In response to the question, “What do you wish customers knew about the dog training profession?”; Michael Burkey, President and Dog Behaviorist of Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan responded by saying:Â “Unfortunately, dog trainers are often times split into three distinct groups of trainers: Pure Positive Trainers, Balanced Trainers, and Punitive Trainers. Fortunately, there are less and less Punitive Trainers out there than in the past but they still exist.
The “Pure Positive” trainers are misleading themselves and their clients with their philosophy that all things can be taught by treats and praise alone. Think of raising children or supervising employees at a job site. Is it possible to always treat a child or employee to get them to do the desired behavior long-term? No. Sometimes, fair corrections have to be used to get the child or employee back on track despite frequent rewards.
Whereas, BALANCED TRAINERS, which I am, are largely positive based trainers who teach new behaviors through positive means such as treats, toys, & praise but will use fair corrections when the dog knows a behavior but chooses not to do it. Before a correction is used, it is important to ask yourself:
- Did the dog truly understand the behavior that it was being asked to perform?
- Was the dog proofed against the distraction that caused him/her to not do the requested behavior. If not, the dog shouldn’t be corrected but instead proofed against increasingly harder distractions before being exposed to the high distraction that caused the dog not to perform as requested, and
- Was the correction sufficient but not too much to regain the dog’s attention so that the dog can be praised again for completing the requested behavior. Corrections should be thought of what will it take to stop the undesired behavior from happening without scaring, intimidating, or hurting the dog.
This is the way children and employees are taught to perform in their roles and it works extremely well for dogs as well.”