I’d like to start a discussion on whether corrections should be used as a last resort in dog training.
Let’s forget about labels such as “all positive trainers” because those labels are very limiting and inaccurate. No trainer is all positive, and hopefully none of them claim to be.
By “corrections” I’m referring to anything that might be used to stop a dog from doing something. It could be a sharp noise such as “hey!” or “no!” It could be snapping your fingers. It could be a tap on the shoulder or stepping forward to block a dog’s space. It could be a light tug on the leash or a light sound or vibration from a shock collar.
I use all of these things.
When I’m training my own dog Ace, I prefer to use positive reinforcement as much as possible, treats and praise. This is all I use for trick training and it’s what I use mostly for obedience training.
But sometimes a correction is what’s needed for the best results, and using a correction is not my last resort.
For example, when my dog tries to eat something gross off the ground on a walk, I firmly say “No!” or I tug on the leash or physically block him.
As another example, my dog barked at a raccoon at 10:30 p.m. one night this week. We live in an apartment complex, and I do not approve of barking. I scolded Ace with “No!” He got the message.
So, while I prefer positive reinforcement it’s not always my first choice. Sometimes it won’t work, and sometimes it’s just not the safest option.
Running with rescue dogs
I used to run with rescue dogs in Fargo, N.D. I did this year round, which meant it was often below 0 degrees with a lot of snow, ice and wind. The dogs were housed on the edge of town on a road with heavy truck traffic, no sidewalks or shoulders.
In those conditions, I could not be fumbling around with treats. I had gloves on, and the wind was so loud I couldn’t hear anything else. Plus, I was wearing several layers, a hood, a facemask and sunglasses. Communication and movement were limited.
The prong collar was always my first choice. It was usually my only choice.
Those dogs would come bounding out with so much power and enthusiasm. They were dogs without foster homes, so they were typically the strongest and largest dogs with the worst manners.
The prong collar allowed me to be out and about safely with one dog at a time. With a prong collar on, the dog would be at my side, not pulling me. A Gentle Leader or Halti just wouldn’t work because so many of the dogs would buck and struggle against it the whole time. This was too risky with all the ice and traffic. I needed the dogs to be under control at all times.
I guess I just feel like there is a disconnect when people put so much pressure on themselves to be “all positive.” Doing so does not make someone a better dog trainer or a better dog owner.
How about the rest of you?