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A Dog Trainer's Journey into Balanced Training

Updated: Jun 5, 2023


You take a slip leash to the counter of your favorite pet store to make your dog the best version of themself.

The cashier looks at you, rolls her eyes, and politely says, “Are you sure you want to use that on your pet?”

That’s been me on numerous occasions. The cashier, not the customer.

Dog Trainer Devon MacDonald

I was on team positive dog training. I watched Victoria Stilwell, whose positive training ways got me into dog training. I thought pinch collars hurt the dogs, slip leashes choke the dogs, and the electric collars…Yeah I thought that too.

But here’s the thing; While positive dog training makes sense in concept, it didn’t always work in practice. And the more I tried it on my dogs, the more frustrated it was.

Instead of giving up hope, I decided to give the side of dog training I assumed was terrible another chance. I started watching Cesar Millan. I worked with Lori Hamilton Dog Training and Devine K9’s. And I learned that a “pinch” collar was how it was put on, not how it felt. I found that slip leashes when applied and used right did less damage than a flat collar. And the “e” in E-collar stood for “electronic” not “electric.”

To be clear, there are aspects of positive dog training I do love. If I want to teach my dog a new trick then rewards, free shaping and clicker training all day. If you have a Maltese poodle, thumbs up for positive reinforcement. And there are positive dog trainers out there that are amazing at what they do. I tip my cap.

On the flip side, there are balanced dog trainers that make me want to run from the association. To fry a dog at a 50 out of 100 to drop a slipper, that's barbaric. So is the heavy handed “crank and yank.” Tools in the wrong untrained hands is like a hammer held by a criminal trying to hurt someone.

Now, as the owner of my own business Next Gen Aussies, Collies and Shepherds, I feel a greater responsibility to give back to the dog world I love.

A number of times I’ve been asked if I could teach a dog owner how to use a slip leash or E-collar in a quick hour-long lesson. Some would say, "Sure," and take the money.

That's just not me.

The truth is, these tools in untrained hands is terrible for the dog. It's careless careless for the dog owner. And just unethical for me.

If you want to learn about these tools, and how to use them, take the time it needs. Sign up for five lessons, not just one. Find out how used properly they can help with off-leash work, recall, and building that great dog and owner relationship. Remember, the same hammer used to hurt someone can instead be used to build a house.


Devon MacDonald is the founder of Next Gen Aussies Collies and Shepherds which serves the Bay Area. Her business specializes in obedience, advance obedience, trick training, agility, leash reactivity, anxiety around people, and dog aggression. Next Gen ACS most popular program is it's board and train program which is available for both well-behaved dogs and ones with behavioral issues. Devon currently lives in Morgan Hill, California with her Mini-Australian Shepherd Cypress. Besides dogs, she has a passion for swimming, traveling and great wine.




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About Next Gen ACS

Next Gen Aussies, Collies & Shepherds is the ideal place for dog owners who want to provide their furry friends with the best possible care. We offer a range of services, including boarding and training, to help your dog thrive. Trust us to provide a safe and welcoming environment for your dog.

When you choose Next Gen ACS, you are choosing a team of experienced professionals who truly care about your beloved pet. Our state-of-the-art facilities, compassionate staff, and tailored training programs ensure that your dog receives the best care possible. From boarding to obedience training, we have everything your dog needs to thrive. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and see why we're the best choice for your furry friend.

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mini Educator

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Portable Pet Bed

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Pet Kennel

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