So Much Work To Do…

Victoria with a few of her fantastic VSPDT trainers at the 2014 APDT Conference.

Victoria with a few of her fantastic VSPDT trainers at the 2014 APDT Conference.

Enough is enough! We're all tired of the training myths that pass as facts in the training world and yet again another article has been written that so misunderstands what positive training is and how dogs behave, that if the information it contains wasn't so wrong and potentially damaging, it would be laughable.

I've just returned from an engaging few days at the APDT conference listening to and sharing with so many of my licensed VSPDT trainers as well as many of the luminaries in the canine behavioral and cognitive science world.  No trainer can ever say they know it all (if they think they have nothing more to learn, they're not a good trainer).  I love learning and take every opportunity I can to increase my understanding of our canine companions, find better ways to communicate with them and examine the tools with which we help pet parents comprehend how our dogs think, feel and learn.

Sometimes there are misunderstandings, sometimes we take a couple steps backwards for every few steps forward, and sometimes it is completely obvious what we need to do to move the ball further down the field in our understanding of dog behavior. But regardless of the path taken in this learning process, I always begin by ensuring that a sound basis in modern behavioral and cognitive science is the foundation of my thinking. I celebrate the work done by those in the scientific community, some of which I had the great fortune of hanging out with at the APDT conference. I'm blessed to count many in this fascinating field as my friends, and I make no secret of the fact that it is their work which shapes who I am and what I believe as a dog trainer.

It is, therefore, incredibly frustrating when I encounter misinformation on platforms and scales so large that it can do actual damage by misleading otherwise well-meaning dog owners into misunderstanding how our dogs really think, feel and learn.

Such was the case tonight when I was forwarded an article which basically claimed that while positive reinforcement was a nice tool for training nice pups, it was not a strong enough or an effective enough method to deal with aggression or so-called 'red zone' dogs.

Here we go again!

It is time once and for all to put an end to this myth, especially when the arguments being used to support it are so painfully inaccurate and the supposed claims are so completely at odds with what behavioral and cognitive science has already proven time and time again.

My friend, VSPDT and extreme canine aggression expert Jim Crosby (who has evaluated more dogs that have literally killed humans than anyone else in the world - so far past 'red zone' they're off the scale) has written a comprehensive and eloquent dismantling of this misconception, so thankfully I don't need to repeat myself yet again on this topic. For more information about why 'red zone' dogs actually benefit more from positive reinforcement than punitive, 'submission-oriented' methods, have a look at the 'Red Zone' Dogs page here.

Please, please, please don't take assumptions that positive training is only good for well behaved pups and that aggressive 'red zone' dogs can only be trained through force and punishment, no matter how much sense this 'advice' seems to make or what you've heard from your trainer, vet, neighbor or TV. It is so vital that we advance our collective understandings about the power of positive training (as well as other commonly heard myths and truths).

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Positively Expert: Victoria Stilwell

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer best known as the star of the internationally acclaimed TV series, It’s Me or the Dog. A bestselling author, Stilwell frequently appears in the media as a pet expert and is widely recognized and respected as a leader in the field of animal behavior.


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