If you are looking for help training your dog, you definitely want to read this article first! Dog training is an unregulated field. That means the government does not impose specific credentials on dog trainers the way it does on say, teachers and CPAs. That doesn’t mean there aren’t amazing dog trainers out there, because there are. Lots of them! I’d like to include myself on that list as well if it isn’t too much of a brag.
What it does mean, however, is that you have to be careful and do your due diligence when finding and hiring a dog trainer. There are three main dog training styles you will find trainers espousing which I will explain in a minute. Your first task is to choose the one that resonates most with you – and let me be clear that as far as I’m concerned there is only one methodology that is acceptable – then you pursue trainers who train that way.
In the interest of full disclosure, although I use and promote only one style of dog training, I have used all of the methods below. If you want to learn how that went (not great) and how I came to be a – spoiler alert – Positive Reinforcement dog trainer, read all about it in this blog post and on the About page.
Without further ado, here is the #1 Dog Training Method of Top Trainers plus the 2 You Should Never Use
TRADITIONAL DOG TRAINING
Traditional trainers are just what it sounds like. They are the trainers who think “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” These trainers tend to use force, think electronic shock collars, pinch collars and jerking leash corrections. They may also label dogs as “dominant” which is based on dominance theory developed in the 1970’s and since debunked. They tend to not use treats as rewards and focus instead on punishing failure. Yes, this description is biased. I’m not shy about saying that I do not recommend taking your dog to a traditional trainer. These methods tend to get quick results (you’d stop doing something too if you got shocked every time) but do not garner consistent long term results and can be physically and emotionally damaging to your dog.
POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT DOG TRAINING
Positive Reinforcement trainers use a completely pain and force free, science based philosophy of training that enables your dog to learn and gain confidence without fear or abuse. Positive Reinforcement trainers base their methods on the newest science into dog learning and behavior. They respect both the dog and the handler and promote strong bonds between you and your dog. Positive Reinforcement trainers combine environmental and behavioral techniques to give clients both immediate and long term results. Yes, I am a Positive Reinforcement trainer and love how smart and capable dogs are. I, like all Positive Reinforcement trainers, use treats, praise and toys as training rewards and encourage dogs to think and make choices. Positive Reinforcement training is the only method I use or recommend.
BALANCED DOG TRAINING
Balanced trainers claim to use a combination of traditional and positive reinforcement methods. The problem with this is, as any positive reinforcement trainer will tell you, if at any point you use aversive methods in training, you are absolutely not a positive reinforcement trainer. It’s like being just a little bit pregnant. It can’t be done! Balanced trainers will tend to get mixed results because they are using such mixed signals during training sessions. I do not recommend using a so-called balanced trainer.
I’m hoping that you agree with me that Positive Reinforcement training is the only option for you!
Want more tips & treats on dog training? Check this out!
I was wondering, can you recommend a personal dog trainer that uses only positive methods in a specific geographic area? We live in the Orlando, FL area.
Hi Gwen. You can search for positive dog trainers in your area on http://positively.com which is Victoria Stilwell’s website and where I got certified. Many trainers these days (including me) are also offering “virtual” dog training online through videoconferencing which is another option for you.