When you’re a centrist, everyone is suspicious of you. You’re not in the tribe, therefore, you must be wrong, or worse, you must be a double agent from the other tribe, hell bent on subversion. There are two main tribes in modern dog training, the “positive” tribe and the “balanced” tribe. Every training specialty (i.e. agility, herding, therapy, and hunting) has its own competing tribes. The “positive” and “balanced” tribes usually compete for hearts and minds amongst the general dog loving populace. A quick google search will give you access to an amazing amount of information, but if you’re like me, it won’t answer the question I came with… Why are these folks so wound up?
To be fair, I tend to sympathize with the “balanced” approach to training, but that’s because it’s less restrictive, not because I agree or disagree with anyone in particular. “Positive” trainers tend to think that they occupy the moral high ground and have some sort of monopoly on humanity. They are extremely effective at recruiting suburban soccer moms, raising awareness, and demonizing those that disagree with them, but tend to be less effective at actually training dogs, for any purpose, at all. “Balanced” trainers tend to be hobbyists and solid professionals that have had to finally react to “positive” pestering. They tend to be ironic, witty, and arrogant. They love to argue “science” with the posi crowd and will happily demonstrate their work on YouTube and challenge their opponents to do the same. The balanced crowd can normally, actually train a dog, and can do it in a fair and humane way. They would just be called informed dog trainers if they weren’t defined by their adversarial relationship with the “positive” tribe.
Truth be told, neither one of these tribes has a monopoly on science or humanity. There are many great trainers out there that have chosen to not hang a label on themselves. They just go to work every day and produce results. Good trainers have a feel for a given dog’s attitude and can ensure that the dog remain a willing participant in training even if it’s being trained to perform tasks that it would rather not perform (given it’s druthers). Good trainers will use the tools they have available and will know how to use them. They will not knock anyone else’s work, because they are confident in their own. Good trainers have nothing to hide, and nothing to fear because they know that no matter how ugly the tribes get with one another, there will always be folks out there that just need a good dog trainer.