DogSense Chat on my Making the Case for Force-free Training Part 2

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Part 2 of the Interview with Linda Michaels M.A.: Making the Case for Force-Free Dog Training. See Part 1 here.

by Denise O’Moore, Dog Sense Facebook Group

How to make the case for force free dog training linda michaels del mar dog trainer dog psychology positive reinforcementDenise: It’s good to have you here to ask you about the release of your DVD, “Understanding Research: Making the Case for Force-free Dog Training”.

Group member questions:

Scott: Where do you find the most resistance to FF advice or training?

Linda Michaels MA: Scott — where, oh where. It seems like most everywhere. The resistance is often in small or large geographic areas…but the problem continues to spread ubiquitously.

Julie: Even the word ‘scientific’ is being sullied by its misuse, how do you redefine and reclaim it?

Linda Michaels MA: I give definitions of the term science which is well defined…most folks will related well to authors such as Dr. Overall, so I highlight their scientific credentials wherever I can.

Julie: The arguments begin when research appears to give contradicting results, the general public wants facts. Hard sell and hi exposure mix with pseudoscience to make easy to adopt training methods. I wish you luck in making true facts sexy enough to sell, I hope you and all of us can!

Linda Michaels MA: The Hierarchy is sexy! Sort a’….LOL!

Joseph: I have heard of trainers going from force to force free. I have also heard lately of a lot going from force free to “balance trainers”. Has anyone else seen this and know why this is happening?

How to make the case for force free dog training linda michaels del mar dog trainer dog psychology positive reinforcementLinda Michaels MA: Joseph I believe you asked about trainers switching from FF to Balanced…this is a very sad development. I feel that when FF trainers understand that there is never a reason or excuse to use harsh methods, and that FF methods as listed in the Hierarchy, will address most ALL behavior problems, that we will be able to teach and hang onto them.

Scott: I agree. Especially in “rehabilitation” now. And communities where police dog trainers can do their field trials out in the country or the central valley area.

Lauren: Is your DVD available in The UK, Linda? It sounds fabulous!

Linda Michaels MA: Yes, very popular in the UK, it ships there! You can see a preview and buy here.

Rosee: Do you think it’s enough to make the scientific case for force-free training? I sometimes wonder where the ethical argument is being held (apart from in the realm of philosophy) , the simple humane and compassionate aspect that causing pain, intimidation and fear to another being is wrong. Because I see the tendency that the discourse is mainly about effectiveness (i.e. HOW best to train) and almost nothing about WHAT we feel entitled to demand of our dogs. Denise.

April: Good question. As a zoo animal trainer, I always referred to the Five Freedoms: one of which is the freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering. This led me to use force-free training, where zoo animals cooperate with their own management and medical procedures.

Linda Michaels MA:  It’s sadly true, that the “mechanics” rather than the relationship has held sway over dog training. This is why Ethics are embedded in the Hierarchy of Dog Needs. And why the Training Needs scaffold is called “Do No Harm” Management and Learning. Only after a “Do No Harm” platform is established as the foundation to move forward, do we discuss technique. This is where our “industry” fails the dogs. Dog training needs a “Do No Harm” ethical code! Other professions involving interactions with sentient beings are called to uphold ethical standards set by their fields and we should as well. I could not put more emphasis on this. Thank you for raising a KEY concern!

This is what is illustrated by the Hierarchy of Dog Needs; meeting Needs comes FIRST, then Training, using all Force-free method. This is a guide with ethics embedded right in the core of it!

How to make the case for force free dog training linda michaels del mar dog trainer dog psychology positive reinforcementRosee: Thank you! Yes, I have downloaded this, of course! And need-based education is a great interest of mine!

Linda Michaels MA: Rosee. No, I do NOT think it’s enough to make scientific arguments. We need to address this problem within the field and the industry on EVERY front, all at the same time. I’ve been making scientific arguments — having a master’s degree in animal behavior, I could not be a bigger fan of education as you might expect. However, I have become an animal welfare advocate and this is the calling of FF trainers who recognize the sad state of affairs in the dog training industry, in my opinion.

Joseph: Do you think one of the reasons why force trainers are so popular with general public is because they make things simpler for clients to understand? Where as force free trainers can get a bit too wordy.

Linda Michaels MA: Joseph. I’ve heard of this issue. One of my answers is the new simple meme’s and the Hierarchy of Dog Needs which is easy-to understand for ALL — everyone from pet parents to veterinary behaviorists are finding it a practical tool.

Linda Michaels MAOf course, competence and the ability to train efficiently is necessary, as well as accountability and transparency in advertising.

Lisa: Question for whenever you can get to it: What do you think is the best way to respond when someone asks people for a recommendation and people mention someone in your area who uses very detrimental methods. I don’t feel I should bring it up in front of the whole group but people in the community keep referring this person who just does horrible things to dogs. Do we say something? Just post something? Warn people?

Linda Michaels MA: Lisa  — I would say, offhand, depending on the audience and the recommender, that I would like to offer an alternative that is known to be safer and more effective as well as completely dog-friendly!

hierarchyofdogneeds_condensed2Jeff: Aren’t we supposed to be the voice for those that can’t speak?

Laura: Hi Linda, One thing I find difficult is how to approach a situation where someone is using force based methods. As someone who believes wholeheartedly in force-free training and speaking up for those without a voice, I find it hard to see people training in this way and yet I have no idea how to approach the situation, how do you suggest we get our message across in a simple, informative way? Thank you!

Lisa:  Especially in a public forum such as fb

Linda Michaels MA:  Laura: This can be tricky…but I am clear about methods with all. Finding the format where you can best reach as many people as possible without endangering your well-being, of course, helps. I post meme’s, I have argued for years with so-called Balanced Trainers, and have not found it to be helpful. Of course, Animal Abuse Masquerading as Dog Training is the problem we face.

Laura: Thank you Linda, I actually find the people I come across in real life harder to educate, without walking up to them and handing them a flyer, it can be difficult to get the conversation started without causing any conflict or upset.

Linda Michaels MA: Coming back to this, Laura. I agree direct confrontation is the most delicate and difficult for me as well. We have to pick our battles. I might say, “I was wondering if you’ve ever tried a front-clip harness? Have you heard about all the medical injuries that pressure around your dog’s neck can cause?”. I tell people, “I was so surprised to learn of these possible injuries” And, frankly, in part, I was surprised. Often people will relate to medical issues, when they cannot be reached initially, on Do No Harm psychological grounds. We need to strengthen our animal welfare laws and ban shock collars in the US. Dr. Overall’s article Good Trainers lists some. If you email me and I’ll be happy to send you a link. It’s my favorite resource.

Scott: Can I come work under you?

Linda Michaels MA: have a gorilla-training intern right now, Scott and am open to more FF trainers, of course!  I love your doggie ambulance!

Laura: I can’t wait for the handbook, I’m only just starting to learn and your hierarchy of dog needs has really helped, it’s such a fantastic visual!

Linda Michaels MA: Thank you, Laura…it really warms my heart to hear you say that. Makes all the work feel worth it!

Dawn: Are some dogs easier to train then others?

slide06Linda Michaels MA: I’m coming back online to answer your great question, Dawn! Although learning principles apply to ALL dogs, — there are three things that stand out that make training one dog, quite different than training another. 1. Genetics 2. Early Socialization History and 3. Traumatic Events. That’s it in a nutshell. Early Socialization, for example, could have been a well-meaning pet parent tossing their dog into a dog park situation thinking that will help socialize their dog, only to have it backfire. A Traumatic Event could be something small in our eyes, but of great import to our dogs. A Traumatic Event could also mean a dominance training method or device.

Scott: Do you apply similar teachings to your interactions with people?

Linda Michaels MA: Scott — please see the Victoria Stilwell article link below. She says it quite well!  Using Positive Reinforcement on Dogs vs People POSITIVELY.COM

Scott: I will. I have no doubts you do, but I see many that don’t.

John: Hi Linda, and thank you for giving your time here! I haven’t watched your seminar YET. Scientific studies on behaviour require a vast case study foundation,with reasonable and natural variances, and quantifiable results. Were these resources available to you? Did you have to titrate them from studies already available? And what surprises did you find on your journey?!

Linda Michaels MA: You haven’t watched my seminar YET! LOL. Ok, you get a break…for the moment. Not necessarily at all…dogs and small children have no voice and it is our responsibility to speak for them. The best analysis of the concept of “let’s be nice to everyone all the time” is published in the below blog from Victoria Stilwell. I agree entirely!

Linda Michaels MA: I’m back to address one part of your question that I didn’t get to, John. Two major surprises that come to mind are: 1. The sensitivity of our dogs, and 2. The resistance of the dog training field to take on a “Do No Harm” code with the animals people profess to love. Dominance methods and loving dogs seems clearly antithetical to me.

hierarchyofdogneeds_condensed1John: I utterly agree that the two thoughts are completely incompatible. And I think there are enough dog & animal lovers, sympathizers, and those with common sense to initially support FF in theory. And then go on to distill what is best for the animal’s welfare and its learning experience. It won’t happen overnight, but I think the best tool is the amazing graphics and simple messages that you and Denise are offering to the public.

Linda Michaels MA: Thank you, thank you! Yes! The Hierarchy was 15 years in the making in my head and almost a year in its creation. I’ve had some great scientific minds to help me distill the theory and the message, such as Dr. Simon Gadbois, who I cannot thank enough for taking the time to discuss with me.

John: And it is because of you, and other geniuses in their relative fields that science is made easily relatable, and understandable for the general public. Let’s all hope that CM’s theories will soon be on the event horizon.

Linda Michaels MA:  This is my mission. To use the gift of my education and passion to help change the course of treatment with our best friends…our ever lovin’ dogs. Your words have made my day.

Tamara: If -R/-P and extinction aren’t in the hierarchy how would you advise FF trainers to truly implement this mindset to clients?? Heck, I’ve yelled “shut up!” to my dogs (they were throughly desensitized as pups to yelling) and I KNOW it’s ineffective, but even I’m human.

Jeff: I certainly agree that -P and extinction could be perceived as aversive to a dog. But don’t most force-free trainers subscribe to the LIMA approach, and wouldn’t -P and extinction fall into that as well?

Helen: Thank you Linda I look forward to getting your dvd

Linda Michaels MA: Thank you! You can see a preview and purchase hereI’ll have a special bonus code at the end of the chat as well

Rosee: it occurs to me that we could also help by more education of the ‘consumer’…..After all, there is an element of supply and demand in this.

Linda Michaels MA: Yes, Rosee…reaching the pet parents and providing direction for those innocent folk just looking for some help, is paramount. Joining Together, supporting each other and Sharing what we know to be true AND can back up with empirical evidence will create the sea-change we all here wish to see.

Rosee: thank you! that is so encouraging!

Linda Michaels Del Mar Dog Training No Shock No Prong No Choke collar logoScott:Do you feel that schools like KPA, Ian Dunbar Sirius dog training is helping or becoming stale in comparison to the dog psychology centre by CM and Jeff Gellum and Sean O’Sheas schools for dog trainers?

Denise O’Moore: Linda: from Tamara: If -R/-P and extinction aren’t in the hierarchy how would you advise FF trainers to truly implement this mindset to clients?? Heck, I’ve yelled “shut up!” to my dogs (they were throughly desensitized as pups to yelling) and I KNOW it’s ineffective, but even I’m human.

Denise O’Moore: Linda this is a great question by Jeff: I certainly agree that -P and extinction could be perceived as aversive to a dog. But don’t most force-free trainers subscribe to the LIMA approach, and wouldn’t -P and extinction fall into that as well?

Linda Michaels MA: John. Great question. Some of the research will not be forthcoming because of ethical issues in experimental design in laboratory setting. These restrictions by Animal Subjects Committee and universities preclude some investigations, regarding the effects of shock collar training for example…and I feel that it is a good thing. However, we have a great deal of classical works to draw on. I am on a Canine Behavior Research FB page, that may interest you that is devoted to finding scholarly journal articles and nothing else. Please email me if you would like further information on the group.

Lisa: Have to run. Thank you very much for your time. Looking forward to receiving the dvd

Linda Michaels MA: Thank you Lisa!

Denise O’Moore: Admin note: We are out of time! please hang in there while all above questions are answered and we will be posting links to Linda’s DVD

Denise O’Moore: Linda – final question for the night from Scott: Do you feel that schools like KPA, Ian Dunbar Sirius dog training is helping or becoming stale in comparison to the dog psychology centre by CM and Jeff Gellum and Sean O’Sheas schools for dog trainers?

Linda Michaels MA: I will answer a few more of the questions already posed, but for those who need to leave, here’s a special offer for you! If you purchase the DVD from my website within the hour, I will include a FREE copy of my personal dog training manual. Buy here.

Denise O’Moore: Linda I have posted all remaining questions and tagged you above

Linda Michaels MA: Working on them now, thanks1

Linda Michaels MA: Tamara! Great question! “If -R/-P and extinction aren’t in the hierarchy how would you advise FF trainers to truly implement this mindset to clients?? Heck, I’ve yelled “shut up!” to my dogs (they were throughly desensitized as pups to yelling) and I KNOW it’s ineffective, but even I’m human.” My answer: I put it as simply and clearly as possible: it’s a DO NO HARM ideology, that is: Do No Harm physically and Do No Harm psychologically. You’d be surprised how quickly most people Get it.

Laura: Thank you so much for your time Linda and thank you for hosting it Denise!

Rosee: I second that! Brilliant conversation and such an important one!

Denise O’Moore: More than welcome and don’t forget we have our BSL chat tomorrow night so please keep an eye out for posts. Thanks for joining in !

Marta: Thank you Linda.

Denise O’Moore: A few more questions to be answered so hang on – and THANK YOU all for joining us this evening.

Linda Michaels MA: Question from Jeff: I certainly agree that -P and extinction could be perceived as aversive to a dog. But don’t most force-free trainers subscribe to the LIMA approach, and wouldn’t -P and extinction fall into that as well? My answer: I understand many trainers use LIMA, however, I do not subscribe to the LIMA approach per se. I subscribe to the new paradigm that closes the door on aversive/punitive methods — The Hierarchy of Dog Needs. The methods are mix and match and may be used in any order. It’s a new day in FF training.

John: Thank you Linda and Denise for organising !

Denise O’Moore: Okay Linda I think the final question is from Scott: Do you feel that schools like KPA, Ian Dunbar Sirius dog training is helping or becoming stale in comparison to the dog psychology centre by CM and Jeff Gellum and Sean O’Sheas schools for dog trainers?

How to make the case for force free dog training linda michaels del mar dog trainer dog psychology positive reinforcementScott: Just the hierarchy of dogs needs will open the door to different aspects of your mind, that you’ll be able to understand how training will fit in and when you should work on certain skill sets for each dog. A good guideline to help you be patient and understand and open to what your dog might be telling you or asking for.

Linda Michaels MA: Final question for the night from Scott: Do you feel that schools like KPA, Ian Dunbar Sirius dog training is helping or becoming stale in comparison to the dog psychology centre by CM and Jeff Gellum and Sean O’Sheas schools for dog trainers?” My answer: I’m not sure I would compare those schools to each other — personally, I’ve earned the PPG , PCT-A credential, have my master’s degree and affiliations that match my ethics. I’ve come to the conclusion that these are the best fit for me!

Linda Michaels MA: One more time, If you purchase the DVD from my website within the hour, I will include a FREE copy of my personal dog training manual. Buy here

Denise O’Moore: Linda Michaels MA – wow thank you so much for all your answers! And thank you to all members on – great questions! linda will be posting links for her DVD so make sure you check them out!

Linda Michaels MA: And you can download and read more about the Hierarchy here.

Denise O’Moore: Thank you Linda Michaels MA!

Linda Michaels MA: Thank you, Denise O’Moore and everyone at Dog Sense for putting this together for us. What a great opportunity of share and speak to your amazing followers…of which I am one!

Marta: Thank you for helping us spread the word!:)

Linda Michaels MA: If your question has not been answered please feel free to meet me on my FB page, and let’s talk about it!

Linda Michaels MA:

Tamara: Thank you Linda and Denise for a wonderful, informative hour and a half that you each have volunteered your time for. We, our clients, and dogs in our care/training everywhere are a very lucky lot!

Denise O’Moore: Thanks Tamara – and thank you for earlier xxx

Helen: Yes thank you both for volunteering your time x

Rosee: Thank you from me too

Denise O’Moore: Don’t forget tomorrow – same time same place we have another great guest: Louise Thompson Brilliant discussion – just read through the posts, and really enjoyed them!!

See Part 1 of the interview, with additional questions, here.

See the full text from the chat here.


Linda Michaels, M.A. Psychology, Del Mar Dog Training, serves clients in Del Mar and San Diego County from La Jolla to Carlsbad, plus Rancho Santa Fe, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. Linda Michaels was recently rated one of the top ten dog trainers in the United States, by Top Ten Magazine. Linda has a master’s degree in Experimental Psychology (Hons), and is the creator of the Hierarchy of Dog Needs™ (HDN). She focuses on the psychological aspects of dog behavior that often mirror human psychological conditions, such as: fear, separation/attachment disorders, and aggression toward humans and other dogs. She also teaches private, customized basic manners/obedience lessons for dogs of all ages and every breed.

Featured Posts