Part of having a dog is training your dog, and there are many different methods out there. For a long time, Cesar Millan was known as “The Dog Whisperer” and was a go-to source for many people when it came to training their dogs. But many people and critics soon realized that using force (i.e.. to establish dominance over their dog), was not the best or humane way to train their dogs.
For years, many trainers and rescue organizations have been using things like shock collars, prolong collars, choke collars and physical force thinking that it will “train their dog and eliminate unwanted behaviour”. The fact of the matter is that it won’t. There was even a documented case of where rescue had trained a dog by using a shock collar, and when that collar was taken off, the dog attacked and killed a 90 year old woman. That rescue is now being sued. Many rescues and dog trainers no longer believe in using force as a method of training (even the most aggressive dogs out there).
Using shock, prong and choke collars can also cause serious physical damage to dogs.
The burn from a shock collar.
The damage from a prong collar.
Recently, Scotland banned the sale and use of shock collars citing “Causing pain to dogs by inappropriate training methods is clearly completely unacceptable and we want there to be no doubt that painful or unpleasant training for dogs will not be tolerated”.
Now, I know there are people are who going to read this and disagree with me. That’s fine. What I want to do is to try and educate dog owners on how using methods such as positive reinforcement is a better and more humane way to train your animal.
Take this for example: say you have a job where every time you make a mistake at work, your boss comes around and slaps or punches you. How would that make you feel? Would you be motivated? No, you would be terrified. Would that correct the mistakes? No, you would probably end up making more because you would constantly be in a high state of stress and fear. Do you want your boss to be dominant over you?
Instead, wouldn’t you rather be rewarded for doing a good job?
I recently attended a wonderful and informative seminar put on by the Alberta Force Free Alliance. Their motto is “Choice… not force”. They believe in using positive reinforcement. While many people I’m sure reading this are going to think “well, that will never work for my dog or won’t work for certain breeds of dogs,” it should be noted that different breeds don’t learn in different manners. All animals learn the same.
Force free doesn’t mean permissive. Negative punishment is also used. This is done by removing what the dog wants to end the “undesired” behaviour. An example is stopping the game of tug if the dogs teeth touch your skin. There are rules. Force free also means teaching the dog what you want clearly, and bad behaviours then do not even happen because your dog knows clearly what you want and they don’t have to “guess”. A lot of bad behaviours are just normal dog behaviour, and once they realize that that gets them no where, but the other behaviour gets them food, or play or some other life reward, then they don’t bother with the behaviours that got them nothing they desire.
There are many myths regarding force free training and I encourage you to take a second and read the answers from the Alberta Force Free Alliance HERE. They do a wonderful job of breaking down fact from fiction.
One of the big reasons I know dog owners use shock and prong collars is when they are out walking their dog and they don’t want their dog to pull. As a dog owner, I’ve been there and it can be frustrating (especially when you are dealing with a large and stronger breed).
Instead of using something that can cause serious physical damage to your dog, try using a harness. There are many out there and I personally use them for all three of my dogs.
There are many options out there for dog owners. There are ones that clip in the back, clip in the front and even head harnesses. A lot of trainers out there will actually recommend for dogs who pull to use a harness that clips in both the front and the back and to get a leash that will clip to both to walk your dog. One of the most well known options out there is the Freedom Harness. I actually have this for Dolly.
Still dealing with a dog who pulls? Look into taking something like a Loose Leash Walking class with your pet.
The good thing is that there are many resources out there for dog owners. The Alberta Force Free Alliance has a list of approved force free trainers, doggy daycares, groomers, rescues, boarding services, and dog walkers listed HERE.
Please know that there are many animal rescue organizations out there that will not adopt out to people who do not believe in or are committed to using force free training. I have seen push back from potential adopters towards animal rescue organizations who do this. But, what people forget is that that is the RIGHT of the rescue organization to choose whom they adopt these animals to and whether they feel their new parents would treat their animals in the best manner possible.
At the end of the day, you can choose to train your dog however you want. But know that using force does not have the be the only way.