Headline from the Sunday Times "Has Dog training gone soft"A recent piece in the English newspaper The Sunday Times upset me.  The article took a staunch stance against “positive-only” dog trainers stemming from a particularly extreme experience. However, this viewpoint inadvertently undermines dedicated trainers who prioritize the well-being of dogs but who operate within a more nuanced understanding of training realities.

3 happy retrievers lying on the floor

Dog training should be a great experience for everyone.

While some trainers align themselves strictly with the “Positive only” quadrant, this oversimplification neglects the intricacies of learning theory. The concept of reinforcing desired behaviors inherently involves a degree of “negative punishment,” wherein undesired behaviors are discouraged by withholding rewards or privileges. For instance, in addressing leash-pulling, a skilled trainer employs a blend of positive reinforcement for walking beside them and removing the incentive for pulling by halting forward motion when pressure is applied to the leash.

Black dog wearing prong collar

Prong collars “stop” behaviors by inflicting unpleasant sensations on the dog’s neck.

Conversely, “punishment” based trainers rely on techniques that dissuade unwanted behaviors through methods the dog finds aversive, known as “positive punishment.” Traditional leash corrections exemplify this approach, aiming to deter undesired behaviors by introducing discomfort or inconvenience.


At Mountainside Mutts we are “force-free”, we’re not “positive only”. We

are unapologetically proud of the fact that we don’t use aversive tools. There is science to support our methods and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior discourages the use of prong, shock, or choke collars. We believe in rules, management, and consistent training. We believe in the handler having realistic expectations and putting in the time to see behavior change. We provide professional advice; it is the client’s responsibility to implement our recommendations.  We believe in the human handler taking sensible steps to prevent a dog from doing the very thing the

No prong, shock or choke collars

These tools are unnecessary for training your “best friend”.

person is complaining about. We believe that your canine companion can be truly incredible. But raising the dog of your dreams requires understanding, knowledge, and patience.