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What is Balanced Dog Training?

Have you ever wondered about the best way to train your furry friend? If you're like most dog owners, you've probably heard of various training methods. But have you heard about balanced dog training? There are two camps for this training process: Those who advocate for its use and others who say to avoid it at all costs. In this article, I unpack balanced dog training so you can decide whether this controversial training methodology is the right fit for you and your canine companion.

Understanding Training Methods

Effective training methods are essential for fostering well-behaved pets and strengthening the relationship between dogs and their owners. From basic obedience to complex commands, the approach taken can greatly influence a dog's learning and behavior. Below, we explore the importance of dog training and the different approaches that can be employed, focusing particularly onoperant conditioning techniques.

The Importance of Training for Dogs

Training is crucial for dogs as it helps manage behavior and enhances the bond between the dog and its owner. It provides the foundation for a harmonious coexistence by teaching the dog essential social skills and manners. Training methods grounded in operant conditioning principles ensure that behaviors are learned effectively through clear consequences.

Different Approaches to Dog Training

One of the primary methods of dog training involves understanding and applying the four types of operant conditioning. This concept explains how positive or negative consequences can modify a dog's behavior over time.

  • Positive Reinforcement: This technique strengthens a behavior by following it with a pleasing reward. For example, giving a dog a treat for sitting on command encourages the dog to repeat the behavior.
  • Negative Reinforcement: This approach removes an unfavorable outcome after performing the desired behavior. For example, turning off a shock collar when a dog stops jumping encourages the dog to keep all four paws on the ground.
  • Positive Punishment: This method introduces an unpleasant consequence in response to unwanted behavior. For example, using a choke collar to correct a dog that does not sit when commanded discourages the behavior.
  • Negative Punishment: Removing a desired stimulus following an undesirable behavior helps decrease its occurrence. Ignoring a dog when it paws for attention teaches the dog that this behavior will not yield the desired results.
  • Balanced Dog Training Explained

    Modern balanced dog training takes a more humane approach to the concept of rewards and punishments, as I’ll discuss below. 

    The Concept of Balance in Training

    Before the 1980s, a lot of force was utilized while training a dog. However, a more balanced approach was invented to provide pups with a friendlier training method. The idea is that dogs learn better when rewards are used rather than harshly correcting them when they do something wrong. Conversely, It’s also wise to use gentle body language to avoid scaring a dog.  

    Principles of Balanced Dog Training

    Balanced dog training teaches your canine desired behaviors using reward-based methods and fair corrections. Dogs are introduced to this training once they associate a behavior with their trainer’s command.

    Balanced training also keeps your dog from being afraid whenever a training session begins. In fact, before any punishment is even considered, it’s now essential to first allow them to gain an understanding of what they’re actually supposed to do. Then, once they’ve been given the opportunity to learn, you must carefully consider how to correct them if they still fail to act accordingly.

    It used to be that people would use shock collars and other harsher methods during training. Now, starting with a training flat collar and leash, along with low-intensity pressure, is the preferred method. The website says that “pressure does not equal pain. As with horses, the rider applies pressure to get them to either stop or go faster. When they do the behavior, the pressure stops.”

    Two Schools of Thought on Balanced Dog Training

    Advocates of balanced training swear by it. German-born dog trainer and CEO Domink Feitchner is one of them. He moved to Brooklyn, NY, in 2015 to pursue his passion of working with dogs.He had this to say about balanced training, 

    “There is more than one way to train a dog. Different dogs require different methodsI have been using balanced dog training techniques for over 10 years and can proudly say that I have helped many dogs achieve happy and healthy lives with their humans, keeping them from being returned and out of shelters.”

    Detractors of balanced training, such as Victoria Stilwell, saythere’s nothing balanced about it. She gives her opinion about it on her website, saying, 

    “Yes, one could argue that there are many different ways to humanely and effectively change canine behavior and teach necessary cues, but none of those methods requires you to physically intimidate, frighten, or inflict pain upon your dog.”

    I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes here, buta study on aversive-based dog training shows that it negatively affects the welfare of dogs within and outside the training environment, especially when used in high proportions. 

    Another study by Frontiers in Veterinary Science examined the efficacy of remote electric collar training vs. positive reinforcement training. The study found that positive reinforcement addressed the dog’s target behavior and general obedience training more effectively. 

    Another conclusion of the Frontiers study indicated that the positive training method poses fewer risks to dog welfare and the quality of the human-dog relationship. In light of these findings, let’s look at positive reinforcement training next.

    Positive Reinforcement Training

    As mentioned, we now understand that dogs will respond better if you use positive dog training rather than brute force. It is critical that you avoid accidentally giving your pup positive reinforcement dog training for negative behaviors, though, such as letting them outside each time they bark.

    The Benefits of Positive Reinforcement

    There are many perks to using a positive reinforcement dog training plan to meet your training goals, including: 

    • Boosts confidence
    • Improves learning
    • Enhances mental stimulation
    • They’ll fall in love with training

    How Positive Reinforcement Works in Dog Training

    Positive-only training reinforcement provides a dog with what they love most: praise, food, and/or toys! As long as you keep their actual training sessions short and use the right timing and consistency, your dog will learn whatever it is you’re attempting to teach them. Being a positive reinforcement trainer can also help smooth over any temporary hurt feelings your dog may display.

    Training Gear for Positive Reinforcement

    To assist with positive reinforcement training, you can use a range of high-quality products, including:

    • Nylon Leashes:Strong and reliable leashes perfect for everyday use and positive reinforcement training.
    • Biothane Leashes: Waterproof and easy to clean, these leashes are ideal for any weather conditions and provide excellent durability.
    • Personalized Tactical Collars: Overbuilt collars can be customized with your dog's name or other details to give a nice touch to your furry friend.
    • Tactical Harnesses:Durable and overbuilt to provide maximum control and comfort for your dog during training sessions. Tactipup makesextreme harness chest patches for canine working dogs. 

    Aversive Training Tools and Techniques

    Aversive training programs require you to punish your pup whenever he or she exhibits undesirable behaviors. 

    Understanding Aversive Training Methods

    Let’s say that you don’t want your dog to pick up anything he or she finds outside on the ground. When he picks something up anyway, you’ll apply an unpleasant stimulus to teach them that they shouldn’t pick strange objects up. Rather than taking a proactive approach to training, aversive techniques are almost always reactive and rely on physical correction.

    Controversial Tools in Aversive Training

    Some of the aversive tools used in aversive training include:

    • Choke collars
    • Prong collars
    • Shock collars
    • Invisible fence collars (electric collars that provide a mild electric shock)
    • Citronella spray collars
    • Shaker cans (a can filled with rocks or coins)
    • Spray bottles

    These have all become controversial, so make sure you truly understand what they’re made to do before choosing one. Additionally, be sure you want to risk hurting your dog instead of merely withholding rewards when he or she fails to do something. Some negative side effects associated with aversive training include increased pessimism, generalized apathy, and avoidance and escape-related behaviors.  

    The Role of the Trainer in Balanced Dog Training

    You must utilize reward-based techniques and fair corrections to be a balanced dog trainer.  

    Qualities of a Good Trainer

    A good trainer must exhibit patience and relaxation with their pup. They must also be able to:

    •  Teach boundaries
    • Use counterconditioning
    • Use a dog’s motivation and drive
    • Encourage the use of play in training
    • Value praise
    • Give clear voice commands  

    Training Techniques Used by Balanced Trainers

    Balanced trainers must use a mixture of positive reinforcement and punishment to teach a dog what to do and what not to do. They typically incorporate praise, food, and clicker training, which are positives. However, they’ll also use choke collars or prong collars to ‘correct’ the dog when it does something wrong.

    Addressing Behavioral Issues Through Balanced Dog Training

    One thing that balanced dog trainers focus on is providing behavioral modifications through mild corrections. How does this work? Let’s find out!

    Identifying and Managing Behavioral Problems

    Any dog that’s aggressive, digs all the time, chews on everything, or constantly begs needs help with their behavioral problem. Managing these issues requires lots of time and patience. If you’re using balanced dog training, it will also require correcting if they don’t learn to stop the behavior immediately.  

    Using Balanced Training to Modify Behavior

    Let’s say you’ve got a dog that chews on everything. The first thing you will try is praising them if they decide not to chew. If this doesn’t work, though, you’ll probably move onto using a choke collar to correct their behavior each time they chew on something like your couch. If this still doesn’t work, you’ll escalate your correction level until they finally get it. Basically, enforce this rule until they’re only relying on their intake from food rather than random objects.

    The Learning Process in Dog Training

    Dogs learn in three different ways: Operant conditioning, association, and context-based learning. All three styles can be applied to positive reinforcement training or aversive training techniques.

    Understanding Canine Learning Styles

    Operant conditioning causes your pup to repeat actions that lead to a positive result while avoiding actions that lead to an unpleasant outcome. Meanwhile, association training takes a stimulus, such as a jar rattling and teaches them to react. Negative associations can also be formed. Finally, context-based learning takes something your dog already knows and applies it to a different setting or context. Applying these methods with positive trainers typically works best.   

    Applying the Learning Process to Dog Training

    Now that you understand how your pup learns, you can learn how to help them do their best! Using the following methods should elicit a positive response: 

    • Use positive reinforcement
    • Communicate clearly and consistently
    • Implement consistent training schedules
    • Consider hiring a professional dog trainer
    • Tailor your approach to your dog’s personality
    • Always employ consistency and patience
    • Use mental stimulation and environmental enrichment
    • Incorporate regular exercise

    The Impact of Environment on Training

    If your canine behavior is destructive, you should look inward to see if you are the problem. After all, without a positive training environment, your pup will have a significantly harder time curbing its destructive tendencies. This is where positive trainers definitely have an advantage.

    Creating a Positive Training Environment

    Providing environmental enrichment is absolutely critical for your dog’s well-being. This means you’ll want to offer toys and puzzles, interactive feeding, regular exercise, sensory exploration, and training and learning opportunities to enhance desirable behaviors. Failure to do so will cause your pup to become bored, and when a dog gets bored, watch out!

    Overcoming Challenges in Different Environments

    Are you taking your dog with you to visit someone? Help your dog be his or her best self by ensuring you take steps to overcome the challenges they may face in a different environment. In other words, take some toys and puzzles with you! This can help curb their anxiety and make them feel much better. Also, don’t forget to play with them, and give them a proper introduction to your friend.

    The Benefits of Balanced Dog Training for Owners

    Besides Dominik Feichtner, thetrainers at Red Lantern Dog Training find the balanced dog training method extremely effective and beneficial. They say it:

    • Builds a Strong Bond with Your Dog: Balanced dog training helps you better understand your dog's needs and signals, allowing for clearer communication between you and your pet. As a result, the bond between you and your dog grows stronger, fostering a more harmonious relationship.
    • Improves Communication and Understanding: This method enhances the clarity of communication between you and your dog. By understanding and effectively responding to each other’s cues, a more effective and cooperative relationship is established.
    • Enhances Confidence and Loyalty: A well-rounded training approach builds a confident, well-adjusted dog. Balanced dog training emphasizes obedience, which is important for ensuring your pet's safety and well-being. A confident and obedient dog is better equipped to navigate the world and respond appropriately in various situations.
    • Results in Long-term Success: Balanced dog training lays a strong foundation for your dog's lifelong learning and behavior. By establishing consistent expectations and reinforcing them with appropriate rewards and corrections, your dog will be more likely to maintain good habits and continue displaying desirable behaviors throughout their life.
    • Addresses Obedience Issues: The adaptable nature of balanced dog training allows it to effectively tackle various behavioral problems, from excessive barking and jumping to leash pulling and aggression. By tailoring the training to each dog's individual needs, you can achieve long-lasting, positive results.

    The Verdict

    As you can see, balanced dog training remains a contentious topic among trainers and pet owners. Positive reinforcement is widely preferred due to its effectiveness and safety. However, some trainers find balanced dog training effective and safe when done correctly.

    I'm pretty sure you want the best for your four-legged friend. That said, if you want to take a balanced approach with your dog, it's probably best to have a professional handle it. That way, you can avoid crossing the line into harmful punishment. Positive reinforcement training generally offers a safer and more effective method for most dogs and their owners. 

    Equip Your Dog for Success

    Regardless of your chosen training approach, Tactipup offers the tools to help! Purchaseover-built dog gear, including collars, leashes, and accessories from Tactipup today!