If, like me you do lots of reading with regard to dog training, you will no doubt be aware that food rewards, harnesses, head-collars, gentle voices and an overdose of love and affection is what is required for dog training combined of course with the patience of a saint and you must of course dedicate your entire life to dog training.
The whole of society has been making a bizarre move forward under the apparent heading of political correctness – everything must be fair, kind and rewarding for our dogs – and our children for that matter. We mustn’t smack or shout at our children, nor punish our dogs.
What do we do when our children are naughty? What happens when our dogs are aggressive to people or attack other dogs. Well apparently it is simple we just ignore it and wait for something good that we can reward later, like when our dog stops attacking our visitor or when the children let the babysitter out of the cupboard we can give them some sweets.
The Reality Check
Well, let me tell you the shock news – life is not always kind, gentle and rewarding. When your dog wants to attack all other dogs on sight and we can’t make him change his mind with a bit of chicken under his nose, what do we do? What happens if we click and treat and the dog still jumps up? Many trainers will tell you to keep trying, your not doing it right or other such nonsense. Yet few and I mean few will take your dog and in a real situation demonstrate to the owners how to do it.
Whilst all of the words I have mentioned above such as kind and gentle of course are generally the way we need to commence with training our dogs. We also must always be fair and consistent, but these words can be open to interpretation.
I consider kindness to our dogs to be the following:
To create a fair balanced relationship of black and white rules, leadership, love, attention, rewards, good nutritious and natural diet, good healthcare, veterinary care when required, enough daily exercise off lead in many different locations, interaction with their own species, car travel, cuddles, the occasional holiday, a comfy bed and communication with us.
A piece of equipment for example with the words kind and gentle written on it does not mean that it is! Many people put their head in the sand, read the words and shut their eyes to the obvious unpleasantness that the dog suffers when using such equipment. Equipment that hurts the dog when it pulls forward, whether round its neck, its muzzle, or its torso –
Dogs need training from an early age, but another shock for many – not everyone does train their dog from puppy-
hood, in fact most people that I meet don’t.
When that dog matures into adult hood with no rules, no boundaries and no communication through training this can lead to serious problems for the owner and food in training doesn’t always do the trick. In actual fact when that same type of dog develops a behavioural problem, food is really next to useless. You see the crux of the problem is this – a dogs motivation to do, to act out its desire is generally greater than any reward that is the way it is. That is most often what we are faced with. A dog that jumps at people, attacks other dogs eats faeces in the park, or digs in the garden – the dog already has a reward – it enjoys digging, jumping and getting attention, fighting, eating poo whatever – it is always about the attractions and the perceived reward at all times. Whether the dog wants a bit of dry food or wants to eat poo. It’s the dogs decision not yours!
In over three hundred of my most recent cases of aggression to other dogs only in one case were food rewards any use at all in altering a dogs perception of another dog or to stop aggression.
What many owners find a little frustrating is that if you can not train your dog with food, whispering and love – there is nowhere to go. The kind and gentle brigade operate like a religious cult and when you ask for further help or proof of how to do it, they disappear and make you feel like a complete failure of a person who can not control your dog.
Dog training often requires an element of compulsion. I am sure that statement will create cult outrage, but that is how it is. Lure and reward training is fantastic for teaching, we use the food to lure the dog into position and reward the action immediately, but what happens after the initial training when the dog will not respond when it clearly understands the commands?
Dog Training is Care
The reason that we train dogs and that we need to train dogs is to keep them safe in our society. To stop them being killed on roads, injuring or being injured by people or animals, to keep within the law and to be kind to them!
It is important that dogs are properly trained, not just partially trained on the condition you have a bit of cheese for them. A chunk of cheese versus chasing a rabbit may work for some dogs, not all, not even most dogs I would suggest – that is fact, not fiction.
Badly behaved dogs rarely need physical punishment, but they may need negative consequences for actions. In the main of course, we always need to work on the positive by rewarding the good, but you can not just ignore the dog doing the wrong thing all of the time when the behaviour does not improve and it effects other dog owners or members of the public.
What many people do is simply accept that their dog does not respond in all situations and avoid those situations wherever possible having been brainwashed by useless and ineffective belief lead training.
In my view, the use of dog training discs, citronella spray collars or such like as a negative consequence overall can produce a happy and contented dog that has a far greater improved quality of life. One that can be safely exercised in all locations. Moreover, in a short time ceases owner/dog conflict-
that’s kind and effective.
Quality of life
An example of this is a client that I saw recently who had never released her dog from the lead for the past two years due to the dogs behaviour with people that they encountered on walks. Freddie, the Border Collie had taken to chasing people barking and nipping at them. Margaret his owner had confined him to a lead and walked him at the crack of dawn to avoid everyone. She had tried bits of food and a muzzle, but still Freddie’s behaviour worsened. After a consultation so that Margaret fully understood why Freddie was behaving in this way and a lesson with a citronella spray Collar, Freddie was again able to be exercised in the park off lead and begin playing with other dogs once more. Margaret recently sent me some pictures of Freddie enjoying a holiday in the Lake District, off lead. That is what I call kind and positive. Training with a consequence and now Freddie’s isolation has gone and his quality of life and his owners lifestyle has improved greatly.
Dog trainers for years have been working using kind, rewarding and gentle methods, but most sensible trainers are versatile with methods – its horses for courses, not one size fits all. If your trainer makes you feel useless – go get one that will show by example, motivate you and give you and your dog the quality of life that you both deserve.
Edited by CCT for The Guild