When I started training my first dog (my own) exactly 18 years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew I wanted a dog in my life but how to modify so-called “bad” behaviour was something of which I was ignorant.
I started out by getting angry at the dog for behaviour I didn’t like, as if she should know that what she was doing was bad (digging, a normal dog behaviour). Anger and corrections figured large in my training. I did use some food rewards but not really seriously until I had my third dog McCoy. I still used some corrections with him but I could see they were not working — and they were making me miserable.
My next dog Eli, McCoy’s half brother, was trained completely without corrections. I did this on purpose, mostly because I wanted to start training him early for dog sports and you can’t train a young puppy with a choke collar to do dog sports. This is when I started to feel myself changing, reducing in negative feelings.
I knew that I didn’t want to be angry all the time while I was with my dogs and training them. So I gave up on it.
You can’t change a person by force just as you can’t fundamentally change a dog with force. With dogs, you can affect them with training which will make them make changes in their actions. But using corrections to train a dog does not CHANGE the dog. It only suppresses the behaviour.
The dog stops doing the behaviour you don’t want and doesn’t try to do anything else in order to avoid the correction. The dog becomes fearful of acting in case he gets another painful correction.
Another thing a dog can do is avoidance. This happens when your dog realizes a situation in which you are not able to “correct” him and does the behaviour he wants.
As Morgan Spector says in his book Clicker Training for Obedience: Shaping Top Performance–Positively if we are using corrections on our dogs to train them, then we also become something that dog wants to avoid.
There is a difference in the relationship you are creating with your dog when you use corrections and anger. Make no mistake.
Training with food rewards actually does change the dog’s behaviour because it removes most stress from the training situation. This changes the dog’s body chemistry. The chemicals that flow through a stressed out dog are different from those that flow through a calm dog. This affects behaviour.
So the dog’s feelings towards whatever he fears, is aggressive to, or is acting inappropriately towards actually does change — it is not just suppressed. Then you can start rewarding the behaviour that you want.
Calm Down Please
When I was training my dog with corrections, I had a difficult time separating making the “correction” from the idea that the dog should do what I want or say. When dogs don’t “do what we say” we get offended and use that as a tactic to train — or intimidate — the dog into doing something they have not been trained for.
It is a simple misunderstanding of how training actually works.
It is frustrating for the majority of people when their dogs don’t “do what they are supposed to do”. Your dog should “listen” immediately to you because you commanded him right? I mean, isn’t that the point of dog training?
How many correction based dog trainers (and by dog trainers I mean ANYONE who has a dog and is training him, not just dog training professionals), or anyone who has used corrections to train a dog at all can honestly say that they have never corrected their dog in anger when the dog won’t “comply”.
I doubt there are any. Me included.
So I eliminated that possibility from the training by not using corrections and by learning how to clicker train.
Clicker training, when done correctly does not use the voice. This is the most important part of it because the voice is the main giveaway to the dog that you are annoyed when something goes wrong during training (besides body language of course).
If you can keep your mouth shut and just click/reward, you can help yourself learn to train your dog faster and in a more calm manner. This helps the dog learn better and helps you to be less stressed during training.
If you keep in mind that all you are doing is teaching the dog a behaviour and not telling him “NO” all the time, or trying to stop him from doing something, you will rewire your thinking away from the idea that you have to “command” the dog.
You can’t “command” the dog for something he hasn’t learned yet.
So, if you can, eliminate the idea of having to “correct” your dog for not “listening” and get the idea out of your head that your dog should “LISTEN” to you just or the sake of it, you are on the road to having a more peaceful and connected life with your dog.
Change your training method (if you haven’t already) to using more positive reinforcement.
Yes, you have to make the choice to change yourself, but it’s worth it.
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