The Great Balance vs Positive Hoax
Surely you have heard it at one point in your search for answers with your dog.
Hints about positive training, reward-based training, force free, balanced.
All these different words that slide on in there and make you question who to trust, how should you be managing your dog, should you avoid particular training methods?
There are articles out there about the horrors of both sides of the fence.
Lean in a little closer and I will tell you something.
One of two things is happening underneath those words.
The methods they use are to fit a strong emotional belief system.
One that no matter the situation they wont budge from and when their methods fail, they blame the owner before they assess whether they need to grow, to adapt, to change up and learn new ways of educating themselves, the owner and the dog.
Even if that is at the cost of a dogs life.
No, I am not exaggerating.
And yes, that’s on both sides of the fence.
OR they suck at business and they are using particular words to try to snag you and reel you in.
Once you’re a client, it’s revealed that they are more diverse then they first let on.
Which honestly, is kind of deceitful no?
I have worked with dogs that purely positive trainers have recommended to be euthanised.
I have had people ring me in tears about methods balanced trainers have taught them to use and I have been equally horrified.
How the fuck do you even begin to navigate who to work with, who to listen to when things like that are going on behind the scenes?
That’s the question that brought me back to work.
For a couple years I was a stay at home mum, I had a couple call me in need of help with their dog.
I wasn’t running a business at the time, so I referred them out, they rang me back so upset with the trainer I had referred them to.
They had just ONE session with this particular trainer, who advised them to put an ecollar on the dog, was even nice enough to loan them one…
To close up all the windows and make the dog believe they weren’t home and every time the dog howled or barked to hit the dog with the e-collar.
If it wasn’t working, turn it up.
They did it.
They trusted me, and they trusted that trainer so they did as they were told.
The dog would go outside and hide under the table, he was terrified to go anywhere in the yard and they felt so awful that they had done that to the dog.
I felt sick to my stomach and it’s something I will never forgive myself for.
It’s one of the reason I am back working in the industry. I never wanted that to happen again when someone contacted me in need.
Here’s the thing guys I LOVE e-collars, I’m not against them, they can be the greatest tool, a safety net, an invisible tether between you and your dog.
The story I share though is a complete misuse of the tool, but a complete misuse of trust, a complete misuse of the word professional.
2 hours is not long enough for you to learn about WHY a dog is struggling how to build comfort and safety, communication and connection. These are KEY ingredients in healing emotional distress in your dog. Which is usually the cause of things like this, the dog was struggling with “separation” anxiety.
If you’re using e-collars correctly by the time you intro them your dogs understanding of what you are asking them should be so strong you should hardly need to touch the remote if at all, let alone dial it up. It should never be used to shut down and emotion.
That’s someone who regularly boasts they are a balanced trainer.
On the other side of the coin, as I stated early I have worked with people and dogs who positive only trainers who limit their abilities have advised the dog be PTS
And I have lost count the amount of Veterinarian behaviourist who have advised the same thing because a key element in their work with the dog is missing.
Which is being able to set boundaries in the form of punishment.
As we work with clients, that is at the very end of the line of things we teach and we ensure that first and foremost you have a strong relationship and great communication with your dog FIRST.
That’s essential, otherwise punishment doesn’t work the way nature designed it to.
We get some dogs to the point a frown is enough to make them stop what they are doing and choose to do something else not out of fear, not out of avoidance of consequences but because they don’t like that their behaviour is making their owner unhappy.
It’s that social connection that creates that. The very essence of survival for a dog is ensuring the members of their community are all getting along and able to work collectively.
It’s the very reason WHY we don’t like punishment, even the word makes people cringe.
We don’t want to do it.
And from a marketing stand point to believe we can fully avoid it is so god dam appealing.
The amount of people who have confessed to me, and it wasn’t easy to tell me and I thank them for their bravery and honest and in no way judge them because it happens a lot
Who have tried to be positive only with their dog, and have become so frustrated, so fed up with the repeat behaviour despite their hard work to try to make things better, easier for their dog have lost their cool.
Either yelled, smacked their dog, given their dog a huge correction on the lead what ever It may be, something that they have tried so hard to avoid and ended up doing anyway out of sheer frustration.
And left the dog feeling more confused then before.
Left themselves feeling super guilty adding to the pile of crappy emotions around their dogs behaviour.
And look we are all human, NONE of us are perfect, not even me.
You know how I knew this was a thing before people confessed it to me?
Because back when I was trying to fix my dogs anxiety and fear aggression, I was that owner.
My hands would be cut up from the lead after multiple episodes on leash of him blowing up at everything in sight, my nerves would be frazzled, I would be feeling frustrated, fed up that EVERYTHING I was trying was just not working, over 12 months of hard work and crappy advice.
We would get home, I would be questioning why I even bothered leaving the house in the first place and he would do one little thing wrong and I would yell at him, over the top, unnecessary and he was the kind of dog that, that was enough to frighten him.
And it would leave us more disconnected then we were before.
I didn’t feel close to him during that period of time, it’s what made the thoughts of rehoming (but who could take a dog like that if I can’t even handle him? Yep I have heard you guys speak those thoughts back to me) or even worse we had the discussion a couple of times that maybe there was no fixing him, maybe he was a risk, perhaps euthanasia was a better, kinda option then the stress and anxiety he was living on a daily basis.
And that’s the other side of the coin that’s where I see a lot of people who follow the fantasy of purely positive, reward based, force free what ever other bloody name you want to put it under CAN take you.
So where does that leave you guys?
For one don’t believe the hype on either side of the fence, I have often had people ask me but what are you, are you balanced, positive based what??
Why don’t you have it anywhere on your website?
Because it’s not about me guys, it’s about YOU.
My question is always this.
If you can improve your over all relationship with your dog, have better communication flowing both ways where not only does he listen to you the first time, easily, with just spoken feedback in your normal every day tone, understands you clearly, WANTS to follow your lead, but that you understand him on a deeper level, that you have a connection that you have longed for in your dog, that it feels like an unbreakable bond and he truly is your best friend. You can go anywhere with him and do all the things with him, give him the freedom and the life he deserves for always showing up and loving you unconditionally. That you’re no longer spending energy dealing with his over excited, and/or over anxious energy, that you can then use that energy you were spending dealing with crappy behaviours do be sharing more quality time with him and actually be present in the moment and enjoy the moment with him, that doing things with him is no longer a chore it’s a choice because it’s fun for you BOTH.
If I can help get you there, does it matter what label I use?
I have sat down and listened to the many stories I get about both sides of the fence, and the running theme between the both?
Those trainers never really listened. They never heard the owners, their concerns, where they had become stuck, how they felt, how the dog felt.
I’ve lost count the amount of people who have thanked me for just sitting down and listening to their story FIRST, before we work out whether we are the correct fit to work together, what they may need to actually fix the problem.
That blows me away that it isn’t the standard.
So forget the hype of the labels, which side is the enemy, which side should you choose.
They kind of trainer you should be looking for is the kind that puts YOU first and knows how to before anything else listen to you and make sure they are actually the right fit for what you want with your dog before you even work with them.