Do you use a choke collar? Can you explain the reason? Is it because you feel that you have more control? But the question is, do you? Does your dog walk quietly beside you obeying even when it is excited?
Probably not. The problem with force training is that dogs are very associative, and they have a strong opposition reflex. These two things provide plenty of reasons why using choke, prong, and ecollars are not as effective as most people believe.
Training To Be Aggressive
Most people do not realize that using a force collar can actually train their dog to be aggressive. If you constantly give a sharp correction when your dog sees something that excites him, the message the dog is going to receive is ‘that thing causes me pain.’
Dogs ‘opposition reflex’ also causes the behavior to increase. If you take the punishment up a notch, the dog will match it and raise you one. This is why many of the working breeds and bull dog breeds do very poorly in obedience classes.
A correction is useless if the dog doesn’t know what you want. If you can’t stop the dog with a verbal cue, then it probably doesn’t know what you expect. The result is increased stress and frustration, both lead to aggression and reactive issues.
Other dogs will seem to comply. They will stop any physical outbursts that cause the correction, but you haven’t solved the problem. The dog is still feeling fear or stress but is hiding it.
I often hear stories of dogs that were ‘perfectly trained’ then one day the dog just bites someone ‘out of nowhere.’ When you start asking questions you realize there have been handler and dog problems for a long time.
You are the Problem, Not the Dog
I constantly see behavior problems in my class that are solved by fixing the handler’s behavior and expectations. The #1 reason I find for problems when walking is that the dog is constantly on a tight leash, that is continually jerking on its neck. Put the dog on a longer leash, teach it to focus on you, and the behaviors often disappear in a matter of days.
Many handlers do not realize that they constantly send messages to their dog through their body language, breathing, leash tension, and even their own ‘odours’. The dogs read these even if we are unaware that we are sending the dog mixed signals.
We may tighten the leash and hold our breath as we pass another dog. What we’ve done is sent a ‘danger’ signal to the dog. This is compounded when we are using a leash that causes pain. The dog associates your reaction, with the approaching dog, and comes to the conclusion that it needs to deal with the dog.
Your dog has walked quietly and been obedient for 2 or 3 years. You never noticed a problem. Then one day it started to chew the furniture. The problem is that the walks were so stressful for the dog. The dog never enjoyed its walks. It endured them quietly, but sooner or later it needed an outlet for that frustration. It learned a new behavior that helped it deal with its emotions.
Not All Reactions are Aggression
One of the hardest types of dog reaction to deal with is fear based aggression. You cannot tell a fearful dog that it doesn’t needs to worry about an approaching threat. By the time most people realize their dog is fearful it is too late. The dog is already reacting and you have no control.
Control needs to be practiced, daily. “Behind every great dog is thousands of hours of practice.” This may be broken into several 2-5 minute segments each day. It may be part of the dog’s lifestyle. For example teaching a place command while the dog lays under the table at supper time, or teaching the dog to wait and let you go through the door first.
Many people are shocked when their perfectly friendly dog attacks another dog. This is common on leash if the leash is tight. The dog feels your tension and reacts to it. If you learn to relax, stop using the leash to cause pain/strangulation, and communicate to your dog then you may be pleasantly surprised with the dog’s change in behavior.
The dog will be more willing to obey and will need to start focusing on you and following your guidance, instead of using the leash as a steering wheel.
Then, of course, what happens when the collar comes off? The dog won’t come when called. Why should it? When it comes you will just put the collar back on and start hurting it again.
Teaching a dog to choose to obey you, focus on you not the ‘big wide world’, and learning to read your dog’s body language will solve most problems the average dog owner faces with their dogs. It is simple as that. No fancy, high priced training. No more ‘miracle’ training tools. No dog whisperer. Just relationship based ‘earned’ respect for you, which leads to rock solid obedience from your dog.