“Can You Help My Dog?”
People are often dubious when I reply yes. Especially if they have gone to other trainers whose methods made the problem worse, or failed outright.
I’m not very big, 5’ 3”, and I don’t come to a training class with prong collars, shock collars, and lots of talk about dominance and control. I’m not a dog whisperer. I have no ‘secret’. I haven’t taken a long ‘tried and true’ dog training method and marketed it as ‘the next latest and greatest discovery’ in dog training.
The first thing I address is handler attitude. In my experience, most dog problems are born in people’s attitude or treatment of their dog.
No one is happy when I tell them that their dog’s behavioral problems will disappear if they start patting their dog. This isn’t what they want to hear. They want collars and corrections, and a lot of impressive talk.
Where Have All The Good Dogs Gone?
The days when people walked down the street and admired a well-trained dog are fading, fast. Today we have people with high levels of tolerance. In our house we still have dogs in the down position at supper, and they do not beg. We climb the stairs or go through doors first. Not because we believe there is a dominance issue, but because it is safe.
The reasons are varied but usually simple:
- Dog training takes time.
- Dog training needs to create behaviors, not teach a dog to perform tricks
- Dog training requires we invest some of our energy into the dog.
- People expect dogs to train themselves.
- Dog training requires more than a once a week fix
I’ve rarely met a dog I gave up on. But some of the most difficult behavior problems are not fixed overnight. They can take weeks or months to fix. You cannot train a dog to stop being afraid. But you can train a dog to trust you and learn that there is nothing to fear.
Nothing will fix behavior problems born in frustration except playing with the dog. The frustration needs to be dealt with before the behavior can be changed.
Positive Training vs. Force Training?
Positive and R+ training methods are just tools. Correction and punishment are just tools. All training methods work, but all do not produce the same results.
Here are some pros and cons of both training methods:
Positive Training: Easy for the smallest, or weakest dog to train a dog they can trust.
Punishment Training: Produces short term results faster.
Positive Training: Builds an awareness of the dog’s intent and thoughts, so that the owner can avoid dangerous situations by staying in control of the situation. They can also teach their dog to trust them, so the dog is less likely to react.
Punishment Training: Teaches a dog to hide their ‘cues’ signaling any intent to fight or flea a stressful or fearful situation. This is vital because you lose the ability to identify problems before they start.
Positive Training: Builds a working relationship where you become the center of your dog’s actions.
Punishment Training: You only control a dog if you are able to control the dog when you have a leash on the dog, or there is not a stronger competing motivator.
Positive Training: Built on trust. Trust increases reliability. The dog wants to be with you.
Punishment Training: Very often only one person can control the dog. There is no trust so reliability decreases as stress, fear, or competing motivator’s increase.
Positive Training: Handler learns to watch their own behavior, and watch the dogs. This decreases reactive and aggressive problems before they become a ‘behavior.’
Punishment Training: High rate of ‘wash out’ in training. Novice trainers often reinforce negative behavior by ignoring low level cues until there is a problem.