Walking a Fine Line


Balance is becoming a main focus in the dog training community.  Striving for the perfect combination of rules and leniency that will ensure our dogs have self-confidence and manners, yet still have joy inside, is a worthwhile ideal.

This said, the shift in the pendulum from never saying no, all the way over to the other side to encompass harsh treatment is not what balance is all about.  
Striking a balance means to choose a moderate course or compromise.  Picture a teeter-totter, nicely perched on the fulcrum, the plank straight and neither end touching the floor.  That is balance.

In all areas of our lives we are starting to consider alternatives to keep us level, feeling calm and stress free.  Yoga is rapidly on the rise and more and more people are considering the art of Feung Sheui as they decorate their homes.  Yes, all in the name of balance.

It is often said that dog trainers need to have a large tool kit, a bag of tricks, that they can use in different scenarios.  The tool kit of today’s trainers seems to be moving away from various methods of training, to simply being full of different pieces of training equipment. We are taking our thinking caps off, and resorting to a quick fix all in the name of balance. This type of shift has really very little to do with balance.  Now consider the same teeter totter wildly moving up and down, with one side of the plank being planted on the ground and the other side swaying in the air. Then keep watching as the same plank quickly switches and the opposite side goes into the air, the word balance would not come to mind.

In an effort to find that fulcrum, harsh training equipment is once again being re-considered.  As a trainer who started my career in the early 70’s, it is apparent that we are now coming full circle.  We have seen the pitfalls of never saying no.  This was a very popular dog training technique that seemed to be at its height of popularity in the late 1980’s.  This was a time when it was common to let large growling dogs sleep on the couch and offered a reward when they finally decided to climb off.   It was a time when the pendulum had definitely swung much too far on one side. As the years passed on, it became evident that the techniques being used did not help most dogs, and in fact without offering any guidelines to them, we were not doing them any favors.

Now, as dog training actually becomes more complicated, as we are starting to discover more and more about animal behavior, techniques are going back in time.  Choke chains and prong collars are evident on the most benign family pets as a counter balance, as a way of saying that we are once again in charge of our dogs.  This is often tempered with the use of treats in the training and a quick game of fetch if our dog does as he is told.
Make no mistake about it, this is not balanced.

Consider this, you open your door and find a friend with a bunch of flowers to offer you.  You gladly accept them.  The same situation happens the next day, and the next.  You are happily anticipating the door opening.  Then, one day, the doorbell rings at the same time of day, and you open it and instead of the flowers, you are greeted by a swift slap to the side of your face.  Not sure what you have done, you go inside.  The next day arrives and the door bell rings.  This time, you flinch as the bunch of flowers greets you.  Although you are greeted many times more with flowers, the sting of the slap was so great that you are never fully confident when opening your door. That is very similar to what your dog may feel when given treats and a toy on one hand, and a jerk on a chain collar the next instance.  The sense of trust is gone.

There is a line that I heard on television one day that made me sit up and take notice.  It was not pertaining to dog training, but in fact to children.  When education runs out, aggression sets in.  Meaning, when you don’t quite know what to do, it is human nature to lash out at something or someone.  In other words, frustrations sets in. Don’t fool yourselves into thinking that you have a balanced training program if you are all over the map with your techniques and equipment.

Although we are often looking for a quick fix in our everyday lives, if you take a closer look you will find that a shift is also being made there.  Microwave dinners are being replaced by home-cooked meals, faster cars are being replaced by smaller, more energy efficient cars and service is overtaking speed as our number one priority when shopping.  
Dog training will be taking its cue from the society around us.  Hopefully, instead of old style equipment that is being used to find the quick fix, it will be education that rises to the top.  It will be the thought put into finding help for these problematic dogs and it will be our time and consistency that brings about the much needed change in the dogs who put their trust in us.

Of course, our dogs need rules and guidelines.  That is what the mid point of the balance beam is.  By being clear, fair and consistent our dogs will learn to trust us under a variety of circumstances.  Let your dogs have some fun, and reign them in when needed. A swift talking to, some efficient time out or even a  grasp of their collar can be enough to get your point across. Be very clear in your message to them.  It is not in their best interest to allow them to walk all over you, but neither is it in their best interest to subject them to eratic behavior and heavy handed treatment.  

“Mean what you say and say what you mean” is my mother’s favorite line, and one that should be well used by dog trainers. By providing this to our dogs we will be providing the best to them that we can, and the bonus to that is that we can feel good about ourselves while we accomplish it. That is the meaning of balance.


Gillian you know where we've been. You know where we are , and you know what we have to do now. Great article

I am going to print this out and hand it round, because this really needed saying. Thank you!

For far too long the word 'balance' in a description of dog training has, to me, been a euphemism for 'jerk, shock, maybe some praise' style training but your explanation in this post is one of the best written descriptions of the history (and future), necessity and importance of R+ training I have read. I will be passing this one on - definitley a keeper.
Well done and thank you Gillian,

Anne Rogers
Pet Central, Ireland

In all things, balance is good. Let's use it and own it.

Kelly Gorman Dunbar
Editor, Dog Star Daily

One there is very little balance on this site. Two, I am glad to see the interest of the extremists in hijjacking yet another language term, it means that the message is getting out there about real balance.

You ain't got it, sorry. Thanks for the heads up that you want to use it and "own" it. Sadly, you aren't likely to get on the directories in the works:(

Maurice Peaches
All Good Doggies

your comments are not worthy of a reply.

Interesting article, but you present a logical fallacy: your assumption is that the use of certain tools always creates a negative experience for the dog. As with many who eschew large toolboxes, you apparently dislike certain tools, and think their use is never appropriate. Now you are upset that some who use them also use treats with them, so these users are making things worse.

The analogy of flowers at the door, then a slap in the face, is proof that you don't really understand "balance." If you could see past the tools, you might see that what we strive for in balance is giving the dog ALL the information he needs to succeed, instead of just half. Believe it or not, it IS possible to do this without harming the dog or the relationship. It's rarely as sudden or inexplicable as you want to make it sound: "Everything's lovely and rosy, then out of nowhere, PAIN!" That's not training, that's confusing the dog, and it is not balance.

The bottom-line argument still is, and probably will always be, this: is it possible to have a large toolbox and use what works best for each dog, and have happy dogs and happy owners? YES. I do it every day. It is not the harsh juxtaposition between pleasure and pain that you so want it to be. It's about communicating with the dog in a way that is guiding and not confusing. The tool is irrelevant.

But, demonizing certain tools, and the trainers who employ them, is the last bastion of the "positive" movement. "Positive," indeed.

Yikes. What a scary article. There's no substance here. It's just full of extreme opinion and nothing informative. How can you compare a dog training collar correction to a slap in the face of a human? They are clearly not comparable, no matter how you argue it. Furthermore, it sounds as if you're putting human emotions into the mix. Dogs needs are totally different from humans and just because your method makes you feel good about yourself doesn't mean it's good for every dog.

It's funny how all-positive trainers seem to be the ones who are always doing the bashing of other methods. Why is that? It's so disappointing to me because I don't believe that one method works for all dogs nor will I ever train dogs that way. I will do what works because it's the dogs life I'm saving...not the other way around.

Get over yourself. It's about being open-minded to the dog's needs, not who has the better method.

I'd like to start by explaining the format. This is a blog post, not an "article", textbook, or academic paper. Blogs are an ongoing discussion, musing of the moment, and often made up of opinion. That is the nature of the beast.

I'd like to know, what the heck is an "all positive" trainer? I don't know anyone who trains without negative consequences for poor or "wrong" choices.

Gillian speaks of how being too lenient and having no rules or structure has done a disservice to dogs in recent years.

The detractors above are obviously feeling defensive, clearly something has touched a nerve. But the post is not extreme nor inflammatory. Gillian has every right to state that she doesn't think that using physical punishment is the way to go. She's been around for a long time and is a very successful trainer. She's definitely "got it" and unlike many, has the chops and history to speak from experience.

She isn't "bashing" anything or anyone. Disagreement isn't bashing. I'd like to say that again because I do think discourse is important but when disagreement is immediately labeled as bashing the situation deteriorates and constructive conversation stops.

The way I read it, Gillian is disappointed in the resurgence of tools she feels are antiquated and blames the pendulum swinging too far in the direction of tolerance instead of training as part of the reason for that resurgence.

Perhaps the face-slapping analogy isn't the best one, and not every trainer who chooses to use training collars is extreme or abusive, for sure, to say so is just as bad as saying trainers that use food in training are all ineffective weenies. Neither extreme is the case for MOST trainers. Just about everyone I know falls somewhere in the middle and I know a lot of trainers all over the world.

That said, I've seen terrible training on both extremes of the spectrum and I think when the two "sides" (if their are any, mostly it's a conjured delineation in people's minds) disagree and deride each other they are looking at that small population rather than the majority of trainers out there, who in my experience actually have more in common than not, even if they describe things differently.

Kelly Gorman Dunbar
Editor, Dog Star Daily

... that for the most part the argument itself is outdated. Most trainers I know are more balanced now than every before. That is a good thing. Things have been different in the past but seem to be moving in the right direction.

Kelly Gorman Dunbar
Editor, Dog Star Daily

I have to agree with Maurice and doggydoo here. Not a lot of balance given in this post. I don't know if I can say Gillian has "got it" from this blog entry. I would like to hear more about this pendulum shift towards "harsh treatment" and what she thinks that is. If I tell my dog calmly "no" and give him a pop on his prong collar when he does not obey or acts inappropriately (and the bad behavior stops and he learns to respond appropriately every time because he is rewarded for 'good' behavior etc.), is that considered harsh treatment? Or, is it communication that he understands and can learn from? I guess I don't even bring the term 'balance' into the mix when I work with owners and their dogs...I am after helping to establish clear communication that the DOG can understand, so the DOG can overcome his behavior problem and be a happy family member. That face slapping analogy is just not appropriate for what (I think) the author is trying to say. Is that supposed to be a collar correction on an 'antiquated' piece of equipment such as a prong? If so, that would be like me jerking my dog for just walking up to me. That's just silly.

And, what is up with this swift talking to, efficient time out and collar grab business? Is the swift talking to akin to yelling at the dog? or saying, "Rover, you really should not be trying to bite fifi's head off, that's not nice." Last I knew, dogs don't speak English and I can only imagine the body language of the owner given this swift talking to advice -body language dogs are fluent in! Efficient time out? What a way to frustrate an owner who has a dog with issues! If a dog is acting inappropriately, isn't it more humane to help him learn how to act appropriately (ie. train him) while showing him in a way he can understand that the bad behavior is not warranted? I wonder when people with 'get' that 'time outs' do not help a dog learn...not sure where they fit into the author's recommendation for rules and guidelines. I will say time outs worked great for my two year old human child, though! And collar grab! What a way to make a dog hand shy, especially if done by an inexperienced owner with a fearful dog! Or, a good way to get an owner bit by his aggressive dog, etc.! Isn't this harsh treatment? How does a dog learn by a collar grab? In agility, most trainers desensitize their dogs to having their collar 'grabbed' since we spend a lot of time holding them by their collars. So, if my dog acts inappropriately outside of the agility ring (in real life), how will a collar grab for bad behavior give him any type of guideline that I want him to stop said behavior?

I realize this is a blog and one person's opinion. But I question that the author 'gets it' based on this post. I see more analogies to human experience (even talking about child rearing, but even that analogy had holes and I have children! ). Of course a prong, e collar AND gentle leader (probably the harshest and cruelest tool out there), harness, food treats, etc. CAN BE quick fixes. I see trainers recommending prongs AND gentle leaders to curb pulling, for example, all the time. If the owner is not taught how to use the tool to permanently eliminate pulling, that collar becomes a management (quick fix) tool. Same can be said for the use of treats with a dog reactive dog...If the dog is food motivated, he can be managed around other dogs by distracting him with treats but unless he is taught to be calm in situations that cause him anxiety, the treat will always be a management tool. What it boils down to is good dog training. A good trainer will help their client train their dog to be a happy, reliable and good canine citizen, in an efficient and timely manner...no quick fixes necessary.

I don't feel defensive, and I don't get that from the other 'detractors'...what I DO get is a sense of frustration at how so many R+ (let's just say positive only, for lack of other term, regardless if they use 'consequences' they don't use prongs or collar corrections) demonize, as Dogrealist states, the use of tools such as a prong collar or e collar. Kelly, Gillian states to use a 'collar grab' but you say she says the use of physical punishment is not the way to go. Isn't a collar grab physical punishment? Let's call a spade a spade. How is a tool antiquated if it helps a dog and his owner learn and overcome problems? Like Dogrealist said, this can be done without harming the dog physicially or emotionally while helping to establish good communication and learning. What I hear is someone who does not know the appropriate use of said tool...

I appreciate the article and its intent.
Balanced training, the term, has been around for more than a decade. The process has been around much longer.
Balance is not about tools or treats. It directly focuses on need in learning and what will help owners achieve calm with their dogs.
Balance takes place within the dog, not from the external of tools. It is about creating thought.
If a treat, tennis ball, or toy helps, all the better but they are only part of the puzzle.
What takes place is the dog assessing their own behaviors in comparison to the owners interaction.
In the process of this happening the dog accepts the consequence for its own behavior. Thought creates action and action produces learned behavior.
If a dog pulls on the leash in a buckle collar but stops pulling in a prong collar, then the prong helped the dog achieve balance and assess its behavior.
The dog will further learn allowance and acceptance via a treat or praise. When they stop pulling, they get praised. Praise replaces pulling. The balance is the dog realizing the praise equals acceptance and allowance of behavior, thought creates calm.
So balance is not about tools but what creates thought and in thought allows the dog to achieve the comparison of their own behaviors.
Tools allow for guidelines and boundaries that produce comparison and thought. The tool should match the dog and what will make it possible for owners to follow through.
Balanced is not new. Balanced is clear for dogs to understand. Balanced is not a heavy handed training process.

I think the discussion Gillian's post has generated is interesting. There are various points/questions I'd like to raise about what has gone before.

First, I would like to ask Irishdog why s/he considers gentle leaders to be cruel? This is a genuine question as I use one, and have never heard them referred to in that way before.

As for non-pulling aids such as gentle leaders/halti harnesses, prong collars, I would use them largely when I am not in a position to do training not to pull. For example, if I am out pushing the pushchair, or if I am in a hurry, I would use one of these aids to assist in hindering the pulling while we could then get on with our walk. Training not to pull specifically I would do probably on the neck collar.

Having said that, I would choose my training tools based on what I felt was an appropriate discomfort level caused to the dog. How would I gauge this? Perhaps by trying it on myself. I once examined a prong collar, and put it round my wrist. It hurt. I then passed it on to someone else to examine. Being a clumsy person I accidentally pronged the person and hurt them! So I (and many humans) am evidently not someone who should be using a method that is based on causing pain, because I (along with many others) would cause pain by accident at random times. I have no doubt that using a prong collar would in many cases allow me to walk a dog while curbing its pulling. However, I just wouldn't want to inflict on a dog what I tried on myself. My dogs do get unpleasant consequences for their inappropriate actions, but I aim to have those unpleasant consequences below the discomfort threshold of the prong collar.

As many people have commented on this site, inappropriate use of rewards (e.g. food) is not a good method of training. I have been training dogs for 7 or 8 years now. I have made mistakes along the way (with pleasant AND unpleasant consequences). But I hold the opinion that I would rather be making mistakes with rewards than positive punishments involving pain/discomfort. The latter would, I think, have a worse effect on my relationship with my dogs. As an anecdote, I have a 9-yr-old rescue bitch. In recent years it has been commented by several people that I have a particularly good relationship with her. I started off many years ago training with a check chain. Now, this isn't the way ALL trainers use it, but I was taught to give good hard yanks. That method had very ill consequences, and was discarded after probably a few months. I recently had a visitor, and got the chain out to demonstrate it to him using my wrist as a dog's neck. My dog heard the chain, and hurried from the room. This was the reaction from her after perhaps 8 years without hearing or seeing the chain. I was amazed and ashamed.

You wrote: I recently had a visitor, and got the chain out to demonstrate it to him using my wrist as a dog's neck. My dog heard the chain, and hurried from the room. This was the reaction from her after perhaps 8 years without hearing or seeing the chain. I was amazed and ashamed.

I hear and read this quite a bit from "no corrections" trainers, and I am not arguing that it happens. I have seen it, too. It certainly does not make me feel good to know it happens.

But then, if you are going to say, "My dog ran from the room and cowered when I took out the XXX tool, so that was very telling to me," what will you say when the following is told to you? "Every time I pull out Buster's prong collar (or e-collar), he jumps off the couch and hightails it into where I am, entire body wagging, practically shoving his neck into it, acting even more animated than he gets with a ball, toy, or even food."

This is a common occurrence, not a made-up tale. Why does the dog react in a way that can only be construed as "happy"? If the tool is so negative, why didn't the dog get the memo? Is it because to that dog, it isn't negative? To that dog, it means clarity, and balance, and freedom? How could you say otherwise, really?

I'm not suggesting that all dogs have these reactions, or that these tools are never used inappropriately. I'm definitely not suggesting that people should slap them on dogs and consider the problem solved (they don't work well--and could cause harm--if used incorrectly). I'm not even suggesting that trainers who do not want anything to do with them should start using them! What I am suggesting is that, instead of automatically assuming that the tool is harming the dog, why not let the dog tell you?

I like what Thinkdog had to say. Balance is what you and the dog achieve, tools or no tools. What works for some dogs will not work for others. What most trainers who call themselves balanced are saying is that we are trying to use what the dog and owner will benefit from, and not disregard some tools because we don't like them. I think a lot of trainers who are "anti-tool" are coming from an emotional place, and not really understanding what "humane" means to a dog. It's certainly fine to be emotional, but for a group of professionals who generally are all about science and scientific principles, it strikes me a bit odd.

To me, the most inhumane thing one can do in the name of training is to confuse. I strive to be balanced, and clear, as much as possible. I am constantly reading the dog and owner, and assessing and reassessing, to make sure we are all being clear, and that training is fun and helpful for everyone.

Dog Realist,

I'm confused as to how a tool can be used for giving the dog the message that they've made a mistake if the dog is eager to have it put on. If the dog enjoys a prong or shock collar, is excited and happy to have it put on, how can it effectively be used as a correction?

I fully understand that various trainers have various limits when it comes to corrections/punishment. I get that some feel it isn't overboard to use physical punishment and others do. I'm comfortable with that discussion.

However, when people start to claim that dogs "like" the punishment, then we have to start a whole different conversation. If the dog really does like being shocked with the shock collar, then it can no longer be used as a punishment. It would have to be used to reinforce good behavior. Is that what you're doing with these particular dogs?

It would be no different than trying to reinforce a dog with liver treats when the dog absolutely hates liver treats. Or, better yet, trying to positively reinforce with petting when the dog hates being petted. At that point, what the handler thinks is a reward is actually a punishment.

You can't have it both ways. The only way punishment can work is if the student (dog or human) wants to avoid it. If they like it and want more of it, it can't be used to correct unwanted behavior.

Isabel, I don't like or use the gentle leader for several reasons. 1. dogs hate it. Why do they hate it? It gives constant pressure around their muzzle if they even slightly move forward, and, since a dog's muzzle is extremely sensitive (unlike his neck), this is uncomfortable in the least. why would I put something on my dog he obviously finds immediately aversive? 2. the potential for injury and misuse are considerably high-imo, higher than with a prong collar. Injuries associated with the head harness include cervical injuries due to the torquing of the neck if the dog lunges, for example. I've also seen people correcting dogs with the GL (giving leash tugs/pops). In the GL insert material, it even tells owners how to tug upwards to get the dog to sit. 3. It's advertised as 'scientific and positive' based on how a 'pack leader' or mother wolf firmly grasps a subordinate wolf around the muzzle. First of all, when dogs or wolves do this, it is a quick correction...not a constant source of aggravation and, yes, pain. The GL material also states they got the idea from how equestrians handle horses with halters and that they don't use prong collars on a horse's neck. This is true but look at the physiology of a horse's (a prey animal, btw) head. Also, equestrians may not use prongs, but they most certainly use various metal bits in a horses's mouth to gain control...Dogs are not horses. 4. GLs are not a training device at all. They are a management tool (and I am not against management tools while owners learn the skills they need to change their dog's behavior) only and it's very difficult to transfer from a GL to a regular flat collar. I have never had that problem with a prong.

I've used GLs and haltis on my own dogs and they either completely shut down (no matter how many treats or time I gave them to get used to the halter) or fought it. I choose not to use it or recommend it to clients. Of course, some dogs will not find it aversive but usually those are not the dogs that I see for training!

Isabel, while I respect your decision not to use a prong you can't really base that on using it on yourself. Your arm or neck is simply not the same as a dog's. Did you also try it on your dog and see how he responded? I actually don't see a prong as an anti pull device and more as a general training tool. It is loose on my dog's neck unless I give a correction (some people use them high and tight, I don't). I train loose leash walking first, off leash, anyway...but I'd still rather give a pop on a prong for pulling than use a GL. If someone really wants an anti-pulling device, I'd say to get one of the harnesses out there. You mention the discomfort level of the prong collar. I am going to assume you are talking about a collar correction. Whether one uses a prong or martingale or flat buckle (all which should be based on an individual dog's sensitivity level) that correction should be appropriate so 1. the dog stops the behavior and 2. learns to not do the behavior again. Too light a correction on a particular dog is just as bad, imo, as too harsh. In the former, you will have to correct again and again and in the latter you run the risk of the dog shutting down and losing trust (which sounds like what happened with your dog and the choke chain). If the correction is appropriate, neither happens. Consequences (corrections) should never be below or above a dog's discomfort level...they need to be just right so clear communication is established.

Anyway, hope that answers your questions. I guess I get tired of the GL/prong etc. controversy. The ultimate goal of this trainer is a happy, calm, obedient dog. I acheived this with my own dogs with the use of a prong and e collar (another misunderstood tool that can be valuable in training some dogs). Today, they can be off leash with no collar or leash (formerly, both were fearful, anxious and aggressive rescue mutts) and respond on the first command. I used these collars as TOOLS (it's how one uses the tool, not the tool itself), not a quick fix or band aid.

All training creates a relationship but it's the handler not the tools which does this.
The use of any tool, treats or collars have to be used with skill.
Timing, feel and reading the dogs are the most important aspects of building a learning relationship. The release of the collar is as important as engaging a collar, just as holding a treat is only as good as the timing of giving the treat. Misuse or mistiming of either will cause confusion.
It is not the "pulling" where the learning is, its the release. The use of a slip collar does not include passing the point of release. The collar is disengaged at the same moment it is engaged. The slide sound the chain made slipping through the ring is an audible sound the dog uses to assess its behavior. The sound is a learning point just as ughta, no or yes are learned sounds.

A working relationship is one in which the dog ends up having the best possible life and greatest joy through active participation in the owners life, whether, competition or a family picnic.
The proper use of any training tool is only as good as the hands using them.
A big mistake people often make it think that the tools change behavior. We have all seen the dog dragging its owner behind them or people bribing their dogs to come back for a treat.
The dog dragging the owner is no more afraid of that owner,than the dog running away from treats is in love with them.
Its the training that helps the dog understand heel or come as needed.

Hi Cindy,
I can tell you both of my dogs react to the sight of the prong collars just as dog realist described. I believe this is because the collar respresents fun and freedom to them. How can this be, since a correction on this collar is meant to create discomfort? Probably because they are being rewarded and praised for making good decisions and obeying, and the more they do that, the more they get praised. It's not like every time I put the prong on I'm yanking their heads off the whole time they are wearing it! An appropriate correction on a prong or e collar will decrease the chance of having to give more corrections and increase the chance, if one is rewarding a dog's good behavior, of a dog doing the things to get rewarded for. My big guy also has the same excited response to the e collar, which I actually preferred using to train him. Sure, he didn't like the shock but it stopped the bad behavior and he has a lot more freedom, which in turn gains him real life rewards. So, of course the dog doesn't like the correction with these collars but his overall experience, if the corrections are appropriate, is positive. Hope that makes sense!

I, too, am totally comfortable if people don't want to train using +P, but I have personally found that it has beneficial use in achieving a calm, happy and balanced dog. It remains to be seen what 'balanced dog training' will mean so I will refrain from using that term.

Good lord, there are other options rather than a dog "enjoying" punishment. First of all let's start with the premise that you don't need to send the a dog to the moon to get a "correction" in. Let's also start with the premise that it need not be "punishing".

Dogs are all individuals and work at all sorts of different levels of stuff. A metal training collar for instance can just be a directional or a way of holding the dog in place without the collar being able to slip off. If you really read a Koehler book, ignoring the few problametic paragraphs that involve dealing with a hood (which an average dog owner shouldn't have anyways), you will see it's all about molding shaping and training with reps SO THAT YOU DON'T NEED TO BE WORKING WITH A DOG THAT YOU NEED TO SEND TO THE MOON. The collar gives either a directive or a very mild correction in most dogs. Rewards and praise are most often given with the metal training collar on, because the dog has been carefully and gently prepared for what is expected, which is simply to do the command he has been carefully taught after many repetions, when told to. No major or alarming corrections required in most dogs. The chain means "hey we are going to go out and do something fun". Some people can't get beyond the thought that dogs like more things than food. When you get an off leash reliable dog, they get to enjoy those many things.

Ditto e-collars which can be on very low levels.

Maurice Peaches
All Good Doggies

I am not Dog realist but I do use e-collars. My training does not use the e-collar to tell the dog that it has made a mistake. It is used as softly as possible...sort of like a mosquito bite or something like that to accomapny a command. It is used like a tactile language not as something that would scare the dog or hurt the dog. My dogs love getting their e-collars on too. It usually means that we are going for a walk, for training (which they love to do) or for retrieving work....their most favorite. But e-collars are only a tool. We use anything that works to train dogs and I have happy well trained tail wagging dogs that have the freedom to run off leash with lots of other dogs.

The easiest answer is, the dogs have a completely different perception. Tools aren't viewed as positive/negative, its the experiences gained from their use. Only people view tools as positive/negative.
Since the tools are simply a source of information used to create thought and mark behaviors, they are not considered as punishment by the dog.

Instead, the tools mean work, play, activity, shared adventures, joy of doing something they like doing.

If you teach dogs to understand the expectations from the use of tools such as: think, assess, self control and individual responsibility and not as an end result of a behavior, then the tools become a source of information and not a punishment.

I'm working with a foster beagle who fails to see the enjoyment in someone using aversive techniques. I was warned of "dominant" behaviour and told "you need to dominate them" while this guy was yanking Jake's leash and held him in a strangle position to keep him in a sit, all the while Jake's tail was tucked so far under and head so low trying to escape.

I couldn't get the leash from that man fast enough. Jake to date ... without any punishment based training, zapping or strangling tools being used ... is one happy go lucky dog who is eager to learn now. my fovourite moment was captured on video when Jake thought his way through the touch cue. Jake-beaglepaws.blogspot.com Gone is the dog who avoided eye contact at all cost and who shook when someone reached to pet him or and stood froze in position if he thought he was in trouble. There's absolutely no way anyone can convince me that the two produce the same end result, and keep the dogs spirit and trust in tact.
All the dogs I know, given the choice would choose something fun or tasty over something uncomfortable, nasty or whatever you need to call it to justify leadership shortcomings. I'm not sure I've ever heard of something that can not be taught to a dog where it's ONLY possible using punishment.

My puzzlement over all these similar topics still lies in trying to understand people who try to rationalize these methods to justify the end result. It would be wonderful if these people who try to glorify their e-collars or stranglers or whatever, to instead try to embrace the information on this site.




So, the truth is that the dogs are not excited about the choke, prong or shock collars at all. They have just come to know these tools as precursors to walks, play, time with their handler and potential rewards. That's a very, very different statement.

I think Irishdog makes the best argument for avoiding physical punishment, certain tools and their intended use:

"Whether one uses a prong or martingale or flat buckle (all which should be based on an individual dog's sensitivity level) that correction should be appropriate so 1. the dog stops the behavior and 2. learns to not do the behavior again. Too light a correction on a particular dog is just as bad, imo, as too harsh. In the former, you will have to correct again and again and in the latter you run the risk of the dog shutting down and losing trust (which sounds like what happened with your dog and the choke chain). If the correction is appropriate, neither happens. Consequences (corrections) should never be below or above a dog's discomfort level...they need to be just right so clear communication is established."

I would add that in order for +P to work properly, it must also be administered EVERY time the unwanted behavior happens. This is rarely achievable by the average pet dog owner.

There are so many other ways to communicate clearly that a dog has made a wrong choice, and many of those don't have serious fallout if administered incorrectly. I find that dogs are sensitive enough to learn from body language, facial expression, tone of voice, withholding of rewards and conditioned verbal cues. They don't require the far more tricky, risky use of the old stand-bys.

I do most of my training and teaching off leash for this very reason. People tend to become very reliant on leashes and collars. Even owners who have never seen a choke or prong collar will often be yanking on the leash at inappropriate times and confusing the dog. That's why I prefer to teach students to use their face, voice, body and giving/witholding of rewards to communicate with their dogs.

Hi Kate, I am truly sorry that the man you descibe did that to your dog. That is not the kind of training that we are discussing here. I am also sorry that your mind has closed and can't see the wonderful happy dogs that can be produced from truly creative dog training.

If I leash up my client's dog (with a flat collar) for a walk...the dog is very interested. She recognizes my presence as WOO-HOO, fun-time. She may or may not see the bait bag on my hip but it's presence doesn't make her MORE interested.

If I leash up the same dog (with the same collar) for a walk, and she sees a water pistol filled with hot sauce on my hip... she ain't too darned interested in me, the leash or the door. Yup! I led a little experiment.

If I leave the pistol behind, she's a happy, biddable, affectionate dog. If I take the pistol, she is nervous and always reacts with bad behaviour.... even if I put her through lots of fun behaviours with verbal praise and treats.

By your definition, the hot sauce pistol is an acceptable tool. (It was used by the owners to curb her leash tugging and arousal where she redirected to bite them. They used it every time she reacted with this unwanted behaviour.) By your definition, if used correctly, she would recognize it as a symbol of something she likes ie. walk.

Do you speculate that because the dog cannot see the connection between the operation of the e-collar and the handler that the e-collar is a better tool?

Put a springer in your step!

on the contrary I love learning of new ways to encorporate games and fun in the name of training. That's one of the reasons I Love this site.
I'm very open to share with others as well if you like. I guess I'm lucky never to have needed to use methods you feel are acceptable.
I really am at a loss to why you post methods not in sync with the site philosophy if you are not interested in the content of the professionals that post alternatives for you.




Why in the world would you be experimenting with hot sauce and a water pistol OR think it relevant to this conversation? If you are abusing your dog, and your dog's actions would indicate you are in the name of "experimenting" please stop.

Instead use whatever techniques you wish that work with your dog OR seek some well documented training knowledge in dog training theory. That is just the silliest argument that I ever heard.

Maurice Peaches
All Good Doggies

It's fine if this site is all about Positive Reinforcement. We are already aware that training a dog is training a dog. I personally believe that I am a dog trainer.

However, Balanced Training recognizes various tools and methods, and these can be used correctly. Most trainers that are on this list clearly don't believe that.

So don't say your balanced, try to "own" balanced, or say that you get balanced, when it is quite clear that you don't.

Tasty treat vs activity and freedom, my dogs will pick activity and freedom. Sorry you don't like to hear it, but it's true.

As for Cindy's statement that a correction needs to be given every time. Again, a correction is not a punishment nor at it's highest level. Perhaps this is not understood because many on this list see their dogs non-compliance every time. However, a dog trained correctly is pretty willing and happy to be in compliance, except on rare occaisions. So the everytime correction doesn't come every day, or even every week if you are doing your job in maintaining training correctly.

As for your average person not being able to do that, that's one of those myths of course. In fact, it's been spread around by people promoting the non training "must always be fun for the handler" methods that do not train a complete package. Or trainers that advertise a fully trained dog in four short sessions. That's not reality. Reality is that training a few minutes a day as maintenance after going through a full training package is easily achieved for those that care about their dogs.

Maurice Peaches
All Good Doggies

I come here for advice on training methods. I don't come here to hear training methods bashed which this site has no knowledge of. I don't come here to hear yet again another attempt to redesign a word to fit an extremist agenda.

I wish that there was more talk here about training, but it always circles around to this. If you can't talk about two sides of an argument, for one, that is not balanced. It's as simple as that. I know of at least two trainers who were kept from stating their arguments to posts regarding the inappropriate use of tools.

I recognize a lot of you don't go and educate yourselves sufficiently about what is being discussed here. If you don't do that, you should not talk about it with any authority. And stories about how YOU misused a tool are not seriously talking about the issue, although it may show the flaw that you did not learn about it correctly before using it.

Maurice Peaches
All Good Doggies