How To Train Your Dog
Welcome to Part 6 of How To Train Your Dog. Previously, Cesar’s Corner training philosophy was discussed. Next is the Positive Position, the other popular training philosophy on the other end of the dog training spectrum. After discussing the Positive Position, training from The Dog’s Perspective, our training philosophy of choice, will be explained.
“Positive” dog training was made popular by Ian Dunbar, a well-known British veterinarian, animal behaviorist and dog trainer. There are numerous Positive trainers, including Victoria Stillwell, Patricia McConnell, Jean Donaldson and Karen Pryor, just to name a few. The Positive training philosophy is based on using positive reinforcement training techniques exclusively, which include food rewards, toys and praise. The Positive training gear includes regular collars, harnesses, halters and martingales. Positive trainers not only avoid, but abhor any form of physical corrections termed negative reinforcements, with 1 exception – the halter or gentle leader. Please note negative reinforcements are also known as “corrections“. Positive trainers rarely, if ever, utter the word correction. Instead, Positive trainers refer to negative reinforcements as punishments. For further discussion, please see Corrections Versus Punishment in How To Train Your Dog – Part 4 for more detailed discussion.
Children in Dogs Clothing – Be Here Now
The Positive Position rejects the Pack Mentality, and tends to treat dogs like human children. Although dogs are family members, they should not be treated like human children because it confuses dogs and frustrates human companions. Case in point, the use of “time outs” with dogs. As most trainers know, rewards or corrections cannot be delayed, not even for a second, because dogs won’t be able to connect the reward (or correction) with their behavior. Any delays are detrimental in training. Dogs live in the here and now. They don’t dwell on the past or fret about the future. They are the epitome of the term “be here now”. When human children are put on time-outs, they are often asked to “think” about what they did. This is impossible for dogs. First, dogs do not speak English or any human language. No matter how slowly and succinctly your plan your words, dogs don’t get it! However, they do get tone of voice and body language. Often times, dogs are put on time outs and simultaneously scolded by the trainer. Dog time-outs are not only a waste precious time and energy, but are also confusing to dogs. Moreover, those who put their dogs on time-outs are often frustrated and/or angry at the dog, making the entire experience extremely unpleasant.
The Positive Mentality
The Positive Position views their training as the one and only “dog friendly” training technique. Positive trainers view alternative training methods as aversive, adversarial, confrontational, and punishing. Positive training relies almost solely on positive reinforcement training techniques that require extraneous tools like food, toys, clickers, etc. Training collars are not allowed under any circumstances. Comments about training collars include accusations of criminal dog and child abuse. One paper in a veterinary journal (Overall 2007) equates using training collars to dog abuse, and dog abusers to child abusers, thus concluding that those using training collars are child abusers – extremely twisted logic. And, Positive trainers have allowed human companions to be injured in their presence before considering negative reinforcement corrections to stop dangerous dog behavior. An astounding example is Victoria Stillwell’s 2011 video of an untrained bulldog continually and aggressively jumping on a young boy, ultimately escalating in the child being bitten in the face – all in the presence of a world renown Positive trainer (see Stillwell 2011 ).
Although Positive trainers detest negative reinforcement, it is allowed using halters or gentle leaders. However, the correction is not termed “correction” but “applying pressure”. When using halters, the applied pressure is on the dog’s snout, which is a not recommended under any circumstances. Dogs’ snouts are so sensitive, with their sense of smell their most relied on special sense, above vision and hearing. Applying pressure to their delicate snouts is wrong and can be interpreted as a severe form of punishment. Most dogs despise wearing halters, which can be seen in their disposition. Please stayed tuned for Training Gear, a detailed discussion of dog training gear and an explanation of when and how to use halters.
Positive Training & Leash Pulling
People who gravitate to Positive training generally have less than ideal dog walking techniques. Controlled walks are fundamental to not pulling on leashes and ultimately graduate to being 100% reliable off-leash. Unfortunately, dog pulling on leashes negatively impacts our dog companions and our relationship with them in so many ways. Watching videos of Positive trainers was astonishing because, more often than not, their dogs were pulling on leads, even with top-notch trainers on the other end of the leash. Pulling on leashes is the biggest complaint from dog owners trying to train their dogs, bar none. And, leash pulling is the most common reason dogs are not taken on regular walks. No one wants to be dragged down streets with an unruly, powerful dog. Someone is bound to get hurt, and typically it won’t end up being the dog. Positive trainers recommend various harnesses to combat leash pulling, but harnesses are designed to encourage pulling. Please stayed tuned for Training Gear, a detailed discussion of dog training gear, including an explanation of how and when to use harnesses.
Two Positive training videos highlight this problem of leash pulling. The first is a demonstration of how to train dogs to walk on leash (Stillwell 2012). The recommendation is to walk the dog on lead “next to a long, indoor wall”. Not only is training next to a long, indoor wall impractical, it is ineffective when the dog is NOT next to a long, indoor wall, as evidenced in the video. The second video shows 3 dogs with 3 different handlers being pulled all over the place, while 1 of the dogs is trained with a halter (Donaldson and Dunbar 2008). The training gear of choice for Positive trainers is the harness, but recommend the halter if a “powerful negative reinforcement tool” is needed. Both of these are inappropriate training gear for obedience. Please stayed tuned for Training Gear, which will include an explanation of how and when to use harnesses and halters.
The Positive Position will continue in Part 6B….please stay tuned.
Donaldson, Jean and Dunbar, Ian. 2008. Gentle Leader Jean Donaldson e Ian Dunbar. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7xkfNEStxk
Overall, K.L. 2007. Considerations for shock and “training” collars: Concerns from and for the working dog community. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2:103-107, Retrieved from https://718be87de2f7403df3e8-1d1221e10f82d636f1f5dc20a850700a.ssl.cf5.rackcdn.com/files/Journal_of_Veterinary_Behavior_2007-2-103-107_Considerations-for-shock-and-%E2%80%98training%E2%80%99-collars.pdf
Stillwell, Victoria. 2011. Victoria Stillwell Allows the Escalate of the Bad Behavior and Child Gets Bitten By Dog. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVYF9uwDi4M
Stillwell, Victoria. 2012. Training a Dog to Heel: Teacher’s Pet. eHowPets. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYmRaGyqsJs