We have all seen those posts where a dog parent asks a question about what to do with their dog and a million comments flood through on what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong.
First things first:
1) There is more than one way to train a dog
2) Different dogs require different methods
I have been using balanced dog training techniques for over 4 years now and can proudly say that I have helped numerous dogs achieve their goals with their humans and go on to live happy and healthy lives. I have helped dogs avoid being rehomed, sent to the shelter or euthanized.
So - what is balanced dog training?
Balanced dog training teaches a dog desired behaviors using both reward-based techniques and aversive corrections which the dog will be introduced to once it associates a behavior with a command.
The intent of the correction is not to punish the dog, but rather to change the dog's behavior.
3 common misconceptions:
1) Tools like prong collars and e-collars are "cruel", "abusive" and "cause pain"
2) The word "aversive" is misconstrued to mean "abusive"
3) Dog's only comply because they are afraid of the consequences or the trainer
Although these can be true when used incorrectly, when used professionally, this couldn't be further from the truth. This also depends on the dog for me. Some dogs respond better in a martingale or slip lead (dominant dog collar). For me, this not only has to do with the dog but also the owner and what works best for them.
Balanced trainers have a lot in common with other training styles including:
Use reward-based methods
Play recall games
Incorporate marker training or use clickers
Use motivation and drive to create behaviors
Practice relaxation techniques
A lot of the common behaviors that I see owners struggling with on a daily basis are behaviors that may not have enough of a consequence for the dog to stop are:
Jumping on people or furniture
Bolting through the doorways - running away
Pulling on the leash
Reactivity to dogs or humans
A well-balanced trainer will use high-value rewards in the learning phase of training to teach the behaviors that we want - this is when we use the Marker Training (more on that another day). Once the dog has a general idea of a command, we will start to introduce a correction.
When we hear the word correction, a lot of pet owners think abuse or excessive - hitting, spanking, yelling, etc... A correction is a simple, subtle change in a dog's behavior. Some dogs require a strong verbal correction while others may require a correction with something like a prong collar or e collar.
My point is - you are always going to have other people telling you about their opinions on how to train your dog. You have to decide what is best for your dog, and sometimes that may not be what you thought it was in the beginning. Some dogs can do well with positive only training when started very young, however, these are typically not the dogs that come to me for training.