Treat Training Trinity – Why positive reinforcement did not work for my dog.

There are days when I feel like I’m doing it all wrong and I might as well just go out and buy some quick-fix prong or e-collar. This post reflects how much my technique needs improvement, and how I’m not setting Knox up for success through my lackadaisical criteria setting.
Most importantly, reexamining the way I provide feedback is critical and this line describes my current training program perfectly: This is not positive reinforcement. This is a mixed bag of reinforcements and punishments, more aversive than not.


About fifteen years ago, when I started apprenticing as a trainer, I used leash corrections and other forms of “discipline”.  I no longer leash correct, and have not for more than a decade.  This is not because I had a moral agenda.  I simply needed an effective training solution.

Kiki, my learning dog pulled like a tugboat.  We tried so many techniques we could have been the poster child for:

“But I tried positive reinforcement and it did not work.”

I chuckled and snickered with other trainers, “Ignore bad behaviour?  So you just LET the dog knock grandma to the ground?”  Teaching with food and then proofing with corrections seemed to make more sense.

We ran the gamut on protocols:

Food luring Collar corrections – flat collar
Collar corrections – nylon slip Head halter use
Head halter to reposition dog Head halter corrections
Chain choke collar correction Special choke…

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  1. mytwopitties · February 1, 2015

    Interesting read. I admit that when she was young, I did not do every as I should have with Kaya. It didn’t effect our relationship in the end but I recall some harsh words and (flat) collar yanking that I wish I could take back. More than that though I wish I enjoyed the learning process with her more & learned to engage her rather than expect her to do anything for a treat. I guess we were in a learning phase together!

    I think people have this vision of positive training being all sing songy voices & letting dogs run amok until they are rewarded for calming down. Dogs also need structure & guidance to know what they should do instead. Plus all dogs are so different. Kaya responds best to short, loud(ish) commands where Norman responds best being talked to kind of like a puppy. I love when we’re out doing stuff, we’re doing it together & enjoying it together.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nicolb · February 4, 2015

      We’re definitely going through a low point in our learning process. “Growing pains” has never been more true! That said, I’m trying to remain positive and cognizant of the speed we’re moving (we need to go much slower) and his level of frustration every step of the way.

      Thanks for reminding me to enjoy the ride though. It’s so easy to lose sight of the moment when we have bad days. 🙂


  2. Pingback: Reactive Knox: 12 month check-in | #knoxdog

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