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Stop Training That Way! It is Hurting Your Dog

Updated: Feb 18, 2023

Let’s talk a little about dog “training”

Discussions about dog training can become contentious, with both trainers and non-trainers offering their opinions. Ultimately, the owner must decide on the type of training that best fits their dog's needs. Some common types of training include group obedience and puppy classes, in-home obedience and behavior classes, and board and train programs. The focus of each type of training can vary from teaching basic commands to building a strong relationship with the dog. Board and train programs should be a last resort, and owners should be involved in the training process. Different training methodologies exist, but they will not be discussed in depth in this blog post.

Positive Dog Trainer:

  • Uses rewards-based training methods, such as treats, praise, and toys, to reinforce good behavior. The dog’s physical and mental wellbeing is priority.

  • References scientific studies often in the training.

  • Avoids the use of physical punishment or intimidation.

  • Helps dogs build a positive relationship with their owners through clear communication and trust-building exercises. Helps owners formulate a plan on ensuring a strong relationship with their dog

  • Focuses on building confidence and resilience in dogs through positive reinforcement.

  • May use techniques like clicker training and shaping to help dogs learn new behaviors.

Balanced Dog Trainer: now different techniques can fall under this.

  • Uses a combination of positive reinforcement and corrective techniques in training.

  • Makes use of different training methods based on the dog's individual needs and personality.

  • Prioritizes the welfare of the dog and avoids using harsh training methods that cause fear, pain, or injury.

  • Helps dogs understand clear rules and boundaries to promote good behavior and obedience.

  • Works with owners to develop a training plan that addresses specific behavior issues and goals.

Force-Free Trainer:

  • Does not use any physical force, pain, or intimidation in training.

  • Relies solely on positive reinforcement and reward-based training methods.

  • Works to build a strong relationship of trust and mutual respect between dog and owner.

  • Avoids using equipment such as choke chains, prong collars, or electric shock collars.

  • Emphasizes the importance of clear communication and consistency in training.

Balanced Trainer using Shock/Prong Collars:

  • Uses electronic shock collars or prong collars to correct behavior.

  • Believes that physical punishment is necessary to correct of achieve certain behaviors.

  • May rely on harsh, confrontational training methods to achieve obedience.

  • Focuses on immediate compliance, rather than building a strong relationship between dog and owner.

  • May use fear and pain to elicit a response from the dog.

Sport/Protection Dog Trainer:

  • Trains dogs for specific tasks such as obedience competitions, agility trials, or personal protection.

  • Uses a combination of positive reinforcement and corrective techniques to achieve specific behaviors and skills.

  • Focuses on building physical ability, drive, and focus in the dog.

  • May work with dogs of different breeds, ages, and skill levels to meet specific goals.

  • Works with owners to develop a training plan that addresses specific goals and performance standards.

That’s a lot to take in isn’t it? There is even more to take into consideration. There is a big battle in the training world and mostly over the use of aversive techniques in training and science backed training. Basically, it boils down to the interpretation of what is aversive. Let’s define aversive so we can be clear.

Aversive dog training involves using positive punishment or negative reinforcement to modify a dog's behavior. Examples include scolding, using shock or prong collars, and physically manipulating the dog. While these methods can be effective, they can also be taken too far and harm the dog in the long run. Additionally, many common dog training tools and actions, such as collars, leashes, and kennels, can also be considered aversive.

So, you see, anything can be aversive if not used properly. The issue is with what tools are being used by trainers to “fix” unwanted dog behaviors. Such as prong collars, shock collars, e collars, etc.

These tools purpose is on suppressing a behavior using aversive methods. That doesn’t mean that behavior will not return later or is completely “trained out” of a dog. This is why many people find themselves unable to remove their dogs’ training collars without the dog returning to the old behaviors because the presence of the collars was merely suppressing the behavior and hadn’t truly trained anything other than “If this collar is present, I could feel discomfort or pain.”

Using aversive training methods can have serious negative consequences on your dog's well-being, and if you notice any negative side effects, it's best to switch to positive reinforcement. I have personally seen on multiple occasions where a pet owner has contacted me for help because they are still struggling and they open a drawer or a door and the dog instantly freezes or eve leaves the room. Why, because that is where the corrective collars are kept.

This behavior from the dog alone indicates that the tools are not good for them. They have caused them some sort of pain and are now associated with that discomfort.

In regards to the positive based training the studies being referenced often are concluding that dogs trained with positive reinforcement have been found to have fewer problem behaviors than their counterparts. Additionally, due to the possibility of increased aggression towards the owner, aversive training methods are actually less ideal for dogs with major behavior concerns, like aggression or reactivity.

Positive training can help dogs learn desired behaviors, such as coming when called, and walking on a leash without pulling. This type of training reinforces good behavior with rewards, such as treats or praise, rather than punishing bad behavior.

Using this method often creates a stronger bond between dog and owner. Positive training involves spending time with your dog and building a strong relationship based on trust, communication, and mutual respect. This can lead to a stronger bond between you and your dog, which can improve your dog's overall behavior and make them more responsive to your commands.

It can also reduce anxiety and stress. Positive training methods can help reduce your dog's anxiety and stress levels. Instead of being punished or scolded for bad behavior, your dog will be rewarded for good behavior, which can make them feel more confident and less anxious. It encourages dogs to think, problem solve and learn.

There are also some not so great potential results that may not be so great from using science-backed positive training to train dogs such as slow progress. Positive training methods can take more time and patience than other training methods, such as punishment-based training. It can take longer for your dog to learn certain behaviors or tricks, and some dogs may not respond as quickly to positive reinforcement. This is one of the biggest things brought up when negating positive training.

Positive training can lead to over-reliance on treats. If you use treats as a reward in positive training, your dog may become overly reliant on them. This can make it difficult to train your dog without treats, and may even lead to weight gain if you're not careful. It can also be ineffective for certain behaviors.

These possible negative aspects of positive training can be altered though. A good trainer always has an arsenal of possibilities under their belt. Bottom line, finding what really motives and excites that dog and using that can change everything for that dog.

While positive training can be effective for many behaviors, it may not work as well for certain more complex or ingrained behaviors in a time frame that is needed for that dog. In these cases, a combination of positive training and other methods may be necessary. Remembering as trainers our priority should be to help that dog without pain, physically or mentally to that dog.

I tried to write this subjectively and kept it simple. We are talking about our dogs, our best friends and companions. My personal opinion and approach is save the dog, set the dog up for success and encourage your dog to want to learn.

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