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The Two Sides of Dog Training: The Right and the Wrong Way

Posted on 09/05/13 76 Comments

Big decisions in life (which result in a dramatic turn either left or right) are made by weighing the pros and cons of either direction. Nobody confidently steps away from the direction they feel is the right way. So we have to assume each of us has some level of certainty when making decisions in our dog training.

I believe in a training program founded in positive reinforcement but that doesn’t polarize everyone in the same direction.There are those who primarily use food lures to train, others that will only use a clicker to shape their dogs, some of us integrate games of tug into everything we do and more still whose dogs in drive refuse any form or a reward.

Take this group of “positive trainers” and the following statements can cause heated debates amoungst the entire group. Someone must be right and therefore someone else will be WRONG!

1. All dogs are individuals; some like toys and others like food . . .use what your dog loves.
2. All dogs can be taught to love food and toys in training. You should inspire your dog to alternate between both during work.
3. Some dogs don’t have the confidence to “offer” behaviour so shaping “won’t work.” These dogs must be trained only with food lures.
4. Using food lures is the same as shaping behaviour . . . it is all positive dog training.
5. Some dogs just don’t like to work; those dogs should be retired.

You can find “positive” trainers that will passionately support any one of these five statements…to the point of causing some very heated conflicts with those who may disagree.

Now what if we now introduced the dog trainers that believe in a balanced use of all four quadrants of operant conditioning. Those who believe with their whole heart that:

1. You can teach with cookies but collar corrections are necessary to “proof” solid understanding.
2. A dog should work for you because he loves you; no food or toys should be necessary.
3. A dog must be shown who is boss; pinning and alfa rolling should be used when necessary.
4. Most dogs can “take” electric shocks or severe collar corrections as long as they are given without emotions from the owner.
5. Physical corrections are necessary for high drive dogs in field sports or protection work because when these dogs are in drive they will not listen to anything else.

Put 20 dog owners into a room, all who feel passionate about one of the above ten beliefs and ask them to try and “sway” the other guy, I promise you blood pressures will rise!

Last week on my blog there was some controversy when some of the comments got “heated” (I suggest you not go back to look . . . seriously . . . life is too short . . . go and spend quality time with your dog rather than search back for those negative comments). But these disagreements got me thinking about how there is always an “us against them” when opinions do not align. I do not pretend to be innocent in all of this. I personally have seen an evolution to my own outlook where disagreements with others are concerned…it is all a journey and I really love where it is going.

The bottom line is, we all love our dogs. Yes, of the above 10 statements about dog training there is really only one I can strongly identify with. There was a time I would react very emotionally to most of the other 9 statements but today I am learning to respond differently. Life doesn’t always turn out as I would like and when it doesn’t I try to remember this line from the late great Coach John Wooden;

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

I think my response to other people’s choices became less emotional as I grew more confident in the direction I chose for my own life and dog training. I have put more of my thoughts on this subject in the video below.

54 Comments

  1. Dr. Kate Fulkerson says:
    Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 11:37am

    As one of the participants in the IC Peeps Live meeting, I cannot begin to express my gratitude. You have changed my life, all of you.

    Reply

  2. Isabelle says:
    Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 7:45am

    I started agiiity only a year ago or so to get my tiny rescue in shape and exposed him to different “adventures” while we would both have fun. I thought it was a big happy community… It is true that people seems to have a “all or nothing” attitude. I have learned very quickly to respect everyone’s ideas and listen to their “doggie training beliefs”. I am very secure in what I like and dislike (your approach is at the top of my “like” list :o). You are right in most cases regardless of the chosen path the dogs are LOVED and that is what we should focus on. By listening to people you can always learn something. So I came to the conclusion that as human we can learn and love just by respecting everybody’s ideas and let each finds its own way … in time :o)

    Reply

  3. Sarah says:
    Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 7:43am

    I needed to see your video today. Seriously. Thank you so much for making it.

    Reply

  4. Suzie says:
    Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 6:39am

    You are an awesome role model, thank you 🙂

    Reply

  5. Fermena FCI says:
    Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 5:33am

    I love this sentence : “5. Some dogs just don’t like to work; those dogs should be retired.”
    We often forget about that.

    Reply

  6. Patricia Brewer says:
    Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 4:14am

    I loved your quote “In my quest to bring more joy in my dog’s life, I am learning to be a more joyful person” I relate to the whole video, but this phenomenon is what has altered my life. I have become more joyful in general. That is thanks to you and your blog on helping the dog to find the joy. Who could believe that such a simple concept could actually change your life. I am grateful for the computer age, which enabled me to be able take a course with you. Fantastic. Thanks heaps, it has been and still is a wonderful experience.

    Reply

  7. Lynda Zellner says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 11:51pm

    Thank you so so much, you have changed my life so much and I am having more fun with my three dogs then I have ever had, and its not just the dogs it changes your whole mind with how you see people that love there dogs and family, your classes Rock hopeing I can take your puppy peaks next cant wait. Thankyou

    Reply

  8. Janet Parker says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 11:17pm

    Thank you? You’re welcome….and thank you!

    Reply

  9. Barb Duke says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 10:28pm

    Thank you Susan. Among other things, your video highlights one of the really satisfying things about adopting positive reward based dog-training – and helping others along that path. It is indeed energizing. While we’re noticing the ‘can’t (yet) do’ for future work, we’re focussed on noticing and celebrating the ‘can do’ moments – that has to be good for us and our dogs (and the children we work with in schools.)

    Reply

  10. Lee says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 10:28pm

    Lovely. Thank you.

    Reply

  11. Linda Knowles says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 8:41pm

    Chiming in a little late but this was so inspirational Susan. I fail miserably sometimes but I keep on trying to become that better person and better dog trainer. Even at my age I still have an appetite for learning. Can’t remember as much as I used to but I try to watch DVD’s, videos, read books and your blogs as much as I have time for. My desire to learn will be there when I leave this earth. Thank you Susan for having such great direction in my life and in my dog training. I need to re-read this blog and watch the video each morning when I get up just to remind me!

    Reply

  12. Jan says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 8:19pm

    I have shelves filled with Garrett dvds and books, and I credit them particularly for the awesome weave saavy my 2 dogs possess, for their impeccable startline stays and for their wonderful, boundless love of/addiction to, agility. I have been enrolled in Puppy Peaks and Recallers, and experienced many !aha! moments and some good fun.
    However, if I’m to be honest, there are still areas in which I’m failing (or haven’t yet succeeded on the 1000th try). Wouldn’t it be super if there were a forum for this community, a forum of like-minded individuals, where dog training techniques could be discussed?
    Though Puppy Peaks and Recallers carry the kernels for success, there are many training issues that are extraneous to those specific courses. Yes, of course, one can spend time and $$$ to research ways to address a troublesome behavior, but in community of like-minded individuals, there could be/are many real resources.
    You know, the minute I typed the word “forum” I was immediately assailed by some very negative thoughts. It’s always sad when negative thoughts close down creative juices.
    Thank you for your inspirations!

    Reply

    • Laura W. says:
      Monday, September 9, 2013 at 8:50am

      Jan, I don’t know if you’re on Facebook, but there is a group there called Recaller Friends which might be what you’re looking for. And the Inner Circle level of Recallers goes on all year round, with a separate website dedicated just to those within the I.C. where you can get great feedback from fellow members as well as Say Yes staff.

      Reply

  13. Nathalie says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 7:32pm

    Thank you to put text with your voice it was more easy to me to understand (English)

    Reply

  14. Dr. Laurie Coger says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 7:26pm

    Brilliantly said!

    Reply

  15. Mary M says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 6:56pm

    LOVE THIS!!!!

    Reply

  16. Anna Lawrie says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 4:44pm

    I found a path of training which opened my eyes and made perfect sense, I altered my path and truly believed in it despite the training world around me saying otherwise (even to this day).
    I then found Susan Garrett and all at the ‘Say Yes’ team and was relived at finding something similar and I wasn’t going mad. I had questioned my choice along the way but still believed in it and stuck to my guns. Recallers, PP and the IC has helped me on my journey to develop the way I want, and also confirmed to me how happy i was with my choice all those years before.

    Thanks to the whole community as my journey of learning continues.

    Reply

  17. Lynn U. says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 3:36pm

    I’ve discovered that the trainers I most admire have these qualities:

    They have philosophy of training that undergirds all their training choices. Probably their non-training choices too.

    They are non-judgmental. They don’t need to say that other people’s methods don’t work in order to choose a different way for themselves.

    They are endlessly curious, and willing to learn and change.

    They have very clear criteria, and are willing to put in the time and effort to attain those criteria.

    Reply

  18. Alessandra says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 2:42pm

    Thank you, Susan
    Your words are very inspiring 🙂

    Reply

  19. Naomi says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 1:59pm

    Made me tear up too 🙂

    Well said! Thank you for being you!

    I have enjoyed Recallers 4 and look forward to more.

    I am grateful for the joy I see in my dog every time I ask him “Do you want to play a game?” Love it!

    Reply

  20. Marty says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 1:12pm

    I thank you. My two BCs thank you. Our lives together are so improved and much more fun thanks to the recallers and shaping courses.

    Reply

  21. Karin Roelofsma says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 1:08pm

    Thank you Susan…..

    Reply

  22. Dianne says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 12:36pm

    Thank you for my wonderful dog. We started with Shaping Success, Ruff Love and Crate Games. We have worked through 4 recallers, 2x2weaves, Puppy Peaks, the Contact class and all the extras. I took some time and watched what I could of a lot of these last week. After camp I was inspired even though we were quite rough at camp. When you complimented me on my weaves I felt so good. But better yet I know wanted to put the same effort I put into my weaves in to all the dog training. I looked at the stuff we have, really a lot, these were things you had shown us a foundation to work from and build on. By the way I am the training manager where I work and I have applied elements to my people training, I have fun there also.

    Reply

  23. Diane says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 12:30pm

    On target as usual, thank you.

    Reply

  24. Kate says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 11:54am

    Love your video above. Dog training has made me a better person and I am grateful for that. I know now to spend my time on positive outcomes and to not spend any energy on negatives. I have my dog to thank for that – she lives that herself. And I have Susan to thank for building my relationship with my dog so that I can see this way of life is so much more productive…and so fun! Building my garden so the butterflies will come 🙂

    Reply

  25. Susan says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 11:53am

    Susan, you are a great model for how to live life in addition to being a model for relationship building and positive dog training. I always enjoy reading your blog and positive messages. You have helped me evolve greatly in my approach to dog training. I often find myself asking: What Would Susan Do? Maybe I need a WWSD bracelet as a constant reminder. Thanks for being you and for sharing yourself so openly with others.

    Reply

  26. Caleb says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 11:39am

    You are so wrong!

    Reply

  27. Kim Oatway says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 11:16am

    Susan that was beautiful! You have such a way with words. Thanks you.

    Reply

  28. Jane says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 11:05am

    Susan, that was lovely.

    Reply

  29. Ev says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 10:45am

    Well said, well thought out. Insightful. Will be pondering this for some time. I think my values/actions DO align. But this is a different way of thinking about training. Thank you!

    Reply

  30. Renee King says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 10:30am

    Susan, you gotta stop making me cry! 🙂 All the Puppy Peaks videos and now this…..really truly awesome messages in all! Thank you for writing, and for sharing!

    Reply

  31. Sharon McMahon says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 10:27am

    Thank you Susan, an inspiration to us all!

    Reply

  32. Sherri says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 10:24am

    Very well said, Susan. I did NOT go back and look for the negativity… there is enough negativity looking for us each and every day. I choose to spend my time looking for the positive, and most of all, having fun with my dogs – doing what they love so much. When they stop having fun, then it will be time to try something else. In the meantime, I appreciate your perspective, and the other positive minded trainers I am blessed to work with.

    Reply

  33. Faith says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 10:17am

    Susan,
    My dogs thank you for inspiring me to move forward into the world of “Do Land” 6 years ago. We have not looked back.

    Reply

  34. Shelley says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 10:11am

    I think it is because of your openness that everyone can learn so much, your willingness to always share your ‘mistakes’ with all of us takes down that ‘barrier’ that so many other dog trainers and people create….you’ve made ‘Do-land’ into an ‘us’ not a ‘you and us’ and for that it creates magic – you’re openness gives everyone else the permission to be the same way.

    You may not remember this, but in recallers 1.0 when we first started I emailed you privately to ask how I could do something from a wheelchair for one of the games because I couldn’t figure out a way. You told me to go ask the others…that gave me one of the biggest growth spurts and I was so glad that you’d said that to me!

    You and LOH give so much more than just dog training, thank you x

    Reply

  35. Kimberly says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 9:49am

    This was just fantastic! Wonderful post, thank you!!

    Reply

  36. Ronna says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 9:37am

    As always, beautifull expressed. I hope I have learned to stop trying to ‘force’ other people to come over to Do-Land…I just keep training my dogs the Do-Land way, and let their successes do my talking. Thank you, Susan!!

    Reply

  37. Andrea says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 9:21am

    I’ve never known you as anything other than a joyful, supportive person pushing people to be their best but respecting their choices as well. We all have moments, we’re human after all not machines.

    So happy I found my dog training home so early on in my life with dogs and love the energy of everyone at Say Yes – especially Lynda and Penny who always make me laugh and are two of the most genuine, uplifting people I have had the pleasure to train with and learn from 🙂

    Reply

  38. Dawn says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 9:17am

    Awesome article. Truly.

    I see so many unhappy owners and unhappy dogs because the owners are unwilling to work with the program or process that suits the needs of the individual Dog for growth and learning. There is nothing more heartbreaking than watching a dog suffer the process of a closed minded owner using only aggressive process.

    There are still local trainers starting dogs with the Pinch Collars only, regardless of dogs age. Mind boggling.

    Always refreshing to read your inspiring and open minded info that you always manage to articulate so well.

    Reply

  39. Carolyn O'Connor says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 9:15am

    Thank you, Susan.

    Reply

  40. Pat Burroughs says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 8:55am

    Thank you Susan very well put . I have many of your DVD’s was part of the first recallers,joined a couple of webinars watched you at a couple of Nationals have been lucky to been to a seminar with you and several with LOH actually I have 1 with her this weekend : ) the Say Yes group has helped me through a lot of my struggles with my dogs ,even when I thought of giving up your blogs have inspired me , keep up the great work and BIG Thanks for all that you do.

    Pat

    Reply

  41. Debra says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 8:54am

    A beautiful inspirational message Susan… Thank you for sharing…

    Reply

  42. Jan Schultz says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 8:44am

    Brilliant and inspiring. Thank-you for your generosity in sharing these thoughts!

    Reply

  43. Laura W. says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 8:37am

    Loved the butterfly analogy!

    Thanks to Susan’s guidance, my dog is living proof that a high-drive field dog CAN listen in the field.

    “What you now have was once among the things you only hoped for” definitely applies here!

    Reply

  44. Caroline says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 8:16am

    Susan
    It has been wonderful to watch you evolve. Took a seminar from you in person, oh, maybe 10 or 15 years ago. (Please don’t take the following wrong) You were better with the dogs than with the people who did not have BCs.

    Now I love reading your blog, taking the occasional on-line class when I can and buying your dvds. Watching human growth is just as exciting as watching dog growth. But then, often they are connected. I know my dogs have been trying to teach me the things you talk about in the video. Humans are much harder to train than dogs. Me for sure.

    Reply

    • Susan says:
      Friday, September 6, 2013 at 8:37am

      LOL you nailed it Caroline. When I first started teaching seminars in 1995 I was desperate to help all the dogs I saw that were “misunderstood.” It took me many years and sadly I am sure many hurt feelings from students to learn . . . and I am still learning . . . how to turn all of my enthusiasm for MAKING a difference into patience for ALLOWING that difference to happen.

      Reply

      • kiki says:
        Friday, September 6, 2013 at 12:21pm

        Every dog and every student comes into your life to teach you something. The day you have all the answers is the day you forgot to keep an open mind and that’s the day you need to adjust yer attitude.

  45. Kate Tyson says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 5:56am

    Dear Susan,

    I’ve never been able to take one of your classes but I’ve enjoyed your books and blog posts. These alone have massively lower my anxiety about dog training – odd as I love my dogs and interacting with them but I often came away feeling frustrated or anxious about where to go next.
    However with my now 15 week old puppy I’ve felt this two maybe only three times and each time I’ve stopped looked for the good and mentally gone “We’ve got time, it’ll come with rethinking, clarity (mine) and some practice”.
    Thank you for showing that frustrations are not limitations but opportunities for tons more good to come.
    Kai and I might not have tons of stuff in our training repertoire yet but all of it is fun and 100% brilliant.
    All the best – Kate, Kai and the old boy Hitch

    Reply

  46. Char Myers says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 4:02am

    I just watched your video upload of “Dog Training Methods…”, and once again you have nailed it! I just wanted to say a personal thank you for all that you have taught me, and will teach me, about dog training. My love affair with agility began as a desperate attempt to take a scared, shy rescue dog and build her confidence. We may never win a title, but we certainly have fun! I am a better dog trainer than I ever was, and I want to continue to get better everyday…and you have played such a huge roll in my development! Thank you, Susan!

    Reply

  47. Trudie says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 3:11am

    Very beautifully put, very moving.
    Inspiring, to allow success “shine for all to see”.

    Reply

  48. Gale says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 2:12am

    Thank you for such a great video. So many people see positive reinforcement as permissive and don’t believe you can shape a dog’s behavior in minutes until you show them, and some stop at the first sign of a change before all the modifications can be chained together. But many more see the changes and want to see more miracles.

    I LOVED the recallers courses, and wish I had the money to take the puppy peaks courses. House rich and penny poor right now, getting rid of this open concept albatross will change my life for the better. Unfortunately, I live in a very economically depressed area.

    People call me for advice on what to look for in a breeder and puppy, and call me to let me know when the puppy arrives and to start the Crate Games.

    Reply

  49. Jenn says:
    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 12:40am

    That was so beautifully said. It’s hard to put into words how impactful taking your online classes, reading your posts & learning from this community you’ve built has been for me, but today I am grateful for what you share with us. Thank you!

    Reply

  50. Debra and Snap says:
    Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 11:41pm

    Thank you, Susan…
    I can’t think of better words than Thank You… for making a huge difference in my life with my Snap. I’ve never experienced so much joy in dog training until I signed up with Recallers 2… Thank you…

    Reply

    • Mary Cain says:
      Monday, September 9, 2013 at 5:49am

      Thanks so much have sharing “YOU” with US!! My journey with You has been and continue to like none other. The video was so inspirational. You are an incredible person… Keep doing what You do!!!

      Reply

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