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Balanced Training

What is Balanced Training?

As a dog owner, you might have encountered various training methods, each claiming to be the best for your furry friend. Two of the most disputed methods that often spark debates among trainers and pet parents are the differences between “Balanced Training” methods. and “Pure Positive” training. 

Dog training is an essential part of responsible pet ownership and contributes significantly to the well-being of the dog and its owner. Dog training methods vary widely in their approach to the differences between how dogs learn vs what humans might think and feel about a particular training technique. Let’s look at these two dog training methods and compare a balanced dog training approach vs the techniques used in the pure positive realm. 

Understanding Balanced Dog Training

Balanced dog training is a method that combines both reward-based techniques and corrective actions, aiming to create a ‘balance.’ The primary principle of balanced dog trainers is no different in its approach than mimicking how humans learn in that we need both positive and negative experiences.

Good behavior earns a reward. At Train Pro Dogs, we use verbal and physical praise as treats that may create an unreliable dependence, while an undesirable action results in a neutral or mildly unpleasant consequence. Similar to how humans learn through our life experiences. 

The techniques used in balanced training can vary significantly depending on the trainer. It’s important to note that the goal of a balanced trainer is not to cause harm or fear but to discourage bad behavior. This is a direct contrast to the methodology utilized by the pure positive training group.

Here are a few examples of how balanced training might be implemented:

  1. Leash and physical corrections: A quick tug on the leash can help remind the dog that they are not following an expected behavior. It’s vital to ensure that this action is not harsh, causing fear or discomfort. It is critical that the animals fully understand what is expected and how they can earn praise. 
  2. Verbal Corrections: Using a stern, firm voice to express disapproval can effectively communicate to the dog that their behavior is not acceptable. Ideally, the marker words, volume, and tone should be consistent to help eliminate confusion in the learning process. 
  3. Time-Outs: If the dog is behaving poorly, a brief time-out can be a practical corrective action. It helps the dog calm down and understand that their behavior was inappropriate. At Train Pro Dogs, we often tie time-outs to the “Place Command” as it can serve as both a time-out location while simultaneously providing the dog a “job” for which it can be rewarded with mental stimulation.
  4. Body Blocking: This technique uses the human body to guide or block the dog’s movement. For instance, stepping in front of a dog attempting to dash out the door can communicate that such behavior is not permitted. Techniques like lifting your knee when the dog jumps up – not hitting them with it – are other examples of using the body to block unwanted behaviors.

Balanced training can be particularly effective in scenarios where a dog exhibits severe behavioral issues, such as aggression or extreme fear, that cannot be managed by positive or negative reinforcement alone.

Exploring Pure Positive Training

On the other hand, positive reinforcement training focuses solely on rewarding good behaviors and ignoring the bad ones. The theory is that dogs will repeat behaviors that reward them.

Positive-only reinforcement training uses treats, toys, praise, or anything else the dog understands or finds motivating to perform a desired behavior. The theory states that your dog’s undesirable behaviors, if ignored, will eventually disappear.

Here are a few examples of how positive reinforcement training might be implemented:

  1. Sit Command: Hold a treat close to your dog’s nose and then move your hand up, allowing their head to follow the treat, causing their bottom to lower. Once they’re in a sitting position, say “Sit”, give them the treat, and then share affection. Repeat this sequence a few times every day until your dog masters it. Then, ask your dog to sit before mealtime, when leaving for walks, and during other situations where you’d like them calm and seated.
  2. Come Command: Attach a leash and collar to your dog, and go down to their level, and say, “come,” while gently pulling on the leash. When your dog gets to you, reward them with affection and a treat. Once they’ve mastered it with the leash, try it without the leash in a safe, enclosed area.
  3. Ignoring the Behavior: Certain unwanted behaviors, such as jumping or barking for attention, can be corrected by ignoring the dog until they calm down. In balanced training, this technique is generally not preferred as it can teach the dog to continue such behaviors for extended periods while simultaneously creating new, unwanted behaviors and/or habits. 

Pure positive training can be beneficial for teaching basic commands and starting with new puppies by encouraging general good behavior. But it falls short when dogs need to understand the consequences of unwanted or “bad” behavior. 

Pros and Cons of Balanced Dog Training

Pros of Balanced Dog Training

  • One of the primary benefits of balanced dog training is that it offers clear and straightforward communication, enabling dogs to understand which behaviors are acceptable and which are not consistent.
  • Balanced training allows for strong rewards, love, and praise for correct behaviors while teaching what is unacceptable.
  • It has demonstrated proficiency in dealing with unwanted behaviors. 

Cons of Balanced Dog Training

  • Less experienced trainers may be unsure about how, why and when a correction should be utilized to aid in behavior modification. Some newer trainers, like those typically found in franchise or big box dog training companies, may take a heavy-handed approach and attempt to dominate dogs by using an “alpha dog” technique to make behavioral changes that can induce fear or anxiety in dogs. 

Pros and Cons of Pure Positive Training

Pros of Pure Positive Training

  • Positive reinforcement training is often praised for its gentle approach, which closely aligns with animal welfare principles.
  • It helps establish a trust bond between the dog/puppy and its owner, making the training process a more enjoyable experience for both parties.

Cons of Positive Reinforcement Training

  • This method faces lots of difficulties long term as it negates half of the learning experience when dealing with basic, stubborn or aggressive behaviors.
  • Since it is contingent on ignoring bad behavior, it doesn’t provide a clear consequence for a dog’s undesirable actions, which often leads to confusion in the animal and may lead to more behavioral problems later. 

Choosing the Right Training Company for Your Dog

Choosing the right training method for your dog is paramount for their development and behavior. 

Balanced dog training combines the benefits of the positive reinforcement approach with consistent and appropriate corrections for unwanted behavior. It provides a clear structure and sets clear boundaries for your dog. This training method has successfully dealt with unwanted behaviors and can be particularly beneficial for dogs who have not responded to positive reinforcement alone.

However, it is important to note that balanced training techniques should always be used responsibly and not as punishment. The approach should aim to guide your dog towards the correct behavior rather than punishing them for their mistakes. Balanced training does not equal “punishment”.

The preference towards balanced training lies particularly in its versatility and effectiveness. It offers a comprehensive approach that addresses the wide range of behavioral issues dogs can exhibit, from mild disobedience to severe aggression. This method provides a clear message to the dog about what is acceptable behavior and what is not, making it a preferred choice for many dog owners.

Ensuring Comfort with Training Methods

Your comfort with the chosen training method is essential. If you feel uncomfortable using corrective techniques, discussing this with a professional trainer might be worth discussing. At Train Pro Dogs, we offer FREE evaluations demonstrating which tools we offer and how they are implemented, and then we allow you to choose the tools based on your comfort and training goals. Our trainers are highly skilled and educated, have years of hands-on training experience, and can help you make informed decisions on a right training method for you and your dog.

Remember that every dog’s behavior is unique, as are humans’ household and activity levels, and one method or technique may not work for all. The ultimate goal is to create a happy, well-behaved pet that knows what is expected of them without causing fear or distress. As such, the chosen method should prioritize your dog’s well-being while effectively addressing their behavioral issues.

Contact Us for Professional Dog Training

Our team at Train Pro Dogs is here to help you understand your pet’s needs and to assist you in choosing the ideal training approach for you, your dog and your home. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have.

We invite you to fill out our Get In Touch form on our website, and we’ll get back to you promptly. Join us in the journey towards a better, happier, and well-trained dog!

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