First I will start out this post by saying I am a balanced trainer. Balanced training takes the best of the other two types of training (positive and traditional) and combines them. Balanced trainers use food, balanced trainers use praise, they also use pressure. Lets look into the other 2 styles first and then we will revisit Balanced training.
Pure positive training has become very popular since around the year 2000. Pure positive trainers use no physical corrections or pressure, they would never even consider using an e collar or prong collar. Instead they use punishment methods like a “time out” or taking something away from the dog or most of the time they ignore bad behavior. I believe that if this actually worked every trainer who loves dogs would want to train this way.. the key to that statement was “if it actually worked”. Lets look at this scenario; lets say your dog is loose in a field and a deer starts running across the field at that same moment, you have built your “come” cue by using food. Food to your average dog has a high value but we all know in certain moments there are things more valuable to our dogs than food. Okay so lets give food a value of 7 and the deer has a value of 10, Do you really think you can reliably call this dog back? The deer for lack of a better word is just more valuable in the moment and more exciting than the possibility of getting food if your dog responds. Secondly if the deer is more valuable than the food, how will taking food away punish this dog?
What pure positive training lacks is reliability, however, I do believe most behaviors should be taught this way first as pure positive is great for getting the initial idea across to the dog. The opposite of pure positive training is called Traditional training. Traditional training is based off negative reinforcement which is removing something the dog finds unpleasant. for example if a traditional trainer were to teach sit they would put pressure on the dogs leash upwards tightening the prong collar and guide the dogs butt towards the floor, as soon as the dogs butt touches the floor they remove all the pressure from the collar. the dog learns sitting turns off the unpleasant tightening of the prong collar. Okay, so in the scenario with the deer, traditional training using an e collar would work better than pure positive training; the reason for this is you can make your punishment more valuable than chasing the deer. Modern e collars have 100 levels that you can change to in split seconds to be able to call you dog back to you. So lets say the value of the deer is 10, but now your dogs want to avoid stimulation from the collar is a 12, you have won this battle of will in your dogs mind.
Traditional training in my opinion is rougher than necessary in the initial stages of training and is already aversive to the dog before the dog knows what is expected of it. When you think about it as far as learning something new, it comes off as unfair. Picture you just started a new job and you are constantly being yelled at until you do something right. Picture being corrected when you make mistakes but you are unaware what is right and what is wrong. Now that being said some dogs are not very food motivated and traditional training done as gently as possible can be good in this situation. I’ve noticed when I’ve used traditional training, overall, dogs are less enthusiastic about training.
So overall the pros for positive training are: its great for teaching new behaviors and dogs are more enthusiastic about training. The cons to positive training are: it’s not very reliable especially in situations when you need training to be. The pros for traditional training are: great reliability, dogs are more respectful and attentive to you when there are rules. The cons to traditional training are: its too rough in the initial stages of training, dogs can show less enthusiasm towards training.
Balanced training takes the best of both worlds, the initial stages are taught using food and praise then rounded out by adding pressure and consequences later on in the training process. Dogs trained this way not only enjoy training but are also incredibly reliable. They have a greater understanding of what they are doing as they have been trained full spectrum
I hope this makes sense and helps you see the value of balanced training and understand the other methods out there as well.
For more information contact: Wagging Rights Dog Training at 847-682-2116