Too many dog trainers are focused on an agenda and less focused on the well being of the dog and client.
Fast Results vs. Soft (Positive) Approach
Fast results addresses the client’s needs. Every client that comes to you has some sort of problem they cannot solve on their own. Many times these issues have been progressing over a period of time to a level that is often unbearable.
Being able to address a client’s need to solve the issue immediately may seem the best, most logical approach. There are times in which relief is just a matter of changing the routine, the technique or miscommunication. There is however the risk of getting caught up in the “Let’s fix it now” mindset. Here’s why:
-YOU CAN’T QUICKLY CHANGE A PERCEPTION WITH A LONG LEARNING HISTORY.
[While chewing on a straw or toothpick] “Oh yes I can!”.
Look dipshit! We know you can ramp up the level on your e-collar and dominate the dog with a swift helicopter and call it a day. This only gives a temporary relief that will haunt the client later or come back with a vengeance.
A dog is an animal that accumulates perceptions and experience. The risk of confusion is high when trying to undo behaviors with a long learning history in a short period of time.
-YOU MAY BE TEMPTED TO PUT EVERY DOG IN THE SAME CATEGORY.
When you get used to “fixing” everything in a very short period of time, you fall into the trap of looking at dogs like numbers and not like individuals. I know this because I have fallen into that trap before. It’s part of being complacent. You quickly “fix” a dog, then the next, and the next and so forth. Then you run into a dog you’re not able to “fix” as quickly as the others and so you jam more force into your technique.
It’s important that as dog trainers, we look at every dog we work with as individuals. Yes there are a lot of patterns, but ultimately, each dog has a unique temperament with unique set of experiences and perceptions, therefore you can’t just “fix” every dog the same way.
The Soft “Positive” approach addresses the comfort and well being of the dog in the learning process. This is where many trainers want to be. It’s the category in which Purely Positive dog trainers fit in.
There are several people that advocate, push, and even politically pressure for the sake of this movement.
Though I greatly appreciate the well being of the dogs, and the intelligent approach of dog training, there are also downfalls to this approach:
-DOGS NEED TO LEARN WHAT NOT TO DO. [Drops jaw] “That’s why you teach the dog what to do instead you abuser!”. Calm down before you spill you pumpkin latte and listen. I’m all about teaching incompatible behaviors to give dogs new skills to replace old bad habits, there are however instances in which you have to use pressure to train dogs. Yes, I said “HAVE TO” because along with knowing what to do instead of, it’s imperative that the dog know what not to do. You know to drive the speed limit, you also may have learned through experience that it’s a bad idea to test those limits. You more than likely did things your parents or teachers instructed you not to do or were given a consequence that stopped the frequency of a behavior. This doesn’t mean you were abused! I don’t advocate abuse at all!
-IT LEADS TO LOSS OF PATIENCE. Yes!! Purely Positive trainers lose their patience! I’ve heard of this and seen it myself! Dog trainers who claim to be force free and pride themselves in using a hands-off approach while simultaneously yanking the shit out of the dog with the “gentle” leader or other head harness. Well, what do you expect when the owner has invested thousands of dollars and all you have to show for is a half ass “sit” with food in your hand or several lures and no discipline!
Advocate for the dog, use pressure once the dog understands what is expected of it and be transparent with your client. A client just wants the problem gone! It’s our job to communicate that this process takes a bit of teaching, and based on the dog’s individual needs, it may take a bit of time.
Some times you can and even should quickly stop dangerous behaviors, at least temporarily in order to undo, and teach a better way to cope. I have on occasion used hard corrections to at least get the dog to stop engaging on potentially dangerous behavior. This isn’t the norm, and it’s not the standard operating procedure, but at times necessary. Some examples are violent redirecting, predatory targeting, crittering, snake proofing, garbage raiding, among others.
In general, learning more, reading more and training more will make you a better trainer. Don’t just follow blindly, stop and analyse what you’re doing and reevaluate yourself constantly!