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I Kill Dogs

Apparently, that is what many force-based trainers think I do for a living.  The Internet is replete with quotations from such people bemoaning the supposed idiocy of training with kindness or training with food, who say that they are the saviors of all those dogs for whom positive training failed, and thus they saved all those dogs from certain euthanasia.

I guess I’d better confess then.  I kill dogs.  And, this is how I do it:

I train puppies early, and socialize them with people, other dogs, and novel happenings so that they don’t live a life of fear, and grow up to be confident dogs.  Funny, but the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior must be in favor of killing puppies, because they wrote this position paper that agrees with what I do.

I use modern, scientifically proven techniques that are based on how dogs learn, teaching them the desired behaviors, rather than waiting until they do something wrong so that I can “correct” them for exhibiting normal dog behavior.   I use marker or clicker training.  When I hear people who think that praise alone is enough, I show them an article about the efficacy of the clicker versus the voice.

If there is a normal dog behavior that I don’t like, I teach my dog how to do a behavior that I would appreciate he do instead of the one I don’t like.  Again, this is done by reinforcing the desired behavior, and making the unwanted behavior something that simply never pays off for the dog.  Knowledgeable trainers understand this concept as DRI, or differential reinforcement of an incompatible behavior.  Simply put, if it would be difficult for your dog to jump  up on you if he could be cued to “Sit”, then teach him to sit instead of jumping.

I’m not alone.  So many trainers are getting stellar results with force free training.  Pamela Johnson has a great video on how to get your dog to settle on a mat.  That’s one of the exercises that shock collar trainers often use to suggest that they make dogs more obedient than we do .  But, they forget to tell you that the way shock works is to globally suppress behavior because the dog is subjected to shock until he gives up and just stays put.  He’s not doing this willingly, he’s just reacting to the inevitability of his situation.  A famous experiment in the late 1960’s by Martin Seligman proved that this situation, referred to as “learned helplessness” is the result of the animal not having any control over his environment.  We now know that animals (and people) learn better when they feel they do have some control.

I don’t use forceful jerks on collars to make my point any more than I would choke a child to make him sit in his seat at a restaurant.  And. I don’t emulate popular TV personalities who use physical coercion on dogs.  The real reality of dog training on television was highlighted in an article by Niki Tudge, founder of the Pet Professional Guild, in which she says, “If the pet industry is to continue being featured on television then it should not be at the mental and physical expense of our pets.”

I don’t use shock to keep dogs in line.  It’s barbaric and cruel, and oh so easy to convince some pet owners to do when you tell them it’s just a “tap” or a “reminder”  or a “muscle stimulator.”  It’s electric shock plain and simple, and if the dog doesn’t obey the shock at the lowest setting, it most assuredly will be turned up.  You be the judge.  The first video shows a dog hitting an electric fence used to contain cows in a pasture.  The second video shows one of my dogs trained by positive training not to approach my horse in his paddock.   Which treatment would you prefer for your dog?  Oh, but don’t listen to me – after all, I kill dogs.

If you want an eye opener, visit the Facebook page of Drake Sporting Dogs where you will see photos of dogs being shocked during “snake aversion training.”  You will also see comments that suggest a certain glee as the dogs are jolted.  And, the inevitable “but it saves their lives” comments.  Should a dog have to be shocked off the ground to save its life???  Not when there are other ways.   A notable former police K9 trainer, Steve White, has developed a non-shock protocol for snake aversion training, as has Jamie Bozzi, BA, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP, CC.   And, now there is a vaccination against snake bites for dogs.

No method is foolproof no matter what the trainer tells you.  Dogs learn differently, people make errors and assume behavior is proofed when it isn’t, batteries malfunction, and accidents happen.  The real bottom line is that if you want a well trained dog, you should do your best to learn as much as you can about dog behavior and learning, and do no harm to your dog out of your own ignorance.  Learn about dog body language so that you can tell yourself if your dog seems happy, and not simply mistake absence of behavior for happiness.

If you were a dog, which of the following trainers would you want to be taken to?

Introduction of the Remote Collar

Introduction of the Clicker

Interestingly, the shock trainer’s Youtube channel has over 4 million views and 2000+ subscribers.   That’s a lot of people who still think it’s OK to hurt dogs to train them.

Thankfully, the latter (Emily Larlham, of Dogmantics Dog Training and the Kikopup Youtube channel) has more than 7 million views and 30,000+ subscribers.  Slowly but surely the “dog killers” are having an impact.

And we will keep killing dogs WITH KINDNESS until the notion of shocking dogs becomes as abhorrent to the nation as that of drinking and driving.


About pawsforpraise

I own and operate Paws for Praise. We offer group dog training classes and behavior consultations in a dog and human friendly environment. We think training should be fun for you and your dog. Go ahead - make a tail wag!

78 responses »

  1. I’ll give up my shock remote and prong collar when they are pried from my cold dead hands!

    • Neither of us may see the day, in our lifetimes, when those implements are relegated to the trash pile where they belong. However, given that we no longer use the iron maiden on humans, and that the *really* barbarous instruments or techniques from the likes of Idstone and Koehler are no longer in common use on dogs, I think that dog training is, however slowly, moving in the direction of benevolence. Sorry to disappoint you.

      • I think you feel that these methods and tools are not in common use because of the people you surround yourself with. I can assure you that they are alive and well. Maybe the pet people, who see their dogs as family don’t use them because you have preyed on their feelings of love, and attached human emotions and feelings to them. However in the world of competitive dog sports, they not only alive and well, but quite common! To say otherwise is yet another lie to spread your Nazi-esque propaganda that you have been fed.

    • Interestingly enough now that Schutzhund is merged with IPO the preamble to the new rule changes states: “It remains the ethical responsibility of man to raise and adequately train the dog. The applied methods must meet the standards of behavioral scientists, especially in regards to the breed. In order to achieve the upbringing, training or training effect, it is important to not utilize force and to use positive methods for the dog. Furthermore it is imperative to decline the use of techniques that do not utilize the proper training, raising and training aides. Using a dog for dog sport has to be oriented to his capabilities, his competitive spirit and his willingness. Influencing the dogs learning capabilities through the use of medication or animal cruelty is to be declined. One must
      carefully acknowledge the capabilities of his dog. To demand work of a dog that does not have the capability to do so, contradicts every ethical level of consciousness. Only someone who takes the responsibility to be a true friend to his dog will take a healthy and capable dog to trials, competitions and training.” The standards set by the Veterinary Behaviorists and the PhD Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist standards are against the use of shock or prongs. It will eventually change.

      • Nowhere does it discourage correction, only force, there is a difference! I do use positive methods to train things, and corrections after the dog knows what is being asked and is disobedient! And if that ever does change, IPO is only a small part of the working world, there are still many ring sports and PSA, and I can tell you, PSA will NEVER go P+

      • PSA is already +P. You have messed up your scientific terminology. Why am I not surprised.

      • Really, where do you get your info, most PSA dogs are trained on shock collars. Last trial I went to I think I saw a shock collar on almost every dog after they left the field

    • That’s an attractive thought Joe.

      • Thank you, I fully get your implication there, and if you would like to try, we can arrange that, but my “forced and fearful” dog will likely not allow it to happen.

    • Joe, even if you disagree that dogs have feelings I hope you are aware that dogs feel pain! Otherwise shock and prong collars wouldn’t work. But why do you choose a painful way of training your dogs over a pain free way of training? Here is a quote of Steve White “Punishment is like a nuclear bomb, if the explosion doesn’t get you the fallout will.”
      This great man trains police dogs without pain! So why do YOU still choose pain over positive reinforcement?

      • My kids feel pain when they reach for a hot pan and I smack their hand, is that wrong too?

        I am not saying people need to beat animals, I’m simply saying there is room for training that is balanced with reward and correction, and a dog trained correctly with both can still be happy and eager to please!

        Also quoting Steven White is funny, because him and I have conversed, and believe it or not, he sees my training theory as very close to his, and we are not that far off from one another, his biggest issue with correction is that people do not apply them correctly of fairly, which is what creates the fall out. His exact words I believe where “you and I are more similar in our ways than you think” or something very close to that.

        Nobody ever said I chose pain over positive, my dog makes that choice, it they listen to my commands, they get rewarded, if they do not they get a correction.

        Lastly, most police dogs, would never make it as a sport dog. They do not have the control or OB required of a sport dog, which is why you see many cops choking dogs off the bite, and not using a release command, and why many service animals are sport washouts.

      • Actually Joe Buchanan new studies are showing that physical punishment in human children also leads to increased anxiety. Apparently the emotional fallout from punishment is universal across species. How lucky for your children.


        Oh, and Joe, if you are still there, P+ means positive punishment, not positive reinforcement. I KNOW that many sport dogs are trained with shock, as are many hunting dogs. That doesn’t make it right.

      • Joe, smacking your child’s hand when he reaches for the hot pan is NOT training. That is an emergency. You do what you have to do in that moment to prevent your child from touching the pan and getting hurt. You teach the child about hot pans by talking to them and educating them – training. Then you create the environment to as best as you can, avoid a situation where the child might be tempted to touch a hot pan – management. And if management fails, which is does, you have an emergency situation and you do what you can to avoid injury. BUT that emergency action is NOT training. It doesn’t mean that it’s ok to smack your child’s hand when he is near the stove with a hot pan on it.
        That is how it is with dog training. You teach them, manage their environment and sometimes have to react in emergencies to prevent injury. I have pulled on my dog’s leash to stop him from eating garbage on the ground, but that is NOT training. I don’t pull him every time he sees garbage on the ground thinking this is going to teach him to ‘leave it’. If I don’t want him to go after garbage on the ground I train a leave it cue – using clicks and rewards.

    • Joe – I will have to disagree with you. My dog is a rescue, is now 1 1/2 years old, 63 pounds, full of all kinds of energy, has a little separation anxiety still from time to time (we are working on that) and I have NEVER had to use any of those barbaric devices on her, not even for leash training (just a leash and collar). She learned sit, stay, lay down, paw (shake), all within about a month of us getting her and my husband taught her “roll over” in about 30 minutes. We use treats we purchased at the vets office and that works well…if it doesn’t, a quick game of frisbee as a reward for doing a “trick” works too. I had a 100 pound doberman at one time and tried a shock collar because a friend recommended it, only to realize my voice was really all that was necessary to tell her to stop barking at 6 in the morning when I let her out to potty. I think if your dog views you as the alpha, they will WANT to do what you say with very little effort on your part. And you don’t have to be cruel to be seen as the alpha. I’m convinced my dog views me as the alpha solely because that is where she gets food.

  2. Another great article, Anne! I am looking forward to the day when force-trainers are put out of business because dog owners have been educated that there is never, ever any reason to use force, fear, pain or intimidation in order to modify behaviors. The only reason that any trainer uses choke, prong or shock collars is because he is too incompetent to use brains instead of brawn to train.

    • HUH, insults to make a point. This is usually a sign that there is no better way to communicate your point. But we will assume that is not the case here.

      Dogs are animals, no better or worse than the cow I ate for dinner. They just have a different job than the cow. The cow is for my nutrition, that is his place. The dog is for my companionship, and to work to protect my home and family. The only reason one feels that corrections are inappropriate is because they have humanized the animal. Which is a very dangerous and slippery slope. Where does this end, do we give dogs voting rights? Rights over their reproduction?

      Dogs are animals, end of story, and should be treated as such.

      • so you say animals can be treated with shock and force because humans are the better creatures? Wow, that is a pretty aggressive statement!

        I agree that dogs who are trained with force can be happy and eager to please ( I personally hate this expression) when applied in very specific situations and from someone who can precisely apply the correction. BUT that there is a way of training sport dogs without corrections is still the case! So why use this when there is a force-free way.

        I would love to stay away from personal judgement and stay scientific bu I have to ask you:
        are you feeling powerful when shocking a dog to get him to release?

        I personally think it’s very sad and shows poor character to use animals to feel powerful!

        Anyways, I’m sure you have your reasons to use pain… or corrections as you name it. But I’m still proud if I can help someone train a dog without a prong collar or shock collar to do what the handler wants the dog to do! And even better and faster than with force!

        Thanks for the discussion. It’s always important to get different opinions on articles. But please let’s not forget the science which PROOFS that training with force is not more effective than using positive reinforcement!

      • Joe, nobody is using anthropomorphism here. If it is wrong to humanize animals, it is also wrong to “animalize” humans. As humans we are equipped with a superior brain and we are capable of using it without resorting to “primal” methods of several decades ago. IMO, the only reason one feels that corrections are appropriate is because they have “animalized” the human, failing to recognize scientifically proven techniques and still choosing the painful way of training dogs over a pain free way of training. This quote sums it all up:
        To use shock as an effective dog training method you will need:
        A thorough understanding of canine behavior.
        A thorough understanding of learning theory.
        Impeccable timing.
        And if you have those three things, you don’t need a shock collar!

        –Author unknown

      • No I do not feel power or superior. However I believe that dogs that never have a correction can come to feel they are your “equal” or even “superior” a dog should know it’s place, and it should know that there is not a choice in obeying a command. I don’t crank and yank my dogs (I am often told I am light on my dogs) the only think my current working dog has had an E-collar for was enforcing the “look” command, and at that the remote was set on level 14 out of 120, I did shock myself first with the collar contacts on my wrist, so I knew exactly what the dog was being corrected with.

        As for PROOF, there is none, any study can be slanted to show the desired results, every dog is different. My wife has a bitch that does not get corrections except on a flat collar, she’s a soft dog. My dog, well that is another story. I think breed also plays a part in this, what one considers harsh, may be too easy for the dog. I have American Bulldogs, they are bred to hunt in the woods, and ignore things like being cut my a tusk, or bashed into a tree. So if these things do not surpass their pain threshold, what would lead you to believe that a correctly given correction would? I don’t correct my dogs to the point of them verbalizing. But I do get their attention and let them know they have acted incorrectly.

        The terms thrown around by the positive crowd are used loosely and to solicit emotion from the readers. And where is your proof that the dog is experiencing pain from a proper correction. Do I believe they feel something with a correction yes, do I believe it is pain, no, they are conditioned to know that the feeling is a marker for doing wrong. Just as a treat is a reward for doing right.

        In fact, you could take a dog and condition it to enjoy a pop on the prong collar, it’s simple, pop the leash, throw ball, repeat. Soon the dog will enjoy the feeling as it is a sign that the ball will soon follow.

        Correction devices are like a gun, no better no worse than the person using them.

      • Oh, and on the science topic, let’s not forget that science also at different points in time told us the earth was flat, the sun revolved around the earth, that some racial groups where inferior to others, the atom was the smallest thing in the world and many other things we now KNOW to be false. So “science’ is not all it’s cracked up to be!

      • Aggression begins where knowledge ends. If punishment works, then reinforcement also works. They are but opposite sides of the same operant conditioning scenario. The ONLY thing that is different between us is our willingness to use correction versus reinforcement to teach. I don’t know about you, Joe, but I’d rather have a boss who pays me for my work, encourages me to see things his way by explaining, and who doesn’t hover over me and pick on every single little mistake I might make. The other kinds of bosses are a pain in the butt, and most people with any sort of option at all will quit and go to work for someone who makes them WANT to do a good job. Funny thing is that many of us used to be just like you in the old days, but were open-minded enough to try the newer methods of training with SINCERITY and from people who had scientific background and experience. Until you do that, you will labor on under your misconceptions of what this training is about, and spread that misinformation to others. I will give up my clicker when they pry it from my cold, dead hands – or when science comes up with an equally humane method that improves upon it.
        I beg to differ with your characterization of us as “humanizing” our dogs. I believe that we actually respect dogs, so there’s no need to make them human. You, on the other hand, seem to have done a very good job converting your dogs into an extension of the private part of your anatomy.

      • With your train of thought we are nothing more than animals, all mammals even dogs have been proven to even have spirituality experiences just like humans due to the fact they have the same location of the brain as us. Dogs are able to increase their metal power to at least a human toddler with training. My father has trained hunting dogs for close to 50 years now, and not once has he had to use prong, shock or choke, kicking, hanging to get a great bird dog. Positive trainers are not saying you let your dog or child get away with murder however, we show owners another rout instead of the bully rout. What I find funny is trainers like yourself Joe use bully methods on owners, dogs and even other dog trainers who may follow a different path than what you follow. Force trainers have no issues black balling trainers who may have a sound training method in science and once one of us may speak out you try to bully and intimidate the trainer who is speaking out to put them in their place so you do not have to face that maybe force methods are outdated and aggressive. She did not state your methods do not work… because yes they do? Are they ethical, and the right rout to go now that we understand behavior learning better through up to date science- No, force training is not ethical for children or dogs. No dogs are not humans however, they do deserve a lot more respect than what shock trainers or force trainers give them. Just as that cow who you ate for dinner should have some form of respect, after all it died to keep you living. Force tools are lazy man’s tools no matter how you look at it.
        The more you post Joe the more you show how a force trainer really lives and treats other living beings.. With little to no respect, and most of all you show the whole world how much a bully you really are.

      • So more insults and name calling…awesome!

    • Loved this article! And it is true, force-trainers appear to take all the credit for saving dogs from euthanasia, but what about all the force-free trainers who do the same in the shadow without the need for showing off? There are countless, reputable trainers who diligently work on saving dogs from certain death using force-free methods only. And what about all the dogs force-free trainers must rehabilitate because they were drastically ruined by shock collars and other outdated training methods?

  3. Joe, do you realize *you* are also an animal? I do not mean that in any pejorative way, but simply to say the more we learn about dogs, cats, zoo animals, and vermin, the more we find humans have in common with them. The day humans grasp this, and understand the connection we have with all living beings, is the day we can make progress. Hope you’ll stay open to trying and learning new things. Your dog might really surprise you.

  4. Joe, I got a perfect “look” with clicker training!!!!!!!! 😉

    It’s true that you can train a dog to like leash jerks.
    BUT it’s also true that the correction has to be aversive in order to work. Why would the dog know that what he did was wrong if the correction was not hard enough for him to have the motivation to avoid it? Same with the reinforcer. It has to be strong enough in order to work as a motivator.

    And no, I would not let my kid burn himself in order to learn not to touch hot pans! I would teach him without getting burned!

    • You got a perfect look with a clicker….AWESOME, now lets see you do that with every other dog on earth. All dogs are not the same, and you can not train all dogs with the same method. That would be like saying all kids learn the same, we know this is not true, they all learn different, and need to be taught differently!

      What works for one does not work for all, and the “clicker” does not work with every dog, it is a simple fact, and this article illustrates that, because I have had to retrain many dogs that have worked with positive clicker happy trainers. And guess what, corrections got results that the clicker did not. Not saying it is always the case, some dogs I am sure learn very well with a clicker, and are happy to please and work for their owner, others are not, and do not, and will not.

      • I know way too many Bullterriers who were trained with the clicker to get better results than with corrections!
        I know Boxers, Pitbull…. you name it who were super aggressive but could be trained with positive reinforcement!
        Sorry the dogs had to be retrained by you and not by a clicker trainer who actually knew what to do!
        It’s like I would tell you that I had to retrain many dogs that were screwed up by trainer who used corrections!
        And yes, I had!!!!

        Well, at this point this discussion doesn’t seem to lead anywhere. But I’m glad we had it and I guess we have to agree to disagree!

        I dearly hope you use corrections at a minimum and help dogs that are shocked to the point of brain-frying by stupid people to get at least less shocked and by someone who has perfected timing.



      • Well, I guess we will! Because at the end of the day, nothing one of us says, will change the other. However I have to think we are dealing with two totally different types of dogs, with different thresholds and drives. And unless we where to meet, and work dogs together, there will never be an answer to this debate.

      • I also have trained cane corsos, pit bulls, American bulldogs, German shepherds, doberman pinschers, etc., with positive reinforcement. And seen way, way too many dogs damaged by trainers like you who operate on dominance mythology. Every dog is different, yes. And every creature that walks the face of the earth learns by repeating behaviors that work and abandoning behaviors that don’t work. That’s the principle behind clicker training. I’ll repeat, there is never any need to use force, fear, pain or intimidation in order to train a dog. I’m sickened by people who abuse dogs and call it training.

      • Actually, employed correctly, P- and R+ DO work on every dog, indeed on every mammal. Sadly, P+ and R- also work. It’s just that the former two quadrants do not utilize pain or fear and the latter often do. Your understanding of basic science is seriously lacking. Rottweilers don’t LEARN any differently than Yorkshire Terriers, but many of their owners’ egos lead them to believe that is the case, including yours. I have trained my 1000 pound horse to wait politely and not exit his stall until I cue him to do so. I did not use a chain or a whip, I used a clicker and some peppermint horse treats. I don’t have to treat him every time, but I still do it once in a while, because he’s a good horse and has never forgotten his lessons. The fact is that many trainers get students who, for one reason or another, were unsuccessful with a method. People have trained whales, chickens, goldfish, tigers, lions, and gorillas with clicker training. Are you saying that they are all better trainers than you are? I guess so, because you say you can’t train a bulldog with one. Guess what? With the right motivator, and antecedent control, you can.
        Most, if not all, training failures are a failure of proper training mechanics and NOT the method. The science works if you work it properly, either way. So, the ignorant argument of “I had to fix that stupid cookie trainer’s mistakes” is disingenuous. I’ve had to fix a lot of correction trainers’ mistakes, too, but that is not the basis for my arguments against correction training. You posit that some dogs are happy to work for their owners. That, too, is a bit of a myth. Dogs seek resources, plain and simple. So, if a behavior works, they repeat it. If it doesn’t work, they don’t. Behavior, for any organism, is expensive, and in the natural world expensive can get you dead and unbred – so if the main reason for living is to pass your genes to the next generation, you can see how an expensive behavior scenario is counterproductive.

  5. true Joe! And there don’t always have to be an answer to a debate. That doesn’t make it less important to discuss it!
    And even more important is to think thoroughly about what the other side has to say…

  6. Any way the comments left by the force trainer above can be taken off? I ask only because he’s clearly trying to take over rather than be open or discuss in a genuinely interested way. Force trainers tend to think it’s fine for dogs to be “corrected” (ie punished, let’s call a spade a spade) for sport and I do find that rather sad, as at the end of the day it is all about human “glory” (ego!) and not any true partnership based on trust. A partnership based on force is not a partnership. It’s a sad thing.

    • I concur. He keeps being disrespectful and he’s not really adding anything to the discussion.

      • What he is also doing is highlighting his own ignorance, both of dogs and social graces;-)) Maybe if more people see the “cow” comment, they will start to understand the mentality that allows some people to regard dogs as slaves instead of the useful and cooperative companions they can choose to be. When my dog’s collar comes off, I want him to be just as willing to stay with me as if it were on…

  7. Out of interest, I have a friend who trains dogs in personal protection. The dogs are force trained (choker, prong, yelling, jerking etc and sometimes a shock collar on any level that appears to work) (But, she uses clicker) and she is the only one who can handle the most serious human aggressive dog there.

    He does not try to come up the lead at her, but instead listens to her and even her employer has said that she has got more out of this dog than anyone before.

    It’s not true, this fallacy that only certain dogs can be trained using kind methods. Even Koehler pretty much admitted that forceful military methods basically ultimately only work on middle of the road dogs. The dogs who are serious will never give up biting and are potentially lethal, even when choked etc. Behaviour science is working here – associations are made, and so on.

    The timid dogs can’t cope with the force used. So only the more middle of the road dogs ultimately end up being able to cope with being force trained.

    Also dogs who are shocked etc for sports tend to perhaps do well for a few seasons and then they refuse to work or else become too aggressive. This is commonly known amongst the sportsmen and women involved but it doesn’t filter down too much into the common dog world. I wonder why?

    • It very well does filter down – an acquaintance of mine, who is a former Schutzhund competitor, speaks of this phenomenon, and I have actually witnessed it on occasion. The only thing some people care about is winning. They will abuse a dog, sell and get another one, or buy a made dog, all in the name of getting that win, with little care for whether the dog is having any fun or not. Dogs, to them, are slaves, and “no better than the cow they ate last night” – as our respondent here so disgustingly put it.

      • Well, the dog for sure isn’t my equal! And yes, I’ve sold a number of dogs into pet homes where they where spayed or neutered because they failed to perform, can’t house them all. I train and trial my dogs to prove them worthy of reproducing, and in the creating a better dog. Can’t do that with a bunch of couch holders sitting around my house. They don’t work, they move on, to a home where they can do what they dog best, which boils down to turning food into piles in the yard. I don’t have the time for that nonsense. Though I don’t buy “made dogs” I get pups from working parents, and either prove or wash them out, and I must be doing something right when I’m getting high picks out of litters for free.

  8. I feel very very sorry for your dogs Joe. Why is it so very difficult for people to accept that you don’t need corrections/punishment to train a dog? Why is is so very difficult for you to accept that you CAN train a dog perfectly without punishment/ corrections? I cannot understand why people like yourself cling so strongly to the desire to use violence and punishment. I consider corrections, no matter how gentle +P trainers say they are, to be violent. Maybe it’s the mindset that you are making your dogs “obedient”. Training a dog is all about teaching it behaviours and cues – I don’t believe dogs are obedient. A trainer teaches a dog knowledge and understanding. A dog doesn’t sit because I told him to, he sits because he understands that’s what he is to do when he is given a cue to do so. And if he doesn’t sit, it’s NOT because he is disobedient.
    I have never in my life respected a person who used punishment to ‘teach’ me a lesson. Never. Punishment and corrections do not impart knowledge, they only instill fear and anxiety in an animal.

    • Trainers who use force do it for one of two reasons: (1) They are too incompetent to use their brains instead of brawn to train, or (2) They enjoy the bullying aspect. Enough said.

      • People use positive only for one reason, the dogs are too soft to deal with traditional training.

      • If your training is too harsh for some dogs, shouldn’t that be ringing alarm bells??? If you have a choice to use a method that is pleasant for a dog vs. a method that is not, and know you’ll get the same (or better) results, why why WHY would you choose the unpleasant??? Refer to my last statement for the answer. I think in this case we’re leaning heavily towards door #2.

      • Why wouldn’t you just get a dog with some damn grit. Really, if a dog can’t handle me correcting it, how is is going to handle a bad guy trying to kick it’s ass, or a hog bashing it against a tree?

    • Wait, so you tell your dog to sit, it doesn’t sit, AND it’s not because he’s disobedient?? I think that goes to directly show the dog is disobedient, and a few good corrections will fix that.

      • What if the dog isn’t feeling well? What if his hips hurt? What if there are distractions that you haven’t proofed for? There are many, many reasons a dog won’t sit when cued to sit. A good trainer doesn’t blame the dog when the dog doesn’t comply – a good trainer examines why and readjusts his training plan to get the behavior reliably. Without force.

        A dog is not a robot. It’s a living, thinking, feeling creature. If you want a dog who is 100% compliant under all circumstances, get a stuffed one.

        I’m done with this interminable discussion. Joe, you’re a bully. Plain and simple. You should not be allowed to be within 50′ of a dog.

      • You can’t bully a dog, it’s an ANIMAL, not a person. You people make most of your point by humanizing animals, and insulting people, I’ll ask you like I’ve ask every other cookie holder I’ve talked to. Show me the scientific studies that back your claims, and the requirements for the animals that where used so that I can see how biased it is or is not. Until then, you are puking up the same cookie rhetoric you have been fed.

      • Yes, Joe, it’s time people started to understand it’s not about obedience, but understanding.

      • Joe – so if your child had the flu and wasn’t “performing” well at school, you would punish him instead of taking him to the dr to find out why? By your reasoning, this is the analogy I am making. I don’t see the difference. I hope I never meet you. I don’t think I could keep my mouth shut.

  9. I suspect you are getting picks of litters from other like-minded individuals, not from anyone who truly cares about the welfare of their dogs versus their usefulness as slaves. The idea that a dog that isn’t successful at training (maybe because they shut down from the type of “training” you do) is regarded as nothing more than a manure-producer is appalling and so insensitive and inhumane as to hardly deserve a reply. Some of the so-called couch holders you reference have taught many a lesson to those willing to learn them. And, one of my couch holders, someone else’s hunting reject, saved a human life. Had he lived with you, he would, perhaps, not even have been around to be able to do that.

    • Why would he not be around, you are implying that I would have put the dog down, which is incorrect. Now I have put down dogs that have questionable issues that make them a safety liability (had an extremely fearful dog once, couldn’t place that and risk a fear bite on a child) but dogs that just wash out of a working program should not be put down. And honestly as to your comment of dogs shutting down from my training, well you don’t know my training, or how I work with my dogs other than the fact that I use corrections. And if a dog shuts down from the pressure I put on it, it should not IMO reproduce as it obviously has a very low stress threshold and why would we want to promote that? Also I would say if the dog can not handle the stress of me handling it, it is not likely to handle the stress of a helper/decoy, or a hog, so really, it is useless to me. Great pet maybe, but that is not what I want in a dog, however many do, and that is where the washouts go, to pet homes, not to the vet to be put down.

      • No one implied any such thing. The dog would merely not have been in the same home to react to the circumstances he did. With your attitude toward dogs, and the assumption that pet dogs are somehow “less than” I am glad I do not know you or what you do to dogs. This will be the last post of yours I allow here. You’ve clearly had your distasteful say, and others are just as repulsed by it as I have been. I hope that, someday, something happens to change your mind about dogs and their role, but I suspect that some people are just beyond changing. Therefore, I will stop banging my head against the proverbial wall. Thank you for participating. I do appreciate that you at least read the blog and elected to respond.

      • Can’t beat ’em, ban ’em. Typical use of authority to suppress ideas not like your own!

      • No, just ending the broken record, and de-escalating. Have a great day, Joe.

    • Also, exactly who are you to say how others feel about their animals? Seems like you are riding a mighty high horse, that you feel you have the right to pass judgement on others, which I assure you, you are nothing special, and you do not have that right.

      • Anyone speaking up for the welfare of animals who can’t speak for themselves, certainly does have all the right in the world to do so.

      • A self appointed right, by your own personal views, really not a right at all, just something to say to make yourself feel better. Tell you what, anytime any of you want to quit being so tough and righteous on the computer and meet up on a training field to truly see what we do, how we do it and how it works, let me know, until then, happy clicking, because your useless drivel being spewed with no support other than your supporters is old.

      • Sounds like the same kind of response I heard from another punishment/correction based trainer who got fed up with the discussion, and said to come and watch to see what they do, although the discussion wasn’t about what they DID, but what they SAID. Useless drivel? I don’t think so. And supporters of +R is continuing to grow and many supporters of +R are cross-overs trainers, who cared enough about dogs to be open to change.

      • Please remove me from getting your e-mails, if you will not allow me to reply (because that is how you make a good point suppressing others) then I have no need to see your posts

      • I am not sure what you are saying? I am not preventing you from replying nor do I have any control over you receiving emails….

  10. Hey, I can still reply, I don’t really care what you think is drivel and what is not, fact is, your opinion doesn’t amount to a hill of beans with me. I train in the style I choose to because it works for me and my dog. Simple as that. And I have no intention to change, no matter how much cookie science you try to throw at me

    • There is no “cookie science” as you put it. There is the science of animal behavior, including operant and respondent learning, which is, incidentally, the same science you use to punish your dogs. The only difference is in our ethics.

      More and more people in the protection sports are adopting clicker training because it’s effective, and as they do, my guess is that more and more of them will start puppies using clicker training. Once they do that, it’s not a long way off before they realize the difference between a dog that understands how to learn, and a dog whose behavior is globally suppressed. They both look obedient, and are, but the former has a spirit that is unmatched by the dog that must perform to avoid penalty.

      For those who are interested, please follow the careers of people such as Denise Fenzi and Shade Whitesel. Denise has included a lot of positive training, and Shade has made the jump with her current pup and is actually hoping to title her first dog using completely force free training.

      Change isn’t easy and it takes a long time. But, we’ve come a long way from the times of Idstone, when the equipment used to train dogs looked like medieval torture devices. And, in a hundred years, voices like Joe’s may be just a bad memory, and we might all be training with positive reinforcement.

      There is also no cookie training. It’s called positive reinforcement for a reason. Reinforcement comes in many forms: food, toys, attention, praise, chasing a squirrel, digging a hole, playing with other dogs. A creative trainer uses all manner of reinforcements to train a dog, and understands and uses the Premack principle.

  11. Very good article. I’ll never understand why people so harshly reject the idea that they don’t have to use force, corrections, punishment to teach a dog how to behave in our world. All this blog is trying to tell us is that we can be very successful using kindness, gentleness, patience and understanding when teaching our dogs. I don’t know why anyone, who claims to love dogs would resist that idea.

  12. No really, you do kill dogs. I, and my dog was the vicitim of a positive reinforcement trainer. This trainer did not use shock collars, alpha rolls or anything like that, but instead gave me incorrect behavior information. When I mention that the dog gets a little obnoxious when dog food or treats were in my hand and tends to growl and jump for it ,if I was holding it no other time would he act like that, I was told it was something all dogs do, but to give the dog good positive experiences with things he did not like, say getting out of the car, I was to have a handful of treats and present it to him during his times of stress. This is just one of the many examples that this particular trainer did to make this dog worse. This trainer is recommended by the above mentioned Pet Professional’s Guild, and a AVSAB behaviorist. I was later at the same social event and heard out of her mouth statments ” All shelter dogs are liabilities” and “every pitt bull in a shelter has something worng with it and needs to be put down” So I would put money on the trainer knew what she was doing was wrong, she knew the dog came from a shelter. I know that you think this is a once in a million thing, but I usually recommend positive renforcement trainers to friends and am absolutely sick of hearing how horrible they were made to feel about their previous training( out of all of them their worst sin was they owned a choke chain, not to choke the dog but they used so the dog could not easily slip out of it), or being educated wrong because the trainer they went to does not know the difference between dominance theory and positive punishment. I could go on for days, but I hope you get the point of their being many, many horrible positive trainers out there. Thing is, it is articles like this that boost their ego, and makes it just that much more ok to do this to dogs. – I found this post due to one of these trainers and used it to promote her positive business-I get why you wrote the article, it is good to get a pat on the back once in a while, but please rethink this before writing another, there are many many consequences to articles like this.

    • The fact that you encountered a trainer who you think gave you bad advice does NOT mean that the correctly applied principles of positive reinforcement training are wrong, or that people should not be encouraged to train their dogs with kindness.

      There are ill-informed positive trainers and ill-informed punishment trainers, sadly. I regret that you had what you thought was a poor experience. But, I also know that client understanding and compliance can also be at fault in some of these situations, and that communication with your trainer needs to be open and honest about what you perceive are the shortcomings of the method you have been asked to try. If your reasoning were applied, no one should ever write any articles about training, lest someone have their ego boosted. Sorry, but I would rather boost the egos of people whose intentions are not to hurt dogs, rather than the ones whose intentions are to simply get results no matter how harsh they are to the dog to get them.

      The fact that someone is a Pet Professional Guild member does not guarantee anything more than that they have agreed to adhere to a set of guiding principles that upholds the notion of not using pain or fear to train dogs. When choosing a trainer, it’s important to ask about their qualifications. Do they have a degree in a behavioral science? Did they attend a dog trainer course, and if so, which one? Some of the better ones are: Jean Donaldson’s Academy for Dog Trainers, Karen Pryor Academy, and Companion Animal Sciences Institute, and Pat Miller’s Peaceable Paws.

      The situation you describe sounds like the trainer might have been trying to get you to use desensitization and counter-conditioning with regard to a stressful event. In that case, presentation of the food should happen slightly after the scary thing is noticed by the dog (so long as the dog does not react), and the feeding should terminate when the scary thing is gone. The execution of such a plan is important to get in the right order, so my advice, if your dog is reacting to something out of fear, is to find another trainer, well versed in the science, and in whom you can have some trust, to help you.

      I would say that there are not very many positive trainers who think that all shelter dogs are liabilities. Every dog should be evaluated on the basis of its own behavior, no matter what breed it is. That said, there are some breed predispositions that are helpful to know about in order to match shelter dogs with the best possible homes, and keep people and dogs safe.

      You are quite right that the level of competency in the profession needs to be higher, even at entry levels into to the field. But, that certainly does not mean that we have to relax standards of humane treatment because one positive trainer didn’t satisfy the level of competency you expected.

      • Well, I was not going to reply because it is clear from your response what side you are on. I thought that with all your, “Critical thinking is good” I may have had a different response, but no luck, you have demeaned yourself to the lowest form of education.I was just going to ignore you because from your response it is clear you don’t care about science, you care about considering yourself right no matter what or whom it hurts. But, I can’t let you think I do not know what you are doing. Your response is clearly what is wrong with dog training and I can not let you think people are ok with it. First off, I need to tell you I do have an education in psychology not to mention working with under 5 year old’s for the past ten years( it was Dr, Sophia Yin who compared them and said working with a dog is like working with a toddler right?) I know what counter conditioning is I know what this or any other technique this trainer used was at the least not scientific, not mention how many times you use the phrase ” you think this trainer was” as a clear cut effort to dissuade people from considering it a viable opinion. . I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, that you would focus on training instead of using as many means possible to defend a trainer who should never had been allowed near dogs.I will give way to my faults, I have not been up to date on research like I should. I may be wrong, show me the data collected that says counter conditioning is effective when one aggressive response(getting out of a car) can be subdued with another aggressive response( having food in the hand) From my schooling it is basic psych 101 and should have never been presented, well, according
        To stop the next step from happening- it as not my inability to train or the dogs inability to learn that was the problem either. It was a foster dog, that I knew afet a few days would need extra help, I found that positive reinforcement help, but was admonished by this trainer that it as not good. The dog and me had been making progress, not just by my standard but friends, relatives, professionals in the dog sitting community, all of them praised him for the few weeks they were going to the trainer, but this horrific trainer admonished and said so many other bad things about the to the trainer I had went two, and made me promise to never take a rescue dog there again. Truth is I could go on about this trainer, I choose not two they really are just a symbol of the abyss I see positive training going into. being, really, not me, not the training, it is the trainer that sucks, and any other counterpoint your try and make, it really does come back to this trainer.
        I did not want to focus on the trainer because it was a secondary point. Really they are just one of many with over blown credentials and lack of experience, And you can think all you want that you are helping with blogs like this, but you are not, and that is putting it lightly. Your articles like this make those whom have no experience but at the very least do not train with a shock collar have an over inflated ego and tend to kill more with there inexperience and lack of knowledge. You may think your giving an ego boost to people helping, but really end of the day it is just an ego boost for those who should never be withing 50 feet of a dog.
        Another Question I do have for you, if the pet professional guild does not really give you an insight to good trainers, why would you use them as a quote in your article?

  13. from your website
    If you want to train your dog force free, with gentle effective training, you can join the Pet Professional Guild as a Pet Owner Member. PPG is the only professional trainer organization that offers membership to pet owners
    Guess it is my bad cause it does not say a thing about effective.
    Also, I know you thing that trainers are not saying bad things about shelter or rescue dog, can you at least admit to the possibility they are are just not saying it in your general direction because of the implications that would happen. i will absolutely admit this trainer said this because she did not know my education or background and thought it would never come up again. Now if talking with you people are more measure about there opinions, and less truthful.

    • Force free training is effective. Correction training can also be effective, but at what cost? Ruining a relationship with the dog, or causing learned helplessness, is a possibility that is easily avoided by avoiding the use of correction collars, etc. I’m not sure why you have anything against Pet Professional Guild. The criteria there is that people adhere to a humane hierarchy that does not include choke, prong, or shock collars. I cannot comment on the individual trainer you chose, or your experience with them, as I wasn’t there and have no idea who is actually at fault. There are poor trainers in every training methodology, and if you encountered one who wasn’t good, that’s too bad. But, there are also owners and handlers who don’t correctly implement the advice they are given, then blame the trainer for a poor result. I have no way of knowing which happened in your situation, but I would still rather see someone NOT using pain or fear-inducing methods on dogs. So, if you aren’t satisfied with the first positive trainer you find, the answer isn’t to go find a harsh trainer, it’s to go out and find a more competent one who is still positive.

  14. wow! just willing to go down swinging no matter how much you look silly!. You just will not admit there are thing positive reinforcement should change. I am not trying to punish a particular trainer, I , and many other know they were wrong. I am trying to point out how detrimental it is to give a metaphoric trophy to anyone who doesn’t use a shock collar. ( or whatever you deem harmful). Dog training is about clients who come to class. Giving awards, acclamation to trainers simple for existing makes it impossible to determine appropriate trainers. Do the math. how many shared your post? i am aware you do promote appropriate trainers, and also know inappropriate trainers share your blog. How is the average dog owner supposed to be educated and determine an appropriate trainer when you give a metaphoric trophy to anyone who does not use shock collars. Any good trainer has to work twice as hard to educate and inform owners, just because you do not distinguish between good and just not using a choke chain. I thought because you preach ” critical thinking” i had a chance to educate. You have really made it clear you do not care about education. You care about manipulation, arrogance, and lying to dog owners, just more definite proof ‘Positive trainers” are their the biggest problem in educating owners.

    • I was not going to dignify this response with an answer, but I think that you got personal with your last sentence, and so I will respond. I do not care one whit about lying to anyone, nor do I want to manipulate anyone. I simply want dogs to be trained, or have their behavior modified, in ways that do not hurt them physically or mentally. Is that such a foreign concept?

      Your experience may have been bad, but honestly, unless you show me video of you training the dog, and of the trainer you hired instructing you, you certainly cannot expect me to comment intelligently on what may have gone wrong. I understand that you were dissatisfied, but if you were then you should take it up with the trainer you hired, rather than blaming positive training in general for what happened.

      If you wish to post video, go ahead and respond. If not, you’re done here.

      • Hmm, if i had a video I would make sure this trainer was in jail for attempted manslaughter, The dog was put down on recommendation of this trainer alone( and yes I did take the dog to other positive trainers but because of the affiliations especially with the pet professional guild, this dog was put down). It is plain and simple. I am not trying to “get personal’ or offend anyone. Just trying to get you all to look at your own people and how to do this better. I don’t and never wanted you to comment on the specific dog..It is has been how to educate better. Just because someone does not use a shock collar does not mean they are good. Simple as that. Articles like the one above make that are use by unseemly people, it does very little to educate what a good trainer is, This article is just used to confuse the average dog owner. No shock collar, no alpha roll = clearly good. NOT TRUE. The more you say that as long as long as a trainer does not use punitive measure they are good, the worse dogs are. Simple as that

    • It sounds like you had a bad experience with a bad trainer. Your experience has nothing to do with positive reinforcement or force free training. What you described in your experience is NOT proper training at all!

      • first off thank you for admitting that my experience was with a bad trainer. But i do have to disagree that it does not have anything to do with positive reinforcement or force free The trainer is a proud card carrying member of the pet professional guild and posted this article to prove how amazing she is because she does not use a shock collar. She is very active in the positive reinforcement community, and in fact has trained people to be positive trainers, by that alone it really does have to do with positive trainer community.

  15. Anon, the Pet Professional Guild has an Ethics Committee, so if you are so convinced that a member of the Guild has acted inappropriately, please bring it to the attention of the Committee. I understand that people get very emotional whenever a dog is put down (I do, too.) But, unless I know the specifics of the case, or have seen the dog, I really think that it’s unethical for me to assume that either you or the trainer in question are right or wrong. Also, the Pet Professional Guild is no different than the APDT, the IACP, or NADOI, for example, in that it cannot possibly know whether a member is competent or not when they sign up for membership. There are so called “certified” trainers who are as incompetent as rocks, and some exceptional trainers who have no affiliations whatsoever. To blame the organization may make you feel better, but it’s not effectively solving the problem of incompetency – even medical associations have no way to prevent malpractice before the fact. I would urge you to become BETTER educated about the science behind positive training, and then you’ll be much better able to suss out just who is competent or not. I don’t think you can make the assumption of competency simply because someone is willing to use force on a dog. There are many competent trainers and behaviorists who are extremely successful at resolving difficult cases without force. And, to be honest, I’m just as upset by incompetency in the positive trainer ranks as I am about people still continuing to bully dogs into submission. The only way the dogs will ever win is if people in the positive training community really “get their chops” before hanging out the shingle, and refer clients with difficult problems to appropriate practitioners if necessary. That said, sometimes there is legitimate disagreement on whether a given dog is safe or not, and owners/shelters/rescues do have liability issues to consider. Dogs with proven lack of Acquired Bite Inhibition that have inflicted, say, level 3 or 4 bites on the Dunbar scale, are not good candidates for trust when they are pushed over threshold, and who can ever guarantee that a dog will never be so pushed? Reality sucks sometimes, and it makes for bad decisions when emotion gets in the way of the truth. What we always seek is the long term safety of both dogs and people.

  16. I don’t use prongs or e collars to train my dogs. But as a livestock owner and farmer I have no problems with using an electric fence, and if a dog gets shocked trying to get through to my stock, well tough, lesson learned. Saves the live of the stock and probably the dog too, since dogs that kill stock are shot around here.

    • I personally favor different types of fencing. I also think that people who own dogs should keep them from becoming a nuisance to others, including farmers or ranchers. If your dog is working, he should be within recall distance, and have a solid recall. If he isn’t working, he doesn’t belong wandering around chasing your neighbor’s livestock. These problems are not dog problems, they are human problems, and should be solved by people (and not at dogs’ expense).

  17. Although coming late into this, I want to commend you on speaking out about this issue. Well written piece – excellent points.


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