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Changing the actions, aptitudes and attitudes of dogs and their people
Challenging Our Methods
The following note was posted at a YouTube video displaying our training methods
“Just because you cant find a trainer that will use positive reward-based methods doesn't mean you can justify using
choke chains and hurting the dog. Of course it will behave around you- it WILL comply but it'll only be a temporary fix
and be more inclined to be agressive when you or the owner are away. If you claim to have taught it in a matter of
hours then that's proof of a 'quick' fix which is usually achieved by hurting and frightening the dog.”
It annoys me terribly when I read the same old sound-bites in response to a balanced approach to dog training.
Apparently, the person who posted this comment believes there is only one way to train a dog, and that is with
positive reinforcement, exclusively. If you have not seen us train a dog you have no right to describe the processes
or the results of our methods. I encourage anyone who has the same attitude to simply come and watch us train a
dog. We hold Workshops every month. Attend one. Then, you may judge us.
Aggression is a state of anti-social behavior. Our methods are rooted in helping a dog move from an anti-social to
social state of existence. That is the definition of what we do. Often, a dog has become anti-social (including
aggressive, but also fearful or excessively exuberant) because no one in its life ever took control and set clear
standards for the dog’s behavior. We do not routinely use positive reinforcement to address unacceptable behavior.
We use positive reinforcement to create good behaviors, which, to me, is the way one should employ positive
reinforcement. We use corrections / negative consequences to eliminate bad behaviors. My book, The 4-H Guide:
Dog Training & Dog Tricks (Voyageur Press 2009) provides ample detail on when we employ positive reinforcement
and when we use corrections in our quest to provide fair and balanced instruction for the dogs that we train. You
may find out how to purchase my book, here.
It is completely ridiculous to suggest that sound training methods result in harm to the dog and are only temporary
fixes. Watch a parent teach his/her toddler to remain in a highchair for dinner. The first two, three, four, perhaps
five times that the child tries to climb out, the parent “touches” the child by placing him back in the chair (preferable
before the child actually makes any progress to climb down to the floor). If s/he is a good parent there is no emotion
in this action (no frustration, no anger, no disappointment). There is just a consequence for the child's unacceptable
behavior. Sometimes the child will protest by whining, crying or having a tantrum. The protest should not be
considered evidence of parental abuse. It is evidence that the child is protesting the situation, nothing more. The
child is testing the resolve of the parent. A good parent will win the battle without getting upset by simply being
more persistent than the child.
By the sixth attempt, when the child begins to climb out of the highchair, the parent need only stand up and appear
to be walking towards the child and the child will sit back down. This should not be considered a threatening
gesture. It is just a parent letting the child know that, once again, attempting to climb out of the chair will not be
permitted. A good parent will not harm her own child when teaching him to remain seated in the chair. But, she will
have to touch him to give him feedback that she does, in fact, control his destiny and she will impose her will upon
the child. To ignore this duty will probably result in an injured child (and a really terrible teenager).
Of course there are times when the parent praises the child for doing a good job. She could even praise him for
staying put in the chair. But, if he begins to climb out, praise won’t keep him in the chair. A consequence for non-
compliance is needed. That is how the mind of a social primate (and social canine) works. It is based on establishing
a social order. Mother trumps child. Full stop. Bribery could result in a dangerous power shift. The child must not
believe that he can outmaneuver his parent. He is not emotionally or physically equipped to do so at his age. Those
are the times when the parent may need to physically control the child for its own safety and to teach it about
boundaries. That physical touch is important since a small child doesn’t have the capacity to follow verbal directions,
yet. Curiously, the way that we groom a child to follow verbal directions is by touching them when they are little.
They learn that we can and we will touch them. Then, they heed the verbal warning and comply so as to avoid the
physical touch. The touch is not painful. But, it is clear information that if the child doesn’t heed the verbal request
the parent will simply control the child physically. The desire to be granted free-will motivates compliance to social
Dogs do the same thing with their puppies and lower ranking adults. They just happen to do it with their teeth (since
they don’t have access to their “hands”). They touch a pup if it doesn’t heed the initial warning (such as, “don’t come
near my rawhide bone"). They make contact around the neck or face – hence the use of a collar when interacting
with a pup regarding standards for its behavior. Our methods attempt to emulate this natural form of
communication. One big difference between a child and a dog is that the dog will never "grow up" and have the
capacity to function in a fully autonomous manner. He will always need to be subordinate in our family and the
humans must remain higher ranking for the dog's whole life. They remain "children", forever. Of course there are
behaviors that we can teach our dogs and trust that they will perform them quite consistently. We believe we are
most reliable in doing so when we use methods that employ the concepts of obedience to authority. When we tap
into the dog's natural ability to behave out of reverence for a "leader" / "top dog", we can permit the dog to perform
autonomously and the dog will do so without taking advantage of the freedom we grant in those cases. Service dogs,
herding dogs, SAR dogs all perform jobs that, at times, require the dog to take the helm (a little or a lot). Dogs that
hold a keen understanding of their position relative to their human partners can be granted more autonomy and
they will not disrespect their humans who allow such free will. This relationship, in my opinion, cannot be forged
with an exclusively incentive based method.
Curiously, it has been my experience to note that folks who subscribe to an exclusively positive reinforcement
method often permit their dogs to pull them on a lead. One can hear the straining, choking sound when they walk as
the dog's windpipe is smashed shut. The humans lunge forward if the dog chooses to leap towards a distraction,
perhaps to the point of injuring a shoulder or elbow. Rather than providing a negative consequence to resolve
pulling behavior, the all-positive folks simply allow their dogs to exist in constant restraint with tension on their
necks. To me, that is far more cruel than to simply and effectively address the pulling behavior quickly and directly.
We do that by delivering a negative consequence for the undesirable behavior that is sufficient to change the dog's
behavior. We routinely present this method and show its success in our Workshops.
It is not abusive to physically manipulate a child or a dog in order to teach a valuable lesson about survival and
obedience to authority. It is good parenting or dog ownership. If you think a child can be “clicker trained” to remain
in a high chair without falling out first, go ahead and try with your own kid. But, don’t accuse other parents of harsh
methods if they choose to grab the kid before it plummets to the floor. That analogy is, to me, a very direct
comparison to the methods that we use to train dogs. We simply adjust the touch to the species with which we are
working and emulate the manner in which dogs perform this same type of "parenting" or "teaching social norms" to
Please do not be so ignorant of the methods we employ in our dog training to proclaim them to be overly harsh,
temporary fixes. Doing the tough job of establishing standards for behavior requires the proper attitude; calm,
confident, deliberate clarity regarding the message about dog’s behavior. And, sometimes, it requires physical
contact rather than treats. When it is done properly, it has long lasting, positive effects on behavior, is kind and fair
and results in a very happy dog that understands the expectations of his owner.
© 2010 Tammie Rogers - all rights reserved. For permission to reprint email
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When Board/Train is the better option
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Dealing with a Thunder phobic dog
Training a fearful dog
Selecting a breed as a Service Dog
How To Select A Dog Trainer
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