When I put some feelers out there looking for trainers that consider themselves 100% positive, there were quite a few responses.
Here is the interview with Jeanne at Love 2 Play, who is based in the west Kootenays of British Columbia:
Tell me about yourself and your dogs!
In my previous life i was a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing children. I started helping another trainer with her classes in 2001 and realized that training dogs was inter-species communication whereas teaching deaf and hard of hearing children was intra-species communication; so in many ways it was the same -- all about communication. In 2006 my friends noticed how many animal training seminars I had been to and they asked me to teach them what i was learning. Then they thought they should pay me, and Love 2 Play was born in 2007. I retired from the school district in 2010 and now work pretty much full time as a dog trainer, employing another almost full time trainer and 5 part timers.
I live with 4 Border Collies which are my favourite breed for ME because if you teach them something by accident, they have it forever. So you have to think through how you are training a behavior before you start. And no :) my dogs are not related and yes they are all very very different dogs, even though they are the same breed. Each one has taught me something I needed to know more about. We train for and/or compete in k9 nosework, agility, obedience, rally obedience, musical freestyle, tricks... basically everything... except herding :(
What is your favourite breed and why?
No favourite breed... all dogs are individuals and although they have breed tendencies, each one brings some different instinctual behavior to the table in 2019. The way i train is not specific to the breed nor to the species (we would train all animals the same basic way). I like dogs that are eager to learn, but independent and are not afraid to try new things.
What are you certifications?
I am a Certified Training Partner with Karen Pryor Academy; Certified as 'Knowledge Assessed' by the Council for Professional Dog Trainers; a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with IAABC; a Certified Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor; a Certified NoseWork Instructor and a Certified Trick Dog Instructor........that's lots of certifications but the ones that mean the most to me are CDBC (IAABC) and KPA-CTP as they both have codes of ethics and ongoing continuing education units needed. KPA also monitors their CTPs to make sure we are doing a good job. I am in the process of completing course work through the Fear Free program as well (Fear Free Vet care)
What got you interested in dog training?
My first dog that I trained in 2001. I never knew the things you could teach a dog or that you could have a dog that was eager and happy to work with you. And it really just fit with teaching children, parents, what I had been doing. AND it was fun working with a different species and trying to figure out how to make communication work. I've trained other animals, including a fish and chickens. I think mostly I just like the cross species communication and the problem solving and creativity that is necessary.
Why did you choose the training method you use today?
I used to train using more punishment and aversives. I now train using mostly positive reinforcement because I like the results. I like seeing dogs wanting to do something because they want to do it, rather than because they are afraid not to do it. I use it because it works.
What is your best success story in terms of aggression training?
What do you mean by aggression? This is a catch all phrase, and used differently by different people. I look at specific behaviors and work to change those by changing the underlying emotions that cause the behaviors.
Best Success story? Too many. (I trained) a Dog with a multiple level 4 bite history to people, destined for euthanasia, who is now living happily with his people and going for walks and comfortable with visitors in the home. What changed? The understanding of the people about dog language and what he was trying to communicate (and then couldn't "hear" because they didn't know his language). Once they started to listen, a whole world opened up and they were able to start changing THEIR behaviour, and creating safe situations for him (most aggression comes from fear) and he was then able to change.
Too often we blame the dog for their behavior rather than looking at the function of that behavior, why it works for the dog. Once we see it as appropriate DOG behaviour - inappropriate in the human world, we start being able to make changes. Dogs often 'act out' not because they want to GIVE something a hard time, but because they are HAVING a hard time themselves.
Why not balanced training? What would you never do that balanced trainers do?
I don't know what those words mean. We talk about training using Least Intrusive Minimally Aversive (LIMA). Dr. Susan Friedman uses the example of a highway with multiple exits:
What would I never do? I think of the phrase from the 17th century -- "first, do no harm.
I think that some people don't have the resources, deep understanding or patience to create behavior change without moving to more aversive means. And i know for myself, it is very easy to want that behavior change fast and become impatient. OUR emotions as humans and reactions to situations often put blinders on possibilities.
What is your best piece of advice for someone seeking out a trainer?
The Association of Professional Dog Trainers has some good information on their website. Basically sit in on a class and make sure you are absolutely comfortable with what you see. Ask: "what do you do when the dog gets it right? What do you do when the dog gets it wrong?". Certification from an organization that requires continuing education units (i.e, not just 'graduated from some school'). Evidence of ongoing professional development (is important).
What is your favourite training tool?
My favourite training tools are my eyes -- listening to what the dog is telling me at every moment. And understanding that the dog is never wrong. Bob Bailey once said "the rat is never wrong" meaning they do what we trained them to do even if it wasn't what we intended)
Other training tools I use involve some things that the dog loves - I primary reinforcer usually personal plan, toys or food. I use a marker signal (whistle, tongue click, clicker, verbal 'yip') as a means of communicating across the species. The mark tells the dog that it did something correct and a desired reward is coming.
What sets you apart from other trainers?
I think most trainers are awesome, there are good things about all of us. At Love 2 Play, we are dedicated to professional development, care of the animal we work with (human animals as well as other species), training people with positive reinforcement, ongoing support for our students.
Whats your dogs favourite treat, and if you were stranded on an island, would you eat it?
Depends on my dog.
If I were stranded on an island, i would eat most of the homemade treats I give my dogs.
It seems as though there isn't actually such thing as a 100% positive dog trainer, but rather a trainer that works on a sliding scale - perhaps a "positive based trainer" - starting with positive reinforcement, and eventually (if necessary) changing up those methods based on the dogs needs, and wether or not they respond to the positive methods.
I think its important that all trainers are able to adapt to different techniques and methods because each dog is an individual - in some cases, such as my own personal situation with my Saint Bernard, we used positive methods for things like recall, and of course any time he's done something right, we gave treats and "good boys". On the other hand if he ever did an unwanted behaviour, such as growling or lunging, we gave NO's and leash pops.
So where do "balanced" trainers come in? stay tuned for part 3: The balanced perspective.
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Well folks! It's been a journey.
When I embarked on this adventure of comparing all positive vs. balanced dog trainers, I expected to find vast differences, competition, and even drama between trainers.
What I actually found was the opposite...