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Balanced dog training: Is it right for you and your dog?

When it comes to dog training approaches, there are many options to choose from. Although purely positive training is advertised as a “happy” method of training your dog, it often fails to correct certain behavioral issues in dogs, especially in those who exhibit overly aggressive behaviors. Many people find balanced dog training to be the “perfect middle”. This training approach utilizes four  operant conditioning quadrants, allowing for a positive but also corrective training approach. If you’ve been struggling with teaching your dog how to behave and you think balanced dog training may be right for you, read on to learn everything you need to know about this effective training approach.

Image illustrating a professional dog trainer teaching a dog advanced tricks

What is balanced dog training?

Before we explain what balanced dog training is, you need to understand how the four main operant quadrants work. They are organized as follows:

  • Positive reinforcement: When your dog performs a satisfactory behavior, you reward it in order to encourage your dog to perform the same behavior more often.
  • Negative reinforcement: When your dog performs a desired behavior, a bad consequence is removed. This increases the likelihood that the dog will repeat that satisfactory behavior.
  • Positive punishment: when your dog performs a negative behavior, a bad consequence is introduced. This reduces the likelihood that your dog will repeat that negative behavior. 
  • Negative punishment: When your dog performs a negative behavior, a good consequence is removed. For example, if your dog bites your hand asking for pets and cuddles, you ignore it instead of giving it attention.

Balanced dog training utilizes a mix of positive reinforcement as well as aversive training. This is one of the best training approaches for dogs who seem to be unresponsive to positive-only training methods. Balanced dog training takes into consideration the nature of a dog and makes use of both rewarding as well as corrective measures to teach your dog how it should or shouldn’t behave. 

For example, a balanced dog trainer will use treats when teaching your dog how to walk on a leash, but he will also tighten the chain when your dog starts pulling. In this way, the trainer will guide your dog by clearly dividing what he should and shouldn’t do. Positive punishment will effectively make your dog understand the types of behavior that led him into being “punished”, while the positive reinforcement will encourage him to repeat the types of behavior that got him treats. 

Image illustrating balanced dog training results

The benefits of balanced dog training

Balanced dog training is a widely popular training approach, recognized for being highly effective in training dogs with behavioral issues. This method comes with a variety of advantages, including:

Balanced dog training takes a wider variety of dog learning styles into account. This methodology can be adjusted based on your dog’s character, temperament and abilities. The use of four operant quadrants allows for a more flexible approach that can be beneficial for a more inclusive range of dog breeds. 

Some dogs are very difficult to handle. They may enjoy pushing boundaries or be unwilling to obey your commands no matter how much positive reinforcement you use. In some cases, some dogs may not perform any satisfactory behaviors, which makes it difficult for you to give him treats. This is where balanced dog training comes into play. If there are no “consequences” for behaving poorly, the dog will simply keep acting that way. Balanced dog training introduces proper aversive methods and tools that will teach your dog that some behaviors are undesirable and they lead to “consequences”. 

Of course, these correction methods are not used to cause your dog any pain or stress. They are simply used as a means of getting your dog to focus back on you and listen to your commands. The goal is to communicate effectively with your dog through commands that will help him learn which behaviors should be repeated and which not.

Balanced dog training uses a comprehensive curriculum. Besides using positive reinforcement and correction techniques, this training approach emphasizes many activities that will help your dog establish a routine, socialize with other dogs and create a bond with you. Balanced dog training encourages play, utilizes recall games, values praise, uses reward-based methods, while also teaching boundaries. A balanced dog trainer will motivate and drive your dog to perform certain behaviors, while also setting some time aside for practicing relaxation and calmness. 

Balanced dog training is ideal for hyperactive dogs. Some dogs are simply energetic and very active. It’s not that they don’t want to listen to you. They simply get distracted easily and have a lot of energy to spend. Balanced dog training is very effective in helping your dog redirect their energy into positive activities. The use of aversive tools helps your dog regain its focus on you and your command. Sometimes, this is the key to getting your dog to behave. In time, your dog learns when it’s time to play, run and jump around and when it’s time to sit and actually listen to you. 

Balanced dog training can be a life-saver for dog owners who have grown overly frustrated with their pets. If you find yourself getting annoyed or angry because your dog is not listening to you, you may start to transmit this negative energy to your dog. However, yelling at your dog will get you nowhere. Balanced dog training will show you that there are ways you can grab your dog’s attention and have them listen to you, without resorting to screaming or violence. Through the use of proper corrective techniques, not only will your dog learn how to behave, but you will also learn how to properly command and guide your dog.

Image illustrating a trainer teaching dogs the "stay" command

Balanced dog training misconceptions

Everyone wants the best for their dog. That’s why you will always find many voices arguing what is the best and only way to train a dog. However, you should understand that all methods can fail if not used appropriately. A professional balanced dog trainer must be qualified and experienced in order to understand how this approach should be applied to each specific dog. Here are some common misconceptions around balanced dog training:

Using positive or negative punishment techniques is abusive

These accusations typically come from people who have never tried to use corrective techniques, and thus, they don’t know how to properly utilize them.When used methodically, these tools can effectively teach your dog how to behave. They often think that positive only training is the only way to train a dog in a humane way. However, that is far from the truth. 

Balanced dog training doesn’t focus on punishment. Instead, it aims to balance your dog’s behavior through a fair selection of both positive reinforcement and aversive techniques. If someone claims to be following the balanced dog training approach while punishing, stressing out or being physically violent to your dog, they are deeply misusing this methodology.

Balanced dog training is not enjoyable

Just because your trainer will focus on teaching your dog boundaries and discipline, it doesn’t mean that your dog won’t get involved in other interactive training exercises. With balanced dog training, there is enough time dedicated to playing games, relaxing, socializing and fun command lessons. Your trainer will aim to bring balance into you and your dog’s life by allowing you to better communicate with one another, eliminating behavioral issues and teaching your dog various commands. 

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