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  • Krystal Hjort

Let's Use Positive Re-Enforcement Training More!

With regards to force based training methods such as shock collars, prong collars or choke chains, "alpha rolls" and all the dominance based stuff, I want to say this. If you have any background in the science of behavior modification, using methods that shut down or intimidate creates a different atmosphere for learning. I use a classroom analogy:


In one class room, a teacher puts a problem on the board, 3+5=? She asks the kids for the answer. John raises his hand and says "6?" "Nope" she answers, and she whacks him on the hand with a rule. Suzie raises her hand and says "9?" "Nope", and a whack on the hand. Timidly, Bob raises his hand and says "7?", and gets whacked for the wrong answer. Soon no kids want to offer answers for fear of getting it wrong and getting corrected.


In the second classroom, the teacher pups the same problem on the board. Pete raises his hand and says "6?" Teacher says "nope, wrong answer, try again." Jane raises her hand and says "9?" "Nope, wrong answer, try again." Jack raises his hand and says "8?" Teacher says "right answer, have a piece of candy." And in that classroom, each child is eager and engaged in hopes of earning a reward.


Dominance, fear based or punitive teaching shuts down the dog, it doesn't want to offer behaviors for fear of getting a correction. Reward based training creates a dog who is engaged and eager. Yes, some dogs are tough enough to come through fear based training and still be sound, but the risk for fall out is great, and many are ruined. There is no risk with reward based methods, especially if there is a little balance for the truly hard case dogs. I have owned and trained hundreds of dogs over the years, and have not used a prong collar in over 20 years, and a choke chain in over 30 years. Most of my training is off leash in a fenced area, the same way I worked with wolves. (You can't use force on wolves!) When I am using a leash it's a flat collar or sometimes just a slip leash once the dog is leash trained. It's not that I don't tell my dogs no, but I don't use force when teaching a concept. I also don't use a leash because I want my energy to be the leash so to speak. Not saying you can't use one, it's just the style I honed while living and working with wolves. The training session is something the dog WANTS so no leash needed.


The people who use and defend force based training often have not had the background in behavior and don't have any understanding in how dogs think, or learn. There is a saying that goes like this: "the amount of force used has a direct correlation with the lack of knowledge possessed." I was one of those WAY back when and am thankful I kept an open mind and kept learning. My dogs are thankful too! The photos are just my attentive, reward based Aussie pups (raised with Puppy Culture) and a few of me working with the wolves I lived with at Wolf Park. All training was done off leash and they could walk away at any time.


One more little tidbit about this mindset of training. With simple things like trying to stop a dog from jumping up, teaching a behavior that is incompatible with jumping, like "sit" is far better than just correcting the dog for jumping. Always correcting and suppressing without ever giving a more desirable alternative behavior can frustrate the dog, causing more anxiety.

Credit - Jill Porter / Faithwalk Mini Americans.

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