This post departs a bit from what I normally write, but it is what I will be writing more of in the future.
The Split In Dog Training World
The world of dogs and dog training is in upheaval. Simply put, there are two main factions of training philosophies: training dogs with corrections (verbal and/or physical) and training dogs without corrections mainly using food rewards but also toys. Each training professional or business can also personalize its philosophy and methods by combining other training methods together with one of these to create a unique perspective on teaching humans to train dogs. But the point is is that there are one of two main positions that can be taken.
Each side also promotes its own method as being the only one to use. The most common argument for this is that dogs are dying because of improper training and each blames the other side for that. There is a lot of hostility among dog training professionals and dog owners of each side towards the other. Truthfully, there is also some jealousy within each camp towards fellow training instructors which only decreases our effectiveness as a group.
The Fastest Way To Make Things Change
Because people are different and are at different points in their personal evolution and development, there is not going to be a quick solution to this issue. Everyone has to go through their own personal change to understand what is happening here. Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of not using force on a dog to train him at this point in human history.
Those who use positive reinforcement may want this change to happen immediately, but it is simply not possible. The frustration that is caused by this lack of ability to change is extremely noticeable within training circles. Frustration is often accompanied by anger and hateful talk towards training pros and dog humans who are not changing their method fast enough or are resistant to it.
Unfortunately, the negative comments, anger and hate talk is contradictory to the force free training philosophy in terms and actions. You cannot be truly force free in your dog training if you are verbally attacking or using negative words against other humans because of their beliefs and actions, either privately or publicly.
The most important thing that frustrated dog training professionals can do to help make changes to the dog training world is to refrain from bad mouthing anyone who opposes their views. This is so important. Focusing on the negative attracts more of that to you. It also gives the “other side” something to criticize you for doing, that you are no better.
The main reason people need to stop training with corrections now.
For those who use corrections to train dogs, there is a very important reason to stop doing it now. (Using corrections includes using any tools that hurt an animal to train him like choke chains, pinch collars, shock, or even physically manipulating the animal to train him, as well a psychological intimidation.)
The reason to stop is that when instructing people to use corrections to train a dog, it is impossible to keep negative emotions out of the picture and it is impossible to prevent that method of training from being used in a punitive or violent manner. You just can’t control people’s emotions or actions. You are effectively teaching people a way that could potentially be used to deliberately hurt their dogs even if it is not initially used that way.
By their very nature, corrections, either physical or psychological, cause mental or physical pain to a dog. That is why they work for many dogs. When a dog does not comply, the first human thought is likely I must make this dog comply at any cost because that is how this method works. Dogs should do what we humans say.
Physical corrections used to train will escalate and so do the emotions. The dog MUST do what I tell him to do because I am the human. The dog must obey.Just try it and see how easy it is or if you are able to dissociate your emotions from this type of training. I’ve seen it so often in my work with clients who still subscribe to this method and with the average person with a dog who has no real knowledge of any method, and who just do whatever they had heard about.
The attitude of “humans are the boss” often contributes to getting frustrated or out of control emotionally at what is happening in a training session.
When you remove the opportunity to correct a dog physically or verbally, you also greatly reduce or even prevent the escalation of your own emotions such as anger. A dog can be trained to do anything well without corrections, so using them are really pointless. As well, when you reduce or eliminate the stress of negative emotions from a training session, you are also giving the dog more of an opportunity to learn. It is well know that stress decreases an animal’s (including humans) ability to learn. Using intimidation to train also increases the stress level of both the human doing the training and the dog.
The reason stress during a training session would be an issue is because most humans using this method are not well enough trained or skilled in using corrections to apply them properly. Incorrectly given corrections increase the stress a dog feels. The trainer is not skilled enough to know this, and so thinks the dog is ignoring him, so the corrections escalate, as does the frustration and stress levels.
From another more abstract perspective, when a person uses physical force and corrections to train, that person is actually using violence against another being. This is not a spiritually mature response to another being’s actions (which are fully his own). Even the idea of using shock on a dog, for which the human is not really near the dog as such and so is not correcting with physical movements, is doing violence and causing pain to another being.
A person who is on the path to spiritual maturity is not going to be drawn to a way of interacting with other beings in which she causes pain to that being.
This also means that those who teach how to train dogs with no pain, and are so-called “force free” training instructors need to understand that acting out their anger (and subsequent verbal assaults or actions) towards those who do, is contradictory to their own philosophy.
You can’t simultaneously train an animal without physical force or corrections nor can you preach it and also be negative towards your own species for not doing things as you think they should be done.
Positive but not permissive
If we are changing the way we relate to other animal species within the training world, then we also need to understand how what we think is affecting our positions within the training world.
This does not mean that we interact with other humans by being permissive to what they are doing if they are causing pain to others (does this sound familiar?) It means we simply continue on proving that you can train animals without force or pain. We do this by saturating the internet and dog events with examples of how training can be done without force or pain and therefore without or with reduced anger and frustration. We can also continue to advocate to politicians that they need to make legal changes to remove certain training tools from public access, with the reasoning that most of the public are not skilled or knowledgable enough to use them without damaging the dog mentally or physically. And we can keep writing about the benefits of training without corrections and giving examples of how this is helping dogs and us.
There are so many things we can do that are acceptable to the correction free way of training.
At the same time we need to understand that other people do not see things the same way.
Understanding this doesn’t mean that we are condoning that as being the right way or the way of the future in training. It simply means using compassion to deal with those who have not been able to understand the next steps yet.
This also means when we get angry with them we don’t lash out in any way whatsoever. It means we don’t criticize them or bad mouth them or wish harm on them (as I have often heard from some who say they train without force). It means that, if we need to, we can express anger, once, to others in our circle without wanting to do verbal or physical violence to others who don’t share our beliefs. We just simply share that we are angry about how something is going without dehumanizing the person we see as the one doing wrong. But, it is important to remember that continued attention to and repeatedly asking others for validation of our way of thinking is simply giving more attention to it. It is enableing This is a waste of time and not in any way helpful to getting our message out there.
Those who want to spread the message of not using corrections to train dogs must do a better job of actually demonstrating this to the public. If we hide our results, we look no better that those who use corrections to train. We must not be afraid of having our method “stolen” by giving it away for free. In my opinion, it is the world’s method and should be free to all who want to use it and promote it.
As I mentioned before, we can communicate this point of view to those who don’t understand that not using force or pain is better and more effective as a training method in many ways.
Besides using the ideas in this article, we can use one of the more interesting ways to put it to them (and my favourite) which is summed up in the following paragraph:
By progressing towards spiritual maturity, we can each lengthen our lives and the lives of others (including other animals), by reducing stress and by contributing to the evolution of the whole world. In order to get there, we need to start treating other species and our own with more care and consideration. Reducing stress on ourselves and our pets is a major starting point to a healthier life. This doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating certain species in order to not kill for survival.