Those that Kill but Won’t Correct

Bound Angels Blog 68 Comments

There is a trend in dog training that is ever more popular, yet their vigilance ends up hurting many dogs.  This trend is the “positive only” movement.

Last month I was in Prescott Arizona working with the humane society.  On my last day I was asked to work with a dog that was set to be put down for aggression.  I’ve worked with my share of aggressive dogs in shelters and in my private work, so people often refer to me when dealing with these type dogs.  More often than not, the cookie trainers have turned their backs and some activists say that if you need to use compulsion to correct a dog it’s better to put that dog down.  Well, some compassionate humane societies are standing up against that concept, the Yavapai Humane Society is one of them.  Nacho had been at the shelter for over 70 days.

When Nacho was brought to me, I was finished with my workshop and ready to leave.  Seeing his initial behavior I agreed that if a dog had to be killed, he would be a good candidate.  The main reason I say this (in these type situations) is because people will not wan to do the work that it will take to work with a dog like this, either because they will find it cruel or because they just can’t.  I filmed the entire session, so you can see it by clicking here.  The entire session took about 12 minutes.  At the end f that session Nacho was able to behave very well and be around the other dog that he initially wanted to fight, and possibly kill.

The controversy that ensued because of this 12 minutes was enormous.  I was threatened and harassed by a group of people that I had never met and that had not been present for the session.  They went on the word of one person, the “positive only” trainer that worked at the humane society.  He had just under 12 months of experience “training” under another positive only trainer.  He wanted to be a hero, so he started a rumor that I killed the dog.  Apparently he forgot that I was rolling a video the entire time.  Later the story changed and changed.  When I released the video the fanatics still stayed their course, but everyone else was able to see the truth.  Nacho was saved with a few corrections and is alive now because of that session.  The irony is that of the approximate 4000 people that rallied against me, NOT ONE stepped up to take Nacho.  NOT ONE.  Instead these people threatened my life and the reputation of our work.

What strikes me so ironic about this is how divided we are in doing what’s right for the animals.  At any time, anyone could have stepped up and rescued Nacho.  Instead these people formed a linch mob to try to condemn the work of Bound Angels, The Yavapai Humane Society and me.  I wondered for a while about what to do about this and made the decision to further commit to the life-saving work we do.  I decided that since they (the haters) wanted to point their fingers at my work, I would showcase it more and more.  All of the training videos that we offer to shelters, rescues, humane societies and SPCA’s is public, so I will promote it and show how we can save more and more dogs that others think can’t be saved.  When the clicker and the cookie fail, there should be a path for people who want to do the right thing.  Remember, the training that we show is in real time and the results save lives.  We make this information available free of charge, we’re not selling it.  This is real and it shows what works and what doesn’t.  We don’t spend an exorbitant amount of money or time editing and retouching.

My book, Desperate Dogs Determined Measures, was reviewed  recently by someone  I thought was an animal activist, but later found out is a BSL, pit bull hating hypocrite.  In the review he mocked the work it takes to save a dog and in his closing statement said,
“If a dog can be saved, it can be done without violence. If violence is needed, the dog is not salvageable.”
Sadly these fanatics equate the word correction with violence.  They feel that a pinch collar or a pop on a choke chain is brutal and abusive.  I feel that euthanasia is a much less favorable option. Studies reveal that one of the greatest hurdles to overcome in order to achieve no kill is the behavior training that dogs lack in the shelter.  If all the dogs in the shelter were good, adoptions would be easier.  I have an issue with people who want to kill a dog because he is less than perfect.  My girlfriend and I live with 10 dogs, at least half of those dogs would be put down if people like this had their ways.  I believe animals have rights, not just perfect ones, but all of them with the exception of ones that create a clear and present danger to humans and other animals.  I have always said, I don’t mind if a shelter kills dogs, I just want to know they are killing the right dogs.

Sadly, most dogs that have behavioral problems have problems because of the fanatical movement that wants to abolish any corrections in training.  Sadly, this is an idealistic approach.  These people pick and choose the dogs that they will handle, rescue or train and therefore continue to cause problems for the dogs that need rescue most.  There are thousands of dogs that suffer because people refuse to use a balanced approach in training, and this is equally so for people on both sides of the dog training barrier.  Those who don’t use positive training methods as well as those who don’t use corrections.  The fault is on both of the extremes.  Dogs need balance and structure.  This cannot be achieved by a one-sided training approach.  I understand people trying to protect animals from harm, that is my life-work, but not to give a dog corrections and structure is like the fanatics who believe that kids on both teams should get a trophy no matter who wins!

If you feel that a dog can be saved without corrections, you have never worked with a dog that has any personality.  I can assure you that protection dogs, sport dogs and any dog that has a drive will at some point require a correction and will need to understand that YOU are in control in order to be happy and balanced.  People who want a turn-key dog should not claim to be trainers and should stay out of the way of people trying to do the right thing.  For years I’ve made it clear that I will gladly meet any positive only trainer at a shelter and compare skills, lets see who ends up with the more adoptable dog.

Now, after all of this is said, I want to clarify something.  I consider myself a “balanced” trainer.  That is, I believe in treats, toys as well as corrections and structure.  Those of you who know me, know my style and I have yet to be considered “violent” by anyone who has worked with me or whose dogs I’ve trained.  It is only those that have no idea.  People who have trained with me for over 100+ hours know my style and have learned how to work with ANY dog and not get hurt AND help save countless dogs!

The main point of this post is that we ask ourselves the important question, “If this were my dog and he was acting up, would I try to train him and correct him, would I do whatever it takes to save him or would I kill him?”  Then ask yourself, “If the positive only method doesn’t work, would I kill him or try the next step?”

I believe all animals deserve a fair shot, I want to give them that shot.  If that doesn’t work, then we can rest assured that we’ve tried everything.  And I believe we owe it to the animals to try everything  before we give up!

Comments 68

  1. I don’t claim to understand all your methods, but I haven’t spent years working with aggressive dangerous dogs so I also know that I don’t have all the answers. Do what you have to do to save lives … let the keyboard warriors continue to foam until they find another target (they always do).

    As for the reviewer of your book. I know who he is and well, some people’s opinions truly are meritless.

  2. I like to consider myself a “positive reinforcement” trainer. That’s my first choice. But I have met many dogs that no amount of treats can distract. My own G’S wouldn’t focus when he saw a kid or a dog. I think until there are 0% death rate on dogs in shelters, we shouldn’t be focusing on small details. Just get the dogs out. If I meet a dog I can’t handle with trays or minor corrections I send them to someone who can. Let’s just keep them out of shelters 🙂

  3. Nice work, but I do have a question. His behavior the next day with the neutral dog was good. What was his behavior like with the GSD? They had both been triggering each other. Can he hold it together with a dog who will instigate a confrontation?

  4. I can´t agree with that. There is no reason for “Correction” or Punishment in any Way. I´m working with aggressive Dogs and I know how to handle them with positive reinforcement. I´m using a very big toolbox, but there is no negative reinforcement in that box.

    One big difference between the US and Germany is, we have the time, to work with the dogs. To euthanize a dog is nearly impossible, when it is in a shelter. I know from many Colleagues in the USA, that the most shelters are willing to kill a dog if it is not adoptable, within a few months. But that is no reason, to work with harsh methods. They are not faster, not better but they do have negative side-effects.

    I hope, that my way to work with dogs save as much dogs lives as other peoples work do. For the dogs, my way is much more friendly and without side-effects.

    Thank you for reading this.

    Dieter from Germany

    1. Dieter,
      If you can save every single dog without using corrections, I’d applaud you, but having worked with a few thousand dogs, I can assure you this is not the case. Furthermore, many of these dogs are given a few days in the US shelter system. I too am a positive trainer, but when it comes to serious aggression in shelters, we have to think outside of that large tool box that you have in order to save lives. Furthermore, positive only trainers are always claiming that using corrections have “side effects.” This hype was started by the positive only trainers in order to scare people, it is not true. I’ve seen many treat trained dogs slide backwards before those dogs that were given structure.

      1. You’re plain and utterly wrong. I’m sorry, but not every dog can be saved using treats and corrections. If a dog has killed someone, it would by morally wrong to try and save it. You are no positive trainer. Using food in training doesn’t make you a positive trainer. In fact, aggression is the absolute worst type of situation where force should be used. True R+ trainers can motivate dogs to do what they need without punishment. You’re just a lazy excuse of a trainer that is unwilling to get further education in behavior because you’re set in your ways. “Violence begins when knowledge ends”

        1. Post

          Thanks Adrianna / Audrey for your opinion. If I stated anywhere that a dog who killed someone should be saved, please point that out to me. I think that is where our agreements would end. I have not seen any examples of truly aggressive dogs cured and tested under distractions using the methods you recommend. Sadly trainers who criticize those of us who use a balanced approach are generally those that we never see in the shelter or in the training environment showing and proving their ways. Instead they are the ones who “armchair quarterback” and criticize the people who are saving these dogs. FYI, this dog was in the shelter for 90 days and was overlooked because of his issues and about to be put down. After this session the dog showed no further signs of aggression (although I do agree that it is rare for dogs to change after one session) and went on to rescue. Thank you for watching this and sharing this video with your friends, I’m certain that perhaps a few might see that a balanced approach that saves lives is more valuable than the PC standard of doing what appears kind in the unknowing public’s eye.

          1. What about veterinary behaviorists like Sophia Yin? What about the Harvard Professor B.F. Skinner? Or his graduate students like Bob Bailey? Why is it that these people who went to universities to study animal behavior can all agree that punishment is not the most effective way? Why is it that in a million years, they would never use positive punishment paired with reinforcement? I’m not talking about “dog trainers” anymore. Dog trainers are not behaviorists, they’re actually from from it. You can’t disregard what these people are saying because you simply don’t agree with them. Good science based training is just good training.

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            There are many ways to approach dog training whether it’s purely positive or balanced training (using corrections). Everything should start with positive rewards and progress if the situation isn’t working. I have never seen a dog suffer through the training I’ve provided – NEVER. There are some dogs that respond to positive training and some that don’t. IF your opinion is that we can only use positive training and NEVER correct a dog, then I would say you are wrong, and this opinion will lead to the death of many many dogs. This is just my opinion, you can go to any shelter in the US and take the aggressive dogs and work with them using your methods. I would applaud that effort more than your incessant posts on this page. Please check back here when you can show your work / results.

    2. I’m young but grown up with dog and training them all my life. My Question for you is, how do you see mothers correct there pups? Or how do you one dog correct another. Any canine that have been brought up by pack (i.e. wolves) or even solitary only with a mother (foxes) have been corrected and taught. A grab to the neck by the mother teaches the pup. Is the mother or even pack mates being cruel.
      I’m not saying we as humans should act like dogs but I believe there is a lot we can learn on how to communicate with a dog for watching how dogs communicate to each other.

  5. Not sure how your method is determined ‘cruel’. Obviously none of these people really understand dog behavior. In the canine world, bad behavior is corrected abruptly and usually violently. Watch a bitch with her pups, she does not negotiate and give them treats to correct behavior. I have worked with dogs as a vet and owned a boarding kennel which my husband and I lived on the premises. We walked every dog boarding as a pack several times a day. We had several ‘dog aggressive’ dogs stay with us and owners would ask us to keep their dog away from the other dogs. One hundred percent of the time we were able to socialize the dog and within a few days they were playing with the other dogs without an issue. We never used ‘positive’ training methods, just utilized a strict routine whereas the dog was first walked with the calmest dog staying with us and once the aggressive dog realized that it was much more interesting to explore outside the dog usually went into ‘pack’ mode and forgot about the other dogs. It always helped that the owner was not around as dogs tend to want to protect their owner, especially if the owner is not in charge. Perhaps this is a ‘positive’ method but I would NEVER rely on treats and clickers to train a dog. That is like telling teachers they can NEVER discipline a unruly child in their classroom, that they can only use treats and clap their hands to control the children.

    1. Aren’t you lucky that you have not lost you entire business AND your home for ignoring what the owners asked you to do and for putting potentially dog aggressive dogs with other clients’ dogs.

      Clearly, you haven’t the FOGGIEST idea what a clicker is used for. Dog behavior is still a mystery to you. If you have any sense at all, you will back out of any dog related business immediately before someone on the Internet determines who you are and has your license revoked and any animals you have removed from your property.

  6. If I had a dog that exhibited this sort of aggressive behavior I would do whatever I could to save his life. I didn’t find this reprehensible at all.

  7. Just to let you know that myself and my dog walking/training group of friends fully support you. Our group consists of strong breed dogs, behaviour cases, hard to place fosters, ect. And we have been vilified before at dog parks and such for correction training. I love my animals more than life itself and only want to do the best for them, and to insure the safety of all humans and animals in their environment. I constantly say “if we aren’t in trouble for correcting our dogs behaviour, we’ll be in trouble for their bad behaviour!” Some people just have no education or understanding and choose to bully instead. Keep up the life saving work 🙂 Samantha

  8. Nice work. Nice timing on the corrections, that is crucial. No anger expressed, verbally nor in body language and attitude/energy. The latter part also explains why your detractors hate you so much, as they are not able to keep their feelings in check, and would use the same negative energy they use on you back on the dog, thus failing miserably, thus giving them another argument as to why this method is a bad one.

  9. I watched the video, and all I have to say is–YOU ROCK.

    Not only was there nothing cruel going on during the training, but you saved that pit’s life with it. This video also proves, once again, that the breed is not the problem! In the right hands, a dog of any kind will be a great dog. It’s when owners are irresponsible and can’t be bothered to step up and train their dogs that we get issues. For instance, my mother has a Boykin Spaniel/Collie mix that she adopted from the shelter that was ten times as aggressive as that pit! But with lots of work, she’s gotten her dog to become a calmer, more relaxed dog overall. There’s still issues, but my mom works tirelessly with her and the work has paid off.

    Kudos to you on a job well done, and thanks for showing the world that pits aren’t the problem–bad handling is, and with the right handling, pits are just as wonderful as any other breed.

  10. Great video Robert. Awesome stuff. Very mild approach creating profound results. Abuse is letting a dog die because of prioritizing ideology over help. I’d love to know of the two choices available, which one Nacho would ask for if he could. A few moments of discomfort to override bad habits, or death?

  11. Keep up the great work..I highly believe in using corrections. You saved a life, I’m sure you’ve saved many keep on saving lives and screw the PETA freaks!

  12. Excellent video. Those that don’t know…don’t know. I compare positive reenforcement training to kids…yes it works well sometimes and sometimes the kids need a reminder of who is in charge. I saw nothing wrong with the techniques used to correct this dog and I want to say congratulations from saving another dog from death. Well done! Anyone who says otherwise and based only what I’ve seen, is either a putz or a ….no they’re a putz!

  13. Thank you for this wonderful post. I get a lot of flack for not being all positive as a trainer, and I feel like those of us out there doing this work should band together more frequently to dismiss the haters. My dogs are the same way, all would have been put down because of the behaviors they had. How euthanizing an animal is more humane then teaching boundaries is way beyond my ability to understand. Thank you again!

  14. Fantastic video. Very educational. I can see and understand an error I have made with my dog in the past. Fortunately, I have done enough right with my dog. Thank you so much for the narration so I could see and hear your training decisions.

  15. I actually would not have done it with corrections….for one, I am not convinced that Nacho is acting “with aggression” towards thos other dogs…..note the LOW tail wag and high pitched bark…I would call it more overly enthusiastic to play with the other dogs…..the play may end up getting into a fight, but what I see here I would not call aggression at all….also, a truly aggressive dog would be redirecting to you when you are correcting them, not wagging their tail at you….I have worked with and own DA dogs….Dogo Argentinos…..this dog maybe a mix of AB x dogo…..I am glad you saved this dog from being PTS, but I cant honestly say this dog is acting aggressively in this video.

    1. Not sure how you can make such a definitive conclusion from a video, however the dog was deemed aggressive and set to be put down. From the dogs I’ve handled and there’s been a few, I saw his behaviors as aggressive and dangerous to the other dog. If you’d like to help more dogs, perhaps you can volunteer your time and skills at your local shelter and help the dogs that need it. That would be a good place to begin!

  16. Disclosure: I am a positive reinforcement trainer. I have attended a respected school for training and have certifications (ie I didn’t wake up yesterday and call myself a trainer.)

    You and I may never agree on the use of correction in dog training. I will always believe in the science behind R+ training, it’s use in zoos, marine parks, and neurobiology studies.

    We can agree that saving a dog’s life IS worthwhile. We can agree that people who want to throw shade should always put their actions where their mouths are.

    We can also agree that judging an entire discipline of dog trainers (be it R+ or balanced) based on either inexperienced personelle or those not knowledgable enough to change behavior doesn’t help either side of training.

    I agree with much of what you say, and despite our differences in belief, this constant harassment and judgement of fellow dog training professionals doesn’t make either of us look good. We should simply strive to educate the public and let them make their own choices. If going to a balanced trainer keeps a dog in a home, I’m happy to put all judgement aside.

    So, don’t lump all of us positive reinforcement trainers into the same category. There are some really uneducated and inexperienced “trainers” out there who make bad situations worse by not knowing how to properly evaluate and treat behavior. The Boulder Valley Humane Society had a behavior program (positive) which treats and adopts out animals with severe behavior issues. Actually, their success rate with resource guarders is impressive.

    We may never agree on methodology, but we can agree to call a bad trainer a bad trainer, not discount an entire field of training (throwing the baby out with the bath water.)

    I appreciate the work you do to get more dogs adopted. There’s a lot to be said about any person willing to help animals.

    1. I don’t lump trainers into any groups. I have a lot of respect for positive based training methods. If any of the critics watched my videos they’d see that almost every one involves positive training. However, I’ve never shied away from a dog that required something more, NEVER. It’s the PO trainers that will slam someone as soon as they use corrections. Kudos to you for what you do!

      I’d like to point out that the training used in marine parks is among the cruelest training ever. If you haven’t yet watched Blackfish, it’s worth a watch. Furthermore, I don’t believe in training wild animals to do tricks. Dogs are domestic animals and comparing them to circus animals, which are brutally abused to perform, is not logical.

  17. Thank you for saving Nacho! I’m a service dog user and my first one was trained in the Keohler method by Dick Keohler. I admit it took me some getting used to, but the dog blossomed into an amazing companion that I could trust on and off leash. I take heat for using an electric training collar, but without the strength to do a useful correction, it has worked and I rarely need to use it. There are always ignorant people willing to talk about how wrong you are but not willing or able to take action. Keep up the excellent work of saving lives!

    1. There is no place for using a shock collar on a Service dog. This is completely unacceptable. These dogs are the ambassadors to the public. It is imperative that their training be perfect but not because you are lazy and unwilling to do the work required to get them there.

      Training does not require physical strength. Positive Reinforcement training does not require touching the dog! Being disabled does not disqualify you from using kind methods for an animal about to give his life in service to you.

      You have no business training a service dog if you have no knowledge of dog learning theory. There are organizations and individuals available to assist in training. You are a shame to the Service Dog world and to dog training itself.

  18. nicely done … well said … bravo … and applause. as someone who has always had shelter and rescue dogs, some with high drive, and as someone who trains VERY positively, there is NOTHING better than a well-rounded, calm trainer who understands the importance of boundaries, of what is required for the individual dog and its unique drive, and who is willing to put it all out there for the sake of the dogs. bravo, again, Robert.

  19. How do you see positive punishment affecting future encounters from the classical conditioning side of learning?

  20. This purely positive training is for dolphins and whales,, it always amazes me when posi nazis fail to see the the real world is both positive and negative and therefore balanced. At the end of the day another life is saved,, well done!!

  21. The hype you say is created around the side effects of training is actually science and evidence based. If you knew much about how animals (including people) learn, you would know this. While mild corrections may be beneficial, you’re relying a lot on physical force over this dog in the video after setting him up for failure multiple times by putting him into a negative situation. You may want to go back to school to get up to date knowledge on the best practices for training animals and dealing with aggressive behaviours because this whole video you brag about just shows a total lack of formal education (Cesar Milan syndrome).

    1. Cookie trainers are always citing studies and critiquing those who use a balanced approach. The studies you cite do not apply to the types of breeds and drives we’re trying to save in the shelters. I have nothing against using treats to train or work with behaviors, most balanced trainers have no issue with it at all… but EVERY operant based trainer has huge issues with anyone who may correct a dog. Meanwhile, I remind you, while you are here criticizing this work, I never see your people in the shelter actually applying your skills. Keep in mind we had 10 minutes to decide if he should be killed of live.

  22. You are awesome! There was nothing at all cruel about your session with Nacho. He took to your methods almost instantly. It seemed to me that Nacho was a good boy all along, just a little lost and looking for someone to take charge. As soon as he realized that you had a handle on things he was able relax. He is so beautiful with a heart melting smile. Thank you for giving him another chance at life. I just have to know…has he been adopted?

  23. I don’t like Cesar Milan’s techniques. I do however know that dogs (and young children) sometimes need to be made to ‘toe the line.’ I have a 6-lb Yorkie mix that came to me big-dog aggressive. The first time I took him to a dog park, he immediately charged, attacked and bit a Boxer that could have bitten him in half. It’s taken a lot of time, hard work and consistent correction to be able to walk this little guy safely on a leash. Lunging, snarling, struggling to get at any ‘big dog’ he could see was the baseline I had to work with. I’m talking about from 4 months old on. I tried socializing, puppy classes, positive reinforcement. What worked was consistent, firm pops back to ‘heel’ position every time he snarled or lunged at another dog. He now walks politely. I’m the only one who hears him ‘talking’ under his breath when we pass a big dog on the walk. Sometimes you just have to prove that you’re not going to take crap from a dog.

  24. That was an impressive video in its simplicity. The choke collar does give harder corrections, but often more effective.

    I prefer to work with buckle only because I know my handling skills are not to the point I feel comfortable that I would only use the choke collar for the corrections, and I worry about the dog being collar-smart. You’ve showed that working a dog in two collars defuses that issue.

    Other than the choke collar, everything I saw was very mild. Good timing and praise for correct behavior, use of distancing to reduce flooding and allow the dog to practice self-calming around other dogs as the dog retreats (but NOT when the dog is aggressing or has already aggressed), showing that he can ignore the other dog safely.

    I was struck though that the dog intially had a wagging tail and playbow combined with fearful crouching and defensive lunging. It was clearly very revved up, but I had to wonder if this aggression was originally a form of barrier frustration or leash aggression, compounded with some fear? I saw no “dominant aggression” and submissive gestures to the handler, although a near redirected bite happened early on (the dog whipped head back with mouth open.)

    This is exactly the kind of dog that responds well to firm handling. It struck me that it would be very easy for an inexperienced positive-only handler to accidentally reinforce the fear in trying to treat the aggression by clicker alone, because the dog has a few competing and conflicting behavior/desires going at the same time. Operant conditioning is inappropriate here as long as the dog is over threshold.

    Classical conditioning is a must– arouse, calm, increase buffer zone, keep firm control and focus on handler, who does not coddle or reinforce the fear/aggression at all by reacting to it.

    Good work. It’s deceptively simple, but very hard to do as well as you did. I would still not trust that dog in a multidog home, but the dog should be at least safer to other dogs on walks and on leash, and most importantly, any handler is now MUCH less likely to be bitten by deflected aggression.

    There are techniques with positive only, but these are not as applicable to dog-dog interactions. Dogs are inherently more rewarding or threatening than any treat is.

  25. Good work!
    Don’t lose your sleep over the opinion of the Pigeons followers of the “purely positive” training Dogma.
    Most of them and their hate groups are plagued with inexperienced wannabe trainers who all what they do is play with puppies, they are a Joke, but they are dangerous, they are manipulated by “purely positive” associations controlled by Gurus with interests in the pharmaceutical industry, Books, Schools etc. they are pushing an Agenda.
    Yes, you can’t use compulsion (“punishment”) but you can Drug your dogs.
    It’s a market of Billions and ANY other Approach, Method and Philosophy in training goes against their interests.
    So, their opinion is as solid as the consistency of the manure…

  26. Thank you for sharing. Keep up the great work using your skills to help. God bless you and reward you for spreading the news and saving canines.

  27. What an incredible transformation Robert, my hat’s off to you. I would take 12 minutes of “discomfort” over weeks and months of constant anxiety any day. And I think Nacho would agree. Haters gotta hate.

  28. Why not use an e-collar ? It seems so obvious to me that yanking the red leash does not give the versatility and speed of an e-collar.

    1. Great point Doug. I like e-collars and use them often in training, however, shelters are still very resistant to this tool. Many times e-collars can help dogs a lot faster than any other tool. It’s not a 100% tool, but in my opinion the best option available. Take a look at the nut cases that criticize me for saving lives. Imagine how they would rise up if I showed proper e-collar training. Thanks for your input!!!

  29. Alright, it seems to me as though you missed a few opportunities to properly reward the dog for good behavior, which, wasn’t necessarily carrying out the positive reinforcement bit extremely well. You also mentioned, ” I can assure you that protection dogs, sport dogs and any dog that has a drive will at some point require a correction and will need to understand that YOU are in control in order to be happy and balanced.” I am into multiple dog sports with Border Collies and a few rescue pups with stubborn attitudes and intense drive and I have NEVER had to use “correction” methods or asserted that I am in control. From day one, I built a partnership with my dogs based on positive reinforcement and consistency. I understand that you did not have time to do that with this dog, as you only had one session to do this. But I feel as though you should not advocate harsh physical corrections or e-collars. The average person is horribly uneducated to use these methods, which could result in even more dogs being raised improperly (and we don’t want this. This causes more dogs to be mentally unstable and thus be placed in shelters. Is that not what you’re trying to prevent?). And, I have never worked for a dog shelter or rescue, so I don’t understand why this dog was in the position of death or tight rope around its neck to save it. Being a trainer, could you not have taken the dog yourself to train thoroughly?

    I also had a problem with the article, as I feel like it’s a step in the wrong direction. You make positive reinforcement look bad. Like I said, most pet owners are ignorant. And spreading this throws more dogs to be treated in an outdated fashion. Before you know it, people will be trying to “dominate their dogs” in a Cesar Milan or Barbara Woodhouse style once again. And positive reinforcement is not simply clicker and treats. I don’t use treats to train my dogs, I use our strong relationship and motivation via a multitude of supplies. You also group those that implement positive reinforcement into a lump of lunatic, pseudo dog trainers chasing after a fad, as though advancing science does not back up the notion behind it.

    I haven’t the answer to the aggressive shelter dog issue, as I myself have not worked directly with trying to train extremely aggressive dogs in shelters. But I have worked with dogs and I feel as though pet owners should not be encouraged by this.

    1. Misty, just a few short notes on your comment.
      1. It was not my intention to “carry out the positive reinforcement, I was trying to show he’s can be a good dog and try to save his life.
      2. The dogs I was referring to are protection and sport protection dogs including GSD’s, Malinois, Rotts, Dobermans, etc. working dogs, not Border Collies (I love BC’s, no offense).
      3. I don’t “advocate harsh corrections or ecollars”, I merely believe they should be available when needed and not dismissed as cruelty by the P.O. crowd.
      4. The P.O. crowd is constantly criticizing balanced trainers who may use corrections, not people abusing dogs, we are ALL against that.
      5. The dog in the video ad post was due to be killed for aggression. Many people don’t understand that there are thousands of dogs just like Nacho that are killed for this type of behavior. Nacho got lucky. I don’t take and board and train dogs. I teach shelters how to do the work that needs to be done. Any trainer who would like to step up and take these dogs from the shelter will be welcomed with open arms, ANY TRAINER!
      6. about paragraph 2: Positive reinforcement is not bad, I use positive reinforcement with almost every dog I train, and I DO USE TREATS AND TOYS, but there are some dogs that need more. Using corrections, when necessary, is “treating them in an outdated fashion,” it is the training they need. If you want to work with all types of dogs, you need to understand all types of training.

      I thank you for your comments, please understand there are different dogs for different methods of training. I applaud you for your work!

  30. Keep up the good work and thanks for the video. btw, a german trainer should know better than to spout that stupid crap. He must not be involved w the gsd or schutzhund work. I would be proud to have you like my fb page at

  31. Impressed ,I work in a verry large metro.shelter and am always looking for new methods to help save our dogs ,so with that said I will be incorporating some of your tips at our shelter. As I head the transport program sending some of our pets out of state to be adopted I try to send them dogs I feel can go into a family setting .The more I learn the better for our shelter. Thank you for your insight.Teresa

  32. I’ve read your story and watched the video on your correcting of Nacho’s behavior. Before I watched the video I was led to believe I was about to witness a borderline cruel act forshadowed by your critics. After watching it I am confused at what people think is inhumane. None of your techniques even remotely looked harmful, hurtful, or inhumane. What is the fuss about?? I applaud you!!!

  33. I am a trainer as well, and I feel you have wonderfully presented the very rational, but overlooked, middle ground of training. I was the trainer for a local shelter for about a year, and I had the same exact issues you described in the article. They actually did put down a dog for aggression rather than use my “aggressive” methods, which involved body language and a slip lead. Unfortunately, it seems as if trainers would rather take the feel-good approach: it feels good to give positive reinforcement. Nobody likes giving negative reinforcement! But at some point you have to move beyond what you like towards what the animal needs. If you want to give positive, teach your dog some tricks. Set them up for positive. But when they require a negative, they need a negative.

    I’ve worked with clients who had tried click-‘n-treat training. One woman stood out in particular: a very reactive dog who was hell bent on protecting her owner from…basically anything and everything. Snarling, snapping, writhing on the harness when I walked in the front door. I have to say, it was daunting, but I worked with the woman, answered the dogs questions (“Is that other dog going to kill us? Is that person bad?”) with the appropriate negative, and within 2 hours the dog did a 180. The owner said the other trainer she tried was a click and treater, who came in, declared the dog was bi-polar and probably had a bad past life. She collected her fee and left.

    Thank you for being spot on with your article.

    Kerry Stack
    Darwin Dogs

    1. Keep up the good work Kerry. Sadly balanced training is fading away and the ones who suffer are the dogs. The P.O. crowd paints a sad and false picture of balanced trainers, yet we are the ones people turn to when the treats and clickers don’t work. Thanks for your comments!


  34. What is the follow up on this dog? Who is the potential adopter? Adopters often do not follow directions – can this dog be safe in less experienced hands?

  35. Robert I want to start by saying you are truly an amazing trainer and thank you for all you do. I have had a dog for almost 7 years now and he acts the same way that nacho did, I’ve tried the clicker and positive reinforcement with treats and that worked great with him learning his basic commands but he is still aggressive. I do have other dogs but we keep him separated all the time, it would be nice to finally have them get along, one of the other dogs is very territorial, would you recommend for me to try this on him?

    1. Hi Jessica,
      Thanks for your kind message. With serious aggression drives, basic training techniques often don’t work. I don’t know your background or experience in training (in particular with these drives), so please understand that because of that I can’t say yes or no to your question. If your dog’s drives are very intense, I would suggest seeing if you can’t find a trainer that is well versed in balanced training and dealing with aggression drives. You’re welcome to post on my facebook so we may help you find someone.

  36. Positive training doesn’t mean you ingore the bad behaviour. In examples of dog aggression it uses methods which teach your dog to make good decisions rather than putting scared dogs into situations they can’t handle.

    Punishing a dog (and that is what is happening here) which is acting out in fear is silly! If I am afraid of spiders (which I am not) you do not shout at me or shock me with collars and expect my fear to subside. Putting an animal in a situation which is too much for it is called flooding. You cannot teach a dog (or any creature) which is so afraid it is shut down. The behaviour and fear hasn’t improved in these dogs they have just given up like a torture or abuse victim would.

    In positive methods (like BAT) this is avoided until the dog is comfortable. It produces more reliable results than subdueing a fearful dog. It builds a much closer relationship with your dog as your dog trusts your leadership by protecting him/her and not allowing bad things to happen, whilst slowly desensitising and associating positive experiences to the fearful thing until it no longer is scary.

    1. Thanks for your input Cam. I’m very aware of positive training, it’s successes and it’s pitfalls. There is a time to use it and there are certain dogs that do not respond to it, just like there are dogs that don’t respond to classical based training. There’s a balance out there that dog trainers need to find if they wish to help the majority of dogs that need to be saved from our nation’s shelters.

  37. Awesome video. I have a leash-reactive rescued herding dog with massive chase drive and a tendency to lock in and fixate (that no amount of the best treats on earth could break) that didn’t start to turn the corner until I added appropriately timed corrections into my training repertoire for her. I’ve used a mini-prong on walks hooked to both rings and an e-collar plus long line for off leash work. This morning, I watched my dog glance at some deer roaming through the neighbor’s yard (our large acre-plus yard is not fenced) and then run happily to me when called. Night and day difference from a year ago.

      1. Post

        It’s always interesting to see the vehement anger that comes out of supposedly “positive trainers.” case in point!

  38. Brilliant!
    Poeple like you and Cesar Millan are very close to understanding natural language and dog behavior, so why you can do things like on this video.

  39. Thank you for posting this, whilst I try to use R+ and P- only in my training I am tendingto lean to the concept of the Humane training ladder which recognises that in some situations corrections are necessary. I cannot see any issues with this video surely any dog lover would agree that this must be preferable to euthanasia.

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