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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
(Fair warning, if you are anti correction in training... this won't be for you. For those exploring types of training, I just want to get the word out on this. It's happened too often in my world lately & I want to say my peace).

I've been struggling with whether or not to post this but decided to in the event others are trying to find a trainer. A few weeks ago I worked (on line) with 2 ladies who took young working dogs to training. Neither one knows each other, they are in different parts of the country & they did not go to the same trainer. I also have gotten emails from clients back home. Their dogs have passed away or they are adding a new dog & are looking for a trainer. I'm too far away so they go interviewing trainers & are seeing a lot of abuse. The ONE phrase is in common "balanced trainer" or "balanced training".

Here's the thing, if you do balanced that does not mean jerking dogs around with prong collars & acting like a caveman hopped up on alpha jerk juice! I have had to wait to write this so that I cooled off because I was ready to hang someone by their toes. The one dog mentioned above was so physically damaged that the vet found him to have severe trauma/damage to his neck & back (tissue) & to his actual spine. This indicates that the idiot was not only using abusive power to correct this dog on his first day in class but was also using an upward jerk which is a HUGE no-no with prongs & truthfully it's how so many dogs get neck/spinal injuries from choker collars. The collar needs to be given in a horizontal manner, not upwards. There is only 1 time you use upward power on a dog & that is in what I call a showdown moment where you are preventing serious harm to another person or dog by the dog you're handling. It has to be executed with skill & you have to be able to read when the dog has come out of his war-zone haze & is once against capable of thinking instead of reacting. The person handling a dog through this has to do so without anger or emotions. And it should be really rare. Like mostly I only had to deal with this in dogs that were violent, vicious, &/or extremely fearful.

So here's the thing. The term "balanced training" or "balanced trainer" sounds like it should be an equal of praise & correction, not one more than the other but that is a horrible outcome for the dog. To begin with when done properly the corrections should be only a small part. Positive reinforcement should be a huge chunk of the pie with corrections being a small part. You exaggerate to teach... then you refine as puppy learns. And the GOAL is to reach a point with puppy that a verbal correction would be all that's needed & even then rare. That's the goal. I do not want to be correcting a 10 year old dog. So even the term balanced is wrong... it's not a balance. So let me lay this out for someone who is looking for a trainer.

When I get your puppy & I'm going to teach him to sit. Just as "sit" must be taught, the puppy also must LEARN what praise is, & what correction is. So I have your 8 week old puppy & you're watching me train a sit. I will exaggerate the word in a command tone: S....I...T as I rub up from the chest up the throat as my other hand gently presses downward getting the sit. I keep my hand on the fluffy bum & say, again... exaggerated "GOOOOOOOD SIT". So we move. Puppy has no idea about stay yet. Happy... happy... bounce bounce.. I get puppy's attention & we go through this again, & again, & again until I start to do it & I say sit as puppy sits & then I praise "GOOOOOD SIT" & I love on the pup. I will repeat this until puppy begins to understand. So I have puppy on the leash & I'm going to add the physical correction BUT... I'm doing so in a unique way. I'm going to say sit... when puppy doesn't sit automatically this time I will hook my finger in the collar & create a little bump on his collar as I say the warning "pfui-it" (you may have your own correction warning word/phrase. Now this 'bump' is not fear inducing. It's a sensation that puppy hasn't felt. He's apt to try to bite my finger, thinking oh cool... a new game called bite your finger. I don't pay any attention to that & I repeat. The puppy is learning to associate whatever my warning phrase with that physical bump. PUPPY must learn to connect the dots to this thing we are teaching. You can't just go jerking that puppy around. ANYTHING that creates fear or pain in training puppy/dog will ruin all that you've accomplished before that time. You will also soon teach the dog that you're not trustworthy & not mentally stable enough to be trusted. Puppies can understand you making a mistake & will forgive but when you're intent is there behind your actions... you've wasted a lot of time. So puppy learns that this weird sensation comes with that 'pfui-it' thing & then we'll connect that with an actual leash/collar correction as he grows into it. And yes, I have had all commands imprinted on a pup in a very short period of time. For puppies out of a litter that I've had, by the time they are 8 weeks, they've heard all these commands & had them put to action but they've never been corrected other than hearing a word & it's tone.

And honestly I do not recommend most people attempt formal training so young because many don't have the patience or the hands for it. Takes very light hands to do this with a puppy so young. So lets see this same thing on a 6 month old pup. I shall use a Doberman pup for this example. At 6 months, the Dobie is ready to get with it in training. So I put him on my leash. He will wear a flat buckle collar (preferably a wide one) & a training collar (pinch). I will hook my leash to both loops on the pinch collar. I will go through the motions like I did with the 8 week old puppy. I will teach him the bump at the 'pfui-it'. Because he's old enough to be a little more accountable for his part in training, we'll move a little quicker but at the dog's pace. I do not exaggerate when I say most of the dogs (pup to adult) get heel, sit, sit-stay by Monday or Tuesday to the point that we'll begin using a true correction as needed. Sit-stays require a little more focus & the Dobie is learning this too. We are growing his focus. So we go through the down, down-stay, & recall using the first stage commands as his fall back to things he does well. If the pup is struggling to get a down... that's my fault not his. So going hard with a correction isn't going to make him want to down, he doesn't GET IT. So, I'll work with that pup until I find what he does understand. Some pups need you to point, some tap the ground in front of them. Some you can brush their feet with one of yours (which is why if you were at my place while I was training, you'll see me go barefoot so I don't go harder than I realize). Most of the time if you get that youngster up off the ground on an obstacle that is a little wobbly, they feel it wobble & WANT to lie down so you use that & when he's naturally inclined to down, you praise "GOOOOOOOOOOOD DOWN" & do nothing to draw him out of that position, quietly praising him then give a verbal release, "okay, let's go" or "heel". So he understands now it's okay to go. This is the first stage of training. You will have introduced the corrections but you're going very light here. Just enough that it's not fun or pleasant but nothing scary, nothing painful, certainly no jerking the dog around.

Next phase of training is when we start holding the dog accountable. We're going to stick with the Dobie, we've brought him this far in training. Dobie now understands when & how to execute all commands. He can heel, sit, sit-stay proficiently. He can down & recall great. But let's say he still working on the down/stay & as his handler/trainer we know this so we're working to improve that. But this pup KNOWS... I mean he KNOWS sit. That he can do in his sleep. So I tell him to sit. He's not in the mood. He doesn't sit when he sees a rabbit. This is not safe & not smart to allow this so here, Dobie is going to get an actual correction. I'm going to give the verbal warning "leave -it" (because there is a rabbit involved 'leave it' is the phrase I've used to teach him to leave whatever his focus on alone, except today I'm saying it a sharp tone (I do NOT use his name, he's the only dog on my leash & knows I'm talking to him) & as I give the verbal warning I'm going to bump the collar. But he just can't, he's so focused on the rabbit. The verbal meant nothing, the bump on the collar means nothing... RABBIT. So I'm going to say in a dark, sharp tone, "KNOCK IT OFF" & I'm going to give a pop on the lead & collar. There will be lots of slack between my correction hand & the collar. If at any point he corrects himself before I give the correction I will halt & praise, "GOOD sit". (My tone changes to a praise tone & I use the command in the praise). But Dobie doesn't. I'm going to give a good correction with instant release. If Dobie corrects, I praise "GOOD SIT" in my praise tone, if he doesn't I will go a little stronger in my correction as I give the "knock it off" in a dark correction tone. Because of the slack, a lot of energy is going to go down that leash & deliver in the collar so this will be startling to the pup. I am unmoved by his antics, if he comes into the sit I will praise "GOOD SIT" & pet him.


When done properly, you use the physical correction as a last resort but the dog knows you will go there. The GOAL is to get the dog to obey the command first ring... if he doesn't to only have to say 'leave it' or 'pfui-it'. (In the beginning you bump the collar to get the pup to learn that it's a warning/precursor of things to come if he doesn't fix himself). Like you're mother saying your name in THAT special tone she used. You want to get to the point you can't remember when you last physically corrected your dog. The dog is then trained.


At no time in all of this did I yell (I do not yell commands, I do not yell corrections unless it is with the purpose of putting the goosebumps on a handler or breaking a dog out of his mindset). It is very rare. Most people get irked at me because I speak quietly to the dog. Their hearing is keen. They do not need to be shouted at. But I carry myself with authority & most dogs know it & they recognize I won't be bullied or impressed by their attempts to bully. So they don't go there with me. I try my best to teach handlers how to do that. Yelling, not required. If I have to yell or get scary to 'show doggie who is da boss'... I'm not. I'm a mentally unstable idiot who shouldn't be around a dog until my mindset it right. At no time would I recommend abuse of a dog. In fact, don't come to my field & try it on your own dog... you won't like me. BALANCE is a bad way to describe what I do. I sort of do the whole, "dog, don't make me correct you" way. I do not make it a game as I would when training a horse. But I do give the dog a warning so that he can fix what's not right... if he chooses not to, then I will correct him but it must be taught.

These cavemen tactics where idiots beat up on dogs or jerk dogs around & damage them & call themselves "balanced trainers"... well they are not balanced. They are not trainers. They are not fit to pick up dog poop in my opinion. The dog is a very sensitive creature. They are capable of many things beyond what humans believe they can do. They do not need to be bullied into submission. In fact, have no desire to have a dog come under my direction in that manner. I am their leader when I train with them. With time we develop into a team where I trust that dog to do his job & he trusts me to lead & to take my direction. I know by the time we've worked together awhile if he goes off course to look for the why. Sometimes we need to brush up or train more, other times he's gone off for a reason & it's important (I had a dog who went off track & found an abused child once). Had I been angry with the dog, the child might have been lost but because he was trained to think, when he went off course, I knew to find out why. This is a balance between human & canine, not between correction vs praise. So to my way of thinking some idiots are using a term they don't really understand but they're using it to suck clients in so they can 'teach doggie who da boss'... doggie gets brutalized in the name of 'training'. It's not right. It's not accurate.

My clients back home would not put up with their dogs being handled like that. I did my job teaching them what to look for. When I train a dog, the owners have a lifetime of my help with that dog. So even though I've moved away, they still have my help. I'm thankful they've held trainers in their area to a high standard. The two ladies I worked with online were told by customers in the class that this abuse was normal? To just stand down & let the trainer handle it, it'll all be alright. Her dog being physically damaged, that behavior is normal??? It is not. Do not fall for allowing a caveman to get ahold of your dog. I have multiple decades of training under my belt & I've never needed to abuse a dog to train it. I've had a few I've had to crate & walk away & come up with a new strategy but that's no me, not the dog. The dog is my student & I have to adapt to be the teacher/trainer he needs & the teacher/trainer the handler needs to teach them.

okay, I've spoke my peace & I hope those who read this understand that I put it here to help you avoid being like the folks I've talked to over the last month. I welcome all questions & will clarify anything. I do not use food or toys in training & for a lot of reasons this will not appeal to many. That's okay. There are many ways to get the same thing done with a dog. I train with far too many dogs that can't be trained with food/toys, it's dangerous to their lives on the jobs they do. My clients & I have had a lot of fun together over the years but I do not wish to ever see anyone endure what these folks have when I could have spoken up to prevent it.
 

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dogsavvy thank you for your thoughtful and thorough post. I think we would like to work together as trainers. I also find that words can mask many bad methods. If I consider myself a "balanced" trainer I am offering that description of myself as meaning instruction can be done with positive techniques that are able to be reinforced with mild physical hints/reminders/corrections and should not involve severe physical force, yelling or raw emotion. If a dog I am working with I check in with myself as to whether I was clear in giving my signal/order and whether I have really taught the exercise and rehearsed it sufficiently in a way that it is reasonable to expect the dog to have generalized enough to have that activity under stimulus control. If not then we refresh the teaching. If yes then a reminder that an order was given rather than a request made is in order. That reminder is a punishment but it could be as simple as stopping a game of fetch if the dog doesn't return the fetch object. I also do use pinch collars but introduce them carefully and use them properly so they can be faded. The only tool I do not use for myself or with client dogs is an unlimited slip collar because green handlers are too easily tempted to hang their dog with them. Helicoptering or hanging a dog on a slip collar happens way too often and is probably the leading cause of the horrible damage you described.

People who consider themselves R+ only often don't look art themselves in the mirror too well either. One of the folks who comes to my novice class with a young green dog uses a clicker so indiscriminately when left to their own devices. I don't think it is an effective tool for the dog. There are so many clicks that it confuses other dogs and handlers complained so much that I now do not allow this handler to use it in class. This handler shapes everything they teach. Shaping can be a great method for teaching if you are willing to be patient about it, but not if you get mad and yell at the dog when you ask for too much improvement too fast. This handler is not so patient as good shaping requires. As a result the dog is more than happy to run out of the training ring and will also leave during rally trials (they are in advanced so off leash).

Anyway my time to refine my reply is limited since I have to get ready for my evening microbiology class meeting on Zoom. I hope I made sense here and contributed in a positive way to your great post
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Lilly cd rd,

Yes, we'd likely do fine together. You did make perfect sense. It's really been eating a me. I'd heard the term, didn't pay much attention to it because I got tired of figuring out fads & hot-topics of the moment long ago but this one, this one really bugs me. My clients back home have heard me say dozens of time, don't believe what say but to believe what the dogs say. They don't know how to lie... or color the truth. They're just open
 

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I often find myself telling novice handlers with green dogs that you cannot lie to a dog (not just yours, but any dog). A correlate to that is dogs never lie to each other or to their people. A growl has meaning (I am nervous about this situation and I am ready to defend myself). I had a client years ago who really thought she could hang onto her dog and pet him into being happy. Disaster in the making since the dog growled frequently and this just made the person hold the dog more tightly and often closer to her face. The people decided after just a couple of sessions they could handle all the problems of which what I described was just one of many. I wonder if she ended up being bitten on her face. The dog had already broken skin on her hands.

Dogs will also tell you when they are relaxed and happy. When Lily is relaxed she will happily turn her back on an excited or nervous (not deeply red zoned dog and i would never use her to train a really aggressive dog). She often can tell me more about a class or private client dog more easily than I might notice a subtle signal. She has done a lot to calm the bernedoodle I am working with. He started out as a really over excited reactor to the site of other dogs during walks. Lily gave him a couple of curled lips and some small low growls to warn him off and now he has turned into quite a nice gentleman. About half of each of our sessions is polite loose leash walks where we can either both walk one dog or easily trade dogs. Now if I can just get him to think recalls are important. Too much of his first year has been spent running around the client's roughly 2 acre property ignoring her pleas to come back in the house. She is elderly and has an artificial hip as a result of a fall and the dog weighs about 85 pounds. Too much freedom has made calling him pretty meaningless. I am going to play some games with him tomorrow and see if something like a flirt pole might get him moving towards me.
 

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I don't recommend any novice to use a choker or prong collar. I do know of trainers who don't even know how to use a choker (training collar) correctly. Anyway, your timing has to be real good and most non trainers correct too much, often too late, and use too little praise. They should stick with softer ways, such as clicker.

One of our local trainers does a wonderful job using a choker, but it's just too easy for a novice to mess up and to make things worse. There are several tricks to get your dog trained without even using a collar. You certainly cannot offer a "correction" when your dog is on the other side of the pasture splitting up the sheep or pressing them against the fence. Correction collars are actually new, relatively speaking, on the dog training scene.
 

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MG,

I teach a clicker training class. And I see students who click too much, often too late, and use to much praise. It's the timing, correction or click, that has meaning for the dog. One advantage clickers have over corrections is you can't really hurt a dog with ill-timed treats and too much praise. The opposite is true for some of the yank and crank students. As a trainer, I try to explain to my students they need to take photographs of the dog doing the right thing. The clearer the photograph, the more easy it is for the dog to learn. I don't care if that's a yes, a click, or a good dog. The timing is everything.

I do look at ill-timed leash pops as a problem. Often the handler is frustrated and doesn't know what to do to fix the problem. I've seen dogs over corrected for minor things. It's scary how some people will jerk a dog off their feet by their neck and think nothing of it. Poor timing makes for poor training, regardless if it is a correction or a reinforcement.
 

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I do look at ill-timed leash pops as a problem. Often the handler is frustrated and doesn't know what to do to fix the problem. I've seen dogs over corrected for minor things. It's scary how some people will jerk a dog off their feet by their neck and think nothing of it.
Someone should put a collar/leash around the human and jerk them around and see if they like it. Then move them around with a collar/leash on but using body language, cues, praise and luring with food. They may realize it’s a kinder more effective training for their dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
MG,

Yes, I have on more than one occasion wondered about the human/dog relationship. In some ways we have gotten improvement but in other ways we've gone the wrong direction. As recent as my Grandparents' day, a collar was used to protect a dog's neck from attack which meant that dog was quite valuable to the family. A rope was used if you needed to tie the dog up for some reason but on the farm the dog was trained on the job & he had a job. This was good for the dog, good for dog breeding because the dogs. Dogs understand jobs. In today's world training is the only job so many dogs have & that's a pity. I'm always trying to find something I can teach my dogs to give them more purpose. Not that their lives depend on it but to give them a job. I have had both kinds, the dogs who had jobs but were trained using leash/collar & I've had dogs who worked the farm & rarely, if ever, wore a collar/leash & honestly I prefer the leash-less but in modern society if you take a dog into the public, others do not play by the rules of mind your own business. I love dogs, enjoy looking at & observing them but would never go up to your dog & put my face in hers. In fact, I do not touch anyone's dog without the handler/owner's permission unless the dog is climbing me. Even my Mr. Layne's sire who was in my face was polite not to touch me. He was on his hind legs & he read me like a book. When he decided about me, he pivoted on his hind legs & sat beside me, leaning against me. I told him I would love to pet him but what does your Mom say? Before I could ask her she told me it was okay & then apologized for him. I told her there was no worries & nothing to apologize for. I was very pleased. It had been a long time since I had a conversation with a dog without a word spoken. Dogs are amazing creatures. My leash & collar when employed is 100% communication provided that I as the human use it that way. It's also why I had a time working with clients because far too many wanted a robot dog when training was finished. I do not train for robotic response. I train dogs to use their brains... more's the pity humans can't be taught as easily to use there :(

Click,

I would say you're right except I know too many who have indeed done harm to dogs with their treats. There is a local woman here with a lovely dog who weighs twice his normal body weight. She's not the only one I know, just simply the worst one. I have been offered a job to train her, work with her privately because they think I can get through to her. While I'm flattered these two trainers think I can get through the wall, I do not believe it's possible unless this woman decides she wants help. She has loved 3 dogs prematurely to their graves & the 4th dog her son dognapped & took home, getting him exercise & proper diet until the vet declared him healthy. Don't know how they'll work that out but I believe this woman is filling a void within herself & using the dog to do so. It's heartbreaking because she's not a mean woman, she loves them but she's taken click & treat training to an extreme that has become harmful to the dog & everyone around her wants to snatch the clicker away & do very bad things to it. IT's not about the clicker. She's been booted from stores over it (I left once because she gave me a headache). It's really sad & I feel for the lady.

Skylar,

You might think me barbaric but I have in fact done that very thing. I worked with k9 officers & there was one every now & again who thought my rules didn't apply to him. He did, after all, carry a gun & badge. Bless his little pea picking heart, my title outranked his badge on my field because if he didn't pass muster with me, he was in trouble on his job. I rarely pointed that out. But one guy had to pull a stunt when the big boss from D.C. was on sight. He came out & made a big hairy deal about the treatment of the canine that he witnessed. I think the man was ready to come after me but I already had the collar at the ready. The boss said, "what are you doing?" I responded, "he who gets rough with a dog on my field becomes my dog... I in turn will give him an opportunity to decide if he wants to be HIS dog, treated the way he's treating his dog... or if he wants to be my dog... treated they way I handle a dog." And they wear the prong on their upper thigh & while i am greatly capable of giving the kind of correction that makes them nearly wet their pants... They spend about 10 minutes being treated the way they treat their own dog... then they spend 20 being treated properly. I don't speak to them in english except a command that they should know. At the end of those 30 minutes we have a discussion with the entire group. Not fun for them. From there they are on probation & yes, I have ended handler's k9 days for their mistreatment of dogs & I lose no sleep over it. To hurt or make a dog fearful is to lose the dog... the men have a choice, the dogs have not.
 

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Overfeeding a dog is a big problem for sure. Anything taken to extremes is. What this woman is doing isn poorly timed clicker training. She’s noisemaking and feeding. Not the same thing at all! Ugh, now I am all upset.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I agree. She thinks she's doing as she's been taught & for her, she's training with love. I've heard many attempts to help her. I've even taken the clicker & shown her. It's also interesting that her dog is very well trained when I handle him but not for her. It's heartbreaking. One of the trainers tried my method of basically mirroring what she's doing but thus far... nada. She is amazed at how behaved he is with me.
 
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