I don’t like to be negative, especially when it comes to dogs. I want dog classes to be upbeat: focusing on the good, finding positive ways to address problems, suggesting what to do rather than what not to do. Lately I am reminded that I must also tell people why the negative ways of “training” won’t be successful and why positive ways are the kinder, gentler way to go. I hate to go there–to remind people that awful techniques even exist in 2020–but perhaps I can head off desperate attempts to “fix” behaviors before humans choose those terrible routes. Ignoring that conversation isn’t serving our dogs well.
I can present lots of research and solid information about why positive, reward-based training works. For decades now we have seen that dogs respond quickly and solidly to good communication. We have seen how positive training lasts and how building a trusting relationship with your furry friend is easy through positive training.
But still “trainers” offer all sorts of archaic ways to work on [sic] your dog, and humans desperately hope a magic wand will make difficulties vanish. Trusting humans reach out to someone they assume is an expert who knows more than they do about training a dog. They may not feel good about the “techniques” being tried, but they open-mindedly try what the expert insists they must do. Shock collars “only on vibrate” still cause pain–try it on yourself. Prong collars pinch necks. Choke chains can cut off airways. Hitting the dog with a newspaper for peeing in the house takes a chunk of trust out of your friendship with your dog. All these negatives send the complete wrong message–and can cause aggressive behaviors.
Training a dog does not require fear or intimidation or being alpha or dominant or “in charge.” It is not instruction to pop a leash to “teach” a dog to sit. You are punishing a dog for not understanding what you are not communicating. When we resort to terrible equipment and nasty ways, we are admitting to the dog that we have no idea what we are doing. Gently guiding the dog to learn what you want is not only fair but also leads to a loving, trusting bond your dog is more than anxious to forge.
Dogs don’t need “corrections” or alpha rolls or scare tactics. I am sure they think we are crazy for doing these things. Why would you teach your dog in a way you wouldn’t teach your children? Look at your puppy and think, Child Psychology 101. So similar! If you love your dog, you won’t submit her to whatever whim some board and train moneymaker promises. No one gets instant results in changing the behavior of a living, sentient being. The only way to get immediate change is by terrible means–and you don’t know what some staff member is doing for those thousands (!) of dollars you plunk down in the name of frustration and surrender. I have heard horror stories that I don’t want to mention because you won’t be able to sleep at night.
Generally, our dogs don’t choose us. They are stuck with us. You pick out a puppy from a litter or visit a rescue site and take to a cute face or you bring in the dog your neighbor doesn’t want anymore. Bowie is happy to become your friend–though he may not have followed you home one day. He is stuck with whatever food you decide to give. He is stuck outside all day because you don’t let him stay in the house with the humans. And he is stuck with your lack of good communication and reliance on medieval devices.
Let’s make one thing nice about 2020: let’s be kind and loving to our fabulous furry companions. They will in turn be kind and loving and forgiving and tolerant and selfless. We are so lucky to have them! NO SHOCK. NO PRONGS. NO CHOKE CHAINS. Let’s progress. Let’s give them the best life possible.
Wendy on October 19, 2020 AT 06 am
Yes, yes, and more yes! Love this blog??
robin on October 19, 2020 AT 11 am
Thank you so much!