Mark's Dog Blog

The lie about science-based training methods, and pushing half the science

dogs
When a dog trainer advertises them self as a rewards based trainer, what they are indicating is that they use positive reinforcement to mark appropriate behaviours. There is not one training method that is not rewards based, whether you are a positive-only trainer, a force-free trainer, or have a more balanced philosophy about training. It doesn't matter if you use food, toy, play or praise as your reinforcer, they are all used in training to reinforce a behaviour in that moment. Reinforcers' have different value level to a dog. Some dogs love to work for their owner's approval and attention. Other dogs work better for a stronger motivator such as food.The fact is, that no matter what your preferred method, you cannot successfully train a dog without using positive reinforcement.
 
Many positive-only and force-free trainers will falsely advertise that balanced trainers are punishment-based trainers and that they are reward-based trainers. This type of false information is only used to scare dog owners away from trainers that are more open to all methods, and that have a more rounded approach to training because they utilise all 4 quadrants of the training matrix (+R, -R, +P, -P). Whereas positive-only and force-free proponents tend to stick with only 2 of the 4 quadrants (+R and -P).
Balanced trainers prefer to utilise all 4 quadrants in training, as by doing so they are better able to give the dog concise and clear choices, making the learning process for the dog much quicker, easier, and in most cases less stressful on the dog than by those utilising only 2 of the 4 quadrants.
 
It is my personal and professional opinion that laboratory-based science has done a lot of damage to our overall relationship with our dogs. Many that call them self positive-only or force-free trainers will inform you that their methods are science-based and that for some reason those that utilise all 4 quadrants are not utilising science-based methods! This is a load of rubbish. What they are really saying is that their methods are based on half the science, and they disregard the other half for no other reason than it goes against their deep-seated emotional biased beliefs. Even though science has proven that the 4 quadrants are beneficial, and a must, for any animal to survive in its environment, these extremist groups will deny such science even exists or has no validity for the companion dog. No social animal in its environment would survive if we were able to remove +P and -R from the animals learning and survival instincts. The only place it is possible to do this and have some form of success is by isolating the animal from its environment and by totally controlling that environment, which is what they do in laboratories, zoos, marine parks, etc. If we in some way were able to remove any 2 of the 4 quadrants from an animal living in its environment, the animal wouldn't be able to survive, as its learning abilities would be extremely compromised.
 
There is no denying that animals learn to repeat behaviours that create pleasurable consequences and avoid those that create unpleasant consequences, and to suggest otherwise would be foolish. So for positive-only and force-free trainers to suggest that balanced trainers are punishment based, shows how little an understanding of the 4 quadrants they really have. I am sure they feel that if they only use +R and -P, then balanced trainers must only use the other 2, -R and +P? I guess they have claimed +R and -P as their own, and therefore have split the 4 quadrants into 2 opposing sciences? Who knows, whatever the reason, it makes no sense.
 

The double standards of the fanatical positive-only groups

I shake my head in disbelief so much these days. A dog trainer passed on a link to me, it was a post by an Australian 'positive-only' trainer, that regularly posts about how abusive and inhumane balanced training methods and tools are, on her Facebook page. Her post that was passed on to me was in regards to the 50th anniversary of the first Tracker Dogs deployed to the Vietnam war.

Below is from her post:
"50th Anniversary! Never forget the work of our animals during war. I had the pleasure of meeting some of these men last year & with Anzac Day looming, it's time to reflect on what they did for us."

Of course, I totally agree with her sentiment. We should never forget those dogs and their handlers that have served (or are still serving) in our military or involved in any area of law enforcement. What angers me, is that these fanatics have double standards. Take me for example; I served as a police dog handler in the RAAF. Now she would have praised my service, my dog, and the high level of training and the bond we shared whilst I was serving. However, now that I am a civilian dog trainer, she has no issues calling me and other trainers like me abusive and inhumane!

Much like Victoria Stilwell (who by the way has never had any formal training as a dog trainer or behaviourist. She was an out of work actress, had never owned a dog when she started, and that only did dog walking part time to support herself, then suddenly shot to fame as an instant expert on a TV show by lying to Channel 4 about her knowledge and expertise), who last year followed law enforcement K9 handlers during their duties for a few months. She praised these dog handlers and the high standards of training they achieved with their dogs. Said she was amazed at the level of training, and the incredible bond these handlers have with their dogs. And yet, on the other hand, accuses civilian and companion dog trainers that follow exactly the same principles in regards to dog training methods, and use the same tools, as being abusive and inhumane.

Why is it that law enforcement and military are revered for the standard of training they achieve by these extremist groups, a standard of training that cannot be replicated or achieved by the positive-only and force-free methods, and yet they go out of their way to demonise civilian and companion dog trainers for following exactly the same principles? Doesn't this double standard tell you that there is a definite agenda being pushed by these groups that are totally illogical and have absolutely no foundation in truth or reality? A person, method or tool can't be claimed to be abusive or not, based solely on their position or standing within the community or society.

The sad part about all of this emotive agenda pushing is that these extremists are pushing to ban so many types of dog training equipment, and even working on outlawing any form of aversive in training. Yet, they leave professionals such as police and military alone, allowing them to go on their merry way, training dogs to the highest of standards, and praising their standard of training and the bond the handlers share with their dogs. The poor companion dog owner is however left using half a science, that is indeed compromising their ability to help and train their dog. If we only allowed the police forces and military to use half a science, there would be no law enforcement or military dogs helping to protect our communities and way of life.

I receive negative feedback because of my outspoken views, however, I personally feel that if balanced dog trainers don't speak up about all the lies and misinformation being spread by these extremist groups, the future of dog ownership will be in jeopardy. You may laugh, and say nobody is going to take our dogs away from us. Really? Just look at BSL, many of the breeds now on the banned list, lived happily with families not 10 years ago, but are now considered dangerous. Look at all the restrictions we now have placed on us on where we can legally take our dogs, because many lack the ability to control their dogs in public. There is now an epidemic of dogs being prescribed psychotropic drugs, because the current science-based training has no answers. And now slowly but surely we are being told that we must abide by a so-called 'science-based' training ideology, that is indeed very much a lie that only acknowledges half the real science of learning. These radical views that have slowly gained momentum over the past 10 years will not help sustain our dogs into the future, as more and more dogs are left out of control, suffering anxieties, and all based on a lie by an extremist group, that deny a science because it doesn't fit in with or support their emotive agenda.

We can't look at half a science theory and leave the other half hidden away, and name our new theory, 'science-based'. That would be like stating the moon orbits the earth due to its momentum around the earth and not acknowledging the fact that the force of gravity had anything to do with it, because gravity didn't conform to our emotive belief that force was not to be used.

This is not about denying that +R and -P are valid and very important learning principles, its about acknowledging that all of the 4 quadrants are just as valid and important as each other, and that too totally understand learning in animals, and to better help them live in our human-dominated environment we need to acknowledge and work with all of these quadrants, and not falsely claim that only half the science is valid.

 
 
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