"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Are Dogs or Dog Trainers Getting Dumber? All Positive Vs Discipline

– Posted in: All Positive AKA Force Free Dog Training, Columns, Newsletters

All positive dog trainingIs ‘All Positive/Force-Free’ Dog Training Catching Up to Us?

If you’ve taken your dog for training and are still scratching your head as to why your dog still won’t stay, come or heel you might find this interesting. Was it ‘All Positive/Force-Free’ dog training? I was privy to a dialogue between dog trainers where one said that at a recent obedience trial there was a dog attack during the open long sit/down. The trainer went on to say that they had judged obedience for more then a couple of decades and never had a fight in a long sit and down exercise – but those were the days when trainers used reward and consequence to train. The trainer felt that the “new and improved” dog training, also often known as “pure positive” or “clicker” training has negatively influenced a dog’s ability to do basic obedience. The trainer reported that in their province they could no longer hold outdoor trials because not enough dogs trained this way could stand the distractions of the outdoors.

I have to agree. This new trend has not been good for companion dogs and their owners. I keep being told that it has been scientifically proven that dogs don’t need consequence or discipline to learn self control and using it creates aggression. There isn’t a biologist, ethologist, psychologist, psychiatrist or human mom and dad that isn’t going to ask why is it that there isn’t a single species on the planet that refrains from discipline. No one is suggesting mindless confrontation. Measured, well timed consequence has always been and will always be a natural part of life and when combined with love and approval, is humane, produces the most reliable results and does so in far less time.

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To me, a trainer that restricts themselves to only “‘All Positive/Force-Free'” or only all “anything” is like a dentist saying they believe in only “all extractions”. Personally, I’d like a dentist with more treatment options because when all you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail. Patients are going to hear, “Well that looks like it’s going to have to come out.”, which is a bit of a drag if you just went in for a teeth whitening.

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If a mother with 3 kids under 10 and a puppy that is constantly mouthing their hands and arms and is piercing their clothing has a trainer tell her to just “ignore the bad behaviour and reward the good behaviour”, that trainer is not helping. I might argue that trainer is actually harming. That mom now has limited options. She must either start over by finding a more qualified trainer, return the dog to the breeder, or take it to a shelter. No mother, not even a dog mother has the time to ignore bad behaviour. Combine some discipline with that reward and the problem is over in a day. Occasionally impressing upon a dog,”I wasn’t asking you, I was telling you!” or, “Because I said so!” will not make it aggressive or wreck it’s self-esteem – in spite of what the “new science” assures everyone it has now proven.

Trainers that fear chastising a dog or using some collar that gives them a physical advantage, do so needlessly. I’ve yet to see a tool to be a problem. So far it has turned out to always have been the tool on the end of the tool that’s the real problem. Sometimes those tools are in the hands of a bad trainer. Sometimes they’re in the hands of a desperate dog owner with a dog they are struggling to keep. When a trainer offers nothing more than ignore bad behaviour and reward good behaviour, a dog owner may very well buy a perfectly good tool and without professional guidance use it incorrectly. Somehow the ‘All Positive/Force-Free’ dog trainer interprets this as “evidence” the tool is evil and further proof that ‘All Positive/Force-Free’ training is the “new and improved science.”

I don’t think dogs are dumb at all.


John Wade

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8 Comments… add one
BC Newbie

It would seem to me that dogs are individuals the same as we humans are, so what works for one dog may not work for another. Dogs, much like people, don’t all learn the same way. We need to know our dog, educate ourselves as to the different options out there. Using the “ignoring” technique quelled my dog’s enthusiastic greetings, but positive techniques sure hasn’t taught him a “down.” Neither has squishing him to the floor, or wrestling him into a down. (Actually, I suspect he finds the last two rather funny, he’s wagging while I’m red faced, sweating and have my tush in the air. Hubby undoubtedly finds the scene hysterical.) Success finally came with a “nose to butt” manuever. See the glaring difference? 1 technique fixed jumping up on people, but we went through 4 techniques to get the little booger to lay down. (I call him a booger with the utmost affection.)

Short story, there are few quick fix, one size fits all solutions in life.


I believe that coercion has no place in dog training. Behavior does need to be corrected, but that doesn’t mean using a chain or prong collar and popping the dog. I re-trained a 200# dog aggressive Dane/Bernard who was 7 years old and still intact using a clicker and many different rewards. I never punished him, but redirected his behavior. It’s called behavior modification. Obedience training wouldn’t have done a thing for this dog.


Dezi, that’s a nice anecdote. How many hundreds, no, thousands, of dogs have you trained (sorry, modified the behavior of) this way?

Saying that behavior modification isn’t training, and that some dogs don’t need training, only B-Mod, and that B-Mod need only be R+, is shortsighted and dogmatic. I modify dogs’ behaviors every day, using what works best for that dog in that situation, be it treats, praise, leash pressure and release, play, social pressure, training collars, head halters, long lines, mindful touch, and much more. Most every dog I have ever worked with needs more info than just R+ and P-. Hundreds of my colleagues report the same. And lest you think we are all armpit-scratching Neanderthals, I assure you we are not. We simply understand science.

If you think all dogs’ behavior can be successfully re-routed with only half of the information every organism relies on to survive, you are incorrect.


Just want to say thank you for your common sense and for this article. Im a professional trainer mostly working with german shepherds doing protection sports. Ipo…etc. I have had more than enough of this positive only crap which is now a religion being shoved upon the rest of us. There is a serious threat to real dog training by these clicky cult activists who rarely have experience with more than a handful of dogs …… most have ZERO clue why severe consequences are necessary. I had a friend whose dog broke away in the obedience and ran on the dog laying down and started a fight. Ive had a dog break onto me while I was on the field…..all is extremely serious as your article points out but our religious clicky friends like to suggest the training was so incorrect. Yes….maybe it was…..the dogs needed to be set up to fail at thw behavior and be shown what happens ……n+!!!!!! Thanks again for your refreshing intelligence .


John "Ask the Dog Guy" Wade

Hi Danielle,

I have no problem with the science behind “all positive”. The problem is a failure to recognize that the context of the research is far different than that of the typical companion dog owner. I have found some great uses for clickers but when it or treats is the only tool in the tool bag trainers and the dog owners they convince continually come up short when it comes to real life. I won’t say it’s impossible but I will say it it almost always impossible in a real day to day life to embrace such a rigid outlook. I won’t challenge trainers with this philosophy to entirely raise a child in this manner but I would offer a cash reward if one could change a cranky child’s diaper using nothing more than a clicker and treats, or get them into a car seat or a snow suit when they haven’t had their nap. Imagine the challenge! Now imagine a whole day or raising the child to adulthood? No, we and all social species keep far more tools in our tool bag.


came across this older posting and felt it deserved a bump.. I have a 93 lb cane corso “pup” that is projecting to be around 120 – 130 lb. It’s been a minute (….decades) since i’ve had/trained a pup and kept hearing about all these new ‘methods’. i tried them, until two full grown massive dogs (a presa and another cc) turned a blind corner and we came face to face. sorry, but no ‘treat’ or ‘click’ would have worked in that scenario and i’m thankful that my trainer is a two negative (1. no, 2. quick correction) and 1 positive (good boy! or treat). at the size and potential of this dog i need 100% control (not relying on clicks, treats etc.). At the same time, i also want to avoid e-collars, and if possible prong collars (not hating on prong collars, used them in the past with rescues, but societal perceptions become a pain the butt when out and you get looks for ‘abusing your dog’).
Thanks for the article 🙂

John "Ask the Dog Guy" Wade

Thanks for the input.


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