Thank you for your thoughtful response. Internet conversations are always awkward as you have no idea who you are talking to and what tones they are 'speaking' with.
Though I would still avoid using any device beyond a flat collar and leash, I am always mindful of the advice we share - not to recommend devices or treat based training because in the wrong hands and without knowledge they can either send the person and dog down a very wrong road or an unproductive one. I do not write in hopes of changing your mind as you are happy with what you are doing, but to caution others not to leap in that direction as a quick answer to their problems.
It seems you have tried to go down this path with as much understanding and consideration as possible. But as 'dressage' is our code word for all of our interactions with our animals, even the most inexperienced animals, we always strive to do less in order to get more. One of my most fun days is when I set my goal to not even speak to any of our animals (dogs, cats, parrots and horses) and still succeed in all that we do.
I know someone who is very successful with his dogs but I cannot stomach being around him when he is interacting with them. He gains great changes with some of the most aggressive dogs brought to him. Yet, there is always kicking, in your face confrontations, grabbing of the scruff, yelling and not much praise or affection between them. These dogs only get a break when they are calmly laying in their beds. Yes the dogs have a good home and are well cared for but the level of tension in the home always fairly high. This person learned most of this 'method' from watching TV. Does it work on these potentially dangerous dogs? Yes. Is it ideal? No. I am not comfortable with the end justifies the means when it comes to training animals.
When you observe animals together, it is the most impressive animal who is able to communicate with their peers without any effort at all. There is a huge difference between the horse who merely stands there and impacts his herd with his confidence and the one who feels the need to aggress, nag, and threaten his herd in order to be respected.
We too live in bear country, in addition to cougars, bobcats, moose, elk, coyote, fox and deer, and in 30 years have not had a problem. If a dog is not trustworthy then they haven't earned off leash time yet. Just as a teenager should not be driving on the highway until they are ready, we keep working to get them ready. We teach people to know their limitations so they don't set themselves up for failure, but to always continue working towards success. We believe this level of learning lasts a life time and translates to all of the relationships in their life.
I have recently been honored with the responsibility of training our newest rescue, a 5yr old, 1400lb, uneducated ex-stallion. He is proving to be the best teacher yet. Only the most thoughtful, gentle communication teaches him in the fastest manner. In the wrong hands he could become an extremely dangerous behemoth in very short order. He is very cautious in his processing of information and the temptation to use a heavy hand with him would be easy with many trainers. Bribing him with food would also be easy as he is the most food driven animal I have ever met, but it would backfire very quickly and not achieve the same depth of learning and long lasting connection. I am reminded daily that everything I do has meaning, every movement, breath, fleeting absence of awareness, every pressure and every release. I wish you could meet him - he has been such an impressive reminder to me that natural communication is the best most effective and long lasting way to teach and connect.
Thanks for chatting, it's always nice to have a conversation with a thoughtful person, best wishes to you.
Love Them & Lead Them,
~Elizabeth & Doug
Dog Training the Way Nature Intended
Last edited by tenderfoot; November 16th, 2011 at 10:13 AM.