Hey everyone, you’re going to start seeing more updated posts soon – I have been working on the new updates for the command performance training system – the working title is going to be “Command Performance 2: Bring the Dog.”
This is a hell of a lot of work putting the system together – the hardest part is knowing what to throw out that usually has most people giving up on dog training and how to leave in only the things that get the most results in the least amount of time.
In honor of the new system, I figured that I should have a some kind of a signature vehicle that exemplified the spirit of my training program. The idea that a well–trained dog is a dog that you can take anywhere, and enjoy life more because of it. If you’re buying all of this, great. The bottom line is I thought it was a cool idea and I wanted to have the most sick looking bright red vintage bike that anyone had ever seen – plus I wanted to bring honey along!
For that reason, and because I’m kind of a design guy, I flex my designing muscles and built the Ultimate Bring the Dog vehicle. I love vintage retro stuff and so this bike and trailer combination was a real labor of love. Here is Honey and I attending a custom motorcycle show a few days ago.
I’ll post more pictures of the design publications and construction later because this is one beautiful piece of machinery!
Greetings from Camp David.
So you want to be a Dog Trainer–Are you sure?
Or, are you just like most dog owners with busy lives, careers and families who want a dog that is trained to come when called, Stay where he is put until you release him, and able to be under control in any situation so he can accompany you and your family anywhere you go (on or OFF the leash)?
Here is why I ask, and how I can help you get what you really want:
I am going to be collecting consultation data from working with people just like you with all sorts of dog issues they are trying to solve after abandoning the clickers, prong collars, and yelling until they are so hoarse they are “whispering.”
The problem is, that a book on any subject that requires a skill set acquired through years of practice can rarely be learned from a canned program or book.
I have personally trained of clients and their pets (not just Dogs either–that is a whole other article). I have also worked for decades in the Personal Training field consulting athletes on Diet, Strength and fitness. Since 1980 I have been involved in research and consulting for physical Transformations (for Athletes & Non-Athletes alike) who are attempting to reach their physical potential within a specified time period.
Between my Dog Training Work and the Fitness and Sports Performance consulting, I have advised and trained hundreds of people on a one-on-one basis. I learned a few things about putting together training programs and . (Read this next part carefully).
Hardly anyone I have ever trained for this purpose has ever been able to get through a program of instructions correctly when they tried to follow the most basic and explicit instructions. In the athletic/Strength field these are people who are just exercising alone using weights and pulleys! Unless I was “Hands-On” right there every step of the way to do it with them and let them see and feel the correct way to perform the exercises, I could lay safe odds that the program that I carefully laid out would never resemble their interpretation of the instructions I gave them. How many black belts in Karate got there by reading a book about exactly how to be a black belt? Let me know if you have any names, because I’m not coming up with anything.
My point here is this; if it is truly rare to see a novice be able to grasp a so called “simple”physical movement from a written description, or even a video, imagine the added degree of difficulty when you are trying to train a dog by parroting a canned program that can’t possibly address the myriad of possible scenarios that you will need to respond to on a second to second basis? Now not only do you have to know the physical movements for yourself, but you will have to respond to random actions from an unpredictable dog as well!
Can I say here that in over 40 years of training I have never seen anyone who ever “had it down” when they were showing me their interpretation of the method that they were studying? Atheletes, Musicans, and even Dog Trainers, anyone who invests countless hours in search of perfecting a skill will always make it look effortless and easy. Sometimes it even makes the novice think that they can do it just like the pro. And sometimes-if there is no one to critique him, the novice imagines he is doing everything just as good as the pro right out of the gate.
There are some things you just have to experience and be guided through physically to grasp the proper techniques, or the result is someone who thinks they are doing the program, but basically wasting their time and effort getting minimal or no results.
If you want proof of this, watch the auditions for “American Idol” and see the reactions of shock and disbelief on the novices who without any training when they are told that they sound horrible. These people have been in the shower or sitting in traffic with their ipods cranked up and actually believe they are just as good as the pros that they try to mimic. Most of them have never even heard their voices played back on a recording!
Then they go out in the Real World–which in the American Idol example includes Simon Cowl telling them they suck, and public humiliation on a massive scale. (Unless you are James Hung and end up being famous for being so bad you are good.)
The dog training version of this is when someone who just assumes that they naturally communicate with dogs, and the dog wants to please them, takes them from the confines of the living room or back yard out into the real world and they become virtually invisible as the dog disappears over the horizon, or across the freeway as they scream commands in pursuit. What happened to “my dog understands everything I say,” or the deep unspoken connection and understanding they shared back in the living room?
That is where I come in–and where Command Performance Dog Training System started the ball rolling back in 1990. I was able to grasp something I think a lot of dog training programs missed: That most everyone out there does NOT want to be a dog trainer. They just want a trained dog.
The “Dikeman Method” is not Command Performance. My personal method includes marker or clicker training, E-collars, positive training, They all have a place in my formidable tool box. I may never approach a dog training situation in exactly the same way twice. Do you really need to know all that when you are just going to be teaching your own personal dog?
What I created when I made Command Performance Dog Training System, was never intended to make a dog trainers out of a dog lover who wanted to plug his dog into the lives of his/her family. It would have been a failure. What I produced is what you absolutely need to know to produce fast, guaranteed results for people who were not going to be spending months and years perfecting and the skills to train a dog like I do. I figured these people already have jobs and families and busy lives, and about the last thing they needed or wanted was another full time activity that centered around something other than the life they were trying to make more convenient through having a dog they could take anywhere under control, and at the same time, liberating the family dog from the back yard and showing him a whole new richer and happier life as a true companion.
That is why my system is easy to use and doesn’t lose people in counter intuitive behavioral science jargon. Professional Dog trainers can’t even agree on these terms and descriptions. Get more than two of them in the same room and they will argue endlessly about which method they use, and how to apply it. I always marvel at the arguments and debates over the minutiae of the descriptions of technique and then when I observe them actually training, I am surprised to see their physical actions are almost identical.
The challenge I faced was to create a system that worked on every dog regardless of age breed or temperament. I can tell you that it is a very complex process to create something that works close to 100% of the time and looks this simple and easy to understand.
That is why it works, it STILL works, and so many people from all over the world still use it.
Even dog trainers…
But Obedience Training doesn’t solve some behavioral issues that need specific attention. That is why I am going to be available for private consultations. I am opening up my tool box to all of you. Let me help you structure and improve your relationship with your best friend.
Consultations in person, are over phone or Skype, and to qualify you must sign a release that allows me to use content from your sessions in future TV/Web projects and products to help others with similar problems.
Here is an example of who needs this program:
14 years ago I had a lab puppy while I lived in Denver. Every day after work I would take her to the park where she would run nuts with the other dogs in the neighborhood. Problem was getting her to return to me when I called her, etc. Then I met a guy from New Zealand one day at the park, and his dog was incredible. never left his side unless given permission, came when he called, everything was effortless. He watched me struggle with my dog for like a week, then one day he showed up on my doorstep (remember, we had just met) and gave me your video tapes. Told me it would solve all my problems. Well, it did, but only half way because that was about how I approached the training. Anyway, we had 14 great years with our dog, who got better as she got older, but now she is gone and we have a new puppy. So I went into the storage and dug out your vhs tapes and watched them last night for the first time in over a decade. And this time I am determined to do it right.
So here is our deal…family of 4 (11 year old and 8 year old), relatively small house and yard, rescue lab puppy who is 12 weeks old (we got her at 7 weeks) and a week from today she will get her last set of shots. We have taken her for short walks in the street the last few weeks, and the kids have tried to teach her sit and down (we say “place” because we use down for everything else…off the couch, off the counter, off me, etc.). So after watching your video last night, then watching several more recent you tube clips as well, I had a few questions if you don’t mind:
1) when is it appropriate to start with the long lead and working a square? Please say as soon as she gets that last shot…
2) Biting is an issue, and coupled with her ADD symptoms, it is tough to stop. Saw the bit in the tape where you tap them under the chin and we have started that. Any other thoughts on biting? We have removed her and put her outside, but doesn’t always seem to work.
3) How on earth do we keep her from getting up on the counters/chairs/dinner table/furniture? She is athletic and perpetually on the hunt for something to eat. She understands the word eat, the word walk, the word sit, the word treat….I know she understands down but just doesn’t want to do it. She also understands that when she has something she should not (shoe, giant stick, socks, rock) she hides under the dinner table and my kids have to go all SWAT team on her and surround her to get whatever it is she should not have. Your help here could save my marriage!
4) Thoughts on puppy class, through petsmart or similar?
5) We will be taking her out as soon as she gets her last shot (soccer games, beach, etc.). should we use choke chain, treats, etc., until she is properly trained with your system?
Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this. I am looking forward to working with her in an open area when she gets her last shot. Great training techniques, I have seen them work first hand, and for years have recommended your system to friends. Smartest thing I ever did was keep those old vhs tapes!
Have a great day!
Head Coach, Men’s Basketball
I would really love to help you–there are several glaring problems that I am seeing in your brief description that will need to be addressed that fall outside of the pale of just Obedience training. There are some foundational behavioral issues that are developing that could lead to further problems. What you need right now is a Foundational Structure for this dogs everyday life and interaction. This is what I specialize in, and it is done on a one on one basis–there would be no end to the combinations of behaviors and responses I would have to cover to make this applicable in a mass market product–you have a special snowflake there that needs specific techniques that really are not going to apply to others (Breeds, families, kids, genetics, environment etc.)
Here is what I would suggest: forget the Corporate Pet Warehouse Store route. It sucks. You can get everything of any value for free by just going into the store while they are schmoozing everyone else and use the assembled students as proofing distractions and socialization for your own dog. Now, with the 150.00 I just saved you, set up a consultation with me on Skype and I will outline a program just for your specific application that will save you years of frustration. Your issues are not going to be addressed by teaching Sit’s /Downs etc. I am sure you are seeing this as well. The obedience is a good supplement to a proper foundation, like a jump shot is to the fundamentals of dribbling and passing. Its the Hoosiers model all over again and I am Gene Hackman guy.
Trust me, You need more than obedience right now–you need specific foundation training that will practically make the obedience a continuation of your initial foundation, or at least you will be getting the same result without ever having to specifically address the sits, downs, and stays to the same degree. That isn’t to say that you won’t want to do formal training–you will. It is just that the differences in results for someone in your situation exponentially more profound with the Foundation training –especially if it is tailored to your specifics and not a “canned” program that would never address the specifics you describe.
Along with the skype /phone consultation, I will also send you a free DVD of the Command Performance System so you can toss your dads VHS machine. LOL
Of course I only do consultations with people who will agree that I can use their case study to help others who might have the same problems. Also, I loved your story about the guy showing up on your doorstep with the videos! LOL
Give me a call at 316-518-2864 and lets see about addressing some of these issues. There are some time sensitive stuff given your dogs age being in a home with kids that we really ought to address sooner than later to avoid a real problem. I need to get lots of other info as well so i can design a foundational training so that the dog fits into your daily lives instead of having your day eaten up with dog issues or special handling to work around problem behaviors.
Also, if you get a chance send me a pic of you/and your first dog and I will put it up on the site to remember your friend.
Thanks for the kind letter,
If you have a problem, Question, or just want to improve your relationship with your best friend, I would love to help you and help others that can learn from your situation. As I put together the next version of the training program, feel free to contact me if you need to save yourself years of wasted effort and fruitless experimentation, and get straight to the results you need. Enjoy the Command Performance DVD and drop me a line with your before/after training stories, or, if you are one of the millions of people over the years that have used the system and want to share your memories of a great dog that is no longer with us, I would be honored to provide a place to immortalize and remember your special friend and family member. Send me your stories of how your work together made your dog’s life richer and more complete and I will post them on the site.
Happy Training, and Bring The Dog!!!
I want to get dog training away from the corporate “certified” (by the pet super mart) dog trainers and academics, and back out into the real world where it belongs.
What I am seeing out there today are more and more people in “dumbed down” obedience classes at the local pet super-store who are spending the money, and investing the time, and then not really getting anything in the way of real results (a dog that doesn’t fight a lead?). This is a great marketing campaign to get people in the door and march them past the bags of designer dog food that is more expensive per pound than real food.
I am seeing descriptions for promised results in the literature from some of these classes. After an 8 week course and $109.00 my dog will “Walk on a lead without pulling.” This is only about 7 weeks, 6 days, 23 hours and Forty minutes longer than it would take to get the results I guarantee if you spend 10-20 minutes following my simple instructions!
If I had to work that long for so little result, I think I would rather live with the pulling. I could just get a good strong leash, keep my $109.00, and the 40 hours of my life I will never get back. If you are new to training, feel free to read any of the testimonials in the “reviews” section of this site. Seriously, I can’t imagine spending 8 weeks of daily training sessions to get barely half the results that most rank beginners will routinely see in their dog within10 minutes into lesson 1 in the Command Performance Training System.
And of course, this is out there in the real world, not in a closed area or “training room.”
What kind of corporatized fluff are they trying to sell here? Its not that these classes don’t have value. They are great for socialization and to get your dog around other dogs, but I love to hang around the classes with dogs I am “proofing” and use those dogs as my distractions when I am in the final stages of training a client’s dog. I use dog parks for the same purpose.
Of Course I am just describing the “Basic” Obedience class down at the local Pet Supermart. They have an “Advanced” class too–another 180.00 and another two months. I will leave it to your imagination, but if you are thinking that the result promises taking the lead off and actually having the dog actually responding out in the real world, you will be sadly disappointed.
After all, who dreams of a “trained dog” whose biggest attribute is walking on a lead “without pulling.” Wow. Move over Lassie and Rin Tin Tin.
There are more dog schools and classes around than ever before, and if socialization is what you are looking for then it would be money well spent, except socialization doesn’t cost anything –that is why they are calling it training and charging you money for it.
Compared to what I charge (between $5,000-$10,000.00 for complete training and 150 per hour for consultations) , it is comparatively nothing. But it is still $109.00. And more importantly, it is still eight hours of class, plus Travel time, plus the 30+ minutes per day for two months! Imagine if you were working at your current job or profession for the same amount of time. Oh, right, then add $109.00.
A minimum of 40 hours total time (invested?). And lets be honest, these dogs have been in a training class, but I have seen very few that even their owners would call “trained.” (at least to the level that they originally expected before they ended up lowering their expectations to match the curriculum.)
If you are one of the millions who have used Command Performance, you just did lesson 1 instead.
You saved $120 and got better (and lasting) results in the first 10-20 minutes,(a net time savings of 39.5 hours over 2 months not hanging out in a corporate pet feed store!). Just think of what you could do with all that time–you could learn to surf, go camping, spend an hour a day sitting out on the patio reading great books at your favorite sidewalk coffee shop.
And of course, the best part of all; you can do all those things and bring the dog.
I just got off the phone with my Friend Diane Bauman, one of the worlds most respected Dog Training Authorities.
Diane is on the US World Team in Dog Agility Sport, and has spent several decades sitting atop Dog Training’s “A” List, winning some of Competitive Dog Training’s most coveted titles with an assortment of dog breeds that most other professionals would dismiss as unsuitable for obedience competition. While the other pros are tuning up the typical assortment of top bred Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds, Diane is showing up with an unlikely assortment of Afghan hounds, Cocker Spaniels, Pomeranians, Keeshonds, and walking away with the trophys!
And did I mention these champions were once “throwaways” rescued from local animal shelters?
Dianne’s star student–an Afghan Hound–is currently ranked 1st in the Top 10 Least Intelligent Dogs? This is a story that is a cross between Rocky and Flowers for Algernon…
Enter Diane Bauman:
I love me some Diane! And even though we don’t get to talk as often as I would like, every time we get on the phone, our conversations last for hours!
Diane is a trainer’s trainer. She’s authored several books on the subject, and her innovative methods are taught to professional and amateurs in her seminars across the country. Her specialized techniques are even touted by most other leading Dog Training Authorities–like the Monks of New Skete in the international best selling book “How to be Your Dogs Best Friend”, where her name is first from their lips as an example of how to properly build rapport with a dog. Diane has probably forgotten more about the technical aspects of competitive Obedience and the dog sport of Agility dog training than pros will ever know. And I know this because I was the second trainer mentioned in the list–but believe me it would have to be a pretty distant 2nd. How did I get on that list anyway? LOL
First, let me reiterate that I am NOT a Dog Show/Obedience Trial kind of guy. I love dog shows, but I am not the type that would chauffeur mine across the country to win trophy s and titles. While my training is focused on having the dog fit into my life and activities by being able to take him anywhere under complete control (Leash optional), I fully recognize Competition Obedience training is where some of the best training methodology are created and refined, I streamline the approach so that it works in a session or two and you get 80-90% of the results that are instantly applicable to the real world you live in, instead of months of sessions that NO ONE but a career professional dog trainer has the desire or motivation (Winning titles) to do. That is why average pet owners fail at dog training. They don’t have time or energy for another career path, they want a dog that Comes when called, Stays where he is put until we release him, and walks attentively beside us anywhere we take him.
Diane Goes Positive-only on me
I asked her if she ever used “Positive Only” training and she surprised me by saying “Oh yes, its all I do now.” I couldn’t believe my ears…until after an awkward pause she continued: “My dog is Positive that when I give a command, that he is going to do it.”
She also told me that in the world of top flight obedience, that the winners are still the dogs trained with a more balanced approach and are in no danger of being displaced on the winners stand by “treat only” training. “Actually, I am happy when someone wants to try to follow the positive-only methodology–I know that I will be able to beat them in competition.” She Said.
The Blind Leading the Blind
We talked about a few of the Guide Dog Schools that jumped on the clicker based positive only training, and gave me the names of several well known Guide Dog Schools that tried to implement clicker trained guide dogs and are moving Away from Positive Only and are now in the process of changing back to a more balanced program.
“The Pendulum is Swinging back the other way again now –to a more rational and balanced approach.”
“Positive-only “sells a lot of clickers and cocktail weenies, but where is the other half of the methodology that allows it to work outside the living room? Where is the balance? The Guide Dog schools have been another valuable testing ground for the benefits and the limitations.
“David, What you created with the Command Performance Dog Training System was the way to get a trained dog without taking years to build the skill sets of being a skilled dog trainer–and for the first time there was a system novices could use and get fast results that are 85-90% of what competitive dogs and trainers work for years to develop–it gets results right out of the box.”
When I told her about the all the work I was doing planning the updated new system, she joked that maybe I ought to “just leave it alone and wait- in another year it will be Cutting Edge again.”
This morning is about as good as it gets. Beautiful sunrise, birds singing, cool and slightly overcast after an overnight shower with the rain smell still in the air. I’m sitting outside my local coffee shop in the beautiful Country Club Plaza. I was here early enough to snag my favorite table, and I’m relaxing in a comfortable chair, a steaming latte, and enjoying being up before most everyone else for some quiet “me” time after a busy week. My girls are stretched out at my feet on their mat. Honey is people watching, and Baby is stretched out on her back napping. I kick off one of my Sanuk Sandals and feel the soft warmth of her fur as my foot rests on her tummy.
I’m lucky. I get to have lots of these moments. I get to share them, too.
You notice things when you bring your dogs. People are happier. Almost everyone walking past breaks into a smile. an involuntary “Awww!” Or at least a knowing glance at me. It is an unspoken understanding between dog people, and it is almost irresistible for them not to stop and share this moment. So we meet. We talk. They ask to pet the dogs (if they have kids, its a given). There are stories, more smiles, holding them–more hugs and petting for the girls from our new friends.
I hear the same things: “We have a (fill in the breed) at home–I wish we could bring her with us like this…” (Usually after they see me go in to get another coffee and leave the girls waiting patiently on their mat while people bustle by–some struggling to manage dogs that have noticed the girls, and are now “in tow” whining and straining against tight leashes ).
It is at these moments, that I am thankful that I can bring my dogs almost anywhere, and how my life wouldn’t be the same without them.
Often, while holding one of mine, looking at their innocent little faces, or receiving a lick in the face , I see them get emotional remembering a dog from their past, or just missing the ones waiting at home. I see their eyes misting as they recall a special memory. This stuff sneaks up on you–and it can be triggered by being close to any dog. Anyone who has experienced this precious bond isn’t a bit surprised that the people clearing their throats and turning away with something in their eye are usually grown men. When I am in another country or far from home without my girls, I am that guy too.
It makes me feel good about what I do– sharing the methods for people and their dogs to have richer, fuller lives. Here is the real gift: The gratitude that comes with the discovery that we need them more than they need us, and that life is better when you bring the dog.
There is a new marketing movement in dog training that promises results (did I say what kind?) and many times the time and effort to get them. Do a search for Dog Trainers and 90% of copy you will read will have to have the word “Positive” in it, and some will even take the really high road claiming exclusively “Positive Only” Dog Training. And who wouldn’t want that?
“Positive Only” has become the new buzz word for Dog Trainers who are marketing their services to the uninformed public, and it sounds absolutely wonderful.
The Freakanomics of this Positive Only scam is as natural a win/win for the dog trainer/behaviorists as fully leaded Coca-Cola and Captain Crunch cereal is for the dental profession.
I am predicting that this will get the phones ringing for dog trainers everywhere. If you are a Dog Behaviorist, or working raising funds for your local dog shelter, you should be thanking the zealots and True Believers who are pushing this myopic view of training. It guarantees plenty of paying clients with dog problems to solve, and naturally more dogs ending up in shelters as a result. But for those of us who don’t make a living off of the ignorance of the public, and especially if YOU are the public I am talking about, then it is highly misleading, and chances are you won’t be walking your positive-only Trained dog off lead on a public street or park any time soon.
This whole emotional approach reminds me of the pork-barrel political legislation that comes up for a vote whenever a self-serving politician needs a bill passed to throw tax money at his home district, and so he titles the bill something like “Save the Children-puppies-elderly-unborn, etc.” What kind of person would vote against saving puppies and children? Those opposed have to go on record as voting NOT to “Save the Children!” Never mind whats in the bill, that will never make it to the 5 second sound byte.
It is this kind of legislated reality that has not saved anyone, especially our children. As a matter of fact, if my calculations are anywhere near correct, our kids are totally screwed.
Back to misleading and emotionally targeted marketing campaigns.
“Positive Only” Training is at least 70-80% of a rational approach in my opinion, so I would probably drop the “Only.” I talk a lot about training for what I like to call the Real World. That world (the only one I have ever known) means that in order to live very long in it, there has to be some kind of realization that there are more than just positive consequences out there. I love my dogs, and the last thing I want is reality teaching my dog about negative consequences.
My dog ignoring me and my treats to run across the freeway after a squirrel –that is the real world– and being told by my trainer to “try it again and use better treats, or that he is “undertrained” and needs more repetition” is not going to do either one of us a lot of good. Maybe on the next dog…
If I need to interrupt a pattern like this with a correction so that the dog experiences the “softer” version of reality and experiencing consequences that he can learn and remember to avoid, I am more than ready to provide a learning experience that is sufficiently negative. It is my duty as a responsible and loving parent to provide this kind of feedback for him to survive this minefield that is our world. This is called leadership. Can it sometimes be Is it “aversive?” You bet, Sunshine.
Basically Here is the 800 lb Gorilla that no one is naming: The “Positive Only” is a code used by an extreme group of wack- jobs against people who are deathly afraid to stand up to them lest they be be labeled abusive. It is a guilt-trip that would make a catholic blush.
This whole mess is an overreaction carried over from a time decades ago when training methods employed by most professionals were sometimes seen as highly physical and punitive in their application. The majority of the trainers loved dogs just like you or I, but the methods were still being developed and were in a dynamic state of change to more positive methods that vastly improved the effectiveness of the training. Most of the old school trainers who clung to a static method that didn’t move into more positive are now known as “Yank and Crank” trainers, because they physically force the dog, or “correct” the dog into the actions they desire.
This is the equivalent of the extremes of how we educate our kids. The pendulum started at “Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child.” I can remember being the recipient of three “Swats” after I made a sarcastic remark to a Fifth grade substitute teacher–an old battle-ax we nicknamed “Iron Arm Anderson” (she had 50 silver bracelets on her left arm). No parental permission, just bend over and grab your knees and get your ass clubbed with a paddle the size of a Fender Telecaster. The next decade saw the pendulum swing out of the “sit down and shut up” mode of my pre-teens to the “Self Esteem movement” in the 80′s. This “Positive Only” approach was highly touted as the new educational breakthrough and swung to opposite extreme, turning our kids into science and math illiterates compared to almost every other developing nation, but we retained the top ranking when it came to believing they were good at Math.
There is a hard reality lesson to be learned here as well–that is why you might have already started teaching your kids Chinese.
Good and talented trainers, who didn’t drink the Positive-Only Kool Aide, have been lumped into the “aversive” pile by these crazies. It is sad that the only way these people can compete with a real-results of balanced approach is to imply that ANY training that attaches consequences to bad choices or includes ANY corrections is somehow “Punishment Based.”
Most of the truly effective “Positive Only” trainers I know are comprised of people who for lack of balls, or for pure profit motive, are just giving the term mere lip service so the public will hire them–at least the ones I’ve seen that can actually get results. They use it as the buzz word that it is and continue doing what they’ve always done that works. After all, no one wants to be the one who votes against “Save the Children,” right?
There is as much BS and misinformation about the brutality of these methods as there is at the other extreme with the Positive Only Crowd. In future posts I will be sharing my experiences with both extremes and how they are actually two sides of counterfeit coin, and you should watch out for anyone who claims to be on the extreme end of either.
I have said before, Dog Trainers are a strange breed–they usually don’t agree about much of anything. Get two of them together, and the only thing they’ll usually agree on is how wrong a third one is. (Who isn’t there.)
While they argue, I’m taking my dogs (without leashes) down to a nice sidewalk cafe on the Plaza for coffee. I seldom run into these people and their trained dogs out in the real world.
If you were to get several dog trainers into the same room, within minutes they would be arguing about the right and wrong techniques for how to properly train your dog. I stand back and watch scenes like this and I’m always amazed at how different all their approaches sound–and sometimes I am really surprised to see that they actually are different. Most of the time though, the actual physical actions are almost identical! I think I have decided that to keep my sanity, and to not end social situations on awkward terms with people I don’t need to communicate on a deeper level than purely a fleeting social “Hi-how-are-you” basis, that I will refrain from delving into the finer points of dog training, politics, and Religion. Along with Child Rearing, Dog training should be one of those subjects that is considered off-limits in a social gathering. Especially for a dog trainer.
If you are talking to another trainer, they are usually criticizing another training method, and thinking that only what they are doing is the right thing and all the other tools or methods every one else is doing are stupid, harmful, or abusive. Or, there is the non-trainer who because he is knowledgeable in his field is now trying to explain his “theories” about how he has trained his own dog to understand his every word. (The dog is usually never there, of course–and if the dog is there he is usually oblivious to the owner because “he get’s so excited when other people/animals/(You chose a reason)are around.”)Reality is funny like that. And that is why I designed a training system that takes reality in to account when expecting results. I just thought it would be a good thing to do. Instead of tons of specifics that eat up weeks of time and give you little utility, I focus on the few vital things that your dog needs to know and to be able to do in any circumstance to be with you out in the Real World. Notice I didn’t say win a dog show, or that you can only expect to work in the privacy of your living room, or the attentiveness you get right before you set his food bowl on the floor. I am talking real life people, places, traffic, noises, screaming kids, crosswalks, offices, parks, other dogs, and squirrels galore.
The real world that I live in is full of things happening that I can’t always plan or control. And if I don’t think that my companion can take my directions in those times, being together in my world is going to be really stressful and even dangerous for both of us. That is why most dogs spend the majority of their brief lives confined in kennels, back yards, or left at home. A great fulfilling life for a fellow “Social Creature” like ourselves, huh?
Don’t worry if you’re not a Dog Trainer. I’ll let you in on a little secret; Some of them are no better off. In recent years, with the emergence of new training methods wary of being labeled abusive, they swung the pendulum to the other extreme, ideologically committed to an unrealistic view of reality, they limit their training to certain “Positive Only” parts of a complete and balanced approach. This all looks good on paper, and conjures up all kind of warm feelings. Some people think that because the dog learns how to do a command using treats as primary motivation in an otherwise stimulus free environment (Read: the living room) They are then expecting him to DO what he learned out in the real world. There is a big disconnect between what they learn and actually doing what they learned.
Half of a Good Approach is Not Enough
I described this common error as using the “Positive Only” part of a balanced approach. . You may want to believe it will work, and you’ll spend lots of time and energy “Training” for it to work, but it rarely delivers better results than if you had skipped the training altogether and spent the time doing something productive–like going for a walk. I am no stranger to the frustration that comes from investing time and effort into something and come away from it feeling like you wasted your time–if you doubt me take a good look at my hair. I digress…
I have no argument with treats. I love them too. You want me to help you move a chest of drawers or a sofa, offer me some jerky and see what happens. I get it. I use treats all the time to teach new behaviors. I use every tool I have available. My point is that my “tool box” has lots more in it than milkbones, and if it didn’t, I couldn’t have created the only method out there that delivers these kind of fast results to people with no previous experience in dog handling.
As H. L. Mencken put it, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
But back to reality. There is a part of dog training that takes place in a Learning Phase. There are well intentioned people out there who never move out of this Phase and call it “Positive Training.” It makes a good warm fuzzy feeling inside the dog lover, but the results are not so good. They have elevated a small piece of the training puzzle to a complete training methodology, and the end results are not living up to the hype. The Human equivalent of this approach would be the “Self Esteem” movement back decades ago that was first implemented in the California School Systems. Everything was Positive. Every answer was Right (in its own way). The students didn’t sit and listen to to the teacher, they were encouraged to speak about what they thought about the subjects before they even knew the subjects. They didn’t want to damage the healthy self esteem they thought they were fostering. Examples include changing testing standards for economically disadvantaged children or eliminating valedictorians from high school graduations. Two plus two equaling Five was not Wrong, it was just a different and original way to approach the problem! Very impressive Johnny! You get the idea…
Not only did it not give kids better self esteem , it planted the seeds of the biggest educational decline in our history. Now instead of having top flight universities now full of young Americans who were prepared to lead the world in science and technology, we have those top universities full of kids from China and India who will lead the world. But what about the Positive only results? The result in this example are kids whose test scores can barely scrape the bottom of the list of all developed countries, and even though they are testing out at levels that are barely literate in science and math, studies show that if you ask them how they rate in comparison to other students from around the world, they unabashedly tell you that they they are #1! Go USA!!
This isn’t self esteem. It is ignorant false confidence. It is lack of awareness born of delusion and false perception. We have let these kids down just as we have our dogs by shielding them from everything but the fun and positive, and the result is a clash with reality on a grand scale. Don’t end up like the people who have wasted years of stuck in the kindergarten stage of a partial training program and still can’t bring the dog into their daily life.
The Real World. That is where Command Performance Dog Training System has delivered the goods for over 20 years. These are real people using a simple (too simple) method that works every time. Just you, the dog, some comfortable shoes, and 10-20 minutes. If you have never experienced the program, feel free to read the reviews of those who have.
Nothing I have ever tried since gives the level of results gained for the few minutes invested, and that is why people still swear by this method. After 20 years, I think we still may be onto something.