I found this on a group I belong to and thought it explained things very nicely. This is reposted with permission from the author, Charlotte Wagner.
First let me introduce myself: my name is Charlotte and I run a positive training academy which I started in Washington DC in 2006, and moved over seas to London. In my practice I conduct mainly behavior modification training, with a special interest in aggression rehabilitation; in addition I offer obedience, puppy training, and on occasion therapy dog and sport dog training (agility, rally obedience, and tracking for hunting dogs). I was raised in a household where aversive methods were the primary way of training and raising dogs, but despite this upbringing, had a very eager interest in positive and force free methods. I own a 3.5 year old Golden Retriever certified therapy dog (and CGC) named Riley, who I track with for hunting, and am starting agility with. I also own a 5 month old Toy Manchester Terrier named Asher, who is currently in obedience training, and will be competing in Agility and doing advertisements.
About positive training: it is not bribe training. Dogs that only come when they know you have a treat in hand, is not correct positive training, nor do you need to have treats on you in order to receive a consistent, reliable, and "obedient dog". I use the term "obedience" with caution, because a dog which does not respond to commands is not being "disobedient", "listening with one ear" or is not responding out of "spite", but is merely poorly trained or dependent on tools in order to respond. Keep n mind that when acquiring a dog, regardless of age or experience, you can only expect your dog to be a dog - and not more or less. If Fido comes into the home with a great disposition - wonderful! But he still needs training to be a well adjusted human companion, and it is the owner's responsibility to show the dog how to act in a human world, and how to adapt to living in the home environment.
This brings me to my next point: the use of aversives and other tools to train and raise your dog. Aversive tools range from shock collars, prong collars, citronella sprays, water bottles, choke chains, and head halters, to any other aid which may suppress a dog's behavior. Most dangerous tools in my opinion are shock collars and choke chains. The reason being they can cause short term and long term physical damage to your dog. Prong collars can also have physical consequences if used excessively but are less harmful if used correctly due to the evenly exerted pressure when applied. But, be cautious of trainers demonstrating on prong collars on you - your thigh or arm is not based off of the same tissue material as that of your dog's neck - I would love to see a trainer demonstrate a prong collar on a client's (human) neck. Prong collars do cause pain and are definitely not the best thing for training. Choke chains on the other hand, apply pressure to a single point, and in contrast have no limit to the amount of slip. Despite the fact that they may look less painful, they cause an even more detrimental damage to a dog's trachea. A more humane and considered acceptable choke action tool is a martingale / limited choke / or no slip collar. This tool is based on the same principle as the prong collar (limited choke, pressure all around) but does not have prongs on them: they are commonly made of nylon with a chain bit, or layered chain.
No matter what tool you may use, it is still best to use a regular leash with a flat collar or harness. The main concern (other than physical consequences) of using any other tool, is the suppression of behavior, which often resurfaces, and the breaking of the relationship between you and your dog. In addition, it is really difficult for the dog to understand a reprimand, and then being reinforced or praised when they display the correct behavior. Furthermore, tools do not teach a dog an alternative behavior, but merely teach them what to avoid *not even what not to do*.
I suggest looking further into positive reinforcement techniques: mainly clicker training and the use of Operant Conditioning and Classical Conditioning. These may seem like big terms, but they are simple principles tested, proven, and guaranteed by scientific study. Learning theory (how we / animals learn) is the most studied field in psychology, and I wish more people applied these humane and force free methods on their pets. Zoos, and other institutions use these methods to train a variety of animals, and I myself, have applied positive reinforcement training on dogs, horses, and cats.
Be cautious of punishment or "consequence" based training methods. They can cause harm to a dog, and worsen behavior. Also, you are not "teaching" the dog, or showing it alternative responses, nor are you guiding the dog - you are breaking an extraordinary relationship you could be sharing with your pet. Even if these methods have been successful, they put your dog under much undo stress.
I recommend checking out The Association of Pet Dog Trainers, International Association of Positive Dog Training, Dogwise.com for books and resources, as well as dogstardaily.com. All these resources can supply you with information, listings, and further help on positive dog training.
As for "dominant" or "alpha" based trainers / training who use intimidation and punishment techniques - I would be cautious of their principles. It is a trainers duty to study not only their own principles, but also those of other trainers in the field. I have read a vast variety of books from traditional German Hunting books, to whichever TV trainer's have published and everything in between - are these other trainers really educated? What do they _base_ their methods on? What is the legitimacy of their principles? Is there any legitimacy to their training? Remember, just because it make's sense, doesn't mean it's right.
On a last note - know that you cannot take the position of alpha, and the hierarchy amongst dogs is a much debated subject with sadly little proof in the domestic environment. Even wild and feril dogs only have a loosely structured hierarchy, that is not identical to that of the wolf. And although our domestic dog may be biologically related to the wolf, it is not identical in social contexts due to domestication. Remember that your dogs are not out to get you and their intentions are not to take over - they simply need guidance, to one degree or another, depending on their needs, and your expectations.
Best of luck to all of you, and I wish for you to have a long lasting enjoyful life with your canine companion.
Last edited by Ford; May 11th, 2009 at 08:30 PM.