"I love my dog, spend as much time with him as I can, take him to the dog park regularly, but I can’t get him to listen to me and obey."
It would be ideal if only love and attention were required to produce obedient and well-adjusted dogs. But a healthy relationship with a dog takes respect – from both sides. Respect can be achieved with basic adjustments in attitude and training approach, and without losing any of the love and the play. In fact, the bond deepens when there is respect. (As for dog parks, let's discuss that separately!)
Do you train with food?
Yes. Food is an excellent motivator and reward. When and how much always depends on the dog. We don’t want to develop a reliance on food. I combine it with other reinforcers, like touch and voice.
"Corrections are cruel and unnecessary. I want my dog trained with positive reinforcement only. Why shouldn’t I use a “positive-only” trainer?”
There are many fine trainers around, and many sound variations of training.
Balanced training teaches through motivation and reward -- i.e., positive reinforcement. Our goal is always to inspire the dog. But there is no "positive only" state of existence in nature, for animals or humans. Dogs need training that reflects reality. Dogs, like us, deserve the chance to learn from their choices, to experience the benefits of contrast -- yes and no, right and wrong, rewards and corrections... the whole yin and yang of life. Dogs appreciate this contrast, clarity and leadership. Only then does training become a growth experience for them. As problem-solvers dedicated to dogs, not to an ideology, balanced trainers are open to multiple techniques and strategies designed for real world challenges and stresses your dog may face, and to help lead some dogs out of the dark corners of bad habits and maladaptive behaviors in which they're trapped. These days too many dogs are given up as hopeless and euthanized simply because they've failed a rigid "only" model; they've been denied the basic respect of full and honest communication.
Balanced training is basically "positive plus" training -- positive reinforcement PLUS fair corrections when necessary.
Do you train with me, or do you take my dog to train yourself?
Either option is possible. Once we discuss your dog and your goals I'll be in a better position to make a recommendation. In either case, working with you is always part of the program.
I love my dog's free spirit. I'm concerned that training might break this spirit or turn him into a "robot dog."
That won't happen. A dog’s spirit is not broken by rules, commands and obedience. In fact, balanced training can liberate a dog from unhealthy patterns that may appear to be “spiritedness” but in fact are often excited or frustrated states. By learning rules – the Yes as well as the No -- a dog becomes happier and more secure in his role and in his life with you. And you can feel confident about taking it more places and more fully enjoying your companionship.
Marker training, verbal praise and touch, food rewards and training with e-collars (electronic collars) are all good and time-tested training options.
Balanced training bases its choice among the multi-lateral techniques on the individual dog.
The goal in every case is to develop a happy and well-rounded companion reliably educated to make good decisions in the real world.
I explain and demonstrate the purpose, safety, limits and objectives of every tool and strategy. Final approval is always yours.
Rip at 16, with his dogs Eli, Frau and Vora