How often have you heard that you need to be Alpha to your dog? It’s a common belief. Researchers were premature in their publication of this concept and they discovered shortly after announcing their Alpha concept that it is not true. A wolf pack is a family and the adult members of the family guide the behavior and activities of the younger wolves. We should guide our dog’s behavior too and not dominate them by pinning them to the ground and growling at them.
So why do we still use correction based training? It is easy. It requires no thought, skill or strategic use of the environment. Back in 2003, I started my career doing correction based training. I am grateful to have learned a lot since then. Correction based training can be harmful to your dog and it doesn’t work for many reasons.
- First, dogs communicate in body language. Appearing guilty is simply the dog offering appeasing body language to end your angry body language. If I yell at my dogs when there is a piece of paper on the floor but I don’t when it is not there, they will learn to appear ‘guilty’ even before I see the piece of paper so I stop yelling at them. Unfortunately, appearing passive and offering appeasing body language doesn’t mean that they understand what they did 20 minutes ago was wrong.
- Have you heard that one firm correction is all it takes to eliminate an undesired behavior? If this was true than my first speeding ticket I received would have put an end to driving over the speed limit. The correction has to occur each time the dog does the undesired behavior. It’s much faster and more effective to reward the dog for doing a behavior that he can’t do while doing the undesired behavior (for example, sitting on a mat instead of putting his feet on the counter).
- If the root cause of the behavior is not eliminated than the behavior will only be suppressed. For example, if my dog was fearful aggressive of other dogs on the walk and I used a squirt bottle to correct my dog for barking, that may temporarily suppress the issue. It will not actually eliminate the issue because the fear was not addressed.
- Correction based training greatly effects your relationship with your dog and your dog’s ability to learn new things. If I was always corrected for trying new things, I would not try to learn new things. Plus, yelling at someone for things they don’t understand can’t be beneficial to the relationship.
- The truth about correction based training is that in order for it to work the correction has to occur every time the behavior occurs and when the dog gets acclimated to that level of correction, the correction has to be increased. At some point the dog shuts down and stops trying waiting for the next correction. This is what is referred to by many as submission. It is not a pretty sight and personally I don’t want to see it in my dog or in yours.
Do dogs refuse to do things because they don’t have enough value built for what you want them to do? Yes and that can be addressed, but keep in mind that your spouse, friends and relatives also refuse to do things and it isn’t due to dominance. Dogs simply need to learn that is beneficial to them to do things the way that we want them to and this is best accomplished using positive training methods.
What are the benefits of positive dog training? There are many. It is effective and it is fun. Join us for our upcoming group dog training class and you will see for yourself. Your dog will thank you!