Confrontation; Why it is Never the Best Way to Train Your Dog
Thanks Rott Lover for the Photo
I hate confrontation!
I will fight back if you back me into a corner and poke me with a stick a few times but I am not confrontational at all. It makes me uncomfortable. I am usually submissive not dominant hahaha.
I was at my friend’s house last year after his 8 year old son lost a football game and was getting a slightly confrontational pep talk. Now don’t get me wrong, they are great parents and were using phrases like “you were born a winner”. And, they were right he needed the pep talk and ended up LOVING football (this year they are undefeated)!
But it made me uncomfortable for him… I had to go sit outside for a while.
I am more the positive reinforcement kind of parent I suppose.
Sometimes they like to get me in the car and pretend to fight to watch me get uncomfortable hahaha.
My parents were very domineering and I was raised to be submissive and avoid conflict. My sister however, was not as submitting and I watched her receive quite a few beatings… which made me even more submissive I think.
So it should come as no surprise to you that confrontational training methods aren’t part of my regiment either!
I cringe when I watch “celebrity” dog trainers (who aren’t even real trainers) get into dog’s faces, use electric collars, and otherwise “dominate” the dogs on their shows.
I think dog training should be as non-confrontational as possible to be the most effective.
With confrontation, comes conflict and conflict makes learning difficult.
The question I got recently was from a dog owner who’s dog is deciding he doesn’t want to share the furniture with her.
He has decided that growling at her when she goes to sit on the sofa is appropriate and probably keeps her off of it when he so decides.
So she has two options:
The confrontational option; where she grabs him by the scruff and gets in his face and makes him get on the ground and stay there…
Or the non-confrontational option; where she keeps him on a leash, gently plucks him off of the furniture whenever he gets up there (he is no longer allowed on the furniture for obvious reasons) and teaches him tactics and skills like down stays on his bed on the floor.
Now what if I tell you he is a 5 pound Maltese? Which option would you choose?
Now what if I tell you he is a 200 pound Rottweiler? Which option would you choose?
Why Should Size Matter?
A lot of people are quick to say grab that Maltese by the neck and throw him on the ground. Dominate him, hold him down and make him submit.
However, few would do that with the growling Rottweiler.
And, it is true; if you are going to have a confrontation you’d better be quick enough and tough enough to win because you are likely challenging the dog which may throw him into defense and fight or flight. And, if that dogs decides he’d rather fight you would need to be ready physically and mentally for such a battle.
Although I know people who train this way… I don’t think it is applicable or even close to appropriate for most people.
I have an 80 pound dog with huge teeth and I can tell you right now, if I get into a conflict with him I am not going to push him to a point where he has to choose. I’m not certain I would win a physical battle. But I have also been in a bite suit and I know the kind of damage a dog can do in a short time.
I’ve felt the pressure per pound that those teeth can have on flesh, and I have seen bite wounds and lacerations that sent people to the hospital and have left them scarred for life.
And, as everyone who pushes people into those confrontations says “You’d better win and dominate”.
I Know I am the Smarter Animal
I may not be the fastest, I don’t think I am the strongest, but I KNOW I am the smartest.
Don’t get me wrong, dogs are smart but if we put some thought into the training we are the smarter animal. We live in houses and go to school and hold down jobs and make money; we should be able to figure out how to improve our dogs’ behavior without having to resort to conflict or violence.
Plus I don’t have to worry about the 70 year old 100 pound woman having a fist fight with her Rottweiler if she is using her brain to train her dog. I don’t think it is truthful and fair to expect people to out strengthen their dogs (plus a HUGE liability)… I do think it is fair to expect most people to out think them.
But It Isn’t As Awe Inspiring
Watching a dog trainer chase a fearful and aggressive dog around a yard, finally, leash him and then dominate him; later placing him in a family where he is never aggressive or fearful (yeah right) makes for exciting TV. Confrontation is exciting, it sells.
Talking about out thinking the dog isn’t exciting, it’s almost as if it becomes the natural thought process the smarter way; if you think like a dog you can out train him.
If you expect him to act like a human and understand us and our rules, you are starting out behind the 8 ball.
If You Have a Territorial Or Non-Sharing Dog
If you have a dog like this that wants to growl over his things and his space you must think like him.
He doesn’t want to share, he wants to keep his things.. this is pretty natural if you think about it. I don’t blame him I like food and a warm spot.
But dogs are like children, if they can’t share their toys they shouldn’t get to play with them.
I don’t want to live in an abusive relationship; so if you are going to fight with me over your rawhide… you aren’t going to get a rawhide. Simple, I am going to avoid that conflict more on possession aggression and working with it safely click here. And, contact customer service at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out when our next Aggression Course will start.
And, if I have a dog that doesn’t want to share the furniture; he isn’t going to get the privilege of sitting on the furniture. I don’t let a selfish (dominant although I hate that word sometimes) dog on furniture.
If he has to live life on a leash and learn to do down stays on the floor that is what I am going to do.
But in doing so you must reduce the conflict or you end up with the same basic fight.
He needs to think that HE WANTS TO LAY ON THE GROUND. If you make him think this is the better choice then there is no conflict. Laying on the ground is rewarding.
If he goes back to his old ways of jumping on the furniture, don’t yell, scream or scold him (remember no confrontation), gently grab is leash which he has gotten used to dragging around the house and smoothly pluck him off the furniture by simply taking it and walking away.
Depending on where you are in your training program, you can click him for getting off the furniture or tell him to go to his bed and reward him. Give him a better place to be and he will think that is where he wants to go.
If you do it right he thinks he is training you and you avoid the ugly conflict of being bitten.
Eventually you remove the leash (it may take a month or several) and he learns to be on his bed and when you say “go to your bed” or “get on your place” instead of him thinking he is losing his warm spot on the sofa he understands he will be rewarded for getting on his bed and being there which is totally what you want and non-confrontational!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.