There is so much debate at the moment
particularly on social media about types of dog training. Well I say debate but
often it varies from polite debate to angry mud-slinging. It is an incredibly
emotive and divisive topic. In simple terms there are two extremes. On one side
we have the ‘positive’ trainers; the force free people who claim to never do
harm to a dog. On the other side we have the ‘traditional’ types, who believe
that being the boss or ‘alpha’ is crucial and like to demonstrate how dominance
over the dog is the way to go. In the middle there are those who call
themselves ‘balanced’ but appear not to know which camp they would rather be
associated with, so place themselves somewhere safely between the two. So how
as dog professionals and guardians do we steer a ship between the maelstroms?
Social media slanging matches aside (how
you respond to those is up to you), I believe we need to delve a little deeper
into the ethics of our interactions with dogs, or animals per se. Afterall this
type of debate exists across the board of animal training. Let’s consider the common
perceptions of each approach:
Positive Training: Positive trainers are
those who do not use punishment or aversive methods. They use positive
reinforcement to teach dogs in a variety of ways. They have a fluffy,
enlightened, ‘nice’, reputation who shower dogs with treats and never shout at
Traditional Training: Think Barbara
Woodhouse if you can remember that far back, or even some TV personality
trainers like Cesar Milan. They like to dominate dogs, assert their misguided
place as pack leaders, and make dogs submit to their demands. They have a
reputation as being bullies.
Balanced Training: Balanced training is the
combination of both; reward wanted behaviours and punish unwanted ones. These
trainers have a reputation as being the common-sense ones who use what works,
that sit on the fence, that use both arguments when it suits and stick firmly
to Skinner’s quadrants and Most’s ideas about training military dogs from
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