Buyer Beware

Here is a thing that’s important to me: living a lifestyle of positive reinforcement.   I think I stole that phrasing from Kathy Sdao, but it really resonates with me; a lifestyle of positive reinforcement.  It’s not just that I am a positive reinforcement trainer, it’s not that I’m exclusively positive, it’s that I am trying to live a lifestyle of positive reinforcement.

“Pure positive” or “exclusively positive reinforcement” doesn’t exist.  With dogs and in life.  Here is my commitment though: as much as possible, I live a lifestyle of positive reinforcement.

That means I try to view the glass as half full.  That means that I am as ethical and humane as possible.  That means that I follow LIMA and the Humane Hierarchy in my work.  That means that I try to treat the people in my life well, and let them know when I appreciate them.

This works well for me in my personal life.  It helps me stay stable and positive and happy, in general and as a person who suffers with mental illness.

In my working life with dogs?  It’s just science.  It isn’t opinion, it’s fact.

In dog training, the most modern, proven science has proven that force free, positive reinforcement based training is the most effective.

As an animal lover and activist, it is also the most ethical.  I don’t want to hit dogs or choke them or intimidate them.  Even if it was effective, it isn’t how I choose to interact with other creatures.


I'm so happy I can hurt my dog at a distance!
I’m so happy I can hurt my dog at a distance!

A problem:

Dog training is an unregulated industry.  Anyone can say they are a dog trainer, so they are.

A problem:

Thanks to popular media and scientific misconceptions, physical and emotional intimidation of dogs is viewed as a valid form of training, without concern for the behavioural fallout or ethics.

A problem:

Due to the massive amount of information on the internet, it is impossible for the average pet owner to pick and choose which sources are correct and which aren’t.

You can even a shock collar on a baby puppy!
You can even use a shock collar on a baby puppy!

A reality:

Most pet owners don’t want to hurt their pets.  They want to do what is best for them.  As far as I know, people get animals because they love them, not because they are evil.  People do the best they know, when they know.  When they know better, they do better.

A reality:

Well meaning, loving, responsible dog owners get help when they need it.

A reality:

Not all dog trainers are created equal.


This is what kills me:

It isn’t the dog owners using prong collars, or ecollars, or choke chains.  It isn’t the dog owners yelling at their dogs or pinning them or alpha rolling them.  It isn’t my clients who tell me that their dog is a good dog, just “dominant”.

It’s the “dog trainers” who teach them these things.  It’s the “dog trainers” whose only qualifications are that they are good with dogs.  It’s the “dog trainers” who talk about “balance” and “real world training” instead of science.  It’s the “dog trainers” who get away with convincing loving, responsible, well meaning dog owners to hurt, intimidate, or abuse their pets.  It’s the “dog trainers” who are so busy feeling arrogant or being right that they can’t get an education.

This industry is buyer beware.  It’s too bad, but it’s true.

Looking for a trainer?  Do your research.  Buyer, beware.

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