Apparently, that is what many force-based trainers think I do for a living. The Internet is replete with quotations from such people bemoaning the supposed idiocy of training with kindness or training with food, who say that they are the saviors of all those dogs for whom positive training failed, and thus they saved all those dogs from certain euthanasia.
I guess I’d better confess then. I kill dogs. And, this is how I do it:
I train puppies early, and socialize them with people, other dogs, and novel happenings so that they don’t live a life of fear, and grow up to be confident dogs. Funny, but the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior must be in favor of killing puppies, because they wrote this position paper that agrees with what I do.
I use modern, scientifically proven techniques that are based on how dogs learn, teaching them the desired behaviors, rather than waiting until they do something wrong so that I can “correct” them for exhibiting normal dog behavior. I use marker or clicker training. When I hear people who think that praise alone is enough, I show them an article about the efficacy of the clicker versus the voice.
If there is a normal dog behavior that I don’t like, I teach my dog how to do a behavior that I would appreciate he do instead of the one I don’t like. Again, this is done by reinforcing the desired behavior, and making the unwanted behavior something that simply never pays off for the dog. Knowledgeable trainers understand this concept as DRI, or differential reinforcement of an incompatible behavior. Simply put, if it would be difficult for your dog to jump up on you if he could be cued to “Sit”, then teach him to sit instead of jumping.
I’m not alone. So many trainers are getting stellar results with force free training. Pamela Johnson has a great video on how to get your dog to settle on a mat. That’s one of the exercises that shock collar trainers often use to suggest that they make dogs more obedient than we do . But, they forget to tell you that the way shock works is to globally suppress behavior because the dog is subjected to shock until he gives up and just stays put. He’s not doing this willingly, he’s just reacting to the inevitability of his situation. A famous experiment in the late 1960’s by Martin Seligman proved that this situation, referred to as “learned helplessness” is the result of the animal not having any control over his environment. We now know that animals (and people) learn better when they feel they do have some control.
I don’t use forceful jerks on collars to make my point any more than I would choke a child to make him sit in his seat at a restaurant. And. I don’t emulate popular TV personalities who use physical coercion on dogs. The real reality of dog training on television was highlighted in an article by Niki Tudge, founder of the Pet Professional Guild, in which she says, “If the pet industry is to continue being featured on television then it should not be at the mental and physical expense of our pets.”
I don’t use shock to keep dogs in line. It’s barbaric and cruel, and oh so easy to convince some pet owners to do when you tell them it’s just a “tap” or a “reminder” or a “muscle stimulator.” It’s electric shock plain and simple, and if the dog doesn’t obey the shock at the lowest setting, it most assuredly will be turned up. You be the judge. The first video shows a dog hitting an electric fence used to contain cows in a pasture. The second video shows one of my dogs trained by positive training not to approach my horse in his paddock. Which treatment would you prefer for your dog? Oh, but don’t listen to me – after all, I kill dogs.
If you want an eye opener, visit the Facebook page of Drake Sporting Dogs where you will see photos of dogs being shocked during “snake aversion training.” You will also see comments that suggest a certain glee as the dogs are jolted. And, the inevitable “but it saves their lives” comments. Should a dog have to be shocked off the ground to save its life??? Not when there are other ways. A notable former police K9 trainer, Steve White, has developed a non-shock protocol for snake aversion training, as has Jamie Bozzi, BA, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP, CC. And, now there is a vaccination against snake bites for dogs.
No method is foolproof no matter what the trainer tells you. Dogs learn differently, people make errors and assume behavior is proofed when it isn’t, batteries malfunction, and accidents happen. The real bottom line is that if you want a well trained dog, you should do your best to learn as much as you can about dog behavior and learning, and do no harm to your dog out of your own ignorance. Learn about dog body language so that you can tell yourself if your dog seems happy, and not simply mistake absence of behavior for happiness.
If you were a dog, which of the following trainers would you want to be taken to?
Thankfully, the latter (Emily Larlham, of Dogmantics Dog Training and the Kikopup Youtube channel) has more than 7 million views and 30,000+ subscribers. Slowly but surely the “dog killers” are having an impact.
And we will keep killing dogs WITH KINDNESS until the notion of shocking dogs becomes as abhorrent to the nation as that of drinking and driving.