Confession of an Unbalanced, Cookie-Pushing Extremist

I’m an “Unbalanced, Cookie-Pushing Extremist

Why am I admitting this? I happily strive all the time to be more and more of one.


The main use of food in my training means, to some, that I’m just a bribing cookie-pusher. Bribes come before; calling a lure a bribe is disingenuous. Lures are removed as quickly as possible and replaced with a cue after which you Rewards (Reinforcement). I use Food Rewards, not Bribes.

Using food as the primary tool in my training tool belt can be problematic at times but if a dog doesn’t work for food, I have options.

    1. manage the food so that the only time they can get food is by working for it

    2. use a higher value food in the mean time

    3. use a different fun/exciting thing (praise, play or social interactions)

    4. make sure that any other ambitions for fun/exciting things around are all played out


I don’t use Pain, Annoyance, Intimidation or Fear. So, because I’m not using all the scientific tools in my toolbox, I’m not “balanced”. The corollary must be that I’m unbalanced. I’m ok with that. Why? Because the side effects from using the other tools aren’t worth the risk.

“What about dogs that you have no other choice but to use a heavy hand on otherwise they will be destroyed?” Ah, yes, The Straw man argument; there are always choices. Either ignorance of the science behind training or just a blind justification for using force.


Advocating for Positive Training (and DS/CC [Desensitization and Counter Conditioning]) and not using tools/techniques having unpleasant, or difficult to control, side effects makes me an “extremist”. Use of DS/CC and R+ for modifying EMOTION of fearful and reactive dogs has a proven track record. If done competently you don’t need to use force/pain to alter BEHAVIOUR. (looking only at the behaviour of a reacting, emotionally distraught dog does disservice to the dog).

So am I an “Unbalanced, Cookie-Pushing Extremist”?  I prefer to see myself as “Enlightened, Ethical and Cutting Edge” (even though some basics are over 100 years old now).

The public deserves transparency to make an educated decision about what methods are used on their dogs. Positive training has side effects too, but most of them involve dogs actually liking people (people mean good things – because of that pesky Classical/Pavlovian Conditioning thing).

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