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Expert Article

Positive vs Compulsive Training

Recently, I sat through several episodes of "The Greatest American Dog"; I feel compelled to voice my opinion on some matters. It became increasingly difficult to try to watch this series, namely due to a female who likes to dress up as a dominatrix and then ironically hurls personal insults at anyone not prescribing to her method of training. Upon doing some of my own research, I found her credentials to be questionable for someone professing to be the foremost authority.

This problem, or should I say 'debate' has been around for years. Usually this debate is referred to as Positive Reinforcement verses Compulsive Training. Many, though certainly not all, who call themselves Positive Method Trainers tell anyone willing to listen that any person prescribing to a Compulsive Training style is simply a medieval barbarian, who through heavy handed tactics get their dogs to perform tasks strictly out of fear of repercussion if they do not comply. This is where the debate actually starts to become a problem for me. Although, I am sure there are some that this may apply to, I am quite sure these numbers are relatively low.

I believe in correction for undesirable behaviors as well as positive reinforcement for good behavior. You see I am a compulsive style trainer and I love my dogs as much as anyone else, and although it may surprise you, I use positive reinforcement very often. However, it is in the form of well-timed verbal praise, a loving touch or play, not a treat. Which by the way is the way dogs most often communicate with each other. Novel idea, communicate with the dog in a way they most easily understand, eliminating confusion and mental cruelty.

That being said, in simpler terms, inappropriate behavior equals consequence the first time, eliminating confusion on what the appropriate behavior is. Appropriate behavior equals something pleasurable. If this sounds simple, IT IS; and that's the way our dogs like it.

Although, some may label what I am doing as medieval, it has been working for me for quite some time and my dogs love me more than ever for it. Regardless of what training philosophy you choose to subscribe to, the name calling needs to stop because we all do it for the same cause: We love our dogs. So you decide what is best for you and I'll do what is best for my dog.

Here's an afterthought. Many of the hundreds of people who have come to me with their dogs and subscribe to this method as well will tell you that the relationship they have with their dog is not fear based, in fact it is quite the contrary.

Todd R. Thurber
Owner of CSSP and Professional Dog Trainer

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