Paul Hutton Canine Behaviour Centre

The ‘Put Up or Shut Up’ Challenge

Who is the challenge for?

This challenge is for all or any followers and teachers of an approach to training and educating dogs commonly known as ‘positive reward’ training.

What is ‘positive reward’ training?

‘Positive reward’ training is primarily based on motivating dogs to behave in the required/requested manner using food and lavish praise and often associated with a device called a ‘çlicker’. It primarily adheres to the doctrine of ignoring so called bad behaviour and rewarding the so called ‘good’. Often more correctly referred to as bribery training this approach is used universally by Puppy Schools and now, virtually all Dog Obedience Clubs in some form or another. This means that it is the most likely method of training to be embraced by most dog owners in the first instance.

What is the purpose of the challenge?

The ‘Put Up or Shut Up’ Challenge is being made to once and for all confirm or reject this methodology and philosophy as a credible and effective product for addressing the needs of the vast majority of dog owners who embark on the mission of training and educating their dog. That need? Unquestionably that they can achieve reliable and effective control over their dog in ‘everyday life’ situations of distraction and temptation such as visitors, other dogs, cats, livestock etc especially when off the lead.

Why the need for such a challenge?

For some time now I along with many other Professionals world wide have been widely condemning of this ‘new age’ philosophy due to its total ineffectiveness in the ‘real life’ situations encountered by dog owners where reliable and effective control will be required for both safety and other practical reasons. It is both mine and their belief that such an approach is suitable only for teaching tricks and for simple exercises which the dog is already happy to comply with, but of absolutely no value for ‘real life’ situations when the dog is excited, distracted and around strong temptations especially when off the lead. (I.e. The ‘real world’.)

It is also our belief that for such ‘real life’ requirements the doctrine and practice of developing in the dog a respect for rules, boundaries and instruction through effective non aggressive enforcement is the only way of achieving reliable and effective control for the vast majority of dogs.

So, who’s right and who’s wrong, that is the big question. That is the dilemma dog owners are faced with when considering two diametrically opposed methodologies/philosophies. After years of debate supporters/followers of each approach are equally adamant that they have it right. Debate is therefore pointless. Hence the challenge.

Why is it so important to put ‘positive reward’ training to the ‘test’?

At a time when dog owners are being held more and more accountable for ensuring their dog does not transgress, it is imperative that when they seek advice about the training of their dog that they are in fact getting accurate information. With local councils actively recommending dog owners to enroll with Dog Obedience Schools and many Veterinary Practices themselves running Puppy Schools, both of which in nearly all cases follow the positive reward training principles, means that very large numbers of dog owners are directed towards following this philosophy confident that they are in fact doing the right thing.

The consequences of dog owners being ill informed about training matters are just too great to accept. Thousands of dogs are killed every year as a result of unacceptable behaviour resulting from training failures. If the positive reward philosophy is proven to be flawed then the issue of highly respected information sources such as Local Bodies and Veterinarians recommending services using this approach is a very serious issue that cannot be ignored. For the sake of both dogs and their owners it has to be ‘put to the test’.

So here's the challenge!

In a public forum, using a variety of dogs ‘sight unseen’ ranging from young to mature, confident to anxious, small to large the two approaches will be demonstrated to show their effectiveness in dealing with a variety of typical dog problems and achieving compliance with instructions in a variety of ‘around the home’, ‘on the street’, type situations, and off the lead, with normal ‘everyday life’ distractions and temptations present.

I am prepared to ‘front up’ and publicly respond to this ‘no nonsense’, ‘real world’ challenge with total confidence and belief that the approach I and many other Professionals around the world subscribe to, will be unquestionably vindicated. If the followers and believers of ‘positive reward training’ believe so strongly in there doctrine and practices then they also will have no problem in ‘fronting up’, responding to the challenge and demonstrating the validity of their doctrine.

Of course if they don’t, then it’s time to shut up and accept that what they offer is nothing more than ‘treats for tricks’ and that they have no credibility or place in the ‘real world’ of dog training where giving advice to genuine, caring dog owners seeking credible information and advice is a responsibility to be taken very seriously.

So, to all of the Puppy Schools, Dog Obedience Clubs, so called Dog Listeners/Whisperers, Behavioural experts, Professional Trainers or Veterinarians who follow/promote the positive reward doctrine, here’s your opportunity. It’s time to ‘Put up or ‘Shut up’. No more rhetoric, it’s time for deeds!!!

Paul Hutton
Canine Behaviour Centre

Note: Interested parties can obtain a detailed list of the Challenge ‘tasks’ and Challenge ‘conditions’ by emailing paulhutton@xtra.co.nz.  The list of ‘tasks’ has been compiled to fairly and accurately represent the typical ‘everyday life’ situations for which the vast majority of dog owners are looking to deal with when seeking training services for their dog and to be a realistic and fair test as to the effectiveness of both philosophies.