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 amongst 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!
In fact, it’s a debated topic that I see come up often. And it 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 either. 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.
Today I am grateful for everyone in my life.
Great advice try to treat my pup like I’d treat others with compassion & kindness.
This was so beautiful. I love positive training.
What a beautiful, beautiful post and so true. I love your philosophy, your attitude and your training methods. You, you are one of those people that makes the world a better place, whilst also helping so many of us train our dogs effectively in a beautiful, kind and positive way. Thank you so much <3
You are an inspiration to all of us. I love you philosophy of dog training and life. As the owner of a reactive dog I have many days when I think I’m never going to be able to make life good for my dog. But then I play one of your games and realize that although he is still reactive he has come a long way. I just have to be patient and keep working to make life better for him and thus happier for us both. Thank you for your uplifting blogs and podcasts.
I love that you share your ideas and thoughts so openly with the world. You speak about your reality and how you are affected by what you see and do. This is a rarity in our world today, but it makes you so much more real to those of us who only know you online. You so clearly explain how and why you train dogs the way that you do, far above the average trainer whether online or in person. This makes it so much easier for everyone to be able to duplicate your successes with our own dogs.
Susan, you are a real gem in a world full of polished stones.
I love hearing your thoughts…. Training & training my dogs is a never ending joy, no matter how small the game, the wins are huge. I love that we are always learning, always being taught! & always teaching- it keeps me young! 😂. I am inspired everyday & hopefully / maybe I can be a teeny weeny bit inspiring! 🥳🥳
I totally agree with your ideas on training dogs. I’ve had a dog who didn’t want to play with me in a dog sport, and I’ve put him aside, and moved on to others that have been a joy. I’ve always felt my relationship was more important than the competition and ribbons, and it hasn’t kept me from being successful with most of my dogs. I’ve only had two that lost interest over time, and I didn’t feel it right to push them to do something they disliked. I totally understand where you’re coming from when you speak of people that gravitate to one trainer, and believe it’s the only way. I’ve taken lots of workshops with different trainers and then used the pieces that seem to work. Even though we should be doing what works with our dog, there are other dog owners or instructors that will tell you not to do something that works for you and your dog. Over time, you learn how to deal with that, but it’s very hard on new people.
I love your “butterfly garden”. Thanks for everything you teach me!
I came to the world of dog training knowing nothing. So I bought with tenacity what I was told and taught. It worked for 2 of my dogs, even though their personalities were different. So I never questioned it. Then came my new puppy. 2 years ago. i called her my “do-over” dog because I wanted to do everything better than I had before. To my surprise, the methods I was so convinced of were not working. I was frustrated, which forced me to ask questions & explore. This led me to your sites. I have learned sooo much these last 2 years. We are far from where I want to be, but I no longer feel hopeless in my expectations for her. While my older girl is very well trained & has earned ribbons, she depends on me for to make decisions. Miss “do-over” never hesitates to offer behaviors to be successful. And I am learning to help her be successful. It’s so fun to watch her think & try. Thank you for what you do!
Susan you are such an inspiration to me! I am behind in my games in Recallers, but my dogs love the games and WANT me to play with them daily. I believe in your dog training methods! My dogs have so much fun and so do I! Thank you for all you do! 🌺🌹
Amazing write-up Susan! However, there are several ways to train your dog such as you can teach them how to high five for a change or making him dance, water fetch, headstand and so more. It’s all by knowing what works for you as well as your dog.
Dear Susan, Thank you so much for that video. I have been in a slump with dog training for over a year. I just haven’t had the energy or the motivation. And it has showed in trials. The last few trials in the fall my dog was much more interested in all the other dogs, and everyone else than in playing agility with me. And my confidence and motivation plummeted even deeper. I tried to pull myself up by signing on to puppy peaks in september, but have barely visited the site. Now I signed up for the handling course. This video though – it is so inspiring. I hope I will be able to let my core values reflect in my dog training in the future. And that I will rediscover the confidence, the motivation, the energy, in short the joy. Thank you so much Susan!
I came to this post from browsing your blog and from your more recent bad-dog obedience interview. Thanks for such a great resource! In terms of high drive dogs in field sports, I have a personal interest as the owner of a fairly high drive pointer. I definitely am having to spend a lot of time thinking about proofing among other things. If you ever find sufficient interest in an e-course focused on steadying a pointer to WSF using only +R to warrant the effort for the course, I’d be very interested. (I know it’s out of your normal focus.) ATB and thanks again for the blog!
I teach my dogs with positive reinforcement and I wouldn’t do it any other way! It makes me happy to see them happy. I am so pleased with +R (and a bit of -P) that I made a blog about it.
This is an inspiring post about keeping yourself on goal and out of negativity and useless worries. Life really is too short, thank you.
Basic training concepts, reward them when they do something right and take away something they enjoy when they do something wrong. These may be your attention, food, toys or letting them outside to play.
Great post Susan, as there are indeed so many ways to train a dog and who are we to argue which is more correct than the other…
Bottom line is, people keep dogs for different reasons and that will shape how they see their dogs and how they intend to train.
I personally believe in positive reinforcement:)
Thanks for the wonderful suggestions and I agree to the ideas you have mentioned. Your dog must obey and love you, just as you love them. Obedience is one the most valued training objectives.
Had to come back today and re-read this blog because I was sorely tempted to run around and try to catch some butterflies… Instead, I resisted and have been inspired even more by the situation, to build my garden. 🙂
How lucky we are to have you Susan! It’s so nice to have someone in a leadership position not only give us a solid foundation to inspire us but also handle those who don’t see eye to eye with kindness and compassion. There is not enough example of this in the field of animal training and we are in desperate need of it no matter what you believe about how it should be done. I’m sure there are other disciplines that struggle with this but civility and tolerance is a cornerstone to happiness and the quicker we realize this the happier our lives will be. Thank you for leading the pack, and being a pioneer in our field.
I love your comments on being surrounded by like-minded people. That is such an important part of my life, and it’s so nice to know when other people ‘get’ what that means.
You are an inspiration.
Thank you. (:
Luv the butterfly in the garden analogy and that this video is written – great presentation.
Your dog happy, you happy 🙂
I am always inspired by you Susan, thanks for all you do!
Please learn about balanced training and/or training with an ecollar before making negative statements about both.
Kathy I didn’t think I made any negative comments about any methodology of dog training. That was my point of this post . . .
I love your ideas, and i just love how you express yourself, i´m not a huge fan of agillity, im more onto bitting sports, But that doesnt stop me from thinking that i love your techniques and try to apply them on my own training. It is frustrating but i wont give up.
I would really love to take any of your semminars but i do not have the economy to do so…. i live on mexico and as a student i do not have a lot of fluency. I do have ruff love, crate games and shaping success.But i want more…. maybe next year i can get on 5 min formula, today im gratefull that you upload this video because i was really lost with my tought, with my dogs and with me in general. Thanks Susan for inspiring not only agility trainers or fans but to open a new world for other dog sports. 😀
Thanks for writing Mila, I am so happy you are getting value from my blog. I have some free online teaching happening next week I know will be of benefit for you!
I am privileged to be a part of the Do Land community – through my association, I’ve learned that small changes can have a huge impact on both mine and my dogs’ lives!! Our garden is blooming 🙂
Sometimes when you really need to get a message – it comes into your mailbox. Thank you for that.
I think my association with you through PP and Recallers has caused a huge change in MY OWN “reactiveness”!
Thanks I needed that!
Thanks for the reminder, Susan. I’ll be tending to the butterfly garden with more nurturing and focus, instead of waving that darned net around. Cheers!