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Basic Training

Beware of Trainers Who Say “The Dog Should Do It for me”

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Why should old-fashioned trainers come to the positive side? Because positive training works! It’s fun for the dog and its fun for its family, it won’t deteriorate the human animal bond, it will not cause negative stress or physical pain to your dog through the use of force or pain, and it’s totally supported by science and the laws of learning just to add a few reasons.

What it also does is remove fault from the dog and passes the accountability for achievement on the human. It’s sad to say that in the year 2011 with all the technology of our modern world some trainers are still living and using outdated methods coming out of the 1960’s. These are usually traditional trainers who simply refuse to see the light at the end of the tunnel and disregard the laws of learning at all cost. Refuse to understand what behavior is; simply behavior is a function of its consequences. Thorndike’s law of cause and effect is always at play.

Not only is positive training exceedingly and amazingly operative, there is an entire era of scientific studies and research on the subject of behavior modification, not only for dogs but for all species. Why are some trainers opposed, or scared to embrace the progressive or more sophisticated way of training.

There’s always more than one way to reach the top of the mountain. Being closed minded and adamant about what they don’t understand can create dogs that lose their homes and family and possibly their lives. Shouldn’t the goal be to help in any way possible that will assist the dog in its understanding of what the owner is looking for from that dog?

“I want respect from my dog.” This reasoning disguises some pretty scary logic -do you really think your dog would respect you more if you trained using correction and punishment, rather than lures and reinforcement? Look out for trainers, who claim harassment, bullying, and physical or psychological domination are necessary to get dogs to defer. What a perverse notion. On the contrary, you will gradually earn your dog’s belief in you with understanding, compassion, and intelligent education via the laws of learning.

The dog should WANT to do it for me. I want dogs to voluntarily follow instructions because they have realized it is in their best interests. Quick and willing compliance are the bases of dog-friendly dog training. You can coerce, or force a dog to do things your way, when on leash However, when off-leash and out of your reach; he might ignore your commands.

During the training process, your dog will formulate positive and negative associations about training and about you. By applying pleasant training methods, your dog will learn to love training. However, if you use unpleasant training methods your dog will learn to dislike training, and you!

In the old days, if a dog didn’t respond well to coercion they said there was something wrong with the dog, and continued to increase the level of force until he finally submitted. If he didn’t submit he was often labeled defective and rejected for a more compliant one. Especially for those we call “dog enthusiast” who took putting titles on their dog very seriously. I know as I was there and witnessed this periodically. Dog enthusiasts seek dogs for performance whether it’s for the obedience ring, agility champions etc.

Is it not our role as the allegedly intelligent species to understand our dogs and find a way that works for them rather than forcing them into a one-size-fits-all mold. When you’re forced to do something, do you enjoy it? Of course not, so why should dogs enjoy being pushed into downs and manipulated into sits, jerked by the neck in the name of training?

We should encourage owners to move away from aggression and force as a way to achieve goals. The majority of dog owners and trainers who experience fun and accomplishments by applying positive methods with their dogs can see that it works for people as well. They feel better about training thus motivating them to continue further, plus find they are less likely to get angry with their dogs, less likely to dislike their dog and they begin understanding that behaviour is simply that behaviour, not some maliciously deliberate attempt on the dog’s part to challenge their authority and take over the world.

Whether it’s a down, a sit or a rollover they are all tricks as far as the dog is concerned. Do you think dogs categorize a down, a sit or a recall in an obedience category and dead dog, roll- over in a trick category? Absolutely not, they are simply all behaviors; we are the ones who categorize them. You can train really fast, clean and happy downs if you train without compulsion. When I train dogs, they keep looking at me as if saying is there more, they don’t want to stop.

The word challenge so often used with dogs, is an abstract thought, dogs do not think in abstracts. Rather than challenging us whom pins us against each other the dog is doing something else. Experimenting, oh yes! He’s experimenting looking for the desired response, the perfect outcome for himself or access to resources he finds valuable or exciting that’s all.

Dogs are always concerned about themselves, about resources, about safety and survival, they are always experimenting. That’s not a sad thing, babies do it, children do it, and we do it. How else will be discover what works don’t you agree?

Simply by changing the terminology we apply we can change how we solve problems. We can understand what is really going on. Reframing the words that have been used for years and years in dog training jargon can benefit the dog and you in ways you can’t yet see. For a dog to be well-mannered it simply requires good teaching, consistency, patience and practice and do not assume your dog will come running to you based on your charm alone. Do children come immediately and every time you call them?

Dogs are not our slaves, if you want a strong reliable recall; you must put in the time, the required effort and energy for that to happen. Also, you must understand your breed that is soooooo important, because each breed has its own fixed motor patterns which determine which instincts you’re training with or against. Try to train a Husky to herd sheep, you think, I don’t think so or try to train a Pointer to pull sled.

But this is not a bad thing; the times we spend training is precious time you share together. It’s a bonding time, a getting to know your dog time and your dog getting to know you. It should be work but it should also be fun, the dog should not know the difference between the two if you apply good training techniques that are based on the laws of learning.

Why would you use a method that doesn’t enhance your dog’s brilliance and obedience? Any dog being trained should never be harmed or mishandled.

The human ego dictates work for praise, “Because you love me” but reality is….. That’s not how learning or training works. Behavior MUST be reinforced and the reinforcement MUST be what the DOG wants. There are many types of reinforcement and knowing which reinforcement to use in a specific situation is all about knowing your dog.

Old school trainers will argue that if you use food, play or toy reinforcements you will never be able to get rid of the food, toy. But in contrast they are never able to get rid of their “corrections”.

The problem isn’t the food, the toy, or the game the problem is the person delivering the food. Remember that training is both an art and a science.

You can NEVER stop reinforcing behavior completely. You use reinforcement occasionally. Why? Because behaviors that are not reinforced, extinguish. Our dogs are getting reinforced all the time by the environment, so don’t think for one minute your charm alone will have the dog defer to you.

For even more training and behavior tips, visit The Pee Press!

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Of Therese



    “There’s always more than one way to reach the top of the mountain. Being closed minded and adamant about what they don’t understand can create dogs that lose their homes and family and possibly their lives. ”

    And then the author goes on to explain why there really is only one way to reach the top of the mountain… her way, in such a closed-minded and adamant fashion that leads me to believe that she doesn’t understand dogs at all. I have trained using “old fashioned” methods for 30 years. I will use what the dog tells me it needs and spend more time building a relationship with my dog than nagging it with a noisemaker. There is no pain or anger involved. There doesn’t need to be.

    I am far from close minded, or ignorant, or fearful of trying new things; I use what works for the individual dog. I recently worked with a family to rehabilitate their dog from a trainer who improperly used a clicker and pushed the dog into an ADD-like state when she saw the treat bag come out. Obviously not the tool for that dog. This was a dog on the verge of making a trip to the local pound and we were able, through more traditional methods, to calm this dog and improve her focus and no one yelled, or hit, or hurt, or scared the dog in the process. There is no need for such theatrics when you learn to understand what the dog is trying to tell you.

    I don’t know of a single “old school” trainer that doesn’t use food, play, and toys to help reinforce what they’re teaching (and that’s A LOT of trainers). Let me suggest this link for the intrepid author of this opinion piece. I hope she can keep an open mind.


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