Balanced Dog Training
What is Balanced Dog Training?
Simply put, Balanced Dog Training is an approach to dog training or dog behavior modification that includes both reward-based techniques and aversive consequences.
With balanced training, the trainer shows the dog that their choices and behaviors can result in either pleasant or unpleasant results. To fully understand modern balanced dog training, we need to understand the history of dog training.
Many decades ago, dog training was done much differently than today. In the past, dog training methods involved using force to teach a dog commands. In those days, the dog's motivation to listen was only to avoid a great deal of discomfort and stress.
This approach was a problem as a force was administered before the dog understood what was being asked of them. The onus was on the dog to figure out what response was desired by the trainer while undergoing the stress. A significant amount of undesirable side effects followed, not to mention the moral and ethical issues.
In the 80s, dog training took a significant turn when trainers began borrowing from exotic and marine mammal training fields, where force is impossible. Instead, they used reward-based techniques that shaped and captured desirable behaviors, reinforcing them, which increased the probability of success.
Around that time, books were published promoting these kinder techniques and denouncing the "old school" use of force. It didn't take long before a long-standing movement began. Now all trainers were determined to only train dogs through reward.
The dog training community was excited. After all, no one enjoys punishing dogs. Therefore, not having to use punishment again was very appealing. Dog owners and trainers knew they could accomplish a lot more with rewards. However, dog trainers realized that this idealized version of dog training didn't do well in reality. This is especially true when dealing with problem behaviors, maintaining consistency when rewards we're not present and maintaining reliability outside of class. In the real world, there are lots of distractions that compete for a dog's attention.
Dog training has evolved over the last 15 years, and a moderate approach was found. Many trainers understand the limitations of reward-only training and create a balance between that and aversive pressure. It was understood to avoid negative effects and maintain respect and consideration for a dog's emotional well-being, they needed to be thoughtful of how aversive pressure was used. Through years of practice, experience and significant advancement in behavioral science and psychology, a modern approach to dog training was born that is both compassionate and reliable. Today we call this modern approach Balanced Training.
We always start a dog's learning using rewards. Dogs embrace new behaviors from goal-driven knowledge that is enjoyable and effective. From this perspective, the dog can gain an understanding of the required behaviour without any concern for error. When more reliability is needed, the dog trainer can then introduce less pleasant consequences into the training carefully and thoughtfully, ensuring that crude techniques of the past are avoided.
Before a tool such as training collar is used to "correct" a dog for the behavior we don't want, we must ensure the dog has an opportunity to learn the training exercise. This concept has proved to be a significant realization and advancement. In doing so, we teach the dog that "pressure" is something they can control or avoid through their behavior. We use a leash and training collar as tools in these exercises.
Through this exercise, the dog will learn all the situations where pressure could be given and the behaviors they can choose to get rid of that pressure. It's essential to mention that we are talking about low-intensity pressure or quick sudden movements, so the dog can learn without stress or anxiety. In all training, the key is consistency and repetition. After some time, the dog starts to view the pressure from the leash as valuable information that can help them navigate the exercise and earn rewards and lots of praise.
Once this is successful, the tool can be used as necessary in encouraging and motivating ways. For example, helping the dog make the behaviour choices we want or correcting them for any disobedience. The great news is that this philosophy reduces any need for punishment and helps ensure that if discipline is required, the dog understands why and how it happened and how to ensure that particular behaviour is avoided.
It may sound quite technical, and honestly, it is! This is why most pet owners hire highly trained and specialized dog behaviourists to navigate the complexity, consistency and repetition required for incredible success. Whenever the idea of punishment is considered, it must be done thoughtfully and safely, so working with a qualified dog behaviourist is always recommended.
Although many variations of dog training still exist, Balanced Dog Training is the most modern and effective method. We choose it because it's the fairest and most compassionate training, setting a dog up for success!
Once we begin working with your dog, we will also start working with you so that you can achieve the same results and access the same tools. Often a lot of the training we provide is not only correcting dogs but also the owners, helping you to better communicate with your dog and set them up for success.