I got the following response to a recent blog:

“I’m pretty sure I’ve heard YOU use No Reward Markers in your training.”

I have no idea how to respond to that.

You should see what I do when a squirrel cuts across the front of my house and all three dogs go careening and screaming from window to window when I’m too busy to stop what I’m doing.  I yell something along the lines of, “DAMN IT STOP THAT!”  Two out of three generally take note and settle – for that moment anyway.  For those two, staying in my good graces via direct communication worked – you can call it punishment if you’re quadrant focused if the behavior gets less common over time.  For the third?  Not so much.

I’m being irritable. Let’s call occasional yelling a form of management or training based on the fact that I’m human, and my entire life is not structured around my dog’s preferences. I exist as an independent being too!  I’m interrupting the behavior at that moment so I can finish my conversation or activity in peace.  The fact that the careening behavior happens again for the next squirrel strongly suggests I’m accomplishing nothing long-term, and if I really wanted to change that behavior then I’d need to commit to a training plan but right now that’s not a priority so I yell, two dogs care that I’m annoyed so they stop and the third will quit on his own when he realizes his cohorts have abandoned him. And honestly?  Some dogs would get the message and change their behavior; the punishment would work. Fine.  People matter too and if the dog is not melting down over the occasional human tantrum then I’m not going to either.

Good training? Of course not. Since training requires change, I think it’s fair to say it’s not training at all in my house.  It’s just me being crabby and too lazy to deal with the dogs properly but it may well work in another house with different dogs.

Being a positive reinforcement trainer doesn’t mean I’m some kind of Buddha.  I’m just not there as a person.  My husband has to put up with the fact that sometimes I’m grumpy and irrational.  My kids have to put up with the fact that sometimes I’m grumpy and irrational.  And the dogs?  Same deal – sometimes I’m grumpy and irrational. And if they are afraid of me, all I can say is that all of the relevant players are hiding it quite well.

If I take a five minute video of my training, within that five minutes I will easily be able to pick out good decisions, bad decisions and everything in between.  Since I put my training videos on my blog and I often train in public, anyone is welcome to watch a five minute video and pull it apart.  Have I used NRM’s?  All the time!  Do I think that they are helping my training?  Not much, but that’s a different question.  It’s just me being human; being a bit frustrated at the moment.  Im okay with that.

I follow a philosophy of training – I strive to be kind and effective with dogs and people.  I test variables and I refine my techniques constantly. But as often as not, I’m muddling along.  Maybe I’m muddling at a higher level than many other trainers, but muddle I do.

It’s good enough for me.  If you’re looking for the perfect trainer, keep looking.