Just Another Reason NOT to use Compulsion in Dog Training!
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!
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:
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!
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.