Perhaps I’m at my breaking point of stress but goodness gracious, if I hear one more person suggest using an e-collar, prong collar, or choke chain with a dog who simply has no manners or who is not focused… I just might lose my cool. Poor manners and no focus are training problems that are easily worked on through positive reinforcement… really… you don’t need to shock the daylights out of your 6month old puppy because he’s choosing to pay attention to squirrels and not you while outside. Focus and the desire to choose me over the other cool things happening comes not out of fear but out of being reinforced for making that choice over and over again. My dogs want to focus on me… they want the opportunity to get reinforced for focus even in very high distraction environments.
It is just crazy the number of people I’ve run across recently who are shock/choke/pop first, ask questions later. I ran across a woman handling a GSD while I was working Rio at a pet store. The GSD was young and confident acting but was really poorly mannered–pulling like a freight train, not paying any attention to his handler, sniffing everything, and generally being a pain. She was constantly yanking and popping (two different motions) on the prong collar and using forceful tones of voice with her dog. I was actually there purchasing some training treats and ended up in line right in front of her. Long story short, she approached me on the way out and asked where I took training classes. She had been trying to train her dog and it wasn’t working and she was really frustrated. I replied to this with a very simple question, “Well, have you taught him what you’d like him to do or do you just punish for what you don’t want?” She thought for a moment and it seemed like a light-bulb went off. She has been so stuck on punishing (pretty harshly) what she didn’t want that she hadn’t bothered to teach the dog what she wanted. Maybe it’s just the educator part of me but it isn’t fair to punish a dog for mistakes when you haven’t told him/her want you expect–it’s like giving a pre-test and making that grade the final grade.
Mouthing, nipping, barking, pulling, humping, inattention, etc. are all behaviors that can easily be fixed without having to resourcing to pain and physical punishment. I was body-slammed and mouthed pretty heavily by a 80lb rottie mix with not so good bite inhibition… this dog was as poorly mannered and pushy as they come (but was ultimately friendly). The owners had been advised to use a shock collar to punish the undesirable behavior… they discovered that making a classically conditioned connection between people and pain is a dangerous thing to play with. Their dog would sometimes withhold the behavior and then ‘out of the blue’ have and explosion of scary behavior (with no actual contact). Their shock-first, ask questions later approach created a scary dog to be around. After a few training sessions, they quickly discovered what a great dog they had and how far they could have come if they had only taught desirable behaviors instead of try and punish out what they don’t want. Now they were stuck trying to fix the mistakes they made and let me tell you it’s a lot more work to fix a dog than it is to set them up right from the start.
I feel like I’m encountering this punishment heavy training more and hearing/reading this type of advice more and more … and it’s really starting to get on my nerves. Though, I guess the upside is that those methods frequently break down and people ultimately need a trainer so I guess I benefit in the end.
And for ALMOST the last time… a GUILT-RIDDEN PLEAfor votes for Rio’s entry into the facebook contest. He is slightly behind but still in the hunt to potentially be featured on local billboards. So, if you’d like to see huge billboards of Rio (you’d have to know I’d show that off!) please take a minute and vote for Rio.
If you are a member of Facebook, would you please Click Here and “Like” Molyneaux, the sponsor and host for the contest (the contest raised about $1000 for a local shelter!).
Once you’ve Liked Molyneaux, you can “Like” Rio’s Photo (if the link doesn’t take you directly there, it is located under their photos in the “10 Finalists” album). Voting Ends June 29th so it’s not a long campaign.
If you feel so inclined, I would both welcome and be totally appreciative if you would “share” his photo and voting info with your friends!