Why I’m Finished Volunteering at Animal Shelters…

Posted: September 21, 2013 in "Best Practices", At Home with dogs., Canine Well-Being, Dog Training, Dog-Speak", Natural Dog Training, Working Dogs

I am not a person that adopts  dogs  from a shelter.  My dogs are acquired from a responsible, knowledgable Breeder.  In some places that confession is comparable to confessing to any number of  heinous crimes involving livestock, Meth labs, or eating kittens.  Don’t know what else to tell you about that…But that doesn’t mean that I’m not supportive of the industry, OR the animals.  I DO volunteer time to keeping the homeward looking dogs happy and exercised.  I’ve worked with behavior problems successfully, and if I do say so myself, made a couple of them adoptable.  It can be satisfying, and fulfilling work, watching a formerly “Reactive” dog walking out with his new family on a loose leash right past 40 people without so much as a sneeze.  But that’s all behind me as of today, until such time that the dog shelter organizations put political correctness and the cult of personality behind it. (Uh Oh…He sounds TICKED!)

Actually, I’m more Saddened than angry…I like helping dogs.  But the cult of the Positive Only trainers has managed to usurp the Shelter industry.  And they mean to make everyone submit to a method that damages dogs more than they will ever admit…

Arriving at my voluntary time for exercising the dogs today at a local county shelter, a sign was posted saying to all that walked in,  “Dogs within this facility are handled in Positive, Reward based Methods Exclusively.  Our clients and volunteers are obliged to follow these methods before, during, and after adoption,  Training is available for anyone interested.”

In the immortal words of one Scooby Doo,  “Ahh-Roooo??  Ruht Roh, Raggy”…  Under my breath I asked  ,” When have I ever been anything but positive with any dog?  Even the crazy mutt that tried to eat my face?”  A week later I walked that dog around the campus here…Others would have killed that dog…

Later in morning, a small meeting was held with the volunteers, conducted by the Director of the facility.  A nice, well meaning lady in her ’50’s, and an enthusiastic dog-lover, she began with the greeting of someone recently indoctrinated into a cult.  “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to all of you volunteers here that work with our dogs!  I want you all to know that we have something special for you all that we want you to embrace!  We have invited a wonderful professional Dog Behaviorist here to give you all training that you NEED!”  Her name is **************, and she’s an expert on Clicker-Training and Non Aversive Training.  All of us will be better able to help our resident dogs prepare well for their going home…”  (I’m not giving her name, as this is not meant to personally bash anyone. ( You’d know of her.)

“I was privileged to hear her speak and teach for 2 full days recently, and I must say, never having any formal dog training education myself, I was very impressed!!  She’s so kind to the dogs, and there’s never any punishment of any type to the dogs.  When they misbehave, you simply IGNORE the behavior until they stop.  When they do something right, they get a nice treat!  By the way, I’ve brought back a nice gift for all of you…She produced a shopping bag filled with small, belt worn treat bags.  She passed them out, sliding one under my lower jaw which was pressed firmly against the table top, resting in a puddle of drool and disappointment.

“Each of us will be trained to help our adopters use this method as well.  I think you will all find this very exciting, as it is the latest in behavioral science…Most all of the better, most qualified facilities around the country will be getting this program over time.  I think that you volunteers with dog-training experience will especially benefit from this new training.   We’ll have no more hanging dogs from a leash here again…You’ll find it unnecessary going forward.”

One of the volunteers raised her hand slowly…When did someone here hang a dog from a leash?” she sounded almost conspiratorial.

The Director answered in a slow, rehearsed voice.  “Well, never to my knowledge, but she showed us a compilation of punishments that different trainers have used.   It was awful….and we won’t have it here in any way shape or form.  The seminar will be next Saturday from 1 until 5 pm.  This is a mandatory meeting.”

As the meeting ended,  most of the volunteers filed out, thinking that something great had just happened.  I, and one other volunteer stayed seated.  The Director looked at us confused, “Is there something more?” she asked, genuinely interested.  That’s her greatest strength by the way.  Wholly Dedicated, but with little knowledge of dogs.

“Well, I guess there is a question or two…” I began. ” Has there been a problem with the way that we’ve been working with the dogs?  Has there been a complaint or a dog that went crazy on somebody?”

“Oh No, No!!!  You’ve both been great with the dogs!  Even ones that we thought were headed for euth services…But this is the future of dog training, the latest science. (She had zero knowledge of how long OC has been around)  I thought you’d jump at the chance to learn from ***************.  She’s written books and made DVD’s…apparently she’s quite well-known.”

“Oh we know about her…and her method.  But we’ve also tried the method, and found that it just doesn’t solve the needs of the dogs.  It’s an incomplete way of training, and doesn’t do anything to solve behavior problems in any dog.  Clickers have a small place in a trainers bag of tricks, but there are also other ways.  You know yourself that every dog is unique and has different needs…What ********** does just doesn’t cover them all.  A more Balanced Approach is the what helps the dogs…not plastic toys.  And the other consideration is this in regard to Clicker training…It can’t be taught over the course of two days!  Once ********** leaves here, you’ll have an entire volunteer group doing it wrong anyway. Confusion will reign, as you have bad science being used by poor performers.  Most of the dogs that pass thru here either arrive with issues, or develop them while here.  Non-Aversive training will only create more issues that will create behavior problems.  You, more than all of us, must know how many shelter dogs are euthanized each year because someone “In the Know” says, ” that dog can’t be helped, so killing it is the only safe option .”

She looked at us like she knew a secret kept from us.  “Well, I think this is the right thing to do for the shelter…Are you aware that in Europe, Wales I think she said, and in a couple of states here in the US, there is already legislation to ban certain training tools and regulate the dog training industry based on training methods?  This is coming, whether anybody likes it or not…You have to keep up with the science.”

The rest of that conversation was short and concise, ending with myself and one other talented dog trainer resigning from volunteering at the Rescue.  Political Correctness has come home to roost in Ohio.  And it’s probably headed for your home as well, under the guidance of the local  political correctness squad.   Over something that “correctness” doesn’t begin to fathom….Our ability to train our dogs in the best methods for them…Balanced, kind, and uniquely suited to each dog, has been, and will be, under fire by these groups until we, as balanced trainers/handlers begin to defend what’s right.

This is why  I’ve begun looking for other trainers/handlers and Dog Writers that truly understand dog learning and training.  balanced trainers that become experts at understanding which method(s) works best for the dog.  Not Non-stop treat dispensers,  like some sort of Human Pez Dispenser filled with kibble. Not brutal in any way, but capable of understanding and utilizing  the power of aversion.  Or before you go there, punishment of a proper degree.  I’m happy to see a few of them out there now beginning to stir the pot and educate about Balanced, natural training.  People like Wade Morrell, Ivan Balabanov, Kevin Kinker, Kevin and Cheryl Goedes, and others I’ll mention in another post.  I don’t mean to leave any other talented trainers off this list, but know that I see and support you on this blog as best I can, and will continue to do…It’s time to stand up and take back the dog training world before legislation DOES suddenly oozes into our local government.  We need to work together against a small but media savvy machine that’s been operating for several years while we were busy training, competing, and correcting bad behaviors,  thinking that we were not in danger from the sources of self-proclaimed experts.  If you train in a balanced way, if you can write or make video of balanced training, get your stuff out there.  Make kind, instructive, comments on Facebook and the chat rooms.  Explain why Natural, Balanced training is the best way in calm, Professional tones and terms.  We have a lot to lose if we don’t get serious and SOON…If it takes a few minutes away from working in the field with the dogs, use your communication time to teach the dogs a good long “Stay”.  YOUR help is needed, along with your skills, talents, and determination to train well!

Other components of the Dog World are also being threatened by similar groups and individuals.  One of them is legislation aimed ostensibly at Puppy Mills.  Don’t get me wrong, puppy mills need to be gotten rid of NOW.  They are a cancer on the dog profession.  But the way current legislation is being written by HSUS, PETA and other groups threatens the Purebred Dogs that are needed to support survival of the breeds in their pure form.  There’s much more detail that needs to be written about regarding this assault, but I’ll save it for another post.  But there’s already a lot of information available out there.  Try Googleing the phrase “Dog Breeders Legislation Pending” and see what “The Devil Is In the Details” really means.  These groups are crafty, and yes, sneaky.  They work behind the scenes until they are full-blown READY to strike, and then they do.  Stay Alert and spread the information that you discover, it can help us save our rights, our livelihood, and ultimately the future of dogs…

footnote*  I will continue to help working dogs that need whatever they need.  I can handle that on my small kennel property, and I won’t lose the good that can be done…

  1. Robert says:

    Okay gang…This post is due to automatically shut off the Comment function. My blog has always had this function enabled, and it will continue in that manner. I inform you all of this so that nobody can say “He shut it down because he won’t admit I was right.” This IS my blog, and while I enjoy colorful, lively banter between the divide, sometimes it gets annoying to have a mail box so filled with messages that I could never possibly make reply to them. Some people believe that I purposely don’t allow their comments, which is patently FALSE. It’s more likely that your comment added nothing to the conversation…I allow BOTH sides of an argument, and am completely thrilled to see discussions. Other comments I just may not have time to review for language or content. I DO NOT ALLOW posting insults, foul language, or personal Attacks. I also do not allow what amounts to using MY platform as advertising for YOUR business. I am also considering DEMANDING that all posters be registered thru WordPress, and using a NAME in order to post. Too many people post things, from the hiding of pseudonyms. If you can’t stand up and identify yourself, well…you have no standing here. If KAREN PRYOR wants to print the entirety of her books here, she is welcome to do so, as long as she uses her NAME.
    What I write here, is of my own understanding and experience. I KNOW that it’s correct, proper, and good. It’s obvious that this particular argument will never end among people. It’s time that we all just pursue our own methods, and stop the bickering…If you cannot bear reading what I write, no one demands that you continue to do so. But using my blog as a battlefield just won’t continue. Go build your own site if thats what you enjoy doing.
    Again, Thank You all for reading. It should be noted that of the 85 individuals that posted comments, all but 6 people were supportive. And Yes, many of themy positive comments didn’t pass editing either for various reasons. Other comments that were directed at other posters were allowed because they attacked people who might not otherwise be aware of it. The numbers here give me great hope that balanced training, that allows reasonable aversives, is finally on the Rise amongst professionals. Thanks for commmenting and being one of the 12, 693 individuals that read this post. Robert Vaughan

  2. Marta Jones says:

    Having trained dogs for well over 30 years, including training guide dogs, assistance dogs, alert dogs, family pets and everything in between, as well as working with exotics since I have a degree in Zoology, I consider myself a balanced trainer. By the way, I also ran a rescue for 15 years, stopping only when my health made it impossible to go on. I also resent being told I’m “being mean” or hurting my dogs because I expect them to act appropriately and when they do not, I correct them. I’ve never abused a dog, I’ve never “beat” or “kicked” a dog, nor have I used a prong or pinch collar to abuse a dog.

    In my experience, all the “positive reinforcement” does nothing unless the dog is paying attention. I give as an example my big girl, Shay. Shay is a 4 year old GSD cross, about 80 pounds, very shy and nervous outside of her comfort zone. She is absolutely neither food nor toy motivated, so “only positive reinforcement” can be a major issue. If “leash popping” means giving a firm tug on the leash, then releasing, I have certainly does that. I have also touched her shoulder with my hand, or her hip with my foot; that doesn’t mean I’ve “hit” or “kicked” her….it means I’ve used my body parts to touch her to break her concentration on something else and put it back on myself. When you train a horse to lunge, you use a long “lunge whip”. You use it as an extension of your arm so that the horse is moving away from your arm and into a gait. The same thing applies to my dog. I use my hands and feet, and sometimes the end of the leash to get her attention. She’s not afraid of me, she doesn’t cower or whimper. But she knows that she is being expected to pay attention to me. I am disabled, so standing there for an hour waiting for her to pay attention to me and not the bug on the floor is not feasible. I need her to know that her attention needs to be on me when we’re working.

    I’ve never had to use a pinch or prong collar on a dog, because I’ve never found a dog that I needed that type of collar to get their attention, which is exactly what I believe those collars are for. I have used a “choke chain” on some dogs, but never to “strangle” them….the sound of the collar and the feel of the gentle pressure reminds them that they are supposed to pay attention. Not all dogs need it…another of my personal dogs, Scruffy, always keeps his attention on me; even when he’s asleep, it’s like he’s got one ear on me.

    Have I put a dog into a down position? Yes. I have and I’ll do it again. There are some things that I do to calm the dog down, and that is one of them. It’s not about being abusive, it’s about teaching them that I am the one who is in control; and that is a positive thing to a dog. When they KNOW that you’re in control, they can relax and not have to worry about other things. They trust me because they know I’m the leader of my pack.

    I also use a crate for Shay. I know many “only praise” trainers who accuse me of “caging” my dog. Don’t tell her that, because Shay LOVES her crate. It’s her place, her den, the place she goes when she wants to relax and escape the little dogs that annoy her at times. Shay has even been known to go into her crate and pull the door closed behind her.

    For a dog that is a jumper, I absolutely refuse to stand there and suffer the scratches and shoves until (s)he stops so that I can praise him or her. I try putting the dog in a sit, or a down/stay, if that doesn’t work, I will put my hands on their withers and when they feel my hand, many times they simply stop jumping. BUT, for dogs that simply do not listen, I have been known to put the leash under my foot so when the dog jumps, (s)he hits the end of the leash and realizes (s)he can’t jump. Once I have their attention, I praise/reward them for not jumping. The same goes for scratching; Shay has a bad habit of using her paws to get my attention or to guide me. Rather than wait for her to stop, which can take a while, I sometimes take her paw, hold it a second, then put it down and say “Four on the floor”, which is her cue to be on all fours. When she does, I reward her…..and rewarding Shay means praise, not food or toys.

    I resent being told I’m “kicking” my dog when I touch her hip with my foot….or that I’m “hitting her” when I touch her withers. There is a BIG difference between abuse/beating and using my foot or hand to get her attention.

  3. Scott says:

    Jls you mentioned positives imaginary tiger that was brought up as an example of training positive, she brought it up which has nothing to do with training a police dog, I mentioned getting that tiger in drive, which is a requirement in police dogs, you counter this wouldn’t happen because you don’t train outside of threshold. A police dog with great confidence is taught to apprehend a bad person. That dog is in drive as he gets closer to the decoy, bad man. How would you show me to teach this dog to immediately stop? Before you utter your assumptive nonsense, I don’t teach this on electric nor beating the dog. When the dog is sent, distractions can occur, targeting can switch, dog gets off target and you can’t throw a cookie at him either. I’d love to have another tool, (training method) in my toolbag to train this. Please guide me.

    • JLS says:

      I have never trained a police dog. I do know there are other countries and professionals that us +R to train it though. I would be happy to pass along their names, if you would like to research and increase your tool bag. Every time I mention or link a positive trainer working in fields where much traditional training is used, Robert moderates my response and they don’t get posted.

  4. k9pack says:

    This group of reprobates are going to pressure the government to force this ideology on the public. Anyone who thinks it is about saving dogs is a fool. It is all about control.

  5. Jean O says:

    Sorry happens both when the owner is at home or not at home, forgot to add any form of delivery, mail, fed x, ups etc.

    • JLS says:

      I image the reason the +R trainer said it would take 2-6 weeks is the old “under promise/over deliver” business model. I would imagine the trainer was also going to suggest counter conditioning to noises.

      I wish I could see the training protocol.

      I would also want to suggest counter conditioning. (like you would for fireworks, or gun shots, or noise sensitive dogs.) Pairing the noises with high value treats, but at a greater distance away than would be typical. Quickly closing the threshold so the noises are happening at the everyday duration. The key here would be that you can’t counter condition and then leave the dog exposed to the triggers, until the emotional response has changed. Having not seem the apartment, it is difficult to say, but I would suggest “crate training” to a long term confinement area, perhaps a bathroom without windows and then some music or white noise playing to drown out the noises when no one is home.

      For when they are home, I would train putting bark and quiet on cue. This was if the dogs do alert you can request quiet and they will quiet. Also concentrating on the counter conditioning for the triggers that cause barking (when the owner is home.)

      So in short:

      1.)Put bark and quiet on cue, continually increasing the criteria for longer and longer quiet.
      2.) Prevent the dogs from hearing the triggers when no one is home. ( room with minimal access to the sounds, and music or white noise playing.)
      3.) counter condition the triggers when someone is home.

  6. Cara says:

    Like it or not, the fact is that once you start one form of training then everyone needs to be consistent and use that form of training and ONLY that form of training or else there tends to be confusion. The person who jerks on the leash for this bad behavior, vs the person ignoring the behavior, vs the person who actually hits the dog for that behavior… it will be confusing to a rescue dog. If you have ONE bad apple training dogs too roughly then you have a problem. Add into this that actual official studies by veterinary behaviorists say that some dogs will have a higher incidence of aggression and it’s irresponsible to use methods that they specifically say are connected to those behaviors. Yeah, you’re great. Your training is great. Give yourself a cookie. Can you say that 100% every other volunteer is as good and that they aren’t stepping over lines that could cause problems down the road and leave the shelter open to a possible lawsuit in the future?

    The runner of that shelter is doing what she feels is best for them long-term, with ALL their volunteers. It’s not a personal slight against you. And logically it DOES make the most sense. It’s sort of sad that you’re taking it so personally that you will remove your volunteering rather than even try a different method under their instruction. But to each their own. As far as arguing whether it works or not… that’s your opinion. Studies tend to show it does work, but it does take someone who knows what they’re doing, and a quick introduction isn’t going to be enough to make it work there. Hopefully they’ll get a local behaviorist who will oversee things more.

    • Jean O says:

      Here is an interested challenge for the positive trainers – what would you do??
      2 siblings, 3 yr old JRT that recently moved from a home to an apartment and the are Alert barking 10 hours a day whether loose or crated. The owners has been warned that the barking is going to get her evicted. What protocol would you use? How long would you say it would take it dramatically impact this case?

      This poor women hired a R+ trainer that told her it would be 2-6 weeks before she would see a result. The only result that matters is that she is going to get EVICTED!

      • JLS says:

        What are the triggers for the alert barking? Is it happening both when she is home and when she is gone?

      • Jean O says:

        Trigger is anyone walking in the hallways, any dog barking, her doorbell or anyone in the an adjacent apt, a dog outside that they can see, the sound of keys.

  7. Robert says:

    Did somebody say that Legislation on dogs wasn’t happening? Check this….http://time4dogs.blogspot.com/2013/09/rock-bottom.html?m=1 It’s a harbinger of nothing good.

  8. Tiffany says:

    Robert I agree with your article and always find it interested that the ‘positive’ dog trainers are the most ‘aversive’ with people that don’t agree with them. I’d also like to point out that I have yet to see a positive only dog trainer accomplish what a balanced trainer can accomplish with a dog in the same time frame. It won’t happen. I use a pinch collar and treats and will never hide it. I have one of the top 10 obedience dogs in my breed in the country. I am very thankful most clicker trainers don’t own my breed or there’d be a lot more reports of them in the news. Imagine if our country was based on clicker training…well, I guess in some regards it is becoming like that and look what is happening.

  9. k9pack says:

    This is a great article. Very well done.

    • JLS says:

      Can you explain why corrections work? Why are they effective?

      • k9pack says:

        I just put out an article on my wordpress page regarding this. Lots of videos on this issue as well on my site. I define the difference between relational and corrective influence. I am creating what I refer too as “follower moments” which build on each other to influence the overall decision making process of the dog. Learning based ideology is flawed at many levels.

      • JLS says:

        “k9pack says:
        September 23, 2013 at 11:29 pm
        I just put out an article on my wordpress page regarding this. Lots of videos on this issue as well on my site. I define the difference between relational and corrective influence. I am creating what I refer too as “follower moments” which build on each other to influence the overall decision making process of the dog. Learning based ideology is flawed at many levels.”

        What a beautiful non-answer, and plug for your site.

      • k9pack says:

        Plugging my site ? Actually I am not interested in debating at length with reprobates. How you frame questions isn’t about being open at all. Your motives are to promote your trash agenda like the troll you are.

  10. k9pack says:

    Words such as intimidation, fear, pain etc expose this as ideological bias trash.

    • Crysania says:

      So does calling positive training a “cult.”

      • k9pack says:

        It is an ideology / belief system. So yes, it is a cult. As for what the ideologues state I really don’t care. Dogs are merely an extension of this ideology and that is what they are devalued. This ideology is a type of self worship. Those who define who they are via this ideology use dogs as a emotional and self worship mirror. They don’t see dogs are separate relational beings. The majority of those pushing and marketing this ideology have serious issues.

      • k9pack says:

        One only needs to look at the emotions this group attaches to every discussion to see the underpinnings of bias. As for supporting what I state go watch my videos and read my articles. I lay out the evidence point by point. I degrade this ideology because it deserves it. The only reason this group gets upset and takes it personal is because they worship this ideology and define who they are through it. It seems they want everyone to accept this garbage and roll over and take it like cattle. When someone stands up and actually exposes this trash for what it is and what it represents they want to cry. I say enough is enough. If you can’t take it than pick up your baseball and bat and go home.

      • Therese says:

        Crysania, I would think that if R+ were really as effective as it’s being sold, everyone would use it. Unfortunately, many well-recognized trainers see its limitations and prefer a more balanced approach where a clicker is yet another tool in the tool box. I would honestly feel hamstrung if that was all I was forced to rely on.

        So now we have the “force free” community saying, you will use our methods or we will accuse you of cruelty and abuse (even though we have never seen you train) and we will incrementally legislate all methods other than ours out of existence. That is cultish behavior…

      • Crysania says:

        Therese that’s false. Many people know only one other way to train. It’s how they learned and so believe it’s the way to train. Many people still spank their children. People used to take the belt to their kids until they discovered other ways to teach them. People used to smack hands with rulers or force left-handed kids to write with their right hand by tying their left hand behind their back. Then they found better ways. The reality is the world evolves and training right along with it. Many people are crossing over because they find that it does ACTUALLY work. It’s unfortunate you would feel hamstrung. Many people are finding they don’t feel that way. Myself included.

        If you want to call training with positive training a cult then based on the ideologies of this post and people like Dale, then one can consider the other method a cult too. I guess whatever works for you.

      • Therese says:

        So the only rationale you can give of an objection to balanced training is to equate it to child abuse. Seriously?

        It isn’t a cult to learn all you can about ACTUAL dog behavior, to learn by observing with an open mind, to spend decades building really rewarding relationships with wonderful well-behaved dogs and in that time discover what works and what doesn’t and make adjustments as your knowledge and experience increases. That is how actual science works.

        Dogs aren’t whales or dolphins or tigers or abused children.

      • Michelle Osborne aka ‘Crysania’, It’s a Cult, a little twisted group of Fundamentalists Acolytes of the “purely positive” Dogma… Yeah, to that kind of flock of Pigeons you belong.

    • Crysania says:

      Oh DALE. I see you’re still around. Speaking of cultish behavior. One cannot forget all your harassing of people who don’t agree with you. I’m pretty sure I still have messages from you floating around on FB somewhere.

      • k9pack says:

        I prefer to call it telling it the way it is. As for harassing people it isn’t my fault people are placing this ideology on their right hands and foreheads.

  11. Jean O says:

    Dogs work in pay off and costs, JUST like his mother and siblings use. Play with me nicely and we will continue to play, use your mouth on me and there is a cost for you. There is a reason that so many more dogs end up in rescue and that is because so many owners try desperately to apply a reward based training method that does not work for THEM. One client told me her “trainer” told her that if the dog was growling at her when she went to take his collar to put him in his crate, she should go get her treats and reward the dog for going in its crate on its own. THAT dog now clear is now being taught, use aggression to get your way and the cheese will arrive. This trainer did 8 1 hour appt with this owner and the dog still would not get in its crate without a treat and even at that it would charge in, grab the cookie and charge back out but oh no don’t touch it!!! I was there for one appt for one hour and I am happy to report that without an E-collar, prong, or choke he goes into his crate on command and doesn’t turn around and run out. She told me she was minutes from taking this dog back to rescue before I helped her and has now owned him for 3 years!!!!

    • JLS says:


      That is an example of misapplication of positiver reinforcement. There are 3 issues I see in your example.

      1. Timing. In order to link a consequence positive or negetive to a behavior the consequence has to occur within 15-20 seconds. The sequence of collar grab-> growl-> put in crate-> retrieve treats would take well over 20 seconds. On top of that when you use reward training you are rewarding whatever happened in the passed 1-2 second. So by the time this women got back to the crate with the treats, she was rewarding something completely different than what she was intending to reward. (which I can not really tell at this point…. was she trying to reward going into the crate? or was the point to change the emotional response to his collar being grabbed? It is difficult to tell in your description. It seems that both would be issues, and need to be dealt with seperately.) The proper timing to be able to a.) change the emotional response to the collar being grabbed and prevent a dog growling when grabbed, is reach for dog, immediate treat. (the key component being you do not actually touch the dog or the collar the initial repetition. (the treats are also hidden or hidden after the 2nd or 3rd repetition.) each repetition you get closer and closer to the dog. Usually in about 10 repetitions you the dog now assoicates people reaching/grabbing collar as a good thing and does not give a distance increasing signal (growl.)

      2.) A growl is a distance increasing signal… and as I just mentioned the timing is critical to make a consequence linked to an action. So within 20 seconds of the growl the dog was put into a kennel by itself… giving it the distance it was requesting. So growling works to get you space.. AND it should (since ignoring this signal puts your dog in the direct path of escalating signals and the next step is a bite.) Sticking a dog into the kennel for growling, really is not to course I would suggest.. it doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

      3.) When using food to train, you must fade the lure immediately, otherwise you fall into the must bribe to get the dog to do things trap. All food should be used as a reward and not a bribe. My favorite way to kennel condition a dog, is to tie a stuffed food toy into the crate, close the door so the dog becmes very interested in the food toy. After about 10 mins the dog will REALLY want to go into the crate. Then open the crate and don’t say a word. At that point the dog will run into the crate to chew on the food treat. Since it is tethered to the kennel, they have to stay in ther (willingly, b/c the door is open) to get the high value thing.. then their opion of the crate changes from terrible to great. (with repetition.) I have found it easiest just to feed meals in the crate, if you are wanting to crate train.. it is no fuss easy peasy.

      It seems that the example you are talking about is a case poor quality training done incorrectly. If that trainer was using a balanced approach the results would likely have been as terrible, since they lacked a basic understanding of how dogs learn.

      • Jean O says:

        hahahahahahah – omg I am on the floor. JLS why not get onto a forum that agrees with your style of training becauase you are really making positive trainers look even more silly with your notes. I explained what one our YOUR community did with this dog. I resolved it in less than an hour and the results lasted for lifetime and kept this dog out of the rescue world! This positive trainer ripped them off for 8 sessions, did not read the owners ability to follow such nonsense, and allowed the dog to get his own way unless there was a food reward. I have had in just the past 6 weeks, 24 owners who contacted me desperate for help that used a positive trainer on many occasions to only be blamed that they did not have good timing or know much about dogs. That IS the majority on pet owners and if blaming them is the reason your method is not effective, I rest my case. Do yourself a favor and read Dog Allerbra (no attachment to the book) it is the best explaination of why spot doesn’t care about treats when Bambi is in the yard. What I have also found in almost every case of positive trainers clean up appt, the owners are so frustrated by the lack of results that they become either abusive out of frustration or go out and buy a damn E- collar or prong and use it in a way that IS abusive.

      • jls says:

        I agree with you Joan. The issues you were talking about should only take on session to address. I cant imagine why they had 8 sessions… that sounds like bad business ethics. I feel bad for you client. I am glad you were able to help her without an e-collar. Although I can not imagine why one would be used in that particular application. I also agree with you about using client compliance as an excuse for poor results. I even addressed that in 2 prior posts. If a protocol does not work for a client or a dog, i dont push that protocol. I write a new one that the client will be able to adopt with greater ease and that will give them the results they are looking for.

        As far as posting on a forum with like minded trainer, I do that. Their responses are short and full of praise, which is great for the ego, but I do find it challenging and important to discuss my views with those that don’t agree. It is a good practice in civility and it helps me express my views in a concrete articulate manner. I also have some issues discussing things I am passionate about in a calm respectful manner. Robert can attest that my first response was sharp and sassy. I like to practice voicing my opinion in a level way without name calling or insulting. I can’t practice that in a room full of people that agree with me.

      • Robert says:

        I want it noted here for all to read that I ENJOY jousting and talking to JLS…She’s right in expressing that we learn more, and reaffirm our own philosophies by conversation and sharp wit. If things get nasty, we draw the line at the proper time. I WANT the old “Salon'” atmosphere of repartee’ and conviction of ideas here! JLS is always welcome her as is anybody else, agree with me or not. Yes, it’s enjoyable to have everyones support, but I’m NOT threatened by the opposing view. Thank You ALL for making this a memorable post!!

      • Jean O says:

        I commend you for being able to see both sides and to see that not all trainers regardless of style are effective in helping clients. My goal is to help as many dogs stay out of rescue and use a balanced approach which includes OC to fix the problem.

  12. JLS says:

    Oh you know what, I actually did.. but I only created the blog, and the blog post b/c your blog would not post my response. I actually work for a different company. Which I have not linked or mentioned here.

    • JLS says:


      It sounds like out training methods are more alike than different. As far as the stay goes, if a dog breaks a stay, it means I put them in a training scenario they were not ready for, or my timing of praise and rewards was off.

      I am generalizing based on the balanced trainers I have witnessed and worked with. There is a very well known large training school near by and our market is flooded with their graduates. Everyone of them that I have worked with sets up training scenarios (with novice dogs) and then punish (collar pops, leash jerks, muzzle grabs, crowding space, and sometimes more severe, like scat mats, shock collars, and definitely spray bottles.) Some of them even bill themselves as +R trainers, and I truly believe they think they are. The ones that do bill themselves as balances trainers do so with a smirk and an eyeroll, like it is a badge of honor. I have never seen a balanced trainer that didn’t default to punishment to teach.

      Given what you have written, I think you and I training together would be more cohesive and similar than I have experienced with other balanced trainers.

      For the record, I 100% agree with you on head halters. I rarely every use them, and I encourage people not to. I have never seen a dog wearing one that was not giving off a ton of stress signals.

      My dogs do have rules. I am ultimately in charge of the household. I do decided where they go, and I prevent behaviors I don’t want repeated while setting up specific training scenarios to encourage the alternate behavior I do want. I interrupt and redirect self rewarding behaviors that I don’t want repeated, so they don’t keep happening, and the dog has an outlet for a natural instinct. I think that sounds pretty in line with what you described. You sound very different than the balanced trainers I have worked with.

      Your dog sounds like a lucky dog. 🙂

  13. JLS says:

    Traditional Trainer: This refers to a trainer using styles that developed to train WWII military dogs. This type of training uses physical force, shock collars, prong collars, choke chains, intimidation. This training method became prevalent in the 1950′s after all the veterans came home, and began using their military experience to get jobs. This inundated the dog training market… making this form of training the most prevalent and used method. It remained that way until the 1980′s. Sadly, only a very small subset of dogs are able to withstand this type of training, without having serious adverse side effects. In military training, if a dog doesn’t make it, the dog is taken out of the program and a dog that can handle the pain, fear, etc is put in his place.

    Positive Reinforcement Trainer: This refers to a trainer that pairs rewards with behaviours they like in order to get those behaviours to happen again. Many positive trainers still use a type of punishment called reward removal (taking away whatever the naturally occurring reward for the unwanted behaviour is) as a means of decreasing unwanted behaviours. Positive Reinforcement trainers are also known as Science Based trainers, which means they depend on current scientific research and data to help inform their training choices. A new term “Progressive Reinforcement” was coined to differentiate between trainers that call themselves ” positive” trainers” but continue to use many traditional training methods (such as shock collars, spray collars and other physical or physiological punishments) from those trainers that do not use physical and physiological punishments. A progressive reinforcement trainer rewards desired behaviours and does not use physical or psychological intimidation. You can read more in-depth about Progressive Reinforcement training here.

    Balanced Trainers: This is a trainer that uses some positive reinforcement and some traditional training methods. They feel dogs do not learn well using only force-free methods. They feel that dogs should have rewards for some behaviours and punishments for non-compliance. It is the balanced trainer’s belief that using progressive reinforcement, or all positive reinforcement training is an incomplete way to train. They believe that every dog is different and not one single training philosophy will work to train every dog. Balanced trainers assert that choosing a combination of traditional and science based dog training gives them better results than either method alone.

    Disclaimer: I am a Progressive Reinforcement Trainer

    I think most people today, can agree that purely traditional methods are outdated and they can see the link between beating a dog and aggression. Most people can agree that it is immoral to hang a dog by it’s leash and choke chain. There are still a few hold outs in the dog training world continuing to use predominately traditional methods. Hunting dog training, and herding are a couple holdouts. There is a small subset of cross-over trainers (this means a trainer that trained using traditional methods, and has now crossed-over to using science/ reward based training.) You can watch a video on one such trainer names Robert Milner.

    Robert Milner works to revolutionize dog training

    What’s wrong with choosing a trainer that uses both rewards and physical/ psychological punishments?

    There is a litany of scientific research demonstrating confrontational training methods cause aggressive behaviours. You can read more here and here,All the research on how dogs learn indicates that dogs learn by association. We have all seen this. When you get your dog’s bowl, they become excited. The bowl has been paired with eating so frequently, the bowl now means food to the dog. The leash is another example. You pick up the leash, and the dog gets excited, because there is a history of you picking up the leash and taking them out. There is a never ending list of learned associations like this. My own dogs get very excited when I close my laptop. This has been paired with going outside at night. These are all positive associations.

    The issue with mixing traditional and positive reinforcement (modern) methods is the learning done through negative associations. This list is also endless. My own dog was sprayed by a toad one night about a year ago. She cried and ran back inside. All the next day she went outside without an issue. When it got dark, she refused to go outside. She associated the toad with night, and now night was scary.

    We don’t get to decide the association the dog makes to the punishment we choose. Will they become afraid of an aspect of the environment, a dog they are looking at, a person they are around, the handler? If repeated enough will the dog come to hate all dogs, all men, children? Will they become hand shy and distrusting of people? Will the pop on the face the trainer just gave the dog then cause the dog to bite a child unwittingly swinging their hands around. There is a never ending supply of data showing the fallout of “balanced” training and the use of physical and psychological intimidation/punishment. I actually witnessed a dog that was trained not to bark using a shock collar. (Although it was not very effective. The dog continued to bark.) When the dog would bark, the trainer would pair, “shh! with a finger over his lips” and then shock the dog. The idea being that if you gave the dog the signal, “shh” the dog would then have a warning that a shock might come and choose not to bark. Fall out is unintended outcomes. This dog did not choose quiet over barking, even though he knew he would get shocked. It became scared and began barking, growling, and snapping at anyone that put his/her finger to his/her mouth and said, “shh.” (Even when the shock collar was not present.) This dog was placed in a fearful, painful situation, which activated fight or flight mode and this dog felt the need to fight, anyone that said, “shhh.”

    Now in both of these instances, I was able to use progressive reinforcement and a science based counter conditioning (think Pavlov ringing the bell and giving the dogs food.) With my dog, I took sardines outside one night, found a toad and fed her sardines for seeing a toad. So the scary thing was paired with yummy great things, and now the association is positive. She began going outside at night without issue. The dog that aggressively charged people for saying “shhh,” I did the same thing. I stayed far away and said, “shhh” and tossed him cheese. I repeated this over and over getting a little closer and closer and then I was able to say, “shhh” and the dog remained calm and was even happy, and I didn’t get bit.

    I have worked with “balanced” trainers. I have taken on dogs that came from “balanced” trainers and the majority are so poorly adjusted, scared of people, aggressive and/or reactive. The “balanced” trainers I worked with completely disregarded stress signals from dogs. Continue to push clearly afraid dogs. Then they are completely astonished when they get bit. This ineptness frustrates me, but more than anything it is so sad for the dogs. Some of the cases you can actually trace back the exact training instance that caused the trigger to form (like the dog that was trained not to bark using a shock collar, mentioned above.) It is sad that we have to fix and rehabilitate dogs because of the “balanced” training methods that were previously used on them.

    The other argument for “balanced” training: “Every dog is different, and the same method can’t be used on every dog… ” I could not agree more. Every dog is different, and one idea that works for 100 dogs might not work on the very next dog you meet. The fact is that while every dog is different, using physical or psychological punishment on every dog until you realize it was too much for that specific dog, is unacceptable. The moment you realize you went to far, the damage is already done.

    I recently had a client with a dog who was a persistent jumper. A balanced trainer insisted that the only way to train the dog away from jumping was to continue to use a prong collar and jerk the dog off of people. The fact that the dog had been jerked and punished for jumping on people 4-5 times (in rapid succession) wasn’t an issue to this trainer… (A successful punishment should extinguish the behaviour within 2 repetitions) Just keep doing it until it works.. Right?! No. Wrong. Now the dog has repeated physical corrections when greeting people, and now greeting people will become associated with pain and fear (Remember Pavlov?) hmmm.. greeting people= pain and fear.. people= danger… you get the picture. There is nothing balanced about this.. and the only thing natural about it is that nature makes the neural pathways.. we don’t.

    I was able to take this same dog and write six different training protocols. All using force-free training methods, some used reward removal, some involved training incompatible alternate behaviours and others purely positive reinforcement using food. The training method that finally won out.. Mom calling the dog away from guests and the dog got really high value food treats. Leaving guest alone= awesome! Guests entering the house= give them space. People= great! Guest don’t get jumped on! That is right, the positive reinforcement protocol won the day, and the sanity of the family. Even though I was using only force-free truly dog friendly, humane (humane= would use it on a human) methods, it was by no means a cookie cutter approach. The technique was tailored to the human and their dog. When one approach didn’t work, I was able to brain storm another. Fortunately, my mind has not been clouded with physical and psychological training ideas, so I don’t default to them. I am constantly looking for new and different ways to train the specific dog that I am working with using only progressive reinforcement training techniques. Which produces a lot of really exciting effective ideas!

    • Robert says:

      I am NOT going to become a Promotional Site for Mr. Milner or his business. It should also be noted that JLS is currently building a website for a business called “Mellow Pups”. You are welcome to post your opinions, but I will not allow you to use MY platform to build YOUR Business. Thank You.

      • JLS says:

        I am positive that whenever I do venture out to build my own company (many years off) my target demographic will not be reading your site. I am pretty sure your ideas and my ideas attract very different types of people.

    • Therese says:

      “The other argument for “balanced” training: “Every dog is different, and the same method can’t be used on every dog… ” I could not agree more. Every dog is different, and one idea that works for 100 dogs might not work on the very next dog you meet. The fact is that while every dog is different, using physical or psychological punishment on every dog until you realize it was too much for that specific dog, is unacceptable. The moment you realize you went to far, the damage is already done.”

      What a crock of crap from someone who hasn’t the first idea what balanced training actually is. I do not know of a single dog trainer of any stripe that beats a dog into submission mentally and physically to see if that works best. You wonder why none of the trainers here are taking you seriously. That is why. The lies.

      • JLS says:


        I didn’t say, “once you have beat the dog senseless and into submission to see if it works….” I didn’t even say anything of that nature. I also laid out specific examples, of situations where balanced trainers went to far and damaged dogs. ( I saw happen with my own eyes.) I know what balanced dog training is. I attended and graduated a program that teaches balanced dog training. I have worked with several balanced trainers. I chose not to use it because it is detrimental to many dogs. I adopted a shy/fearful dog about 10 years ago. From the moment she came into my house, using corrections on her or on any of the other 15-20 dogs that she lived with, was not an option. She is the most shy/fearful dog I have met to date. She didn’t go into fight or flight.. she froze, released her bowls and pretended to be dead when ever someone even looked at her. It became clear very quickly that if I used corrections (clapping my hands, a stern tone, body blocks, etc) she completely shut down. If I even cleared my throat in correction of the other dogs around her, she would slink away and avoid me the rest of the day. I had to figure out ways to do everything in a gentle force-free manner with her and around her. I used these methods with the 15-20 dogs that came through my home as fosters, and I had the same great results from all of them.. even though they all had very different personalities, and issues. Since then I have worked with 100’s of dogs and rehabilitated a large array of dogs for lunging, barking, biting, dogs and humans. Many of their issues can be traced directly back to punitive training methods. I have had the same great success with them as well.

        What I am saying, is that there are a tremendous amount of balanced trainers that do not head stress signals, or seem to care if a dog is being pushed into a dangerous or unhealthy level of stress. (Stress being defined in the dictionary meaning of “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”) I saw a shy/fearful dog getting body blocked and punished using canned air. This dog was terrified of the trainer. It was very clear. But the trainer didn’t care. The dog broke the rule and deserved to be punished.

        I think it really just boils down to a completely different view of dogs. I view them as living beings that have desires and needs all there own. They are intelligent and capable of making sound choices. They do things (wanted and unwanted behaviors) because it works and is rewarding.
        Balanced and traditional trainers seem to view dogs as subordinates. It is almost that of master/servant. Despite all the talk of studying and honoring the natural behavior of dogs, balanced trainers do a whole lot to work against the natural impulses of a dog. In packs and outside packs.

        The difference between balanced trainers and +R is evident through the vocabulary. Balanced trainers give commands, +R give cues or requests. Balanced trainers set up training environments that set dogs up to act on impulses and then correct them for their natural behaviors. Using prong collars to correct jumping, pulling, setting up booby traps for leave it, so the dog tries to scavenge for food … (something dogs spent 15,000 years doing as a part of the process of domestication.) just to be shocked by a scat mat, startled by a shaker can, or shocked/sprayed by a collar or stream of water, Waiting until a dog breaks a place command and punishing them for doing so… . +R work in ever increasing level of difficulty… so for jumping, reward for feet being on the ground, keeping space, sit/stay making your movements ever slightly more enticing but not so enticing enough to elicit a jump, reward walking in heel, practice an un-cued leave it with lower value food on the table top and higher value treats appear on the floor when the leave it item is left. Prevent access to items to scavenge. Reward a dog for ever increasing lengths of stay in place pairing the reward with distractions so watching distractions while in place becomes a secondary reinforcer.. and the dog actually likes staying in place.

        There is just this fundamental difference at the core of this debate. The main reason it is so hard to sway one to the other side. Everything the other side is saying is 100% contrary to you reality of dogs. Until all balanced trainers start seeing dogs on the same plane as themselves, and dogs as emotional, feeling fellow beings or all +R trainers start seeing themselves as the master species with the right and duty to control the animals around them, this debate will go on unceasingly.

      • Therese says:

        Yes JLS, you implied exactly that. The implication in your statement is that all balanced trainers abuse animals as a first choice and it is only after abusing the animal that the training plan changes. That is not what balanced training is.

        I have worked with fearful dogs. I have worked with aggressive dogs. Never have I worked with any dog that did not benefit from an appropriate correction, timed well and moderated to the dog’s sensitivity and the behavior that I was trying to change or increase. Never. Not once in over 100 dogs dogs. Of course you have to be able to read the individual dog you are working with and make sure that you are not pushing them too much or working too far over threashold.

        This idea that a “tremendous amount” of balanced trainers don’t heed stress signals is preposterous. How in the world can you successfully modify behavior if you have no idea what you’re seeing in response to training. I could say the same thing about many of the R+ trainers I’ve seen – they seem absolutely oblivious to the stress signals the dog is sending them. I’ve seen several local R+ trainers pretend not to see that the dogs they are forcing to wear head harnesses absolutely hate them and shut down when the harness goes on.

        Then you continue with ridiculous false generalities that confirm your unsupported bias, but have zero basis in fact. As a balanced trainer I view dogs as living beings that have desires and needs. They are intelligent and capable. They do things (wanted and unwanted behaviors) because it works and is rewarding. I do not see dogs as subordinates. Training works best when you discover and then work WITH the natural impulses of a dog. They are however incapable of being depended on to always make sound choices which is why so many are killed on roadways.

        The vocabulary part made me laugh and demonstrates that you know absolutely nothing true about balanced training. You “request” the dog stay, which implies that the dog is free to go on its schedule. I believe you see that as a “sound choice”. I see it as allowing the dog to blow you off.

        I don’t set up training environments that set dogs up to act on impulses and then correct them for their natural behaviors. It is NEVER appropirate to correct a dog for something that you have not thoroughly taught first.

        Personally I do not believe that prong collars are appropriate to correct jumping on people. I also don’t recommend kneeing in the chest, stepping on toes, holding the feet until the dog gets uncomfortable and struggles to pull away. Just teach the dog that 4-on-the-floor earns more rewards. I’ve been teaching that since the early 80s.

        The ONLY way to teach “leave it” is to first work with the dog until they understand what you are asking, then provide opportunities for the dog to make a mistake so that the behavior can be proofed, gently. I would never place two food items on the floor because that can easily create confusion in the dog’s mind. The dog may not have what is on the floor, but may have what is in my hand – no way to confuse the two. Shake cans, shocks, spraying water are in my opinion inappropriate for teaching “leave it” to the average pet. They also require that the trainer take focus away from the dog in order to use an unnecessary tool. In which time the dog has slurped up the floor treat and is looking at you for what’s next. Putting food away is a common sense way to prevent counter-surfing from starting so that you don’t have to train away the behavior later. I’ve known that for 30 years.

        I don’t wait for the dog to break a stay (so I can punish [insert eye roll]). I anticipate the break and praise the dog before the break occurs for holding the stay. The punishment for breaking a stay is to calmly put the dog back where it broke the stay, reduce the time and distance, so that you can praise the dog for being successful. After the dog understands the stay, distractions are offered with a gradual decrease in distance to the distraction.

        Geesh, you really have an obsession with this abuse fantasy that you believe all balanced trainers indulge in. That really is pretty unbalanced. Just sayin’.

        Balanced trainers work in ever increasing levels of difficulty, by adding distance and time, how else do you help the dog to understand what it is that you want. They aren’t born understanding the King’s english. If you have a lot of breaking, then you need to reduce the time and distance, or stop and think why the dog is failing to understand what you want.

        And for the record I know of no balanced trainers who don’t believe in liberal rewards of praise, food, toys, play, whatever is of value to the particular dog they’re working with. Dogs, like us, like to get “paid” for their hard work. But you have to be smart about it and not become a pez dispenser. A particular R+ trainer publically bragged about how excellent her dogs’ obedience was. She spent a lot of time scolding us “old timers”. Of course on her FB page (which was public) she complained that her dogs refused to obey her unless she had food with her. I find this to be pretty typical, especially with people new to the clicker. She just signed up her first client. Wanna bet they don’t get their money’s worth?

      • Therese says:

        JLS said: “There is just this fundamental difference at the core of this debate. The main reason it is so hard to sway one to the other side. Everything the other side is saying is 100% contrary to you reality of dogs. Until all balanced trainers start seeing dogs on the same plane as themselves, and dogs as emotional, feeling fellow beings or all +R trainers start seeing themselves as the master species with the right and duty to control the animals around them, this debate will go on unceasingly.”

        You are right there is a fundamental difference. I find “force free” to be 100% contrary to the reality of dogs. Don’t believe me? Please provide any video evidence of a mother dog teaching her pups with a clicker. She uses corrections for inapproproate behavior. Pups correct each other. Dogs correct each other. It is how dogs have learned to live in their respective packs since the dawn of time.

        Giving a house dog consistent rules to follow reduces stress because they come to know what is expected of them, what is allowed and what isn’t, and dogs love routine. This isn’t all accomplished on day one with yelling and screaming and beatings and shocking them until their hair curls [insert eye roll]. It’s done over time in a matter of fact manner. More of this, less of that, thank you. The dog can relax when they know what the rules are.

        Successful elementary school teachers do not see themselves on the same plane as their students, nor should they. They have a leadership role and the students have a followship role. Caring leadership is a sacred responsibility. No teacher worth his or her salt allows the “inmates to run the asylum”. In much the same way I do not see my dogs on the same plane. My dog IS a feeling fellow being with a full spectrum of rich emotional responses. She “talks” to me everyday in her facial expression, her body language, her many and varied responses to training. I know what she likes and dislikes, she holds no secrets.

        I do have a right, a responsibility and a duty to exercise control over her in certain things. She loves to run, but is not allowed free run of the neighborhood. So every day I take her to where she can safely run with wild and crazy abandon. She rides in a crate secured inside my car instead of with her head hanging out the window. She is taken to the vet which she has never enjoyed and would avoid if given the choice.

        And when I have spent too much time working on the computer, she will peek her head into my office with a dishtowl, sock or other “forbidden” bit of clothing in her mouth and that is my signal to chase her around the house with feigned anger (she absolutely knows the difference) until we collapse on the bed or the sofa me laughing, her with tongue lolling, the laundry dropped without harm back when the chase started. Because she is also given the freedom to be my silly, beloved dog, even if I have to rewash a dish towel now and again.

  14. JLS says:

    I love how you have molded this conversation by convienently refusing to post comments, I am assuming you have no rebuttle to.

    • JLS says:

      Maybe I can post a link so that poeple can see the other side of the debate.


    • Crysania says:

      I’ve noticed that as well. I posted a comment that is still “awaiting moderation” yet others have appeared. I guess there’s no rebuttal to that one so it remains hidden.

    • Robert says:

      ALL comments recieved are posted. Post again. Truth needs no rebuttal.

      • Crysania says:

        Might want to check again…mine still says it’s waiting for moderation. Here’s the comment again.

        Oh come now. You’re going to claim that’s because of the trainers and the methods they use? Many of those shelters euthanize and have NO trainers on staff. It’s a case of lack of space and lack of people to work with the dogs, so while they acknowledge that all dogs CAN be fixed, they don’t have the TIME or RESOURCES to do so. Blaming such a thing on positive training is rather short-sighted don’t you think? My current dog, for instance, came from a high kill shelter. They put down many dogs and even she was on the list. They have no trainers on staff, just a few volunteers who know next to nothing about training of any kind, and even healthy eminently adoptable dogs like mine (who had NO behavioral problems at all) were euthanized. My girl was lucky. A rescue got her out in the nick of time. But many just like her were no doubt euthanized. They had no space and so dogs lost their lives. Terrible of course and we need to be working to stop as much of that as possible. But blaming that on people wishing to use force-free methods is utterly ridiculous.

        It should be up above somewhere.

    • Robert says:

      If this were true, this comment would surely have been deleted. Don’t try to raise doubt by telling people “I’m Molding the conversation. Thank You…

  15. Totally agree with all this too. I used to voluteer at a dog rescue place myself and gave it up because of all this positive crap only stuff. This is not normal for animals. They understand correction, guidance and love so well. Got hugely upset when two greyhounds that I used to walk regularily (I’m 5ft 2inch) and run with on leash ended up having to wear muzzles because the guy that walked them once (he was 6ft plus), nearly got pulled over as they keyed onto somthing and went for it. The main reason though that he had this problem was the centre’s policy of allowing all dogs to be on long leash doing what they want, you can not control a dog this way and if they have any behavioural issues you can not do anything about them either when they are way out in front of you – crazy! So while I too am glad of the centres that are stopping dogs from being euthanised and healing badly treated ones, they also cause huge problems for the next owner that comes along looking for a best friend due to their so called training methods.

  16. Canuck says:

    Interesting that you have or feel there is legislation pertaining to dog training. I mean, I guess we should expect it. DOGS are big BUSINESS, mostly unregulated. Well I’m a firm believer that no one method is best used as a blanket. I would sooner any trainer or volunteer approach the dog on a one to one ‘what needed’ basis. I think clicker work is great for certain breeds, taught young in the best of conditions, however not sure it would work for a serious problem issue. OK with professionals who have timing yes, certainly in controlled situations but shelter dogs get adopted out. Most of those homes don’t want to spend more hours/money working on a big issue or one that is dangerous long term. I know shelters weed out adoptees and some try to match people(sorta the same way a breeder does) but I hope there is lots of cash in these shelters budgets to spend at least a month training new adoption homes with the one method described above. Not sure what the long term solution is. Keller or modified Keller can be hard on the dog, does the dog get it(?), particularly a dog that has not had any sort of better, positive living conditions from birth.Most people today won’t use Keller either and it certainly can be VERY dangerous for the average person who is adopting a dog that has a problem/issue dog. Not sure what the overall solution is but I understand why you had to stop volunteering at this shelter. I’m a breed fancier, have trained my own dogs, did some training for local KC and see increasing issues at our classes with big, issue riddled shelter dogs(for the most part) that can’t handle life and wonder how safe for people and family some of these dogs are. Usually they end up at a private trainers. Very sad situation.

  17. I’d rather be this guy’s dog than some others…

    • Therese says:

      Interesting Paws. As an aside, one of the people off your reading list of “force free” trainers, who has written “force free” training books, trains with our obedience club. They are not force free, they only play a force free trainer because it’s how they make a living. I have personally seen them correct their dog in a manner that would NEVER fit in a balanced training program. I’m sure based on the above video example, you would rather be that person’s dog as well because this isn’t about what’s best for any dog, it’s about what dogma you can best sell to your clients.

    • Therese says:

      The trainer in that video also uses and eCollar. Wanna be his dog now?


  18. Danielle Fitzgerald says:

    Crysania, Now I agree that there is usually something insightful you can pull from watching all different types of trainers work, but, I can’t agree that the positive only method works as a whole, in cases where there are behavioral issues present. I have had quite a few of my own personal clients that started out trying the positive only method first. These clients all had the same things to say…They feel like they were failed and abandoned by their trainers on many levels. Some of these trainers just made endless excuses for the dogs behavior, some of them completely ignored the behaviors all together and quite a few of them said that the dogs couldn’t be helped and needed euthanasia. So YES, some positive only trainers are telling people that certain dogs with behavioral issues cannot be helped and that their only option is euthanasia. My clients have also complained that anytime their dog didn’t respond to a treat, the trainer walked away with no other options, explanations or ideas, because they didn’t have any! So how do we consider this a method that works when I personally know of so many people that are eager to help their dogs be happy, safe and obedient pups, and they felt they had been cheated by positive only trainers?? Maybe I am missing something…

    PawsForPraise, You would HATE coming to my house to walk amongst my pack. I rehabilitate severe behavioral cases and their is a lot of direction, structure and correction given if and when needed. You see, I take in the Shepherds/other strong breeds that are deemed by other professionals as dangerous, out of control and usually “In-need” of euthanasia. You try to give them a treat and they’d happily take a finger or two with your treat and spit it all right back out at you. I don’t use fear to help these dogs understand their place within my pack, I use leadership and boundaries, positive reinforcement and exercise, adventure and structure, discipline and psychological stimulation. Do you know that one of my most dangerous cases I have ever worked, was a Shepherd that was never once disciplined and he became so empowered that he was going for peoples faces and throats, full leap…The owner told me that she stupidly thought that if she just loved him and gave him a good home that he would get better. She told me that she realized that by not disciplining his behaviors when he was younger that she created this extremely dangerous dog that was completely unmanageable.

    I am guessing when you both studied dog behavior, whether watching dog packs or wolf packs, that you were very offended and disheartened with how canines react naturally with one another?! You must find them very cruel considering that fact that they actually establish dominance with each other, set boundaries with one another and don’t think twice about correcting each other firmly when they feel its needed. If you watched pack behavior at all, you might have also caught on that the leaders of the pack weren’t throwing deer limbs at the other members for doing good behaviors…Interesting isn’t it?

    • Totally agree with you and laughed out loud with the deer limbs bit, brilliant! I never got any formal type of training I’ve just always had dogs and learned from them how they work. Boundaries, respect and physical correction is all part of how they live – within that there is tonnes of love and joy. People need to stop seeing insane abuse of animals in everything, as a corection is not that. Infact a correction is never done with aggression of any kind. So love what I have learned from animals in how to be in life, it’s far saner!

    • Crysania says:

      There are bad trainers in all methods. And many people hanging their hat out who should not be calling themselves trainers because they don’t have the proper experience to deal with the basics, much less serious behavior issues. If someone walks away after only trying one method then they are NOT a good trainer. A GOOD positive trainer has many tools in their belt and knows how to use them and can work with many different types of dogs with many different behavioral issues. I have a friend who is a behaviorist, all positive (crossing over from when she wasn’t) and she works with dogs with issues ranging from basic house training and leash pulling to serious aggression. She knows many different methods to employ.

      And then there’s also this simple fact: if the owner does not follow the plan, if the owner does not put in his/her own work with the dog, then it will NEVER work. Trainers know all the paths and can show the owner, but all the real work comes from the owner employing their methods.

      • JLS says:

        Hi Crysania,

        I know all dog trainers know that client compliance is the harderst part of the job. Sometimes it is not even compliance that is the main issue, but teaching a lay person advanced skills and then the application of those skills by a novice is difficult. I deal with reactive and aggressive dogs a great deal. There is always one or two clients that have continued issues, but when I follow up with them about application of the ideas I gave them there is a laundry list of things they have not followed through with. When I first became a trianer this really irritated me. Now I see it quite differently. If a dog owner is not complying to the trianing protocol, then the protocol need to be changed… I then sit down and brainstorm a new protocol and present it to Mom or Dad (that’s right, I said Mom or Dad.) The new protocol may be completely different than the last, the only criteria is that I only use methods I would use on a 2-3 year old child… since research has shown dogs have the cognition of a 2-3 year old child and the methods have to be humane… to me the definition of humane is that I would use it on a human. So I would not spray a child in the face with water for yelling, I am not going to do that to a dog. But I am constantly trying to find way to create protocols my clients will jump on board with. Never stuck to one idea alone.

  19. Scott says:

    I’m missing a point? How about this point: you get your little tiger friend in defense drive, about to take a bite, (go ahead and have a single use decoy shaking a stick at him, preferably another of your group) call him off like you must be able to do with a police dog during apprehension. How did that work for you doing it your way? Well of course you didn’t try it because you can’t do it with your made up tiger nor can you likely do it with a high drive dog. You throw out crap like that to throw people off. Balanced can. Oh but we are mean. I CAN get a vicious dog to let me take blood without a muzzle, my way. My dogs are happy dogs. My kids are happy kids. Yes they got spanked. When are you guys going to file suits to take pups away from mother dogs because they scruff pups in the litter?

    • JLS says:

      A point needing to be made here, Scott, is that progressive/positive reinforcement trainers work animals outside of threshold. This means you would never have a positive reinforcement trainer with a tiger in defensive drive, about to take a bite. The tiger would have to be within threshold to be at that point.

    • Tell me again, Scott. How is it that people such as Denise Fenzi and Shade Whitesel and others are beginning to do so well without using the level of force that makes your appendage rise? Why did Steve White adopt so many of the principles in “Don’t Shoot the Dog” after having 30+ years of police experience? Because, if you stop beating your chest long enough to study and listen, you realize that there’s something to it. The first two people I mentioned are competitors, and the last is someone who knows he has to “make it count” in the real world. Of course you can get a vicious dog to let you take blood without a muzzle. Can you do it without using a shock collar?

  20. Daniel Audet says:

    I have had similar experiences with rescues, that I would like to share with you. Trust me you are not alone in this.

    I would like you to join my forum. http://www.balancedtrainers.com/forum

  21. JLS says:

    I personally look forward to the day that people see “balanced” dog training for what it really is. I find it really irritating when trainer say, “oh well, I am a BALANCED” trainer, like it is a badge of honor. When really all it means is that they have bought into misinformation and follow dog training ideas that have been shown to have absolutely terrible outcomes. I have worked with “balanced” trainers. I have taken on dogs that came from “balanced” trainers and the majority are so poorly adjusted, scared of people, aggressive and/or reactive. The “balanced” trainers I worked with completely disregarded stress signals from dogs. Continue to push clearly afraid dogs. Then they are completely astonished when they get bit…I would roll my eyes if it weren’t for the poor dogs that have to endure this B.S. Some of the cases you can actually trace back the exact training instance that causes the trigger to form. It is sad that we have to fix and rehabilitate dogs b/c of the “balanced” training methods that were previously used on them.

    We dont’ get to decide the association the dog makes to the adversive. Will they become afraid an aspect of the surrounding, a dog they are looking at, a person they are around, the handler? Will they become hand shy and distrusting of people. Will the pop on the face the trainer just gave the dog then cause the dog to bite a child unwittlingly swinging thier hands around. There is a never ending supply of data showing the fallout of “balanced” training and the use of adversives. Why people think making a dog uncomfortable or subdued is preferable to linking behaviors you like with rewards and actually getting the dog to like doing what you want them to do, is beyond me.

    The other arguement for “balanced” training: “Every dog is different, and the same method can’t be used on every dog… ” MORE B.S.! I have never heard such a bunch of malarky. Of course every dog is different! “The cult of positive dog trianing” knows that better than anyone. The fact is that while every dog is different, using adversives on every dog until you realize it was too much for the specific dog you are working with is unacceptable. The moment you realize you went to far, the damage is already done.

    I recently had a client with a dog that was a persistant jumper. A balanced trainer I know insisted that the only way to train the dog away from jumping was to continue to use a prong collar and jerk the dog off of people. The fact that the dog had been jerked off and punished for jumping 4 times already (and a successful punishment should exstinguish the behavior within 2 repetitions) wasn’t an issue to this trainer… Just keep doing it until it works.. Right?! No. Wrong. Now the dog has repeated physical corrections when greeting people, and now greeting people will become assocaited with pain and fear… Anyone familiar with Pavlov?? hmmm.. greeting people= pain and fear.. people= danger… you get the picture. There is nothing balanced about this.. and the only thing natural about it is that nature makes the neural pathways.. we don’t.

    I was able to take this same dog and write 6 different trianing protocals, using force- free trianing methods, some used reward removal, some involved training incompatable alternate behaviors and others purely positive reinforcement using food. The training method that finally won out.. Mom calling the dog away from guests.. leaving guest alone= awesome! Guests entering the house= give them sapce. People= great! That is right, the positive reinforcement protocal. Even though I was using only force-free truly dog friendly, humane (humane= would use it on a human) methods it was by no means a cookie cutter approach. The technique was tailored to the dog and thier human. When one approach didn’t work, I was able to brain storm another. Fortunately, my mind has not been clouded with adversive methods, so I don’t default to them… I am constantly looking for new and different ways to train the specific dog that I am working with using only progressive reinfocement training techniques.. If that makes me a cult member… nooo I was going to say so be it, but a cult is defined as: a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous.. and since positive reinforcement is the antithesis of dangerous.. I digress.

  22. Lynn says:

    Thank you for this post. Happy to see this point of view being posted for others to read, learn, think about, and debate. At least this gives those people who really have no idea what “positive dog training” is about and some of the consequences of jumping on the “new science bandwagon” a place to learn and maybe ask questions so they can make more educated decisions instead of just blindly following someone just because they wrote a book or held some seminars. 🙂

  23. Maureen says:

    +R only training originated from training exotic animals, so therefore if it works on a dolphin, it should work on a dog. That is what +R only trainers seem to believe, which is silly. Silly because a dolphin is not expected to do the duties of a dog. To obey like a dog does. A dog needs a correction to know right from wrong, not only to know what is right. I used to be a “clicker only” trainer, but I soon realized how much better it is when corrections are used. I still do use a clicker, as well as a training collar. This cult of people seem to absolutely find any kind of training collar abusive, when they have never even had any experience with them. They do not even know how to correctly fit one or use it! They claim a prong collar will cause permanent damage, even when used correctly when it was DESIGNED by a vet to protect the neck. I also find it funny that if you use these collars and you wanted a trainer to help you, the ones that use +R only will not allow you to use it, even if it works for you. Its my way or the highway to them. They also claim corrections are “unscientific” when it is part of the four quadrants of learning. I cant believe I fell for this ideology of training. I still use clickers in training, but I also use corrections. I choose to not limit my toolbox so I do not deny the dog to learn with which method is best for them.

    • JLS says:

      If +R works on whales, giant cats, dolphins, chickens, mice, monkeys, humans, why would it not work on dogs?

      The claim of corrections being unscientific comes from peer reviewed applied psychology research papers (written and researched by psychologists, not dog trainers.) which found that when dogs are threatened, or misbehavior is forcefully and physically responded to, contributes to increased occurrences of aggression.

      “Some Techniques Triggered Aggression
      The highest frequency of aggression occurred in response to aversive (or punishing) interventions, even when the intervention was indirect:
      • Hitting or kicking the dog (41% of owners reported aggression)
      • Growling at the dog (41%)
      • Forcing the dog to release an item from its mouth (38%)
      • “Alpha roll” (forcing the dog onto its back and holding it down) (31%)
      • “Dominance down” (forcing the dog onto its side) (29%)
      • Grabbing the jowls or scruff (26%)
      • Staring the dog down (staring at the dog until it looks away) (30%)
      • Spraying the dog with water pistol or spray bottle (20%)
      • Yelling “no” (15%)
      • Forced exposure (forcibly exposing the dog to a stimulus – such as tile floors, noise or people – that frightens the dog) (12%)
      In contrast, non-aversive methods resulted in much lower frequency of aggressive responses:
      • Training the dog to sit for everything it wants (only 2% of owners reported aggression)
      • Rewarding the dog for eye contact (2%)
      • Food exchange for an item in its mouth instead of forcing the item out (6%)
      • Rewarding the dog for “watch me” (0%)”

      So the above approaches are labeled as unscientific because trainers continue to use and suggest them despite peer reviewed independent research demonstrating that it increases aggressive responses.

      • JLS says:

        Here is the link to the academic journal article of the research on this topic, if you were interested in reading it.


      • Therese says:

        Great study JLS.

        The authors recognize that the study is flawed on its face because, “…dog owners surveyed were recruited from a population of owners making appointments at a referral behavior clinic; in many cases, the behavior problems were significant.” (pg. 53) It should then not surprise anyone that a dog with significant aggression issues would react aggresively when you kick it. I have no idea how this relates to balanced training because I can’t imagine that any balanced trainer would say, “Hey, go ahead and kick the dog. That ought a work.”

        No attempt was made to determine if the aggressive responses were before or after the owner’s attempts to mediate the dog’s issues. “It is, therefore, difficult for us to determine whether owners attempted specific interventions to alter aggressive behavior or whether aggression developed as a result of their use.” (pg. 53)

        “…the retrospective nature of the survey prevented the possibility for direct comparison of safety and efficacy between aversive and non-aversive techniques.” (pg. 53) In other words the researchers have no clean data to draw any useful conclusions from.

        Table 3 did have an interesting tidbit. Clicker training had no effect on 1/3 of the dogs.

  24. Wendy says:

    I have been around dogs all my life. As a child we never had just one and later my parents became breeders of Irish Setters, English Cocker Spaniels and then Bichon Frise. Every dog has its own personality and train accordingly. That sector of society that seems to make decisions about how we raise our kids and now pets is, for lack of better words, nuts. As we can see, the children raised in this way are turning out to be practically useless adults and training pets in this way will turn out confused and misbehaved pets!!! Mark my words, if raising and training doesn’t come back around to a more balanced method we are in for a very difficult future.

  25. Scott says:

    Thanks Robert. I’m not much of an absolutes type of person. I normally volunteer to work dogs others want 3500 dollars to mess with, for little of nothing, that the others won’t even guarantee. Just like Dr. Spock and don’t spank, oops don’t even yell no at your child, it has proven not to work and to actually cause them to become uncontrollable. I don’t mind the new name of balanced. I do mind poorly experienced pet dog trainers telling me they can do everything with clickers and positive reinforcement without any consequences. There are pet bred dogs that may work pretty well with but until someone has faced all circumstances and accomplished everything with nothing but positive please don’t voice such an assenine opinion. I will praise the positive, as I use it myself. Those guys need to praise the balanced as it saves more dogs than can be numbered. Off the soap box and back in the dungeon of tortuous hell! Scott

    • Again, Scott, you miss the point. Laissez-faire parenting does create obnoxious, ill-behaved children. However, authoritarian parenting creates its share of abusers and control freaks. The approach that creates the most successful children in authoritative parenting, which does not require spanking or yelling, merely the manipulation of consequences. Again, NO ONE using modern positive training, whether they use clickers or not, is saying that there are no consequences for dogs that exhibit problem behaviors. Those are simply catch phrases, such as “cookie tossers” that you use to denigrate us. The science works, no matter what quadrant you’re in. The key is successfully utilizing the science with an appropriate degree of technical skill. If you can do that, and avoid the temptation for the quick fix, or simply globally suppressing behavior, then you’s understand what we are saying. Do you honestly think that the people who train tigers to present their paws for blood draws are using prong collars to force those tigers into compliance?

      • Maureen says:

        A prong collar would not be necessary to train a tiger, for exotic animals +R should be of coarse, used on them. A tiger is not expected to do the duties that a dog is expected to do,

      • Scott says:

        That’s great. Positive trainer brings up a tiger in a dog discussion only to say later that of course you wouldn’t use the same methods, its a tiger.

  26. Tom says:

    I have a 90lb rescue shelter GSD that goes insane at the sight of another dog / cat and sometimes another person. Would have been nice had they told me this at adoption time. Yet at home he almost as gentle as a lamb with my 14lb sheltie and the rest of us at the house. He’s gotten better though still scary at times – a scooby treat does not get it done! And as harsh as it may seem, go see how the military (my son is a USMC MP) and especially the German military trains their guard GSD’s. for absolute obedience. I am not condoning it, I am just saying……

  27. K9Justice says:

    I’m saddened when there’s also misunderstanding of positive based methods from balanced trainers. Not all of us are extremists, or cultists. (I shy away from those myself). Positive does not mean permissive, nor that there are never consequences. And *good* +R trainers do not just ignore unwanted behaviors- especially self-reinforcing ones. It’s just a different mindset really, what we focus on. I know I’m not a non-stop pez dispenser. My working line GSD adolescent isn’t even into treats if he’s at all aroused out in environments other than home. He’s ball/tug driven, though, and that’s his high value reinforcer. It’s about training a response, behavior we want, while not allowing the unwanted one to be practiced. True, it takes skill, and this is where there’s failure, in the skills of the trainer, NOT a method. (I’m sure we’ve all seen lousy balanced trainers, too?) There’s dogs at high levels of protection sport competition trained force free. It’s entirely possible. That said, I don’t think it’s right to slam other ways of training, or think they’re “bad” or abusive. Some folks take better to training a certain way, and are likely better handlers in that way. I know using force free methods makes me a better trainer. It’s also not just one way, one method. There’s a lot of approaches in a +R “toolbox”, too. Just not hardware around a dog’s neck to communicate “wrong”.

  28. Scott says:

    Paws for praise, I use 90% motivational training for my police dogs. There are times when there MUST be consequences. If you don’t agree your knowledge is short. A combined training method, now considered balanced, gets the performance and obedience needed. The dog is an animal. Let me get you a candidate to make a police dog where an out must be verbal with no cookie debate, where a down must be precise to avoid a child being bitten, put in your force free pouch and show us how it is done. This crap of force free……..motivational…………whatever the newest name commands……..works in every circumstance is total crap. A balanced approach is all u will ever prove can do this. Read the dog. Manage the dog in the most humane way possible. Utilize all techniques in your tool bad until you find the right match!

    • Robert says:

      Thank You for reading Scott! Love for you to hang around and feel free to share your experience!!!

    • Whatever would make you think that positive trainers use no consequences? I’m amazed that people understand so little about force free training. Antecedents and consequences drive behavior! We just think that consequences need to be relevant, but they don’t need to hurt or cause fear, which is one of the most difficult side effects of coercion to alter.

      • Beth Goodbody says:

        I’m really having a hard time, for the zillionith time it seems, trying to understand why the “force free” brigade wants to always through out the words hurt or cause fear. I use a lot of hands on when I train and the animals I work with aren’t afraid of me and realize that molding, guiding and petting don’t cause pain or fear.

  29. Jean O says:

    I have been a trainer for over 35 years and saw the good old pop and jerk transition into the 100% reward based training and I have to say neither of them was great, they both had some merits but using a combo of both ” a balanced approach” is key. I am surrounded by all positive trainers here in NJ and I want to thank ALL of them because the owners get frustrated and end up calling me to help them!!! I big dog that thinks he can lunge onto a table needs to be told ” OH HELL NO YOU CAN’T”, I am not going to wait for him to stop doing said act and then treat him. I was invited to co-write a book years ago with Karen Pryor on clicker training for agility so BELIEVE me I know how to use one for shaping BUT some dogs just need to be told no in a way that interrupts their behaviors.

  30. Jo says:

    As someone who has worked professionally (that is paid) with dogs for over 20 years I am delighted you will no longer volunteering at shelters. These dogs have been through enough without enduring the outdated, unscientific dog training cult you subscribe to.

    • Robert says:

      Thanks for your reply Jo…Found at Jo
      Can I then assume that you live the adage that some dogs ” just can’t be helped” and are better off euthanized? That would be an unfair, knee-jerk reaction on my part, wouldn’t it? Just like the one you’ve made about my training methods which you know NOTHING about. But thats typical of the militant non-aversive trainer.Which, at the risk of being wrong, I will assume you are. The problem with the militant +R people is that they know NOTHING of BALANCE. You spout SCIENCE as the ultimate source of your knowledge, and that is what makes your methods incomplete, and ultimately a failure. Thanks for reading!!!

      • Crysania says:

        Where does this “adage” come from? I know of no positive trainers who believe some dogs cannot be helped unless there is a very severe neurological problem that cannot be fixed through behavior adjustment, training, or some sort of medical therapy. I see this stated often with “balanced” trainers and yet have not actually seen this ever happen.

      • Robert says:

        Crysania, sadly it takes place in shelters every day. Because of the insistant reliance on the Non aversive methods. If Jo was forthright, I wonder how many animals were euthanized in her facility over her 20 year span…No-Kill organizations are notorious for their denial of ridding themselves of problems by transfer or private euthanizers.

      • Crysania says:

        Oh come now. You’re going to claim that’s because of the trainers and the methods they use? Many of those shelters euthanize and have NO trainers on staff. It’s a case of lack of space and lack of people to work with the dogs, so while they acknowledge that all dogs CAN be fixed, they don’t have the TIME or RESOURCES to do so. Blaming such a thing on positive training is rather short-sighted don’t you think? My current dog, for instance, came from a high kill shelter. They put down many dogs and even she was on the list. They have no trainers on staff, just a few volunteers who know next to nothing about training of any kind, and even healthy eminently adoptable dogs like mine (who had NO behavioral problems at all) were euthanized. My girl was lucky. A rescue got her out in the nick of time. But many just like her were no doubt euthanized. They had no space and so dogs lost their lives. Terrible of course and we need to be working to stop as much of that as possible. But blaming that on people wishing to use force-free methods is utterly ridiculous.

    • Robert says:

      The Post above was meant for Jo…Hopefully she will read thru the comments here, and begin to learn that the wheels are coming off the All Positive Methods…and become more balanced. I do love hearing from the other side of the divide though!

      • Kim says:

        I’m responding to this from a purely educational standpoint in that I would love to hear your perspective, straight from the horses mouth, so to speak. The following questions are meant purely as a path to learning so I hope they are not taken as being argumentative: By “balanced,” what exactly do you do that R+ trainers don’t? Are you saying you incorporate leash pops? Choke chains and prong collars? Punishment to varying degrees? I’m asking because I’m interested and want to be educated about what “Balanced Training” actually means. I consider myself primarily a R+ trainer, but I definitely don’t just ignore all bad behaviors the way you seem to believe we do, there are definitely consequences to a dog’s inappropriate actions. I tend to teach owners to replace the bad behavior with a conflicting behavior (ie Sit to greet rather than jump, or Leave It when chasing prey) but I understand that this may not work 100% of the time. What I fear about “Balanced Training” is that someone is going to use leash pops, choke/prong/shock collars on dogs with anxiety and only make them worse and suppress the behavior, not actually eliminate the root problem. That is honestly my biggest hesitance when it comes to a “balanced” approach. Correction does not always eliminate the problem, but sometimes merely suppresses it and doesn’t address WHY the behavior is happening. As a positive trainer, my goal is to eliminate the base fear/anxiety by allowing the dog to come to terms with it at their pace, rather than say, flooding and forcing them to just give up; I’m definitely not a fan of forcing suppression of behaviors because I don’t think it actually solves the problem, so I would appreciate some clarification if you don’t mind. Can you please explain some instances where your methods would differ from an R+ trainer and why you think they would be a more effective method or why, in a particular instance, R+ would fail? I’d love to hear it directly from an experienced Balanced Trainer rather than just “googling” it. Please understand I’m not wanting an argument, I’m actually hoping to learn something so I would appreciate any clarification you could offer. Thanks!

  31. Mark Kelly says:

    Well said, too many people are bullying others into their idea of dog training. In my opinion there are most definately many ways to train a dog. New owners getting the RIGHT INFORMATION is essential. I will admit when I got my dog first I had no clue on raising a pup to be a confident yet reliable and trustworthy dog around children and others but I studied and put in the effort and there are things I have learned that can be put into everyday use. Well done and keep up the good work!

  32. Sorry, but I don’t agree with your basic premise that force free training doesn’t work for all dogs. It does, and it works well. But, I do agree that it is unrealistic for any shelter or rescue group to make the transition to force free training without appropriate professional support, and a seminar weekend isn’t enough. Clickers are not the only technique involved in force free training, nor is it true that there are no appropriate consequences for dogs whose behavior is problematic. But, we all know that among rescues and shelters nationwide, there is a wide variation in methodology, some of which was gleaned from TV shows, not from legitimate science, and we need to upgrade the quality of training for shelter dogs as well as for the dog population in general. We also need to realize that some dogs from the rescue/shelter environment have had more than their fair share of harsh treatment, and still haven’t developed good obedience or any reduction in fear or aggression. One of the things that the Pet Professional Guild is trying to do is upgrade the technical skills of positive trainers, because there is somewhat of a lag there. But, in time, as force free trainers hone their skills, I’m betting that it will become the norm.

    • Therese says:

      Paws I get that you have a business selling clicker training to protect. Fact is clicker training alone does not always work in all cases, with all behaviors, and all dogs. It just doesn’t. Not in my experience. It’s a valuable tool for any trainer to have, but it is not the be all and end all.

      I absolutely agree with Robert that a weekend seminar to transition to the only method of training will only result in disaster and more dogs winding up killed for behavioral issues. After all, once you’ve splashed through the shallow puddle that is “force free” training and have nothing else in your tool box, there isn’t much left to do with a powerful dog that was allowed to learn the wrong rules, or make the rules up as they went along except to kill it. Then to require that any dog that is adopted must only be trained with “force free” methods… sorry, wouldn’t sign that contract.

      I see that you are already offering up an excuse for “force free” failure; the dog’s past. I’ve taken many dogs from the shelter who had some pretty horrible behavior issues and turned them around using balanced methods because failure is not an option. I’m willing to dig deep into my tool chest and use whatever hands-off, hands-on methods, whatever tool, whatever knowledge, whatever networked help I can to rehabilitate a difficult dog because the alternative is death. I’ve seen HUGE reductions in fear and aggression using balanced methods, and just as many tragic “force free” failures. Death before discipline, right Paws?

      You speak repeatedly of “consequences” yet offer nothing specific. Most “force free” trainers rely on ignoring inappropriate behavior, stuffing the dog with food, juggling toys, or teaching an incompatable behavior. For a dog that sees squirrel hunting as the bestest thing EVER, you will never find anything to offer as a better exchange to something that self-rewarding. Sure you can go the time and distance route and that might even work given enough time. Some dogs just don’t have that much time, especially if you’re working with them at the shelter.

      In closing Patrick Burns probably wrote the best debunk of “force free” training in his blog here.

      “And then something happened. They (Keller and Marian Breland) noticed that clicker training was, in certain circumstances, beginning to fail in ways they could no longer overlook.”


  33. Anna M says:

    Well said. I’ve had numerous GSDs over the years, and all from rescues. Each of them have needed different training styles. Clickers worked on some, positive reinforcement on others. Some were easily put in the pack, and others needed MORE work than I thought I was capable of giving. But, we saw them through. Ignoring the bad never worked…for my dogs or my kid! I’m sorry that the shelter is losing what sounds like a knowledgeable and giving volunteer, and I hope you’ll stay involved and help others!

  34. Ginny Heald says:


  35. CeliaJ says:

    I have had 7 german shepherds (pure bred from breeders) over the last almost 30 years. I have never received any type of training to handle them. All of them have or had different personalities and responded differently to being corrected. If I ignore bad behavior, that just tells them that I don’t mind them acting that way – never has worked for me. Some of them I could just speak to and they would mind, others I had to physically touch (touch, not beat) to get their attention or make them stop doing what they are doing. My point is…you cannot expect every dog to react the same way to discipline or anything else…do children?

    • Maureen Bauer says:

      Totally agree! I’ve owned German Shepherds for over 35 years. I’ve trained each one to be well mannered animals, but the method of training varied from dog to dog. Some simply needed a bit more guidance than others. They are, after all, individuals and some have come from questionable backgrounds where strictly positive reinforcement methods simply did not work. Right now, I’ve got a particularly willful minded dog … much different than the two I had prior. To her, treats and praise are “nice” but she’s not willing to work too hard for them. If she has something in her mind that she wants to do, a clicker and a treat will NOT stop her action and simply “ignoring” the bad behavior, in HER mind, makes it acceptable.

      I sincerely hope that the industry doesn’t fully accept this “new”, positive way of training as the only way to teach your dog. If so, we will see more and more dogs labeled as “aggressive” and thus put down.