Are You Being Positive or Just Permissive?

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Using positive training methods to train your dog is the only way to ensure that the behaviors you train are predictable and repeatable.  However, there is a big difference between being positive and letting your dog get away with just anything.  Read Gillian’s article to learn more.

Why is a Positive a Negative?

March 10th, 2010 by Gillian Ridgeway, Dog Star Daily

Why is it that the word “positive” can strike such a chord in a dog owner’s mind? Having been involved in the dog world since 1972 and spending the great majority of my adult life working with dogs, it has been an uphill battle to increase awareness in the theory of learning for dogs. There has been a vast increase in awareness of this theory for children, but the dog owners are still lagging behind. Although, giving credit where it is due, it is leaps and bounds better than in the middle 1980’s, when dog training took a surge from being a novelty to a necessity.

Positive doesn’t mean permissive. That sentence, while not originated by me, is a powerful message and one that all dog owners can relate to. Positive means helpful and constructive, and a positive response from a dog owner to his canine companion means that the dog will receive something pleasurable after he does the desired behavior, which in turn will increase the likelihood of the behavior re-occurring. Sounds simple? The more you give your dog positive feedback for what you want, the more likely it is that he will repeat that exact behavior.

Permissive is not the same at all. The term permissive implies something far more tolerant and liberal. When dog owner become permissive with their pets, we find they are giving consent to their dog to do a certain behavior and permission with no guidelines is when the problems can arise.

Rewarding a dog for a job well done is positive dog training. It does not mean that we want dog owners to allow their dogs to take charge or to call the shots.

Read the rest of Gillian’s article.

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  1. elizabeth popp says:

    sometimes “positive” does not work. i am well aware of the difference between positive and permissive. i have been training dogs (for myself) since the early 80s. at some point, SOMEONE with some of these dogs has to take the upper hand. some of them have no self-control and they have been the victims of “positive” trainers. a dog, just like a child, needs a strong leader. “clicking and treating” for proper behavior for your reactive dog is all right in theory, but there is always the time whan you may encounter a dog or human right ahead of you as you turn a corner on a walk or trail. or you may encounter a coyote or a fox. YES! move away as fast as you can and get distance and then “click and treat”. the dog has not really “learned” anything(especially if he is already “over-threshold). the most that he has learned is that when he encounters a “threat”, you will move him away. that also does not account for the (maybe loose) dog who will occasionally “aggress”. YES! throw a handful of treats at them, but if they are as determined to “rumble” with your dog as your dog seems to to be to “rumble” with them, then you have a real mess on your hands. dogs “over-threshold” are animals which have reverted to “wild” behavior. you cannot ascribe human behavior to them. they can be truly frightening and dangerous.
    i actually own a dog like this (shimmer). i have worked with her with “positive” trainers for about 5 years. she seems to be getting worse. i will try other things at this point. i have owned numerous border collies and my first female was much like shimmer. back then, it was “get your point across.” i did a lot of training with the “old boys” in herding and they really knew how to get their point across without a lot of expensive classes. there was no horrible torture, just a matter of “who was boss”. there is a person with a reactive border collie who has spent hundreds of dollars with “positive” trainers who went to a USBCHA trial. she was appalled at the fact that all the handlers just let their dogs run loose. her dog seemed to do well around them. i encountered the same thing when i went to a trial in steamboat springs. one dog went after another one under a chair, and the handler growled “tess, get out of there! she complied and they went on to do very nicely. i did not see a breakdown of their “relationship”. he just reminded her who was boss.


    Minette Reply:

    The point is to train for the behavior “before” your dog is over the threshold, not after. There is little you can do at all for most dogs after they are over the threshold. I have seen dogs choked out; and when they regain air and wake back up are right back at the aggressive behavior.

    I would rather give my dog the skills to deal with confrontation prior to losing her mind, through lots of work and training and focus. And slowly working up on a challenging behavior.

    If I met another lose dog, a fox, a coyote, a cougar on a hiking trail, I could get my dog into a down stay… then I could deal with the threat as best as possible. It has worked for deer (so close I could have touched it and bunnies running in front of her).

    And throwing treats has never been something I have done!


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