learn and reinforce desired behaviors.

Aversive – It’s easy for pet parents to find “experts” who guarantee a quick solution to many common challenges and easy for busy dog ​​sitters to find aversive collars that are sold to provide “feedback” to dogs in order to “correct” unwanted behavior.

‘Balance’ – Although correction-based and “balanced” training methods offer the apparent advantage of quick results, it can take a lot of time (and resources) down the road to try and undo any emotional fallout that may occur. .

Unintended consequences

We are human; and like our dogs, we sometimes make mistakes. So what happens to your dog, in each of the three scenarios, if you “mess” the method? We will take a look.

Without force – If you ‘accidentally’ give a treat at the wrong time, or if you are out of time, you may inadvertently reinforce unintentional behavior, such as jumping in the air instead of sitting down. But… the other side effect is that your dog receives an extra treat, thus strengthening the bond between you in a positive way – like a winter holiday bonus in July!

Aversive – On the flip side, an accidental bump or pinch can cause additional damage and inadvertently create a negative conditioned response to anything and everyone at that time, including you, other pets, and children. This means that people and places that evoked a happy response, or no reaction at all, could now trigger feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress in your dog.

‘Balance’ – Again, the risks of negative fallout are the same for “balanced” training as for aversive training methods because the focus is on behavior (s) and not on exploiting relationships trust and affection between man and dog.

All dogs are individuals

Without force The methods approach each dog as an individual and extend the same respect to the people who love them. The emphasis is on promoting the behaviors you want by using the rewards that best motivate your dog. At the same time, humane training is suitable for all races, all ages, and indeed all species. The basic concept that the reinforced behaviors are repeated holds true for miniature poodles, great danes, humans, dolphins, chickens, elephants… you get the idea.

Aversive – You might hear that “all dogs are individuals” means that some need a “heavier hand” in training. Take the previous example from the first part of a dog who has difficulty walking on a loose leash. Unlike this example where we researched the possible underlying causes of pulling behavior and how to address them, the solution offered in this category might involve a training collar that pinches, chokes, or shocks your dog to provide ‘feedback’ for it. “Help him to remember” not to shoot.

‘Balance’ training attempts to accommodate the individuality of dogs and their people by sometimes including the use of force, fear and intimidation in dog training. But not all the time.

Individual personality or breed differences do not change the fact that ethical concerns apply to all pets. As guardians, we have taken on an obligation to do our best to understand and meet their basic physical, mental and emotional needs and keep them safe and comfortable.

What’s in it for you?

Think about what to expect from your relationship with your dog as you sort through some of the important characteristics of each philosophy.

Without force the training aims to:

  • To ensure the general physical and mental well-being of dogs.
  • Use only efficient and humane techniques to create and maintain a harmonious home.
  • Strengthens the human-canine bond.
  • Help establish and foster relationships of love, joy, and mutual respect between pets and their families.
  • Help dogs learn to trust the training process and those who teach them.
  • Improve and enrich the lives of dogs so that they can thrive.
  • Offer dog sitters a stimulating way to limit inappropriate behavior, without dogs wearing uncomfortable devices.
  • Never ask pet parents to harm, hurt, scare, frighten or annoy their dogs.
  • Go beyond basic “obedience” techniques and develop valuable canine “parenting” skills that will allow you to raise a happy, healthy dog.

Aversive methods :

  • Often use training collars which sometimes alter unwanted behavior.
  • Ask some pet parents if training collars will hurt their dogs. Dog sitters may ask, “Is there a ‘right’ way to harm my dog? “
  • Can lead to a false sense of security. For example, electronic fence systems that use shock collars may not keep pets on the property and / or prevent predators from entering the property, leading to tragic consequences.
  • Can backfire on you, resulting in retaliation (a bite or attack) and a loose bond.
  • Risk of creating learned helplessness: Dogs fearing severe corrections may be so afraid to do anything that they decide not to do anything at all, appearing “lazy” and “distant” (when in fact they are traumatized and arrested).
  • Over time, dogs can become conditioned to the aversive stimulus and animal keepers will need to increase the intensity of the “correction” in an attempt to change behavior. Ask yourself, “How far are you willing to go?”

Balance‘ Coaching:

  • Has all the same disadvantages of aversive methods (due to the use of training collars and corrections).
  • Lacks the benefits of training without strength (because it is not without strength).

Is there a chance that you won’t deteriorate your relationship with your dog if you take a correction-based or “balanced” training approach? Yes – dogs are generally tolerant, loyal, resilient, and adaptable. Does that mean you should risk harming them when there are gentler, safer, and proven effective options?

Final thoughts

When you consider your many training options, their pros and cons, and the position of leading veterinary behavior organizations, there is one more voice to add to the mix: that of your dog. If given the option, would your dog choose training games and treats? Or be pinched, choked, or shocked when you engage in species-appropriate natural behaviors, such as sniffing or barking? Or a hodge-podge approach where she could be praised one moment and punished the next, not knowing what to do or who to trust?

The truth is, dogs don’t choose your training style. It’s yours. Our dogs trust us to speak for them and make the most scientifically and ethically informed decisions possible when it comes to their care. And that’s why training techniques are important to you and your curious dog.


The Inquisitive Canine was founded by Joan Hunter Mayer, Santa Barbara Canine Behavior Consultant and Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Joan and her team are dedicated to providing humane, pawsitive and practical solutions that address the challenges dogs and their humans face in everyday life. Let’s go to bark with the dogs, cheer on the humans and have fun!

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