My Latest Dog Training Argument: Correction or Refusal to Reward?

Thanks to All About Dogs for the Photo

Okay, so it wasn’t an argument at all as much as it was a simple disagreement or discussion on “HOW” best to train my dog and differing opinions.

I love all kinds of opinions, especially when I am training with other professionals, I learn from them; maybe occasionally someone learns from me and we all learn from watching one another.

I am really cool and relaxed when it comes to training.

I use to be really high strung when I was young and learning to be a trainer, but I have seriously mellowed out.  How can training be fun, if you stress over everything and worry about every little mistake. EGADS!!  That is too much for me, I had a stroke when I was 21 and it has taught me to take life much less seriously and to find enjoyment in all I do.

If I don’t like it, chances are I am not going to do it.

When I was 18 and got involved in training I interned and was trained by a rather old school trainer.  In my defense I was young and I really didn’t know any better.

She believed all dogs including 8 week old puppies should wear prong collars.  Dog training was all about appropriately timed corrections and popping the leash with the most accuracy.  She also used treats but it was usually after a severe correction.

prongAny slight misstep would guarantee a correction.  And, most people were slow or too hard.  Dogs didn’t learn by teaching, they learned by trying to figure out how to avoid the leash and prong correction.

Instead of using treats or praise or toys to teach dogs to sit or lay down, you pull up on the leash or pull the dog to the ground.

No wonder so many dogs hate down… how would you like something pokey put on your neck and then to have someone yank your neck to the ground?  Would you fight?  Would you be willing to bite to get it to stop?  Would you scream?  Would it scare you?

I am not sure exactly where I would fall in those last questions, but I can tell you that I wouldn’t like it and I would try to get it to stop.

Imagine going to China, not speaking Chinese and someone putting a shock collar on you and shocking you whenever you did something wrong.  No positive communication or help or teaching, just shocking for wrong.  Your motivation is to figure out what you had done and try not to do it again.  How do you think you would do?  I bet most of us would get shocked quite a bit and give up on trying different behaviors just sticking to things we know will keep us from getting “corrected”.

But, if you went there and someone had tried to learn your language and understand you and kindly and consistently taught you, you would probably be happy to learn and willing to make mistakes because you wouldn’t be fearful about doing it wrong.

Once I found Karen Prior and clicker training I felt like I had found my calling in life.  Dog training was no longer just a hobby, I wanted to do this kind of training for a living.

So Here is the Story

barkI was at training with my dog.  She is involved in the world of competition obedience, competition agility and competition doggy protection sports.

Her favorite is doggy protection sports, she gets to do what she loves and chase the guy in the giant suit and bite him.  But we were teaching her to be patient lay down and give me eye contact before she could play.

This is especially hard since it is her favorite thing.  Imagine putting a steak in front of your dog, wiggling it around and expecting him to stay in his down and give you eye contact.  Or throw his favorite toy back and forth while you have him lay down and give you eye contact.

It was hard for her.  So she kept getting up and sitting.  Of course she was over stimulated!

So the debate came when I continued just to tell her to lay down with no leash correction.

I am now, as you all know here with the “Hands Off” method, very much more about positive reinforcement than I am about utilizing the leash and corrections.

I also know that a dog knows when you are competing he doesn’t wear those collars and you won’t or can’t leash correct him so using those methods are kind of counter intuitive which is another reason I don’t use it.

So here is my thought: gsd

By not letting her play and bite and making her lay down until she does it right… that is a correction in a way it is just not a physical correction.   She learns she can only get her reward by doing what I ask and making a mistake only holds up the process.

The other trainer thinks she needs a physical correction the moment she makes the mistake and forced back down.   But for her I almost think that kind of physicality adds to her drive and her need to bite and play.  In some ways I almost think it builds and rewards her.

And, I just don’t go to physical corrections; my default is taking away what you want until you listen or stopping training completely and trying again later to see if she can listen.

What do you think?

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  1. Trisha Vogel says:

    I totally agree with you. It is how I train my 1 1/2 year old Jack and 3month shinn shu. (sp.wrong) Once, when my Jack was about 6months, she ran out of the gate. When I brought her back, my neighbor told me that she would keep doing it if I didn’t beat her. She also stated that was why she was so hyper, because I don’t believe in physical punishment.(She obviously doesn’t know the personalities of Jack Russell’s.) Needless to say, I will never leave my pets in her care, and my little Jack no longer goes out of the gate even if it is open. Yes, she is still hyper and I like her that way. Both of my dogs were trained with only positive reinforcement when potty training. They both learned to go outside very quickly.


  2. Kim R says:

    “Violence begins where knowledge ends.” I think this sums up the way I feel about the subject. I’ve been working with dogs for 30 years. At one time I used corrections and collars. Now I use treats, toys, and patience. I got results when I used the former. I still get results using the latter. The difference is, both the dogs and I enjoy the journey a heck of a lot more now, and I don’t ever walk away from a training session feeling uncomfortable. And when something isn’t going right, I don’t blame the dogs anymore; I look at what I’m doing and think about how I could be more effective.


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