Dog Training – Positive Dog Training – Balanced Dog Training – How Confusing!!

Anyone researching different dog training methods is likely to feel at least a little overwhelmed by the endless possibilities offered. Dog training, balanced dog training, positive dog training – how confusing it all is! Worry not – this post should help end the confusion.

Dog Training Methods

Allow me to begin by telling you something that may well surprise you: every strategy you come across among all these different training options ultimately falls into one of just two main method categories. All dog training methods are ultimately identifiable as either Positive or Balanced.

Positive Training vs. Balanced Training

There was a time when everybody talked predominantly about positive training. Times are, however, changing. Thanks to consistently excellent results, ever more people talk about balanced training.

The problem with the positive training method is that you are not letting your dog know that he should obey you simply because you are the one in charge. Regardless of what resources you use, positive training invariably focuses on pleading with your dog and coaxing him to obey your commands.

Dogs need a leader. Yes, your dog may be your friend, but he does need you to be the one in charge – and if you won’t take charge, he will. If, however, your dog knows that you are your pack’s leader, he will respond to you with respect, love, obedience and loyalty.

My preferred training method is reward based learning – a method that works equally well with dogs and children. My balanced training strategy is simple: actions have consequences.

It is essential for your dog to understand his behaviour’s consequences: positive actions (or welcome behaviours) are rewarded and negative actions (unwelcome behaviours) are corrected. By giving your furry companion clarity, you provide him with the structure he needs to learn how to properly behave in real life.

More About Balanced Dog Training

Balanced training has two main elements: positive reinforcement and negative correction. It is however, important to remember that your dog always thinks ‘now’ – he has no conception of ‘an hour ago’ or ‘yesterday’. In other words:

If you want your dog understand that chewing your shoes or carpet is wrong, there is little point in telling him off upon returning home from work three hours later – he won’t have a clue what the telling off is for. Unacceptable behaviour must be corrected as it is happening.

If you want to praise or reward your puppy for having a wee in the garden, do it the moment he finishes, right there in the garden. If you wait for him to get back indoors, he won’t associate his reward/praise he just received with the wee he had a minute or so ago. Acceptable behaviour must be praised/rewarded as it is happening.

Any parents reading this will see the similarities between children and dogs here – a dog must be taught boundaries and the difference between what’s right and wrong just like a child needs to be taught these things.

All dogs must be taught – and it is your responsibility to lead and teach your dog. With a balanced training strategy, you provide clear links, reinforce positive behaviour and correct actions/behaviours that must be stopped.

What About Positive Dog Training?

I must admit that my preference for highly balanced training strategies means I am somewhat biased when it comes to positive training methods. To explain my position on this, it is perhaps best to show you some of the things I have seen that help to put me off these methods.

Here are some of the most common experiences I witnessed that well and truly put me off using positive training strategies. It must, however, be noted that, just like all balanced training sessions will not look the same, not every positive training class will tick every one of these ‘boxes’:

  • Over-and-over repetition, even chant-like recitals of commands
  • Treats, treats, nothing but treats
  • Bad behaviour being ignored, things that should be stopped being permitted to happen even within the class – it seems strange to ignore a problem to fix it…
  • Tight, rather than loose, leashes during exercises
  • No consequences for dogs that refuse or disregard commands
  • No boundaries or structures for dogs’ behaviour

Reinforcing positive behaviours with treats is an effective, natural approach. Lack of guidance on stopping negative behaviours and boundary setting, however, can leave owners without effective strategies when their dogs display difficult behaviours.

What’s more, how can you be confident in your dog’s good behaviour if that behaviour can be achieved only with a treat?!

Fun, Fun, Fun

Most of the positive training classes I have had the pleasure (errrm…) to experience predominantly focused on having fun. Don’t get me wrong here – I perfectly agree that training your dog should be a rewarding, fun experience. I do, however, believe that it can only ever be effective if boundaries are in place. Making fun the focus at the expense of proper training can leave a class lacking organisation. This in turn can create an inconsistent, ineffective environment.

I get fun from training dogs through building positive relationships with them – which is possible only with a method that allows for respect and control by use of correction methods when required.

Your Turn…

Having been quite open about my own views here, I must stress that it is important for yu to make your own decision concerning what is the best raining method for both you and your dog.

Before making your decision, gather as much helpful information as you can, check out a few trainers near you and make sure to find out which training methods they use.

Over the years, balanced training strategies have enabled me – and my clients – to build excellent relationships with dogs.

If you would like to learn more about balanced training and its benefits as far as I’m concerned, please do not hesitate to call me or leave a comment.