First blog – republished from March 2012

The below is the original text from the blog I published in March 2012. I now no longer use no reward markers and absolutely do my best not to use any aversive training, whether physical or psychological. Constructive comments and questions are welcome as always.




I started training my own dogs about 10 years ago. At the time we had Superstar Mollie, who was a tricoloured border collie cross. She was a little highly strung but sharp as a tack when it came to training. Bosco, my boy, came to us in January 2001 at 8 weeks old. He was a Dogue de Bordeaux, the most handsome example of the breed I have ever seen (although, admittedly, I am a little biased). Not too tall and built like a tank, he loved a ball, tug games and treats but unfortunately, I learnt compulsion training as my start and we didn’t have an awful lot of fun during the first few years of his life as I had been taught wrongly that he was being dominant and that I had to control him through rank reduction programmes and the like.

A year later, I got our sweet sweet girl Kitty, the Neapolitan Mastiff. A great example of the breed, tight skin on her body and only a little loose skin and she could move like a greyhound. I’ll post more about the dogs individually later.

Being a cross over trainer, I have the benefit of experience of both camps. I now use no physically aversive techniques and only occasionally use some techniques which may be mildly aversive psychologically. I can categorically state that aversive techniques do work in training and can have a short term effect on the manifestations of some problem behaviours. Do I agree with them any more? Absolutely not. I have had a few discussions both online and at conferences on the use of aversive training and am also very careful and deliberate to state that I no longer use nor agree with punitive training. Having said that, when I started training all those years ago I successfully taught all my dogs to walk on a loose leash, recalls and down-stays using a prong collar.

Skinner proved all those moons ago that positive punishment does work. I am not proud of using these techniques in the past but I am where I am today, in part, because of them and my knowledge of them, although my relationship with my three very special dogs unfortunately suffered as a result and due to the early death of Bosco, I didn’t get the opportunity to fully repair that but I hope I did go some way towards it.

Which brings me to the way I train just now. I’ll post later about the influences which brought me fully to where I am but basically I started to read everything I could. Ian Dunbar has played a massive roll in my learning, along with Stanley Coren, Jean Donaldson, Sophia Yin, Ray Coppinger and many others.

As I got better at training, friends, family and work mates would ask for advice and my girlfriend encouraged me to start my own business and make it a bit more official. I take on most cases from recall and general manners to separation distress and aggression cases. Most of my experience comes from dealing with dog-dog aggression as I have suffered through it myself (again, more later)

The most I now give to a dog is a verbal non reward marker and rely heavily on counter conditioning through positive reinforcement and am using Grisha Stewart’s Behavioural Adjustment Training which uses negative reinforcement, for aggression cases and am having good success with it.

That’s all for now folks, constructive comments are always welcome.

John McGuigan

Glasgow Dog Trainer and Behaviour Consultant

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