When you’re looking for a dog trainer, one of the phrases you will come across is “Balanced Training” or a “Balanced Trainer,” but what exactly does that mean? In short, balanced training means the trainer uses punishments as well as rewards. The punishments typically are found in the form of shock/e-collars, prong collars, choke chains, leash jerks, etc. Anything that causes discomfort, harm or pain to the dog is considered a punishment. Rewards are found in the form of treats, toys, environmental rewards (they get to go sniff a bush, or play with a pal, etc.), and anything the dog considers fun and/or exciting. So, if you find a trainer that says he/she is a balanced trainer, they reward the dog as well as punish the dog.
With this in mind, what does that mean for you, the person searching for a good trainer? As the field of dog training progresses, new science shows that dogs learn easier and the lessons they learn stay with them much better when trainers use rewards rather than punishment. When you punish a dog, you are ultimately scaring the dog into not performing a behavior, which will lead to eroding the bond, trust and relationship you have with your dog. They will stop the behavior out of fear of being shocked, hurt, etc. again. This is called “learned helplessness” and can also be referred to as the dog being “shutdown”.
When you are searching for a dog trainer, make sure you find one that is not a balanced trainer and doesn’t use punishments as a way of teaching. You want to teach your dog by building your relationship and deepening the bond you have and by showing them what to do in a positive way, not by punishing them and causing them fear and pain.