Without fail all of the dogs I meet with sketchy or nasty temperaments have been subjected to aversive training methods and/or devices. In fact just today a German Shepherd dog was reactive and nasty to my dog, Macy, for absolutely no reason at the off leash park and the first thing I noticed is that it was wearing a choke chain. German Shepherds have an undeserved reputation for being aggressive, but I can tell you first hand that we meet a good deal of lovely, friendly ones who have been raised in non-punitive environments. The quality of a dog’s temperament is extremely dependent upon what methods are used to train them.
Who wouldn’t be nasty and unpredictable if all of their guidance in life involved pain and/or fear. Just think about that. Typically I avoid any dog wearing a choke, prong, or electronic collar because I simply don’t trust them and don’t want them to hurt me or my dog. It can do damage to your own friendly dog’s temperament to interact with aggressive dogs so it is wise to be choosy about who your dog meets for sure. Anytime I’ve ignored that I’ve immediately regretted it and had months of remedial work to remind me of my error in judgement.
At some point some misguided person decided that the most important thing is for a dog to be a robot under complete control. Walk on a tight leash, don’t interact with anything, don’t sniff anything, don’t be happy and curious, don’t pull toward things that interest you. Be miserable and frightened of potential harsh repercussions all the time. But hey, the owner will feel important and powerful envisioning themselves as some kind of urban lion tamer. Well that just sucks. It’s way more important that your dog is well socialized and will come when it’s called off leash than if it can heel. You need to be certain that even if your dog is wearing no collar at all that it will listen to you. If you develop a good trust relationship with your dog and teach it what is expected and make learning fun, it will.
Your dog will be happier and friendlier when you loosen up your expectations of complete control and start putting a lot more value on a rock solid, friendly disposition.
Do not yell, grab, pin, shake, or hit your dog. Do not use pinch/prong, choke, or WORST ever electronic collars of any kind. They are banned in the UK and many other countries yet sadly Canada still hasn’t gotten on board. Do not get sucked in by slick marketing and rhetoric about positive training that actually refers to positive punishment. I can tell you right now, aside from scientific jargon designed to confuse you and dupe you out of your hard earned money, there is nothing positive about punishment. Discipline means to teach. Punishment is frankly gross and has no place in a civilized society. All of the tools that will hurt or frighten your dog are pure profit for trainers and stores who promote them. I promise you they exist for no other reason.
The absolute best way to train your dog is to reward good behavior when it happens. Especially if the dog does it without being asked or taught. Can you imagine if great food fell into your mouth from the sky when you did something by accident? Bet you’d do more of it.
The earlier you start this the better and if it’s later on to counteract bad behavior just stick with it and be patient. It will take more time but it’s way more effective than punishing your dog and yelling and getting angry. At best that makes dogs think you have no emotional control and are someone to ignore, or you are scary and untrustworthy.
Unlike children who may or may not want to please you depending on many factors, odds are your dog lives to please you. So harness that instead of being mean and cruel and angry with your best friend.
Anyway, the cost of control is high.
Too many dogs are angry and filled with anxiety these days.
When you see an expression like the dreaded “whale eyes” on a dog then you should be able to clearly see that poor animal is in distress.
You can find a great description of what force-free training is here, and I think all my kindred spirits will agree it’s the only way to go.
Dogs have a tremendous repertoire of calming signals they use to appease other dogs, and harsh owners and methods. Animals have a basic instinct in stressful situations for fight or flight. Always keep this in the back or your mind that it takes discipline and experience to fight your animal nature, even if you are a dog.
The focus of all force-free trainers is to contribute to the well being and good temperament of dogs.
Furthermore, every force-free trainer and behaviourist I know works pro-bono with rescue groups all the time, but they don’t advertise it and use it to leverage sales as the shock jocks like to do.
A money back guarantee from a shock jock if the dog ends up euthanized really is not the same as a dog that is alive and friendly is it? Although it rarely makes the headlines, there are many dogs who have been euthanized after being “rehabilitated” with electronic collars. However, I do recall a recent news story where someone was killed by a dog who had been “treated” for aggression using an electronic collar. Clearly it was not rehabilitated. So sad, and so preventable.
” Now they were able to see and play with Blue prior to his adoption from Forever Home Rehabilitation Center and that he seemed like a good fit for the Pattersons. Blue showed no aggressive tendencies. It was when they brought him home and took off his shock collar that he attacked.” (I’m sorry but 3 months of board and train with a shock collar are to blame I’d say – rescues like this are not helping anyone!)
Simply put some dogs have problems just like some people have problems and you can manage this in a variety of ways, but you cannot cure it. They may have been bred poorly and have genetic temperament issues, or they may have suffered abuse and trauma that they are unable to overcome. If you force a dog into situations they can not handle, there is always the danger they will “blow up” and ignore any pain or repercussion and that can be much worse even then how they would have behaved had you not used harsh training methods. Very dangerous. Do not trust quick fixes from people who are getting rich quick because you didn’t do your homework or really think this out from the perspective of a living creature, who is most likely frightened and not “trying to be the boss”.
Please be humane in the management strategy you choose, please and don’t expect more than a dog can deliver.
I think we were put on this earth to make dog’s happy and protect them from harm. Some would not agree, but I don’t let them near my dog!