Recognizing & Choosing a Positive Trainer

Caveat Emptor - Separating Truth from Market "Spin"

Lots of dog trainers advertise using words like "all-positive" putting a positive spin on their information. But many trainers are positively not positive. Because many trainers use the "right" words in their marketing and promotional information, it can be difficult for a dog owner to tell whether or not a trainer truly uses a positive approach.

Is there a way for the consumer to tell when a dog trainer is positively not positive? Yes. By understanding what's going on and why. Here's some information to help you distinguish the positive from the not-so.

The opposite of a positive trainer is a correction-based trainer. Here are some of the distinguishing characteristics of a correction-based trainer:
 

  • A trainer who uses collar corrections (also called a "check" or "pop"). They may follow the correction with enthusiastic praise, play or even a food treat. Such a trainer may proudly proclaim their method is "Positive! We use praise or play or treats or all the above." But the bottom line is that collar corrections punish the dog, making theirs a punishment approach to training.
     
  • A trainer who uses a clicker for some training and collar corrections for others. Some trainers try to have it both ways - but the dog and the relationship suffer in the process. How's a dog to tell which person is at the end of the leash this time? Is it Dr. Jeckyl, who clicks and rewards the dog's enthusiasm, or Mr. Hyde - who pops the dog's neck if he puts a foot wrong?
     
  • A trainer who uses a collar check with a click. When asked what method they use, a trainer may say they use a clicker, food, praise, positive, or who knows what - while in the end, they're a correction-oriented trainer.
One simple question defines the issue. That is: "Do you use collar corrections?" A trainer who employs collar corrections is using a punishment-oriented training approach regardless of the purpose of the check or what reward follows it.

A savvy consumer can discern the truth by asking questions, and if possible observing a class or training session. It all boils down to the collar. Regardless of whether or not a trainer uses enthusiastic praise, play, treats, a clicker or any other "nice" procedures, if they teach with collar corrections, they are positively not a positive trainer.