Let's talk Counterarguments!
At one time or another, we’ve all been targeted by the "professional busybodies" and internet trolls. They cause mild annoyance at best, and stress and anxiety at worst when they make threats. My usual recommendation for dealing with these people who, let’s face it, must be more than a little unhinged to post the things they do, is to simply delete and block (Negative Punishment - it's their nemesis!). But what if for some reason you can’t do that? Let’s talk about counter-arguments!
Number 1: The, “If you need to train with pain and fear, you shouldn’t be training a dog at all,” argument Right. Let’s get this particular, massive, dangerous myth busted once and for all: BALANCED TRAINERS DO NOT TRAIN WITH PAIN AND FEAR. We use Positive Reinforcement to teach commands and behaviours (yep; you got it – we’re cheese-chuckers!). But since you cannot stop a behaviour using positive reinforcement, we also teach the way Mother Nature herself does: by giving the dog a clear, concise ramification that it understands, for dangerous or unwanted behaviours. We stop the behaviour, and we continue with Positive Reinforcement. This is how we build a well-mannered, stable dog that can function reliably and safely in a variety of different, and sometimes stressful, environments. Plus, because we have access to all the tools in the toolbox, our clients get more bang for their buck!
Number 2: The, “But my dog’s never needed an e collar, so you should be able to train without one, too,” argument This is an infantile argument. Your one experience with your pet dog does not qualify you to determine what works, or what you believe should work, for the other estimated 900 million pet dogs that share this tiny planet with us – let alone the millions of working service dogs. Until you have relevant experience training and handling hundreds, even thousands, of other dogs with a myriad of behaviours, across the entire spectrum of training disciplines, you don’t have the right to tell others how they should or should not train their dog.
Number 3: The, “It’s cruel and abusive!” argument Appropriately-applied, methodical punishment is neither cruel nor abusive. Nature itself both punishes and corrects. Mothers correct their pups in the litter. Pups correct their littermates. Dogs correct other dogs; often quite brutally to our eyes. No harm comes from a dog being shown in an appropriate manner that no means no.
Number 4: The, “If you teach the dog properly from the start, you won’t need to punish or correct it,” argument 1. Not every dog owner has their dog from a puppy, so behaviours cannot always be taught “right from the start”. Plus; one word: puberty. That’s a game-changer in anyone’s book; 2. Some dogs that are adopted from shelters and other sources, already have unwanted and dangerous behaviours. These need to be fixed, and in a timely fashion, so that the dog can then be taught – and be praised for making – the right choices and behaving appropriately. Balanced trainers are in the business of keeping dogs in the homes they belong in, not bouncing them back and forth between shelters and adopters - and ultimately on to the morgue at the vet’s. 3. Genetics. Certain behaviours manifest at certain developmental stages. That’s a biological fact. Armed with this information, you and your dog will be prepared for them because you’ll already be working with a balanced trainer who can show you exactly how to navigate these biological “bumps in the road” as and when they arise.
Number 5: The, “But you can redirect the dog with treats and praise, and just manage the behaviour” argument This argument usually comes from people with no experience of what we call a “serious” dog, or people who only have experience with easy dogs and baby puppies. Anyone who’s ever had to rehab an aggressive dog, or who’s worked with serious working dogs, or who’s had to stop a dog that chases livestock, or is fascinated by snakes, knows that, in these situations, redirection and management is not only totally ineffective but also extremely costly for the client, given the timescales involved. And at the end of the day, management ≠ a solution. A dog that is fearful, or stressed-out, or whose prey-drive has gone full-throttle is not going to be remotely interested in your puny hot dog cubes and cheese squares - so now what do you offer them? What is of higher value to that dog than the bolting deer or the sprinting squirrel? If you can’t answer that, you have no business telling anyone to “just manage” a behaviour.
Number 6: The, “You’ll make the dog fearful,” argument Trust me, if a dog is acting out through fear, IT’S ALREADY FEARFUL. Correctly teaching it an alternate response to the fear is not going to make it worse. What it’s actually going to do is build confidence in the dog; trust me on this – I’ve done it countless times over. Ever heard the expression, “Face your fears!”? Dogs are resilient and adaptable. They have to be. It’s how they learned to live alongside us complex, peculiar humans in the first place.
Number 7: The, “Keep the dog under threshold,” argument It is impossible to keep any dog under threshold in the real world. Unless you keep your dog in a padded cell with no external stimuli for the entirety of its life, it is going to go over threshold at some point. When done knowledgeably and correctly, taking a dog gently but firmly over threshold, and introducing incremental stress – contrary to what some would have you believe – actually builds confidence and enables the dog to ultimately live a more relaxed and fulfilled life. How do you think we prepare working dogs to go into conflict or crowd control situations? That’s right: with incremental stress!
Number 8: The, “But you wouldn’t do it to a child,” argument This is a very silly argument. No, I wouldn’t – but then neither would I select a child from a breeder, remove its reproductive organs pre-puberty, feed it from a bowl on the floor, walk it around on a leash and collar, send it outside to toilet, and put it in a crate to keep it and my home safe while I’m out of the house. Dogs and children are different species. Stop making false comparisons. Babymorphism is what’s killing dogs.
Number 9: The, “That piece of equipment looks medieval / horrific / like a torture device,” argument If you base any of your experience and knowledge of a thing on the way it looks, you should be prepared for your opinion to be invalidated. The commonly-touted accusation from Positive Only proponents is that Balanced Trainers are “closed-minded”. This is somewhat ironic as the entire point of balanced training is that one is open to using whatever works with the dog in front of you – even if you might initially balk at the idea. For example; I was once vehemently opposed to what I mistakenly called “shock collars”, when I first heard about them. But rather than let emotion cloud my judgement, and base my views only on hearsay and silly internet memes, I researched them extensively and investigated further. And I was thankful that I had, because when the dog I had adopted started exhibiting dangerous chasing behaviours, I was in a position to be able to prevent them from happening, in a timely and effective manner, while preserving the strong trust bond I had formed with her - not to mention her amazing personality.
Training a dog in the way a dog learns best is not abuse. Real abuse comes from a different mindset entirely; one that is rarely compatible with responsible, compassionate dog ownership. Real abuse will, sadly, always happen, because there will always be deeply flawed and sick people out there. Those are not the type of people who are looking for an effective method and tools with which to train the beloved dog they seek so desperately to keep in their home despite its problem behaviours. True abusers don’t go to the trouble of researching and purchasing tools to specifically abuse their dogs (or any other animal) with. True abuse is something most people watching this vlog will, thankfully, likely never have to see first-hand in their lifetimes.
To be the best owner you can possibly be, follow the same premise we do on the working field: train your dog and mind your own business.
Thanks for watching, folks!