This is a short, no-bull and unbiased comparison of each approach. I hate close minded thinking, in part because I have to guard myself from that way of thinking since it's so easy to fall into.
Both "balanced trainers" and "force free" trainers are very guilty of name calling, finger pointing and shaming. I myself have been guilty of this on my page when I felt strongly about a certain trainer.
I honestly don't think people intentionally go in the dog training field just so they can engage in constant arguments. The close mindedness comes from a good place, at least in the beginning. Later, people just argue to win, not to see the other person's point of view.
Dog training is an interesting field to be in because the differences in temperament and personalities of each dog, combined with the different specialties in the dog training field, demand a wide array of approaches from dog trainers. This easily leads to the mentality of "I've found that this is the best way to do x,y and z..." which can lead to "This is the only way it should be done..."
Here I will lay out a short comparison of each dog training approach:
FORCE-FREE DOG TRAINING
This approach on dog training is very positive reinforcement based. There are truly knowledgeable people on this side but unfortunately the majority of trainers on this side just slap the label on them without fully understanding the principles of this side of the quadrant.
Force-free training or Purely positive training, operates under two quadrants. Positive Reinforcement and Negative Punishment. That's right, I said negative punishment. This means the dog loses a privilege, or the opportunity for a reward is lost as a direct consequence of a behavior you want to stop or reduce the rate of.
Force-free/Purely-positive training is not wrong! Positive reinforcement works great! So does Negative punishment. The intentions come from a good place. Most trainers start here because it has a great emotional appeal to us as dog owners.
Here is a list of situations in which Purely-positive training is a great approach:
-Teaching new behaviors on dogs of all ages
-Enhancing old behaviors on dogs of all ages
-Working with dogs that have physical ailments or handicaps overcome certain obstacles
-Teaching fast and accurate responses while maintaining a good attitude
Trainers on this side of the spectrum are unfortunately constantly chastising owners and dog trainers who don't agree with their way of training dogs. They are quick to call anyone who doesn't agree with them, ignorant and abusive. That's not to say every Force-free trainer conducts themselves this way, but a lot of them do.
This approach of dog training can be more hands on. Unfortunately, there really aren't a lot of knowledgeable dog trainers on this side of the spectrum. A lot of people who consider themselves balanced dog trainers aren't really balanced, they're just a bunch of crank-and-yankers who use praise as positive reinforcement because for some odd reason, they believe using food is bad.
Ideally, a balanced trainer operates with all 4 parts of the quadrants. Positive and Negative reinforcement as well as Positive and Negative punishment. They are all different and yes, they are scientific approaches since these terms were not coined by dog trainers but by scientists. As stated earlier, unfortunately many so called balanced trainers don't know their rears from their treat pouches. These people are the ignorant ones Purely-positive trainers refer to when they point the finger at the Balanced approach. These uneducated Balanced trainers give the rest of us bad names and soil our reputation.
The list of things a Balanced approach is good for are the following:
-Teaching new behaviors and enhancing known behaviors (Through the use of Positive Reinforcement)
-When using gentle leaders and no-pull harness (Contrary to popular belief, these tools operate under Negative reinforcement, which as we know, doesn't have to be scary or painful)
-When poison proofing or doing snake avoidance training (Which can ONLY be done through the use of Positive, unconditioned punishment. Whoever says otherwise is either lying or completely ignorant to this type of training)
-When crittering, or "cat proofing" a dog with high predatory aggression towards small animals (Counter conditioning and desensitization here is futile since the dog doesn't want to create space, but rather the opposite)
-When teaching boundaries (Through the use of all 4 quadrants)
-When helping dogs with disabilities or handicaps overcome obstacles (Through the use of Positive and Negative reinforcement [no-pull harnesses or gentle leaders])
-When teaching fast and accurate responses (Through the use of all four quadrants)
Overall, I would like to remind everyone that dog training should NEVER be about winning arguments or picking sides. It should always be about the dog and the family who owns the dog in need of help.
Don't be arrogant and please realize that there are things you don't know. You'll be better off listening to someone else's side of the story and making your judgement on that rather than quickly assuming the other person is just WRONG. Yes, sometimes the other person is just wrong, I know.