All posts by ScottNygren Google

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).

Why your dog isn’t stubborn…

Why your dog isn’t stubborn.   “ButtercupgirlThey do it so well at home!” Followed by an exasperated sigh or anger.

Many pet parents have seen or done this in a park or other area (I count myself among them). Ideas fly around like geese heading north in the spring time as to why – the dog is stubborn, dominant etc. Why do we constantly look for psychological motivations for our dogs? Because we’re human, and we like to think that there are complex reasons for what others do. Let’s be blunt though. Every animal is behaviour driven.

Dogs do what works. They either seek safety, or avoid danger. Every animal does. Asking a dog to come in distractions will work if there is a proven history of safety & reward AND that history is better than the current distractions. Something else is at play in new areas/distractions influencing the dog not doing something readily done at home.

Dogs don’t generalize well. If I teach a dog to sit in a specific room or local, and then move to a new location and ask the dog to sit, they may very well look around as if to say “But we’re not in the living room, you’re daft! – ask me to do something you’ve taught me here!” *. If that’s the case, what to do?

Something called Proofing. In other words, learning the same thing over and over with different distractions going on around. Sometimes you have to start right from scratch in a new location. To deal with distractions, introduce them so the dog can still be successful. As the number of distractions goes up, the difficulty goes up**. Until the dog knows something, don’t correct the absence of the behaviour. That’s akin to taking away a child’s toys because they can’t do Calculus – they can do math; they can’t do complex algebra or trigonometry let alone find the area under a curve so send them to their room for not being able to do something they haven’t learned?.

So, before you get mad at the dog, or exasperated, think to yourself; “Have I taught my dog how to [insert behaviour here] in this environment? Then ask yourself; “How can I help you be successful in this situation?”

* Humans are excellent generalizers – if I tell you to sit, you might just sit on the floor if there are no chairs around

** If I learned to catch a football, then someone shoved me on a field, in full gear, in the middle of a stadium with 100,000 people in it and said here, you’re our best shot, get out an catch the winning pass, I’d tell them they were nuts

By Scott Nygren

Helpful blogs for Dog Training

Knowledge and experience, base on the science of Dog Training can be hard to find.  Herein are a list of blogs and webpages that I believe can be trusted for their information.  The majority of these blogs and resources are by Students and Graduates of the Academy for Dog Trainers.

The Muzzle Up Project.  An excellent resource for misunderstood dogs.  Dogs in need of muzzles need not be shunned or feared.  Muzzles serve a purpose for dogs that have issues with their own fear; they keep others and by extension themselves, safe.

The CARE project; for Reactive Dogs.  Helping a Reactive Dog is important for their own welfare.  A dog always living in fear or a heightened state of anxiety can not lead full, happy lives.

Other Useful blogs!

Companion Animal Psychology

Mutt About Town

Fearfuldogs’ Blog


Inquisitive Canine, Santa Barbara Doggie Blog


Dalmatian Rescue of Illinois

Great  Shakes Dog Training

Dogsense Unleashed

Yaletown Dog Training

Very Pets

Your Pitbull and You

by Scott Nygren

Off to a run

This blog will be used to educate, clarify and demystify some of the many scientific truths, misconceptions and myths rampaging the world of professional and pet owner dog training.

I will be trying for at least one post every month, if not more.  I will be redoing some of my previous blog work currently in blogger format.

by Scott Nygren