How It Works
Balanced training refers to any approach that incorporates training techniques from each quadrant of canine learning theory. Balanced trainers use positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment.
Although this sounds relatively straightforward, to fully grasp the modern balanced dog training, it is important to understand a bit of dog training history. Decades ago, training methods involved the use of a fair degree of force to teach dogs how to respond to commands. The dogs were motivated to listen by avoiding substantial discomfort and stress. What made this approach particularly problematic is that the force was being used to teach and punish behaviors, when their intentions and direction were ultimately still unknown to the dog. In addition to moral and ethical issues with this approach, training conducted in this manner can have detrimental and undesirable side effects.
In the 1980’s dog training professionals tried to compensate for this, which resulted in a major and over zealous shift towards purely positive methods to train dogs. Trainers all over the world were excited to ditch their aversive techniques. Although this was a tremendous improvement in the dog training community, many dog owners and trainers realized that this idealized vision of dog training doesn’t quite hold up in the real world, and not everything can be accomplished using reward based techniques only.
A More Effective Approach to Training
In order for dogs to learn, they need to be taught what behaviors are desirable, and also those that are undesirable. Imagine taking an exam and being given your score, without being able to assess which questions you got correct and which you got incorrect. You are just told you failed and are given no explanation. That is what we are doing to our dogs when we do not use a balanced approach.
When canines communicate with each other, they are able to clearly demonstrate with their mouths, the behaviors they find undesirable. Their friends who have received that communication from them are then met with the consequence of being growled at, snapped at, or biten. This is the most biologically and psychologically appropriate method of learning for a dog. If we do not have a way to communicate with our dogs that makes sense to them, we are not going to be able to effectively train them.
Balanced trainers use prong collars and ecollars (not to be confused with choke chains and shock collars), in order to establish an intricate language that owners and dogs can use to effectively communicate, develop an appropriate bond, and live comfortably together.
Even though prong collars and ecollars are often portrayed as dangerous or harsh tools, they are far from that. Do not let their appearance or the ignorant and uneducated opinions of others mislead you into making the wrong, and often detrimental, decision for your dog. Prong collars are actually one of the safest and most gentle ways to effortlessly communicate with your dog both during training and after. Because the e-collars we use are so neutral and mild, modern e-collar training allows for the very best communication and transferring of skills from trainer to owner. While many are concerned that the dog is being “shocked” into listening, the truth is, high-end e-collars are based on the same technology as TENS machines used for physical therapy in humans. Which means, your dog feels a mild, benign sensation that is not harming to them mentally or physically. The sensation, in many cases, will relax your dog when they are otherwise highly fearful, aroused, stressed, etc.