Nitro was alone, again. His family left him with so many strangers and scary dogs. What was worse was that it was his second time back here. All the noise from the other dogs and the "firm hand" he faced when he yelled at the others to leave him alone. He was a good boy. All he wanted to do was rip up paper and chew his bones maybe a fun game of fetch. He didn't understand why the humans would get so angry. It was his bone, they gave it to him! They never listened so he had to scream, maybe that is why they left him here.
Nitro was so fearful of my husband and I when we went to meet him. We drove two hours to meet this little guy who seemed full of spunk and life. When we got there he was cowering, a shell of a dog. He was only five months old. I wanted him from the moment I saw him, this little dog was meant for me, he needed me. Nitro like so many others was surrendered because he was guilty of being a high energy, resource guarding, un-potty trained, squirrell chasing, little pistol. In an adorable wirey little terrier package. This is a dog that you could say "no" to a thousand times and he would start to scream it back at you with his teeth.
The only people who believe that purely positive exsist are those that believe in a balanced approach or traditional punish and praise. I myself am a positive trainer. I use positive reinforcment to reward behavior I like rather than punish behaviors I don't, the term force free applies to me. I am one of those zelots that don't say "no" to dogs. Does that mean that I don't set boundaries? Nope, as I write this little Nitro is in his x-pen because he is learning to settle down and relax when mom is on the computer.
I work with all types of dogs big dogs, little dogs, low energy dogs, high energy dogs, food motivated dogs and non food motivated dogs. Dogs that are rambunctious and dogs that are aggressive. More importantly I have helped owners find ways to work with their individual dog. I use postive reinforcement the vast majority of the time. Just because I don't say "no" or give physical corrections doesn't mean that I don't use punishment. No where does it say that punishment must be mean, nasty, or painful to work. Punishment can be taking something away that the dogs want. You bite me I stop playing or step over a gate, or close a door between us. For puppies when they bite I will yelp "ow" and get up and move away. That yelp? That is what is known as positive punishment (I know a little confusing) which is adding something unpleasent combined with getting up and moving away which is again taking away what they want. At the same time I am rewarding behavior I like with play, treats, and affection. Whether it is a large dog or a small one, young or old. Behavior that is rewarded is more likely to occur. Every dog I work with is an individual and some methods work for some and not others. Luck for me my "tool box" contains a variety of methods that do not emcompass force, fear, or intimidation.
Well what about nature? Other dogs use phyiscal force and so does the environment. This is true, and I have no problems with a dog correcting another dog without damage. I've also worked in a doggy daycare, corrections could result in scuffles when a correction isn't taken. The enviroment doesn't care about the dog, a porcupine wants to live, using quills is how it avoids being eaten. My older beagle mix corrects Nitro often, less than before but will tell him to knock it off when she has had enough-I usually praise her. Yuna wants a very different relationship with Nitro than what I want. She would probably prefer that he leave her the heck alone and allow her to eat all his food. I want Nitro to love being around me. I want him to come when I call him and walk on a loose leash next to me. The fact that we have developed a wonderful relationship that trumps chasing birds in the field or killing my ferrets. He wants to do what I want him to do, he never fears the consequence of not doing it. Even when he is chasing some varmit in "the real world".
A great number of dogs have unwanted behavior based in fear. Almost every single dog I have worked with that has shown aggression are fearful. As are many dogs that are thought of as stuborn. This is truth and if you ask any positive trainer they will tell you the same. However, not all behavior problems are based in fear. That is just silly. Many unwanted behaviors are simply normal dog behaviors; jumping, chewing, digging, mouthing, and the like are what dogs do. It is our job as owners to teach them what we want instead of jumping, give them proper chew items, and release both their mental and phyiscal energy through training. Focusing on how you want your dog to act and teaching them to do it will result in a well behaved dog that has excellent manners built through habits.
Timing is very important in dog training regardless of what method one may choose to use. A poorly timed leash pop or zap with an e-collar could result in negative associations with the surrondings, other dogs, or even the handler. The worse thing with rewarding is that if you do so at the wrong time the dog gets a free cookie. Darn, one less treat for the exercise. That is also poor positive training and can be improved upon with the proper coaching. I would rather spend some time helping my clients with their timing than handing someone with poor timing a correction collar. Here is a simple exercise, next time commercials come on, clap every time the scene cuts. After several days of practicing maybe 2-3 minutes a day you will have better timing.
Lets train smarter, not harder. Lets use our brains and figure out how we can identify how we want our dogs to behave and lets teach it to them.