Is there any doubt that positive training works?

Our dogs training me

Hello everyone it’s Dennis again with another story on the benefits of positive training and the pitfalls of positive punishment based training.

Recently I was hiking with our newest Rescue dog Cole(black boy pictured at left standing) We rescued Cole from a wolf dog rescue in Roseburg Oregon from a group of very dedicated people with amazing animals.  Cole was one of seven puppies who’s mother is Pele( mid content wolf dog) seems that Pele escaped one night and had a little bit of an interlude and months later 7 beautiful large puppies were born.  Pam and I were not exactly looking for another member of our group but as luck and the grace of god(dog) would have it Cole fell into our laps and has been the most amazing dog.  Our Old boy Beau who is 15 now has been helping me with reactive dogs for 6 years now just is too tired for the work and I had been asked by a local hero of mine(Kim Kahl) who does wolf dog rescue in Central Oregon had been bugging me about Cole for a few months so I finally asked about him, his temperament and some other information which helped Pam and I decide that this great guy deserved a great home forever.


Ok on to the topic of this story which is how can we keep denying that positive training is faster, better and last longer than traditional force based training methods.  The night we adopted Cole we were staying at a hotel in Eugene Oregon and decided to go for a long walk(mistake with current collar) Cole was a very bad puller so I had to go back to my TTouch training and put him in a Balance leash(worked great immediately).  Then after walking him over five miles in this set up I had to get him  a harness.  We went to a local pet store where they had a huge selection of great harnesses.  I should have thought to have brought one but hind sight is rarely used in my case.  I put the harness on and wow what a difference.  To this day this amazing dog has only pulled rarely when looking at Geese.

Dechutes river trail

I decided to take Cole to the Dechutes river Trail in Bend Oregon.  The trail is beautiful and is about three miles in length if you do the entire loop.  There you will see a lot of people hiking , running and just enjoying this part of Oregon with their dogs(lots of dogs)  and kids.  We started on the trail and were about 5 minutes in when I saw a guy and what looked from a distance to be an English Bull dog.  I was wrong it was an American Bull Dog Puppy which I found out later was about five months old.  From this distance I saw his owner leash correct him at least twenty times with a choke chain.  I thought to myself here we go again Dennis another misinformed person using outdated methods to teach their dogs to walk nicely on a leash.  I was walking behind a couple when the guy asked them how many times they were doing the loop?  They said three times.  Here is what I noticed about this poor little puppy.  One he was clearly terrified to be stopping, his head was down he was shaking and showed no interested in the humans or Cole.  This puppy was not a normal happy puppy that we want to see happily wanting attention from others and other dogs,  he wanted out of there.  The  couple asked how old the puppy was and I said he looks like a baby, the guy said five months and then were told he was an American Bulldog. Then the guy asked the couple if they had seen any of his training videos about getting puppies in shape and obedience training?  They said no he said he would tell them how to see them.  This is when i had to say something.  While we were all standing there this puppy was given at least another twenty pretty hard leash corrections.  I said to him is that really necessary?  He just blew me off and kept talking to the other couple. He saw my training shirt which say’s friends for life dog training where we celebrate the power of positive training.  He probably thought here we go another cookie, fluffy, positive trainer.  Well, I forgot my treats and all I had was a harness,a leash and plenty of praise for Cole which for him can be more than enough if i forget my stuff.  I had to get out of there as I have a habit of getting angry with people like this and nothing positive would have come out of it so off Cole and I went on our hike.  I did want to mention I observed something  I had never seen before in my dogs or any dog.  While this guy was leash correcting his dog Cole jumped and started to whine, he never jumps.  He does whine but only on occasion.  I believe Cole was also very uncomfortable with what this guy was doing to his dog and wanted to get out of there as well.  Dogs know when something is not right and he told me that this guy was not right. This was not just a small reaction he was really upset and would love to do research on this or read some research that someone has done. I thought to myself as I walked away that we have had Cole for three weeks and in one day with a harness and clicker training Cole walks perfectly on a leash while this guy has had this puppy for five months and has to constantly give leash corrections( which is proving to be faster) Positive training with a scientific approach or this type of training which clearly is not working for this guy and at the same time creating fear in this soon to be very large Male American Bull Dog.  I am really scared for this and all of this guys puppies.  He is a breeder and does quite a bit of it…

We continued our hike passing multiple dogs, people, bikes all the while Cole was just enjoying the outing with his dad.  Some other observations I made on the hike.  We must have passed fifty dogs.  My observations were, all of the dogs that were being jerked by the neck and told to leave it very loudly were growling or barking at Cole who just walked calmly by but I did notice that he was still uncomfortable when they did this to their dogs.  Another observation was the dogs that were not being jerked by he neck we very happy to be out and about and almost looked like they were smiling.  One person in particular was very over the top with their handling and again I had to say something.  We were being approached by a very large Alaskan malamute with a prong collar on, I have seen him and his wife before on he trail.  Cole and I went to the side of the trail so as to not make this dog any more uncomfortable than he was going to be.  Like clockwork this guy jerked his dogs neck so hard and screamed at his dog to leave it the dog went ballistic when he saw Cole.  We were about 15ft away and I said to him and his wife “wow that will teach him to like other dogs and enjoy his trip with you” he like the other guy blew me off while his wife gave mean I’m sorry look but what can I do.  I thought to myself hey you can leave this jerk or you can help your dog by hiring someone to help your husband work with your dog.


How can we continue to believe that this type of training is faster and produces better longer lasting results when it slaps us in the face by the number of dogs that are clearly uncomfortable while in leash with their people?  The evidence is so clear when in the time I was hiking with Cole every single dog that was being jerked or yelled at reacted not only to other dogs but people and the dogs that were treated with the respect they deserved were all amazing and were having a great time. So the fact that this is not just something that happened when I went on  hike with my dog one day it is that this happens thousands of times each day with pet owners and trainers teaching positive training in classes and on other hikes or walks all over the world. So why is it so hard for those that still continue to use outdated and punishing methods on their dogs?  I suggest that if you are still one of those people or for that matter a trainer that would like to see if another way can and will work I suggest that you go on a hike with your dog and just observe, I bet you will see miracles happen if you look for them.


Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA)  positive trainer of both humans and their canine companions.


where we celebrate the power of positive training