Posted by: Linda Trunell | October 20, 2013

The “What the hell?” Training Method

Some trainers claim to use positive reinforcement because they praise the dog when he does the right thing after they have used aversive tactics (negative reinforcement).  This is sometimes called “balanced training”.  If a dog is experiencing force, fear or pain and then praise, I don’t think it is balanced but more like “What the hell?” training.  Would you like to go to work not knowing whether you would be getting paid with cash or slaps?  How comfortable and willing to do your job would you be?  Do you think you would want to go to work every day and do your best?  How would you feel about your boss?

There’s a saying among dog trainers that the only thing two trainers can agree on is what the third trainer is doing is wrong.  There are a lot of people who claim their training methods are the best way to get the fastest results.  They may offer the instant fix of a signal (shock) from an e-collar or a squeeze (pinch) from a prong collar.  If you are reading this blog, you know that I believe in positive reinforcement and force-free methods which will result in a working relationship between guardian and dog that is based on trust and not on fear.  That is the relationship I have with Max and I think it is what most people really want but many don’t know how to create.

Positive reinforcement methods have actually been proven to be the best way to build a good relationship, often are faster than aversive training methods, and have longer lasting results! See recent study  and  study, published in 2009

flickr photo by Krispy Krumb

I think that consistency is critical in building any relationship based on trust and consistency is necessary when teaching a dog the behaviors you want.  If the rules are not always the same, a dog will always test them.  Believe me, I understand there may be times when we are feeling a little frustrated with how our training is going and it may be tempting to resort to a “quick fix” but those are the times we need to stop and think about what we should be doing differently.  Ask yourself if you are being consistent in your cues and how you are responding to your dog.  Ask if you are expecting your dog to know something that they really haven’t learned yet.  Ask if there are too many distractions for your dog at this level – maybe you need to step back and build up a stronger foundation.

Like most worthwhile goals we desire to achieve, teaching your dog takes time, effort and knowledge but achieving that working relationship built on trust is worth it all.  There is no relationship like the one you have with a dog who is loyal, loving and feels safe with you.

Here’s to being our dog’s best friend,



  1. I agree with you positive training is the way to go, though I don’t like the word reinforcement. It took me two months to persuade Ellie that swimming was fun, through fun, games and patience. Now I can’t keep her out of water.


    • Haha – Using fun, games and patience is a great way to teach a behavior. You definitely used positive reinforcement so well that swimming is something Ellie wants to repeat. 🙂


  2. Love the analogy about going to work and not knowing if you’re going to be paid in cash or slaps. We’ve used positive reinforcement with our dog, and it’s worked well. You’re right – it does take time and patience, but I can’t even imagine using pinches, shocks or smacks! It’s heartbreaking to me to even consider inflicting these things on my little four-legged love, and I’m pretty sure he’d be confused and devastated if we did.


    • Thanks, Amanda. Little Wrigley is fortunate to have such a good home. Max has a few pounds on me but even so, I would never consider using a shock or prong collar. 🙂


  3. I agree with you that consistency is very important. How can a dog, or any other animal, learn if the rules change? The time spent in training pays dividends because everything is so much easier with a firm base of trust.


    • Yes it is, Clowie. I’m sure that you have a wonderful relationship with your family! 🙂



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