Just Another Reason NOT to use Compulsion in Dog Training!

Slightly Intimidating!

I have 2  Belgian Malinois and a Dutch Shepherd so it should be no surprise to those of you who are familiar with dog breeds and working dogs that I enjoy protection sports.  PLEASE!  Don’t send hate mail, although all viewpoints are welcome, I do not adhere to the barbaric practices that have formerly been known throughout the sports!

I got involved in police dog training and protection sports almost 15 years ago.  I was training Service Dogs fulltime for a nonprofit organization when I got the opportunity to get drawn into the world of protection dogs and I couldn’t resist!  I have always had the opportunity to work with trainers that were positive reinforcement based.

I think if I had, had to learn by using shock collars and "choking dogs out" I would have opted not to learn that part of the business.  But, I was lucky to be taught using good, kind, positive methods.  The men and people that I have worked with would rather have not trained a dog in the sport than to have forced a dog into the sport or to have used barbaric methods to train.

It is exhilarating work; and some of my most favorite times and memories have been spent in a bite suit!

Most often, I don’t talk about this type of training or these sports because they are so often misunderstood and people get so emotional about the training.  But I would NEVER subject my dogs to any type of training I am not comfortable with, and you would never know my dogs are trained by seeing them or coming to my home.  I have some of these kindest, most welcoming dogs you could ever meet!

But, I must admit to it and bring it up in this article so that I can share some information with you that only solidified my interpretation and the way that I train!

I love seminars and continuing my education when it comes to all facets of dog training.  I take every opportunity to travel and go to as many as time and finances will allow.  And, recently I had the opportunity to go to a 4 day seminar with all of my dogs based in the protection sports and given by a world renowned dog trainer/handler.

Even if I do not subscribe to all the training aids and all the many ways people train, I believe that I can learn something from everyone.  Even if that “something” is…I will NEVER do that!  Educating myself about the inter-workings of other sports and from other trainers makes me a better, more well rounded dog trainer.  I am confident in what I will do and what I will and will not allowed to be done with and to my dogs.

If you regularly read my articles you will know that I am a positive reinforcement trainer.  I am a convert actually, because I was taught to train dogs (almost 20 years ago) using prong collars and compulsion.  At 18 I really didn’t know any better, although I quickly changed my tune when I was introduced to my first clicker and Karen Pryor!

I don’t like compulsion or what other people call “corrections” at least not the physical kind.  I don’t think a person should have to use their brawn to get an animal to do something for them.  I think that humans can use their minds to get animals to want to perform for them!

I can’t say that this particular trainer/handler is as immersed in positive reinforcement training as I am!  But, I will say that he kept saying “Corrections make dogs crazy!”

Now, he is not from this country.  Most world renowned protection sports trainers aren’t, so I suppose there is room for translation.  But I think he knew exactly what he was saying.  At one time, he was “pro” making the dog crazy but all others he was against it.

Let me explain:

Object Located in the Woods

In one of the sports in question, the dog is sent into the woods to find a missing object with his nose.  Once the dog locates the object he must continually bark at the object until his handler comes to his side.  He is not to bite at or move the object, just stand there barking intensely for as long as it takes for his handler to get to him.

In this situation the trainer wants the dog to be crazy (intensely focused on the item) so that he doesn’t lose interest, grab the item, or go looking for his handler.  So, I found it very interesting that he encouraged physical correction around the item to build the intensity and focus from the dog.  The physical correction (pain) from the handler and the frustration, really does make the dog “crazy” and actually makes the dogs want the item MORE.

Now, please understand I will never be doing this or recommending this type of training.  I don’t own police dogs and I have no need for this type of training.  I am also aware that this type of training won’t work this way for ALL dogs.  Some dogs will have their spirit or their feelings broken.  But, the dogs in question are very “hard” naturally intense dogs.  Their instincts and genetics give them this fight drive.

How Does This Apply to the Average Dog Owner?

I realized that normal people sometimes get these “hard”, determined, and intense dogs that challenge them and have a lot of fight drive.  They are not of the “pleasing people for the sheer joy of it” kind of dogs.  They may be big or small; it is more about attitude and temperament than size or breed.  And, most of these dogs are NOT police dogs!!

But, corrections and physical pain actually lead to MORE FRUSTRATION and the heightening or the building of the behavior that most people DON’T want!  People think a well timed leash correction or some physical pain will actually stop a behavior, but I am here to tell you I watched time and time again that, that type of response only escalated the intensity and the aggressiveness of the behavior!

Calm responses and positively reinforcing good behavior leads to more good behavior.  I have never seen positive reinforcement lead to rage, frustration, or biting.  Positive reinforcement leads to thinking and problem solving and those behaviors are not conducive to rage and the intensity that it brings.

I have always said, “Aggression leads to aggression”.  A friend of mine use to say “Aggression is the first resource of the incompetent”, meaning a thinking animal or person doesn’t need aggression to deal with any situation.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the seminar was about using positive reinforcement, toys, treats, biting and other reinforcement to get the dogs to do what we wanted.  Most of the time when he said, “Corrections make dogs crazy!” he meant it in a bad way and didn’t want the person to use physicality to manipulate the dog; I had just never seen corrections used intentionally like that to frustrate a dog to make him more aggressive and intense!

So take it from me and use your brain to get your dog to do what you want it to, otherwise you may be creating an uncontrollable monster with physical pain and corrections!  Just another reason to get that clicker and start clicking!

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  1. Paul says:

    I’d be interested knowing more about positive reinforcement for protection training.


  2. GRACE MOORE says:



  3. Eileen Darby says:

    Hi, I would like to tell you about a Rottweiler police/army securiy dog who was owned by a friend, and his wife who owned GSDs and cats. I went to visit them shortly after returning from Australia where I had been badly burned and had my hands/arms/legs/body covered in special elasticated garments. I had never met the Rottweiler and was rather worried when he suddenly came over to me to be petted and took my hand in his mouth. He was so gentle that the only way I knew my hand was in his mouth was because I could see it. On another occasion he was covered in white spots which on first glance I took for paint – they were in fact 2 litters of very young kittens. He was told to put them back in their boxes which he proceeded to do (correctly) – can you imagine a very large Rottweiler lifting little kittens (you could hardly see them in his mouth) and popping them into their boxes?

    This sounds very nice, but when you realize that the police and army dog trainers would do anything rather than have him as their opponent when training it shows how happily and carefully these animals are trained that they are so gentle when not “on duty”.



    wow …. I have a rotti mix and would love to do this with him… he’s the biggest much in the world, very trainable, smarter than a whip, still young in age, Im in…. show me the way…


  5. johanna says:

    i have a 5 year old pit i found her 3 years ago on the street starving she is a really good god gets along with my other dog and cat very well the play together sleep together and are vey calm and eazey going but when a dog walkes by with a nother owner my pit baby goes balistic barkes like crazey even do when i tell her to get into the house from the yard 1 or 2 and point to the porch door she will go inside and is calm again otherwise she is klikker traind loves other people and children. sense i dont know her history i dont know nothing about her both dogs are fixes,
    how can i stop this in my dog named baby
    thank you johanna


  6. eleanor rivett says:

    Hello I have a desexed golden retriever aged 5 years and he is a sook around children and female dogs also submissive males but when it comes to entire males its on or he thinks its on i take food and walk away calling his name and feeding him. I do not know what started this behaviour but i try at all times not to put him in this position however if he is off lead and say at the beach his fine. Could it be that this behaviour is that he thinks he has to protect me. He has the first of his obedience titles also his agility and jumpers titles.


  7. Maggie Van Rooij says:

    Hi, I have a little black snoodle dog. I made the misstake of taking her to a
    fenced in dog yard where dogs run free. She is a very exitable dog and started running as soon as I let her of the leasch. With in seconds she had a heard of larger dogs running after her and I knew she was in trouble. It took me a wile to get her back, but most of all I did not hear one dog owner call their dogs off.
    Abby (my dog) was trembeling and scared. Ever since then, When she sees a a dog when we go for a walk she barks and cries so loud you would think she is being abused. In a sence I guess that how she felt in the dog run. I can’t stop the behaviour and she sounds very agressive to anyone that does’nt know the real cause of this behaviour. What can I do? I avoid parks where people walk their dogs, I avoid almost all interactions with other dogs because it leads to more anciety.
    She is a great dog and very loveble. By nature she is very tainable and loves to learn. I need the training myself to teach her she is save, but I don’t know how. PLEASE HELP


    Jennifer Reply:

    I don’t know if you’re still looking for advice nearly a year later, but my dog went through a very similar experience when she was a puppy and acted in a similar way as your dog does.

    I found that the best thing I did for her was spend as much time as I could counter-conditioning it. One of my friends has a super well behaved dog who I knew I could trust to not go near my dog if instructed not to. We sat on opposite sides of my back yard with our dogs. If my dog was calm I gave her a treat, if not I backed up and tried again. When she was succeeding I moved closer. When she was fine there I moved closer, and so on.

    She’s not completely over her fear, but she’s much better now than she was!


  8. R. Barker says:

    WHERE and WHO teaches positive protection training?? I too am a positive trainer and do not know of any group or trainer doing this in the states. I have never gotten into any form of protection training or competition just for that reason, but would love to be able to have a source, and be able to refer people to. There is so much compulsion training going on, it is scary and very sad.
    Thank you.


    Minette Reply:

    I have worked with several trainers over the years that do. I even have a friend in the Air Force that trains K9s that uses positive reinforcement.

    It is all about finding a club, visiting and getting comfortable with what they do and letting them know what you won’t do or wont tolerate.

    The reinforcement in protection training is the “game” the ball the tug the whatever motivates your dog to work and also the bite. Dogs can be taught to “out” for another toy, or another bite.

    Ivan Balabanov, Bernard Flinks and there are some others that are well known for their positive methods. That is maybe not to say that EVERYTHING they do is purely positive all of the time, you must decide what you will and won’t do and give that information to your club or trainer.

    I will try and post more information on the subject to help those of you who are interested 🙂 .


  9. Lin Patton says:

    We have a 2-1/2 year old standard poodle. She has been socialized with people and other dogs since she was 8 weeks old but gradually she began to show dominance behavior (lunging, snarling) when she met certain dogs on her daily walk in the park. We have never used physical punishment with her and believe strongly in positive reinforcement, but we never know if she is going to welcome meeting a new dog or growl and snarl (she has never hurt any dog or even the bunnies or squirrels she has succeded in catching). What method do you recommend to deter her aggressive/assertiveness issues with other dogs, all of them on leashes in the park?


  10. sue whipps says:

    We are at the moment training a six month old german shepherd in protection. She is the gentlelest of dogs even carrying soft toys. She loves the work and 1 day will be as sood as her grandmother a brilliant protection dog who participates in many competitions and events. I think its a great sport for dogs and owners allike.


  11. Katie says:

    Hi everybody, in the UK we are very keen to train our dogs using positive reinforcement. If you would like to know more about how to train your dog like the police trains their dogs using a positive reinforcement method, please read “Dogwise” from John Fisher, it’s a very good book and it shows you how to every step of the way. He also wrote a book “Why does my dog….,” interesting reading. I have learned a lot from him and have applied his method to all my dogs, it works wonderfully. I have also applied his method in the clubs I used to run in the UK and people were very happy to work WITH their dogs, not being aggressive towards them and forcing them to do something they wouldn’t or couldn’t do. Dogs like people have a learning curve, like John, I panicked when after weeks of hard and joyful training my dogs seemed to have forgotten all that they have learned. When this happened to my son I saw the parallel and I found out that neither my dog nor my son had forgotten anything but just needed the time to sort out what they had learned and file it properly in the big brainy cabinet. It takes time, patience and understanding. When you work with a dog, it’s like working with a child, you always have to come to the level of the dog or child. Never ask too much of your dog, some dogs just can’t do certain things, like people.


    Minette Reply:

    Excellent response! Not all dogs can do all things, that is so very true! I will have to check out John’s information! I am always interested in learning new things from good trainers!


  12. Barbara says:

    I have an 18 month old lab that is dominant with my other females. The behavior started at 12 months. I have bred dogs for twenty years and have never had a problem that I have not been able to overcome. However this little lady picks a fight within a few minutes of contact with the other girls. She is fine with the males, although does exibit dominate behavior,(T’s,mounts etc.) and they let her get away with it. She was the runt and is still the smallest about 52 pounds, but has established herself as pack leader. I have to keep her seperated from the other females because she is so fierce in her fighing that one of my girls will definately end up dead and it won’t be her even though the others out- weigh her by a good twenty, to thirty pounds if I don’t keep them in seperate areas. I correct her whenever I see her acting dominant. She is the smartest dog I’ve had for an eighteen month old and is docile and obedient with adults, and very good with children. This fighting behavior is exclusively limited to female dogs. Has anyone overcome this problem, and if so how?


  13. Katie says:

    Hi Barbara, click the house symbol “dog training” above and you will be taken to the home page. Click on dog aggression on the left, than on aggression towards other dogs. The article is brilliantly written and should help you to overcome the problem.


  14. Andrea says:

    Hi, i have two 2 year old bitches, one the size of a Jack Russle but with huge personality, the other a German Shepherd mix with the most gentlest, placid nature. A month ago somebody we all new very well broke into my house + attempted to kill me. Both my dogs wers so terrified through it all that they were huddled together on the balcony, even more scared + shaking than i was.
    Generally, both are very awake watch dogs. How can i train them to overcome their fear + rather attack next time???
    Please help, cause i do need their protection!!!


  15. Mason says:

    I have a 4 year old male GSD. He has learned may things I have trained him to do very quickly. I do have several problems that I dont have the expertise to train him. He is very selective in his barking when a car drives in front of out farm house. Next, he likes to bark, grawl, show his teeth through the fence to the horse pen. I can take him inside the pen and he cant wait to get out, no problem with him going after the horses. One day when the farrier was here, I walkd into the barn and he was sitting watching wha was going one. many times when a stall door is open he will get bent out of shape tormenting the horses.

    Help, what can I do? I would like to cure this behaivor before we get another GSD as we have always had 2 here on the farm. they have always gone with us when we ride the horses. We feel sfer with them along.


  16. diane says:

    I am so confused!! I watched several “Dog Whisperer” DVDs and found them very helpful. BUT I just cannot do that “discipline first, affection later” thing. I love my little stray lab/rat terrier so much, and I feel so sorry that she was abandoned near our rural subdivision. All I want to do is love on her!

    Her ONLY issue is nipping, and she seems to be naturally (and gradually) getting better about that. I do plan to take her to obedience / training classes. In the meantime, though, my husband is pushing me to use “Cesar’s Way” rather than positive reinforcement. I would MUCH rather use positive reinforcement. I know “Cesar’s Way” is sometimes the *only* way that works — but isn’t that mostly with problem dogs? My pooch is naturally submissive, a real people-pleaser, and NOT aggressive. She simply needs to learn that I am not one of her chew-toys, that’s all, LOL.

    Does positive reinforcement really work? Is it OK to give the dog tons of affection even before the discipline part? (She does get a lot of exercise, per Cesar’s recommendations; she is naturally high-energy.)

    Thanks in advance!


    Minette Reply:

    I am not a fan of compulsion no matter who is doing it. The things you see on TV are often over acted and I would like to know how many dogs revert or get more aggressive after the aggressive trainer is out of the picture.

    There is no way this is the *only* way that works, it is just the easiest to see the most dramatic change. But how sad is it for the dog who could be learning to use his mind?

    There is no reason to use these methods. How do you think dolphin and whale trainers get thousands of pounds of mammals to listen? it is through positive reinforcement!! You can’t force a whale to jump and spin through the air but you can convince him to do it for you!

    Search back through my blog and look up Karen Pryor online and you will see how well positive reinforcement works!


  17. Laura says:

    I couldn’t agree more! We have been having trouble in our house with a few of our boyz. A real challenge is at meal time. I have one constant barker (Bauer) that streses out my resource guarder and he (the resource guarder) ends up tearing into one of the other boyz before we can get the meal done. I have been using a shock collar on Bauer because he seems to understand it and it is the easiest for me right now. And as long as he isn’t barking the other boyz are fine. But we tried to use the shock collar on Buddy one time because Buddy started to act like Bauer…barking and bucking until the food was ready and placed. Buddy reacted violently with the first bark/shock and we couldn’t get it off of him fast enough before the next bark and it literally set him off on everything. That one lesson has taught me a valuable lesson just like Minette says…you can’t treat aggression with aggression. We are still working on our pack problems…


  18. Laura Williams says:

    I couldn’t agree more! We have been having trouble in our house with a few of our boyz. A real challenge is at meal time. I have one constant barker (Bauer) that streses out my resource guarder and he (the resource guarder) ends up tearing into one of the other boyz before we can get the meal done. I have been using a shock collar on Bauer because he seems to understand it and it is the easiest for me right now. And as long as he isn’t barking the other boyz are fine. But we tried to use the shock collar on Buddy one time because Buddy started to act like Bauer…barking and bucking until the food was ready and placed. Buddy reacted violently with the first bark/shock and we couldn’t get it off of him fast enough before the next bark and it literally set him off on everything. That one lesson has taught me a valuable lesson just like Minette says…you can’t treat aggression with aggression. We are still working on our pack problems


  19. SK says:

    Great points made in this post and I agree completely. I have a 5 year old female Dutch Shepherd. I have trained her extensively and I only use positive reinforcement. Some things I have learned: a stronger bond with your dog and the mutual trust and respect that comes over time with a strong bond makes training easier. Dogs will respond much better to positive reinforcement than to negative reinforcement (pain, fear). Positive reinforcement strengthens a bond with your dog. Positive reinforcement training coupled with play during the training makes the whole thing a very positive enjoyable experience for the dog. This is the best way to motivate a dog and strengthen a bond. I do not use, and will never use or approve of, shock collars. I am appalled at some of the things I have seen. I know of trainers that use shock collars (even on puppies!) just for obedience training! I have seen zap happy owners at parks whose dogs are terrified and come running over to me after they have been zapped by an e-collar. I don’t know why anyone would do this to their dog when it is completely unnecessary. E-collars have been banned in some countries and I hope they will be banned in the US at some point. A clicker, training treats and a favorite toy are the best positive motivation during training. My dog will do anything for a treat, that’s her big motivation. So that is a great way to train her.


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