OK, so for the last 20 years or so dog trainers, or wannabe dog trainers, have been exploiting human kindness and empathy in a very cruel and profit driven way that needs debunking and clarity.
The phrase "positive reinforcement" somehow got targeted as the catch-all term to demonize real dog training so that anyone, virtually ANYONE, can promote fluffy words, warm and fuzzy feelings - and in the process leave a HUGE number of people and animals out of the loop on real help. This is resulting in more euthanasia, dog bites and attacks, breed specific legislative attempts to ban certain breeds and general mayhem in the pet owning world.
We see modern, made up buzz words and phrases, such as "minimally aversive", positive reinforcement, etc. as indications that cutting edge thinking and science is at work - unfortunately NOT the case whatsoever. What is really at work here is MARKETING for PROFIT and is targeted at making money, NOT helping people or pets.
Some contrast is necessary for true understanding of how this is being accomplished, quite successfully I might add, across the globe. Again, this scenario ultimately leaves out fully 50% of owners and pets who seek professional help with behavior and training related topics.
Quite simply, most of all these sources of nonsense NEVER APPROACH A TRULY TROUBLED DOG - they recommend euthanasia or even worse "rehoming", or passing the troubles the first owner allowed to develop in the dog, onto an (often) unsuspecting new owner who isn't prepared to deal with it either! In either case, it gets a dog who is too much for them OUT of their training files and allows only light troubles, easily solved, to populate their case study files. In the end, the results page looks like all successes when in reality anything that would truly challenge them as a behaviorist, trainer or TEACHER is relegated to being someone else's problem (and liability!) or it's dead and not around to prove anyone's deficiencies.
(Not incidentally, ALL Humane Societies, Animal Control and "Pounds" are guilty by necessity in this same area as they have HUGE liability, HUGE numbers to deal with and the PUBLIC PERCEPTION as a court, albeit an uneducated court in most cases. Their behavior selection criteria for canines involving fear OR aggression are so conservative LASSIE would have a hard time making it past the needle!)
I liken this in most cases to trying to teach someone who speaks a different language a complex subject without being able to COMMUNICATE with them in anything but primitive means and terms. Yet this is exactly what humans are trying to do in communicating with a canine. Dogs do not speak in the classical sense, do not interpret the world around them with human perspective or values and communicate on a totally different plane than we do. In order to reach past or breach that chasm, WE must learn how THEY communicate and put it into use, or never the two shall meet! Therefore, to properly communicate with a canine, we have to approach the task using communication skills familiar to THEM, not US. Tone of voice, body language, and timing are crucial details of how a dog perceives human attempts at communication - and they have no concept whatsoever of needing to learn to use our language or perception to communicate with us.
Unfortunately, for those of us out here telling the TRUTH, canine communication DOES involve discipline, hierarchy and more or less, "rank". It is taught, and enforced, within the "pack" mentality ALL canines fall subject to, with the only tools available to them - vocal expression, food and sustenance, and the tooth and claw. This FACT cannot be escaped and though in certain cases runs afoul of the delicate human psyche, is absolutely essential to ANY training or "behavior modification" that is going to be effective and reliable. Without it, only the value of a given treat in various forms is up against any "drive" the dog may encounter in its lifetime - be it play, fight or flight. In simpler terms, is it more fun to chase the rabbit that just flew out from under a bush or sit pretty for a treat that I get 10 times a day ANYWAY? Look out rabbit, if the truth be known! Yet a pack leader in a wild dog, coyote or wolf environment and scenario can stop the hunt with a different toned bark, growl or howl ON A DIME, EVERY TIME, if he / she so chooses.
To make this point even simpler, since I am a canine trainer, not a writer; Let's agree on one fact at a time - a dog, no matter the breed, age, size or appearance, is a dog. Given that he is a dog and cannot be more, or less, than a dog, then we have to arrive at fact number 2 - a dog communicates, like a dog. It is a straightforward means of communication, without entendre or ulterior motive. It is "here and now" and doesn't reckon back to ancient memory or evolve at a visible pace within our lifetimes. It is a survival behavior, based in cooperation with peers, and a necessity therefore to the ultimate goal of all living things - to stay alive, procreate and preserve the species.
It is a very efficient and successful system and IF we take the time and do the work necessary to tap into it, potential is limitless.