I have long been an advocate of positive training. Like so many people, I'm what is known as a "cross-over" trainer. We learned the old aversive methods and I disliked them intensely even then. I loathed the sight of a choke collar. And with good cause. The name itself explains it. And I have to wonder: what part of choke don't people understand? Oh, sure, aversive trainers use words like "pop," as if it were an insignificant movement by the human. It is not insignificant. They call it a "training collar." Another name doesn't change it. And alpha rolls are not a means of communication between dogs and owners; they are a good way to get bitten. It's rather like sitting up and begging to be bitten. Humans are not dogs and vice versa. Aversives might work in the short term but aggression begets aggression and sooner or later, those methods will backfire. They will surely damage the human-animal bond. What good is a relationship that's built on fear?
Old-fashioned trainers talk about "dominance." Are they so insecure that they feel they have to be "dominant" over an animal? If you watch that sort of "training" on videotape or television, turn off the sound and watch the dog. What do you see? The answer is fear. And fear is not a good foundation for a relationship with a living, breathing, sentient being. Practicing 30 year old training methodologies, or going to a trainer who does, is pretty much like taking your dog to a veterinarian who practices 30 year old medical methodologies. Why would you want to do that?
I'm very pleased to say that I'm not alone in believing that operant conditioning (clicker training), or lure and reward based methods, are far better and create a strong bond. There are many trainers, behaviorists, and behavior consultants who also strongly believe this, and seeing is believing. Dogs with positive training are competing in all canine sports and doing well at the highest levels. Even more importantly: they're living in homes as beloved family members with a very tightly shared bond and it certainly wasn't fear that led them there.
It is important to note that the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) recently released a position statement titled, "The Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals." (http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=80&Itemid=366) The paper can be downloaded in .pdf form from their website. I strongly urge you to read this position statement and point others in its direction as well.
"I sing for the animals..,." Teton Sioux. They did. We should, too. We must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. When we bring them into our homes, when we see them with their owners, we must give them voice. We must not allow the misguided "training" that is tantamount to abuse.
There are those who insist the old methods are the only way. How sad that they will not acknowledge that it isn't true, will not even try another way, that they are so stuck in the past that they cannot see the present, let alone the future. Positive training is so simple that even a child can do it. It opens up a line of communication between the four-legged companion and his or her human family and helps create a loving, lasting bond. Isn't that what we want?
There are many places where you can find positive training as well as behavior consultants practicing positive training methodologies. A good place to start learning about positive training is Karen Pryor's website (www.clickertraining.com) where you will find resources including a listing of trainers who use operant conditioning.
If you have problems, you can find Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorists who can help you. The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (www.dacvb.org) has an online presence. Your veterinarian can refer you to a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist if there's one in your area. There are Applied Animal Behaviorists (http://www.animalbehavior.org/ABSAppliedBehavior) and there are Certified Animal Behavior Consultants certified by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (www.iaabc.org).
There is nothing better than building a bond of trust. And, yes, you can solve behavior problems using positive methods. I filled a book ("Rover, Get Off Her Leg!") with positive ways to solve problems. Emma Parsons wrote a wonderful book, "Click to Calm," on solving dog aggression problems with positive methods. Those are only two of many books and DVDs available to help people and their dogs.
Do yourself, and your dog, a favor and, as the classic song title proclaimed, "Accentuate the Positive."