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Why do I train the way I do

Whenever I’m thinking about why I train in an ethical and positive way I often think back to my previous jobs and the managers I had at the time. I’ve had managers who told me off every time I did something wrong and never praised me for doing something right, and then I’ve been lucky enough to have mostly managers who praised me when I did something right and showed me a better way when I did something wrong. These were the managers who had empathy and understanding for their employees, who recognised hard work and rewarded it and who put time into training when we didn’t know the right way to do something. I don’t think of our dogs as employees rather as members of my family, however we are in a similar position whereby we are required to teach them how to co-exist with us. I want my dog to see me in the same way I saw those positive managers, kind, compassionate and someone who will help them if they’re struggling. Not someone to be feared if I make a mistake, who may shout at me when I didn’t even realise I was making a mistake.

Positive punishment (adding fear or pain to stop a behaviour) and negative reinforcement (removing fear or pain once a desired behaviour is offered) are two parts of the learning theory quadrant I do not use when training. Why? Because they rely on causing pain or fear to get the dog to comply. When using these methods there is no consideration for the dogs welfare, how they feel about a situation or why they may be offering certain behaviours. Often dogs are displaying unwanted behaviours because they are worried, confused or in pain. How awful to think that when our dogs are feeling this way we subject them to force to get them to behave how we see fit rather than trying to understand why they feel that way and helping them to cope.

 Below is a list of tools that rely on either positive punishment or negative reinforcement to work:

·        Prong collars

·        Shock/Vibrate collars

·        Pet corrector prays

·        Stones in a can

·        Choke chains

·        Hanging collars

·        Spray collars

·        Cloth or mesh muzzles

·        Training discs

·        Olfactory repellent substances

I will never give advice that causes harm (either physically or mentally), distress, damage or injury. I remain up to date with the latest science led training methods. I am always honest and open with guardians about their expectations for their dog and if I come across a case where I think I will be unable to help the dog and guardian I will refer on to a trainer more qualified in that area, not go to extreme lengths to force that dog to be “fixed”. Being an ethical trainer isn’t about taking on every single case and “fixing” those dogs. It’s about recognising where your skills can be used and where a fellow trainer may be more suitable.

To summarise – The priority for any training session is a HAPPY dog!

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