Why you shouldnt listen to other dog owners, trainers or your vet

Everyone is an expert

Don’t tell mesomething is great - I would prefer you show me how it works and let me let me judge for myself.
We could talk all day long about the theory BUT the dog is the one who I will listen to - his performance will tell me all I need to know about your methods and how effective they are(or aren’t).

If you have spent any deal of time around dog owners and dog trainers - you'll already be aware that people have strong opinions on what they believe is "The Way" to train and live with a dog.

There are also the outright liars - one local trainer calls himself “the puppy whisperer” and claims on his website that he only “trains with positive reinforcement and with love” - and then exclusively trains with a choke chain.
While I don’t love choke chains - they are not so horrible - I just dislike lying to dog owners and giving our industry a bad rap. I have to retrain many dogs who se owners did not achieve any real usable results with trainers like the aforementioned and when they first come to me they are distrusting since they have been burned.
More on that in another upcoming blog post - I don’t want to start too far off topic here…

There are essentially two camps that most dog trainers fall into:

Camp A:
Positive only trainers: These trainers only use reward based training and apply zero force to get a dog to comply. Think clicker training or any type of marker based training.

Camp B:
Force Trainers: These trainers exclusively use force to teach and get dogs to comply with commands.

“Two dog trainers can agree on one thing … The third trainer is wrong!”

Both methods have their die hard supporters and both sides think the other side is completely wrong in their approach. The old joke is what do 2 dog trainers agree on? What the 3rd is doing wrong holds true here.
Both sides of the coin have their pluses and minuses.
Positive training pluses are the happy, tail wagging dog. It's minuses are the lack of consistency it can produce and the dog's belief that it has the right to make voices all the time. This can be dangerous when your dog is bolting down the street and doesn't come back right away.
Correction based training pluses are the dog's understanding that it must do things our way.
Minuses are that - took much force or pressure on a dog has negative effects and creates stress.
If we take the best from both sides we can have the happy, tail wagging dog and the reliable, consistent performance.
Sounds good right?
But is this just a slick sales speech designed to sound like someone is telling you all the right things?


Watch the dog training videos here and judge for yourself. These are 2 very different dogs and 2 different temperaments, with different needs in training - yet both were were trained with the similar methods and the results are very consistent.



Here is young Finn - a Havanese puppy who has been trained both with rewards and a remote training collar. What you are seeing is a dog who is only partially through his training - but he makes a good point if you know what to watch for: He is told to leave the bread on the floor and in my hand. Since we did use force in order to teach him to leave it - if he associated pain with the bread - logically he would avoid the bread. If bread=pain - getting far away from the bread would be the dog's reaction. Instead he hangs around and doesn't eat the bread. In fact in the early part of the video he actually tried to steal the bread and put it in his mouth - which only makes my point that much clearer! He is not scared to be near it or even try to eat it - proving there is no fear whatsoever. Further - I offer him a piece of a cookie. When it is the cookie in my hand - he scoops it up and eats it without hesitation. So not only is he not afraid of the bread - he is confident enough and comfortable enough to understand that his things are still his and it is ok to grab them from my hand just a second or two after the bread was there. There no confusion, fear or avoidance. Like I said my clients are smart people and like you they trust their gut. Sarah, Finn's owner is a sweet, soft spoken lady who adores her dog and understands exactly what I am talking about here. She and her husband also have 2 wonderful young children - who are vibrant and playful and full of the kind of enthusiasm we like to see in young children - yet they are mannered and charming to be around. Get my point - we dont have to trade off one for the other.
Here is another interesting video showcasing Tyler. Tyler was brought to me for dog aggression issues. He had escaped his yard and attacked 2 dogs - prompting the city in which his family lived in to demand his owners euthanize him. They pleaded to the city and made to promise of training him with me - and the city agreed to this. Tyler is shown in this video working around other dogs - and I am purposely playing with all the dogs near him and pushing them into him at this stage in his training. I take off his training collar and his performance is the same - there is no Jeckyll and Hyde when the collar comes off.
Tyler finished his training 4 or 5 years ago and his owners have never had a problem with him since his training - so I think it is safe to say the training did what it was intended to. It wasn't a "crash Diet"
or "quick fix". It stuck.
Further point here - all the playful, bouncing dogs - we all trained the same way as Tyler - all by me. What the heck are they all so happy about? Get it?


I am a pragmatic person at heart and am always looking for a better way to do things. My motto is - show me. Either lead, follow or just get out of the way.


Don’t tell something is great - show me and let me judge for myself. We could talk all day long but the dog is the only one who I will listen to - his performance will tell me all I need to know. This is exactly why I have all the videos on my site - I want people to see just what can be done when all the ingredients are there.
My results oriented approach and my love for animals has lead me to where I am today and what I like to refer to as a balanced dog trainer. I see value in parts of what both caps do - and I am proud to say I have stolen the best pets of each approach and moulded it all to fit into my recipe for a well trained dog.

I see value in both positive and force based training and do not feel the need to throw away one for the other and prefer a balanced approach to training and living with my dog.
Positive trainers have come a long way and brought a lot of valuable info to the dog training community.
In order to train with operant conditioning - you need to have a good grasp of timing and reinforcement as well well as the science behind the principles of learning and the 4 quadrants.
Where I split off from them is where they feel that any force is abuse and that it should never be applied to a dog in training. Force can be gentle and guiding -helping a dog to make the decision we want and yet still leaving him comfortable and happy - feeling safe in his world with you. Think of guiding a 2 year child away fro the table when he tries to grab a cookie after being told no. You are using force. is it abusive? Depends on the person guiding the child and their intention.
Most normal people would simply walk the child away and explain that it is not time for a cookie right now. It may even take more than once but the message would sink in.

Point is that it did not need be an unpleasant experience and the child is not running away from home because he feels threatened. Take it one step further in terms of keeping balance and we can then engage the child in his or her favorite activity as a follow up reward to forgetting about the cookie on the table.
I personally hate dog and people analogies but in this case in order to represent using force in a gentle but guiding manners - it sits well.

A combined approach in dog training - clickers and remotes


It would surprise positive trainers that we could even combine reward based training and positive reinforcement along with corrections in training - I have done so for decades. Force trainers make the same error in disregarding the positive camp's attributes. One of the great aspects of the top positive trainers is their understanding of the scientific principles of learning. A trainer should never underestimate the value to be gained from having a solid grasp of the concepts and theories involved here. It allows us to be very technical and streamline the learning process.
I used to carry a clicker and a remote in the same hand in training! I am not kidding. These days I use marker words in place of a clicker but the same principal applies and my bulldog "Cow" jumps at the sound of her marker words - God forbid I use them in conversation around the house - she'll jiggle or come running when she hears the words
"Good" or "Yes".
Force trainers make the same error in disregarding the positive camp's attributes. One of the great aspects of the top positive trainers is their understanding of the scientific principles of learning. A trainer should never underestimate the value to be gained from having a solid grasp of the concepts and theories involved here. It allows us to be very technical and streamline the learning process.
My clients are intelligent people.
I can be as slick as I want in my explanations of why we do what we do - they not only want an obedient dog place a very high premium on how happy and how comfortable their dogs are & the quality of their dog's life. I can tell you that in over 20 years of working with people and their dogs - I have never had someone say to me" I dont care if he is happy as long as he listens". It does not happen - nor would I want it to.

We do not have to sacrifice obedience for happiness, security or comfort. Next time someone tells you otherwise - send them to this page.
Or don't.
But at least you have had a chance to see for yourself what a balanced approach looks like.