Monday, 20 February 2012

Traditional Training Vs. Positive Reinforcement Training

Photo courtesy of
This weekend I attended the Doggie Expo at the Forum, running a booth for my Pet Portraits. The turnout was fantastic and I got to meet lots of wonderful people. For the first part of the morning I brought Kobi with me. I knew it was going to be a very overwhelming experience for him but I thought it would be worth it to get him around so many people and dogs. He met lots of people and was very friendly. He did react fearfully to a few people and did spend the majority of his time there barking. In preparation I had made up tons of training treats to reward him for silence, I went through almost all of them, yet he still barked. It wasn't until the very end of the day when one of the many trainers present at the event came over to talk to me about his barking. She was telling me that even though I was rewarding Kobi for his silence, that he was clever enough to figure out that if he was silent until he got the treat, all he had to do was bark again then be silent for a few seconds to get another treat. And I felt that she was right. Before I got Kobi I had seen all the TV shows like The Dog Whisperer and At the End of my Leash. I agreed with many aspects of the training, but also disagreed with many other. I did a huge amount of research before I decided that a puppy was indeed what I wanted and I did a lot of research into positive reinforcement training. I believe that it works very well for many aspects of dog training, but that it doesn't work for others, or at least I have difficulty in other areas. The obedience classes I have been taking have been using positive reinforcement training, and I will admit there has been some great improvement, but I still feel stuck in certain aspects of Kobi's training and most of them have to do with behavioral issues and simply good doggy manners when he's around people. I find it is the people that I'm trying to introduce Kobi to that make positive reinforcement training difficult. If Kobi is barking that them they are not willing to wait for him to settle down before petting him, if he jumps they say "oh I don't mind" but I do mind. As well treats are nothing to Kobi compared to trying to get attention from someone. I've made some progress with having him not lunge at people but that was largely due to the Gentle Leader he has been wearing, when he lunges towards someone he gets pulled back towards me. The thing I am finding difficult is the is the strong reaction people have to one or the other type of training. Those who are very pro positive reinforcement tend to be very against any form of correction and that dogs have absolutely no "pack/leadership behaviors". Where as those who believe in correction or alpha training are totally against the use of treats. I'm not sure if I'm the only one, but I feel very trapped between the two training methods, I think there are pros and cons to both, just like most other things. What I very much dislike is the guilt put on people for choosing one or the other training method. Is there no way to get a happy medium between the two types of training? Does anyone else ever feel trapped between the two? All I want to do is use a training method that is not only right for my dog, but one that he responds to and that works for him. Me as the trainer, I am comfortable using either method or using a bit of both, but I want to choose the one that he responds to best.

1 comment:

  1. Zonia, I understand what you are talking about.

    Many "positive" dog trainers don't like to talk about the fact that not all things can be trained using positive methods.
    For example: Dogs eating poop, non stop barking, serious cat aggression.... I could name many more.

    I too had issues like this 8 years ago when I adopted my first dog from the SPCA in Dartmouth. He was a great dog, but had Very bad cat aggression. I Looked into all of the trainers in metro Halifax, non could help me, so I talked to other trainers from around Canada and they opened my eyes to what is possible if you use a balance of pos+neg.

    Personally I lean far more towards the Pos, but can see how using some neg can change things very quickly.

    Today I am a dog trainer because of that dogs problems.
    He has since lived with 3 cats without issue.

    If you would like to read more about my services, you can watch some of our videos at

    Best regards.