Speaking up for positive training

Several of us in the positive training community were distressed a few months ago when a company that sells shock collars courted dog bloggers to convince them of the virtues of aversive training. It felt like we were backsliding. Were these methods coming back into style?

I’m happy to tell you that at least one organization is moving in the other direction. Amazing Pet Expos, which has put on nearly 100 events across the country since 2009, is now an all-positive event.

In 2013, Sheila Rilenge, president of show development for the expo, announced:

… we made a major change this year by prohibiting companies and trainers who use aversive techniques from participating in our event. Trainers or behaviorists (or any other type of exhibitor), may no longer sell or demonstrate pinch collars, choke collars, heavy chain collars/leads or electric/shock collars at the (St. Louis) Pet Expo; this also includes invisible fence products. We also won’t tolerate Alpha rolls, hard neck or body ‘pokes’ and leash jerks.

I met Sheila last year at BarkWorld, and upon hearing their policy, knew I wanted to participate. On Feb. 21, I will take the stage at the SoCal Pet Expo at 1:45 to speak about positive training.

My Pet Naturally
Reading at My Pet … Naturally in Los Angeles


For this installment of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, I’d like to share a bit of my presentation for the SoCal Pet Expo… except I haven’t prepared it yet.

Since Bark and Lunge came out last summer, I’ve had four readings where I talked about aversive training, the damage it did to my dog, and why I now advocate for force-free training. I tailored my speech for each group: at the Humane Society and Village Books, I spoke about my first failures with chain and prong collars and the realization that the “corrections” were exacerbating Isis’s reactivity to other dogs. At My Pet … Naturally in Los Angeles, I sprinkled in a bit of our experience with raw feeding. My most recent reading was at Sunny Lane, one of my positive trainers’ facilities, where I read the first scene that took place there.

The SoCal Pet Expo will be the first audience that isn’t there specifically to see me. I only have 30 minutes. I’ll have to introduce myself and explain that I’m not a dog professional, just a regular ol’ dog guardian. (I hope no one walks away at that point, thinking “Why should I listen to what this chick has to say?”) At my other events, I’ve started out by reading the prologue from my book, then skipped ahead to some training scenes. This time, maybe I won’t read at all, but instead summarize the overall experience and lessons learned.

I remember how inspiring Victoria Stilwell was at BarkWorld 2013. Here’s an article about her talk there a few years earlier. That’s what I’m going for. I may not have a TV show, or an accent, and I won’t be wearing boots, because I’ll also be standing at a booth the rest of the day. But I know I can match her passion.

Positive TrainingFebruary is Responsible Pet Owners Month, and this is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and My Rubicon Days. You’re invited to share your posts about how responsibility relates to training, or any other positive training topic!

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Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

12 thoughts on “Speaking up for positive training

  1. Kari – I love this blog hop and that you all are following positive training reinforcement techniques. To me, this is the only training techniques we trainers should be using. PS Thanks for making Bark and Lunge free on Kindle – I was totally absorbed in it. We’ve met at Barkworld two years ago. I’d like to in invite you to check out the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. We have some great online classes available and our annual training conference will be in Texas this year!

  2. I’m really happy to hear this about the Amazing Pet Expo! Thank you for being such a vocal advocate for positive training and your honesty about your mistakes in Bark & Lunge. I think so many people stick to aversives because they are afraid of being wrong or just afraid of change.

  3. Best of luck with your presentation. We use ecollars and training collars (choke chains). When used correctly they are valuable training tools. I think if someone is using a training or prong collar to teach a dog not to react to another dog, that is a wrong use of those tools (I should have included ecollar…definitely a wrong use). I am not opposed to different training methods, including clicker. Whatever works for the dog is the correct method and the best trainers can adjust their training to the dog.

    1. Thank you for your post. I also found the prong collar ineffective at stopping her incessant leash pulling. The e-collar was specifically recommended after Isis lashed out at another dog during her obedience class test. That’s when I quit that trainer.

  4. Wow, so awesome about Amazing Pet Expos and I’m really excited to hear how your speaking engagement goes. I think people truly appreciate hearing from other dog owners rather than trainers all the time as it’s more relatable. Bark and Lunge is on my ‘to read’ list 🙂

  5. Good luck with your presentation! I agree with the above comment that people will appreciate hearing from a dog owner….personal experience is really the best teacher.

  6. I’d actually rather hear from someone who has lived the nightmare as opposed to just studied it! Even the professional trainers who I have stuck with, followed all over the Pacific Northwest and even the country for classes and workshops, are dear to me because I know they got to where they are by experiencing how much better Positive Reinforcement Training is, often through having lived with a reactive or anxious dog. I am so, so happy to learn that Amazing Pet Expos has moved into the real, effective and humane world of life with pets by committing to being force free. I can only hope for all other organizations to follow suit! All the best to you in SoCal and thank you so much for joining our hop again. You never fail to inspire!

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