Balanced Dog Training – What is it, and why is it important?

Picture of Matt Hendricks

Matt Hendricks

Dog trainer and behaviorist.

Almost all effective dog trainers use an approach that has come to be called balanced dog training. Balanced dog training basically refers to the concept that we need to let the dog know what is right and wrong. Unlike the so called purely positive trainers, balanced trainers realize that there are times where we have to tell the dog that they are doing the wrong thing so that they can make a better choice in the future. However, we also believe in rewarding the dog when he does makes a good decision to reinforce the good behavior and make him look forward to his training sessions. Balanced dog trainers use everything from food, toys, and praise to prong collars and e-collars to communicate effectively with the dog. By being able to communicate so effectively with the dog, the dog can finally relax, get into a better frame of mind, and start to make better choices since he feels understood.

See, balanced training is important because in the last couple decades there has been a movement towards so called purely positive training. On its face, purely positive training sounds like a nice idea. I mean, who wouldn’t want to train their dog that way? However, what many people have discovered, is that purely positive training doesn’t really work in the real world. People who have tried to do all the right things and have followed their purely positive trainer’s advice are still ending up with dogs who have issues ranging from pulling on the leash to severe fear and aggression. Unfortunately, by not being willing to ever tell the dog he is doing the wrong thing, people are unknowingly creating unhappy and dangerous dogs.

If you actually stop and think about purely positive training, it is not surprising that it fails. For instance, if someone were a drug addict, simply offering them lots of fruits and vegetables is not going to stop them from being a drug addict. At some point, they need to realize that the drugs are bad for them and are actually making life worse for them. The drugs have to be taken away. A purely positive approach of simply offering them things that are better for them will not work. Or imagine if we could not have red lights at intersections because they might hurt a driver’s feelings. It is obvious why that wouldn’t work very well. Being told to stop can be a good thing.

Fortunately, over the last several years, dog owners have begun to realize the need for a balanced approach to dog training. More and more people are realizing that not only is their dog not upset by a balanced training approach, but that once they start using one, their dog lives a happier, healthier life. Also, the evidence that it works is becoming more and more irrefutable. Everything from dog owners who have experienced it themselves and are seeing the results first hand, to many balanced dog trainers showing video after video of dogs being rehabilitated who would have been deemed too dangerous to live, or unfixable, by other non-balanced trainers are helping to make the case.

Ultimately a balanced approach to dog training is about making life for you and your dog as good as possible. It is about keeping dogs out of shelters for bad behavior and being able to rehab dogs that are already messed up. Balanced dog training is about keeping as many dogs alive as possible, because their behavior issues can be fixed. See, balanced training is dog training that works in the real world, and that is why I am proud to say that I am a balanced dog trainer.

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