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Quadrant Problems

Hi John,

We are the owners of a 17 month old male Golden Retriever, Snatch. This past June, we decided to take Snatch to a local trainer who uses clicker training. He did well with the basics-sit,stay,crate etc. Things have changed. Sometimes he will listen most of the time, he won’t.

He has always been a hyper dog, and has displayed some signs of worrisome behaviours-he nips, chews, jumps, scratches, barks excessively, won’t come when called, knocks over the kids, growls and has showed his teeth.

We can’t have him around when we have guests over-he is always crated or put in the backyard because he will jump on them and scratch and nip etc. He spends most of the day in the kitchen-gated off from the living room, because when we let him in, he eats everything, steals the kids toys, and we are worried he is going to hurt them.

We are frustrated and stressed and at our wits end.


Hi Barb,

More often then not when people pay for clicker training they’re without realizing it paying someone to teach their dogs to do tricks. Mind you those tricks are called Sit, Down, Stay etc. I call them tricks when end result is a dog won’t do it for any longer then it takes to swallow a treat or their owner to turn their back. I call them a job if, using the “Stay” for example you can get a guest in and out the door.

Clicker training is supposed to be based on operant conditioning something attributed to one of the gods of most of the “’All Positive/Force-Free’” dog trainers; B.F. Skinner. This is ironic because Skinner’s work very clearly states negative and positive must go hand in hand for learning to occur. Operant conditioning is based on teaching using 4 quadrants;  positive reinforcement – something is given to the dog, negative reinforcement – something is taken from the dog, positive punishment – significant consequence applied, negative punishment – reward is taken away.

With very few exceptions most of the “’All Positive/Force-Free’” clicker trainers I’ve met think they can teach a dog to reliably; Come, Heel, and Stay without two of the quadrants that might actually make the dog think twice about pursuing an undesired course of action. That in a nutshell is one of the reasons why so much clicker training as it commonly exists doesn’t work. Trainers can not pick and choose and/or selectively interpret the quadrants to suit a utopic philosophy. It ultimately produces the same sort of results as a speeder deciding she’s only going to actually pull over if requested by police in 2 out of the 4 quadrants in her city. Sooner or later she’s going to jail and in the dog training sense so does the relationship with a dog.

This form of jail is that the dog owner is unhappy because because like yours the dog is harder to live with not to mention you can’t go anywhere with the dog. The dog is unhappy because based on all the yelling and screaming of their owner  they can’t take their owner anywhere. All parties are locked up in relationship jail. Only because someone thinks the dog’s self esteem will be wrecked when consequence for actions are applied. I know some very good clicker trainers but the clicker is just one of many tools in their tool bag. Generally it’s tucked underneath the word or act of “No”.

‘All Positive/Force-Free’ dog Clicker trainers don’t raise their children, guide the owners of the dogs they’re not training or  live any of their life in that way. Only dogs are “special” enough and I don’t know why and they’re not telling.  If I had to be ‘All Positive/Force-Free’ all the time in the raising my sons I wouldn’t have two sons, either that or because I’d performed a miracle my name would be up for not saint hood at the Vatican.

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