With so much marketing hype and misinformation around dog training and behaviour modification these days, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

What you need to know is what is the best choice for you and your dog. 

Any training you do with your dog and a professional dog trainer is an investment so it’s important that you’re able to make informed decisions that will save you both time and money in the long run.

The Melbourne dog training scene has recently been flooded many new businesses; some are run by reputable trainers, some not so much. One thing that many of them have in common is the “Purely Positive” approach to dog training.

What is ‘Purely Positive’ or ‘Force Free’ dog training?

There is currently a big push at the moment, around what is being referred to Purely Positive and or Force Free dog training. Which at first sounds nice and fluffy, but once you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that this method has some serious shortfalls.

By limiting yourself to only one method of training, you are doing your dog a serious injustice and also wasting a lot of your precious time. The bottom line is that there is far more to dog training then love and cookies!

While those trainers who advocate this method will argue to death that they don’t use any form of punishment, this simply isn’t the case. Aversive events and punishment are a natural occurrence and occur frequently, the use of head collars and keeping your dog hungry to work for treats are both forms of Negative Reinforcement (The removal of something unpleasant to increase a desired behaviour). I’m not sure if you have ever seen a large dog lunging on a head collar, but it’s certainly not nice or what I would call Positive.

One of their main training methods and what they preach their clients to do is- reward good behaviour and ignore the bad behaviour. You don’t have to be a professional dog trainer to figure out; such training may cause some issues. I recently had a call from a lady who became a client, with her 30 kg Labrador jumping on her elderly mum who is in her 80’s. The advice she was given was “Tell your mum to turn her back when the dog jumps and when the dog is sitting reward with treats”. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know to many people that constantly walk around with treats, but more importantly advising an elderly person to just turn their back 30kg of jumping dog is extremely dangerous!  This story did have a good ending though and after one session of using appropriately timed corrections and rewarding good the behaviour we were able to “extinguish” the behaviour. The key word there was “extinguish”, by definition positive reinforcement can only increase behaviours, not stop them.

Gary Wilkes summed up the argument about claiming to use only Positive methods perfectly in one of his posts; please refer to the quote below-

“The problem with this perpetual argument is that it isn’t relevant to professional training. It’s simply a spitting match between opposing ideologies. An objective analysis yields a far more flexible and dynamic approach. There are times when forceful methods are the perfect solution for head-strong dogs. There are also times when overbearing handling can ruin a sensitive dog. Sometimes the same dog needs to be wooed and coerced through a series of training sessions to get the right combination. Dogs are far too complex to be treated identically in all situations.”

So in short, if you’re only looking to teach your dog new behaviour and don’t mind relying heavily on treats this might be a good option for you.

So how do I find a good dog trainer?

To find out if a trainer and or dog behaviour specialist can give you the results you need, just do a little bit of digging around and ask the right questions which we have listed below.

What training methods do you use?

You want to find a dog trainer who uses balanced training methods and will find which option is best for your dog.

What type of training equipment do you use?

The same as training methods, you want to ensure the dog trainer you hire is open to using multiple pieces of training equipment and can show you multiple options of what will work best for you and your dog.

Are you qualified?

There are currently many different organisations that offer qualifications/ accreditation’s. Our recommendation is to ensure the dog Trainer has studied with the National Dog Trainers Federation who offers a balanced education which is without bias.

Honest reviews- It is very easy to fake reviews and or testimonials on a Website, make sure they have verified reviews from a source such as Google, you can view ours here – Positive K9 Dog training reviews

Do they keep up to date latest training methods? Having formal qualifications is a great place to start, but it is essential to keep the learning going and have an open mind. Make sure your trainer regularly attends industry related seminars, so they can provide you with the latest methods and techniques.

Can you guarantee results?

Any trainer that guarantee’s results and that they can fix all of your problems in one session is somebody that you want to stay clear from, as it’s very deceitful. Dogs are living, breathing creatures whose behaviour is dynamic, so it’s impossible to guarantee results without seeing the dog and its behaviour.

Whilst we routinely and successfully provide great results and progress in our initial In-home training sessions with sometimes instant results, there will always be certain areas that will need a committed effort to changing. The guarantee we make to our customers is that- If they are not satisfied with the progress and results made by the end of a training session, we will happily refund the lesson. Find a trainer who can offer the same

How to get the most out of a professional dog trainer?

Once you have found and hired a dog trainer it’s important that you are also a good client/student to get the most out of your investment. Here’s our list of suggestions below-

Be open minded

A professional trainer will most likely get you to try different things that are new to you, to help get the results you needed.

Be committed

Your dog has most likely had at least a few months rehearsing bad behaviour which has become a habit, although some behaviours can be stopped instantly, you will need to stay committed to training your dog to achieve long term results.

Ask questions

When you first start working with a trainer, be sure to ask plenty of questions! They can be a wealth of knowledge and spending a few minutes pick their brain can help make great changes in how you interact with your dog.

Take notes

I have found the clients who take notes and or video footage, tend to have the best long term results. By taking notes you can also refer back to pointers that were made during your last training session.

Practice, practice, and practice

It takes thousands of successful repetitions for behaviours to become fluent. My advice is to do 3 x 10 minute training sessions per day, by doing that in one week you will be able to get your dog to perform an exercise at least 300 times. So if your started training your puppy at 8 weeks old, by 16 weeks old they would have performed certain behaviours at least 2400 times which would make the behaviour very reliable.

Contact us for any assistance you require for Dog Training in Melbourne.

To finish this post please enjoy my favorite quote from Roger Abrantes below-

“We are over swamped by labels because labels sell, but they only sell if you buy them. Should you be a positive, ultra-positive, R+, R++, R+P-, balanced, naturalistic, moralistic, conservative, realistic, progressive, clickerian or authoritarian dog owner? Stop caring about what label you should bear. When you enjoy a great moment with your dog, the label you bear is irrelevant. A label is a burden; it restricts you and takes away your freedom. Labels are for insecure people that need to hide behind an image. Believe in yourself, be the type of dog owner you want to be and you won’t need labels.”