Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
I highly recommend browsing through the questions below to get to know me and my style of training. I try to be as transparent and authentic as possible so that you'll know exactly what to expect from me!
What is balanced training?
Balanced training is a dog training approach that utilizes both “yes” and “no” to teach and shape a dog’s behavior.
“Yes” = Rewards. Rewards are an important part of dog training because these encourage the dog to repeat a behavior. For example, if we’re trying to teach a dog the place command, we’ll reward the dog each time he gets on the place cot. Rewards can be praise, food, affection, play, etc. and the reward we select for any given exercise depends on the context and the dog. For example, not every dog will take food during training so in that case we’d move to verbal praise or even affection depending on how the dog responds.
“No” = Consequences. Consequences are used to teach a dog what NOT to do—an equally important part of the training equation! When a dog does a behavior we do not want him to repeat (jumping on people, lunging at other dogs, etc.) we use an appropriate consequence to discourage the dog from repeating this behavior. Consequences can be a verbal “no,” a collar correction, bonker, pet convincer (compressed air), etc. and should be fair and appropriate for that specific dog in that situation. It’s also extremely important to note that all consequences are emotionally neutral, meaning there should be no anger, frustration, yelling or intimidation coming from the human end of the leash.
The use of both rewards and consequences is called a balanced approach. Not every dog trainer follows this approach. Some trainers refuse to use consequences altogether, opting instead to reward good behavior and ignore bad behavior. This sounds great from our human perspective, but unfortunately it’s very unclear for the dog. The rewards will help the dog learn and repeat desired behaviors, but it is unreasonable to expect the dog to figure out that you do NOT want him to do those other behaviors just because you don’t reward them. Ignoring bad behavior leaves the door wide open for the dog to repeat it, especially if the behavior is self-satisfying—and most are, or the dog wouldn’t be doing them in the first place! (Example: It feels darn good to explode at the window every time something moves outside.)
I choose to be a balanced trainer because I have seen the dramatic improvement in a dog’s behavior, demeanor and state of mind after giving him clear and consistent information on ALL of his behavior choices, the good and the bad—rewards and consequences. I have seen this approach dramatically improve the relationship and quality of life for dog and owner! I firmly believe that a balanced approach rooted in patience and clear communication is the fairest way to train a dog and I am passionate about sharing these skills with my clients!
What kinds of training tools do you use?
I have a number of tools in my toolbox, such as food, praise, body language, prong collars, remote collars, slip leads, leashes (the leash is probably the most underestimated tool in dog training!), place cots, crates, bonkers, pet convincers (compressed air), toys, play, and more. All of my tools are used inside of a fair, patient approach anchored in clear and consistent communication.
Why do you use prong collars and e-collars? Aren't they mean?!
I'm glad you asked because there is so much misinformation out there about these tools! First thing's first: they're not intended to be painful! They can certainly be uncomfortable, but that makes sense. Dogs are smart—they won't do things that are uncomfortable! But I don't want to present the prong and remote collars as if they're only used to discourage bad behavior because that's simply not true. In fact, the majority of the time they're used as communication tools, and communication is done in a surprisingly gentle manner. These tools empower dog owners to communicate with their beloved dogs with more clarity and a better response than they ever thought possible.
Keep this in mind: a tool is only as good as the way you use it. I'm sure there are some people out there doing awful things with training collars, but that's not the norm and that's certainly not me! It won't be you either. ;) My job is to make sure you know exactly how to use these tools safely and effectively.
Check out my blog post on how I came to embrace the e-collar if you’re curious about that part of my journey!
Is this fear-based training?
Not at all! Some dog professionals argue that we should aim to communicate just like dogs, and therefore we should forego rewards (food, praise, affection, or play). After all, dogs don’t go around rewarding each other. True, but I prefer to look at it this way: If we have the ability to think through our training approach and help encourage a behavior by rewarding it, why wouldn’t we? I believe positive reinforcement is a valuable part of shaping a dog’s behavior and you’ll find it throughout my training approach. In fact, I spend far more time saying “yes” than saying “no.”