Dog Training Judgement

Dog Training Judgement

I want to start off this post by once again saying, I am not a dog trainer. I am not here to give training advice other than to say what did and do not work for me. Everyone should always consult a trainer they trust before starting any kind of training. Get the opinions of those that know your dog and those that you trust.

 With that out of the way, it's been very upsetting to watch the deep divide that has happened between dog training styles. For those unaware, there is two very common styles of dog training. 

  1. Balanced dog training - using both corrective and positive reinforcement. They can use corrections with a leash, prong collars, or e-collars.
  2. Positive reinforcement training - often characterized as "treat trainers" but those that use only positive and no corrections to train a dog.

This is a very condensed version of what these training styles offer. I wish I could find you a great article that details all the specifics about what each style has to offer - but unfortunately all I found was a bunch of very biased articles one way or the other. And that leads me into what exactly is pissing me off in the dog world.

Growing up I had pure bred labs who were nothing but gooey, fun loving, giant blobs of cuteness. They would do just about anything in the world for you as long as you gave them some love (and a whole lot of treats). These dogs didn't have a mean bone in their giant bodies, and your love and appreciation was all they needed to be happy. So you better believe that all they needed was some treats and copious amounts of love to follow our house rules.

I definitely grew up with that mentality that all dogs (for the most part) were happiest pleasing their humans and they needed nothing more than that. 

Of course I was very very wrong. 

When I got my current dog (and saw how she behaved) I was ok with leash corrections. But that's where the line was firmly drawn. I would never use a prong collar or an e-collar because I was told those caused psychological harm, and could physically damage my dog. So I silently judged other dog owners who used their tools.

Flash forward to a full summer going by of dog training classes multiple times a week, and my dog was only getting worse behaviorally. I couldn't understand WTF was wrong with this dog and how to make her "normal".

So we (with the help of the person helping me train my dog) found a trainer that specialized more with..."special" dogs. She introduced me to an e-collar. She guided me with one that had very low settings and actually had me try it on myself. The levels I started out with on my dog were so low I couldn't even feel them. My mind immediately changed as soon as I saw her put it on my dog. Suddenly this dog who couldn't manage to walk ten steps without a massive panic could actually function. We had many miles to go, but we finally saw some success with her after about a year of owning the Tasmanian Devil. My dog would literally cut herself open with her collars and harnesses to try to attack other dogs. The e-collar prevented damage, not caused it.

But I put my foot down in regards to prong collars. No way in hell were we using one of those. Have you seen the pictures?!

This too changed. My current dog trainer who has been my salvation in life showed us the control we have over her head movements with a prong collar. If I control my dogs head movements, it allows me to keep her focused on the road ahead and react much less to her surroundings. I have control over her rather than her being out of control. And that's a feeling I didn't know was possible with my dog.

It hurts me so much how these two schools of thought have come into this heated battle. It definitely comes from both sides, I don't believe either side is less guilty than the other. But if you are wondering how bad things get, talk to your dog trainer. I am quite sure they have some incredible (and disheartening) stories to share. I've heard from multiple (amazing) trainers that it's gotten to the point where police have needed to be involved. Just check out Jeff Gellman if you want some proof.

At the end of the day, training your dog is the most important thing you can do. And whatever works best for you and your dog and whatever helps you to gain control and be happy with your companion - then that's what you should do. If you can do that with love and treats, that's awesome. If you need an ecollar and a prong collar to get control - do it. Just make sure to find a great trainer to teach you how to use your tools.

Always remember too, your dog is not a loss cause. If any trainer says your dog cannot be trained, get out and find a better trainer. Put the time in and with the right trainer you'll find the balance.

 

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