I want to dive into the various dog training methods out there and discuss honestly the very divisive views that some people have.
Spoiler alert! The following will be controversial with some folks, and that’s okay. But I think it’s important to be transparent and honest. I’ve been in the dog training world for over a decade now, and I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly. We are, oftentimes, client’s second, third, or even fourth, dog trainer. We are not your cheapest dog trainer, but we will be the only one you need, and we are here for you for LIFE. I am the type of person that does not like conflict, and I certainly don’t like to start any type of conflict. But what I’m about to say will undoubtedly create some. While that’s a shame, I still think it’s necessary for you to know.
Every dog (and human) learns differently. Here at Paw & Order, we strive to be knowledgeable in every technique and tool that can be found valuable when training dogs and their people. We are balanced dog trainers and we don’t limit our thinking because of certain “fads” or propaganda. I don’t know how the term “balanced” can mean anything negative since it literally means “equal or in the correct proportions” and is compared to the words “fairness and stability.” However, somehow a large group of people started demonizing this word when it comes to dog training. Anyway, enough about that. At Paw & Order Dog Training, we always start each dog with what’s called POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT when learning commands to establish a solid foundation.
What Does Positive and Negative Mean?
Before we go any further, let me explain what Positive and Negative mean in the dog training world, as well as what Reinforcement and Punishment mean. I want you to think of Positive and Negative like a math equation: Positive means you are adding something, and Negative means you are taking something away. Reinforcement is strengthening a behavior, while Punishment reduces the likelihood that a behavior will occur again in the future.
The problem is our human brain equates the word “punishment” with something bad or harmful. The word “Negative” when used in dog training also seems to leave a bad taste in our mouths. For instance, if I tell you that we are going to use Negative Punishment on your dog, you may instantly associate that with hurting your dog in some way but let me clarify. If your dog jumps on you and you turn your back away to ignore the behavior, and your dog stops jumping, you NEGATIVELY PUNISHED your dog. You took away (negative) your attention to stop the behavior (punishment).
Truthfully, there is no such thing as Purely Positive dog training. Your dog wearing a leash limits or takes away your dog’s freedom (negative). You withholding a treat if your dog does not do a command, is also not strictly positive reinforcement and causes a stress response in your dog, and that’s OKAY! Dogs learn naturally from their environment and from the rewards and consequences they experience in life.
Don’t Touch a Hot Stove!
It only took one time for you to touch a hot stove to realize you shouldn’t do it again (a Positive Punishment found in nature!) Our cars will ding at us repeatedly if we don’t put our seatbelt on when driving. This is annoying, but we know what the beeping signifies (put your seatbelt on). Your car is using Negative Reinforcement to get you to wear your seatbelt. With dogs, there are some behaviors that can be life threatening that we need to stop quickly, before the dog is injured or killed. For instance, if your dog eats things he shouldn’t, a blockage could occur. Wouldn’t you rather teach your dog not to eat inappropriate things rather than have him go through emergency surgery after the fact? Your dog being cut open is NOT a pleasant experience for anyone. Yet, we are often told to just “pick up everything in the house” or always supervise your dog so this never happens, but dogs will be dogs and mistakes will be made. You can never 100% manage your surroundings.
The definition of Positive Reinforcement means adding something to Reinforce a behavior. It cannot, by definition, stop a behavior. You may have been told to teach your dog an alternative behavior instead of correcting the unwanted behavior. Let me explain why this is not very effective.
You don’t learn to stop smoking cigarettes just because you learned how to cook.
Weird sentence, right? You’re probably thinking, “Elissa…you are making no sense. Why would anyone think that just because you learn how to cook will result in forgetting how to smoke cigarettes?” I see so many dog trainers and dog people pushing the same kind of skewed thinking when it comes to training a dog. Many preach that by teaching a dog to sit when people come over instead of jumping, that the dog will never jump again. I’m here to tell you that teaching an alternative behavior (sit), does not teach your dog that jumping is unacceptable! Once your dog is released from a sit position, what is stopping them from jumping again? Jumping is a self-reinforcing behavior. Your dog knows that they will get attention (even if you scold your dog or push them off you) and has not learned, in an effective way, that you don’t WANT them to do that behavior at all.
Furthermore, just because you teach your dog to lay down does not mean they won’t bite a stranger when they lean over to pet them. Will we teach your dog commands and how to be polite? ABSOLUTELY! Having people come over will be so much more enjoyable for you and your dog. However, we will teach your dog that bad behaviors are not allowed, while also teaching them what you want them to do. Our techniques will set your dog up for success right from the start so that we can minimize the use of corrections. It is all about a balance of motivation!
So, let’s circle back to what Paw & Order is all about. What methods do we use?
We are going to evaluate your dog and your family situation along with your dog’s behavioral and health history to come up with a custom training plan to make sure that you reach your goals. We will not limit your success by being narrow minded with training tools. We believe in the true LIMA model (Least Invasive, Minimally Aversive). When teaching your dog new behaviors, we always use positive reinforcement, using food, praise, toys, pets etc. We do not add in consequences for not doing a behavior unless we are certain your dog already knows exactly what they are supposed to do. There are some behaviors that we will try to stop immediately in order to keep your dog and those around safe. We will always discuss everything with you at your evaluation before stopping behaviors and explain the benefits of doing it the way we do.
Can we train dogs without training tools? Yes, for most behavioral problems (besides the normal leash and regular collar and motivation, which technically are tools themselves). However, not everyone has the time or skills to spend years training their dog to help with a single issue. If you found someone that could stop your dog’s bad behavior quickly with no fallout, and then we spend the rest of the training having fun and teaching new behaviors, why wouldn’t you?
You may have been told that your dog will hate you or become aggressive if you correct them. I can assure you that is a lie. A lie that was told to you to scare you into never using effective training techniques and tools while continuing to stay frustrated with your dog’s behavior for the rest of their life. We have 9 dogs of our own, all of which have been trained using a variety of techniques dependent on their needs and personalities. My dogs do not even need to be on a leash anymore and CHOOSE to be around me, cuddle with me whenever they want (always), and even choose to sleep in my bed. Many of my dogs had behavioral problems initially, including aggression towards dogs and people. My oldest dog is going on 10 years old, and those behaviors have never resurfaced. In fact, she is my best demo dog and goes everywhere with me!
Tools are a GOOD Thing!
In response to the argument that using training tools is “the lazy way to train,” I have this analogy for you to consider. You can ride a horse and buggy into town, but a car will get you there much faster. Is this lazy? I guess that depends on your definition of lazy. I believe in working smarter, not harder.
Now let’s pretend that you are building a house. Can you do it completely by hand with no power tools? Yes, but it will take you a very long time, will create a significant amount of stress and frustration, and will result in a lot of soreness and potential injuries. Why not find ways to make things move faster and easier? Power tools were a wonderful invention! We can also agree that you can fail with power tools if you do not know how to use them properly. We will tell you which “power tool” we think will be best for your dog and family and will take you step-by-step through the process to ensure you’re successful. We are with you every step of the way!
Furthermore, we train you so that you are not stuck being reliant on one single tool. If we use an electronic collar, we do not want to hear, “He listens great when I am holding the remote” or “my dog listens great as long as I am holding the leash!” We will train you and your dog the SUPERIOR way, so that you and your dog can rely on each other and know how to effectively communicate so that tools may not even need to be used later. We want your dog to listen on leash, off leash, with equipment on, and with it off.
We get results FAST! In fact, I doubt you will even need more than 4-5 sessions to hit all your goals. If you join one of our Lifetime Commitment Programs, you will have lifetime access to all of our adventures, pack walks, parties, and bonus training sessions to make sure that you stay on track with what we have taught you! It is our priority to make you successful and happy with your dog so that you can finally ENJOY your dog to the fullest. You won’t regret training your dog, but you will regret NOT training your dog.
We provide professional dog training services to Western Pennsylvania, Central Ohio, Southwest Florida, Upstate South Carolina. Houston/Galveston Texas, and Corpus Christi Texas