RSS Feed

Tag Archives: dog training

Dog Trainers Playing in the Sandbox

Image

The dog training industry is not regulated in any way, so currently, anyone who wants to call themselves a trainer and hang out a shingle can do so (which is why I wrote a previous blog post on how to find the right trainer).

Sadly, even if the industry were regulated tomorrow, there would likely be a grandfather clause which would allow anyone currently practicing dog training to continue doing so.  So, consumers would still not be protected against those who have insufficient skills, no background in behavioral science, or who use force in training dogs.

On the Internet, there are many dog-related forums, blogs, and Facebook groups.  These groups are populated by everyone from average pet owners to nationally known trainers and everyone in between, including some of those force trainer people who would get grandfathered, much to my chagrin.  Just as with any other subject matter, there are as many opinions on those groups as there are…well, you get it.  Arguments ensue over almost everything. Should you feed raw food or kibble?  Should you train using food as a reinforcement or not?  Should you crate your dog or not?  Should you spay or neuter your dog, and at what age?  Should we identify the quadrant of operant conditioning that we are using or abandon thinking about quadrants altogether (I don’t think we should – I want to use the quadrants that are force free whenever I can)?

These issues, if you look at the rancor they cause, are akin to the ones that cause nations to go to war.  They involve “no compromise” types of choices. Pro choice or pro life?  Gay marriage OK or not OK?  Republican or Democrat? Dog aficionados are just NOT going to agree on some matters.

The problem isn’t the disagreements.  Most adults can handle disagreement or debate, and they can even handle the tough debates.  What is disconcerting, however, is the departure from debate into tantrums.  It represents devolution, if you will, to a form of benign or not so benign name calling that is designed to deflect any attempt at pressing for answers to hard questions, so that people can hide from uncomfortable scrutiny. I’ve been called everything from “cookie tosser” (I like that one) to “queen of mean” to “crone” and everything in between. People have suggested to others that they rant privately about people like me because we are just so mean. The word “mean” is now tossed into the mix any time someone loses the ability to debate using facts and citations, versus “my way or the highway.”

If we are to elevate the profession of dog training, we must go beyond doing what is effective, and move toward doing what is effective AND ethical. We must treat dogs the way we would want to be treated if we were the dogs. It is our obligation, as force free trainers, to expose practices that cannot be supported with research, ethics, experience, and efficacy.

Elie Weisel once said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Many dogs lead lives that are not ideal, where even supposedly loving owners cannot see the fear or distrust in them. Sometimes, knowing that requires turning the other cheek when someone elects to call you a “hater” because you disagree. It requires you to smile to yourself when you find out that someone has encouraged ranting about you on some closed clique or Facebook group, or even on an open one. If no one hates you, you’ve probably never stood up for a difficult or unpopular position in your life.

Remember, it is not MEAN to ask for evidence, to question why a practitioner wants to do something to YOUR dog, or to stand up for the oppressed, the weak, the defenseless, or the misunderstood.

“Being ‘nice’ doesn’t convince someone who doesn’t want to be convinced. And being ‘mean’ doesn’t impede someone who wants to learn.” –Melissa McEwan

So, stop telling me to be nice every time I give you information. Stop telling me to be nice when you are frustrated by your own misunderstanding of an issue that I’m trying my best to explain in scientifically accepted language (in order to level the playing field so ALL can understand), and stop telling me to be nice because I refuse to drink the guru-of-the-week’s Kool-aid. I’m not being mean, just persistent.

I haven’t called you any names, or told you you’re stupid (even when I think you are), and I haven’t called you incapable of learning. I’ve simply given you an opinion, hopefully with some reasoning behind it. Put on your big boy or big girl pants and engage in adult debate, if you can. But, if you can’t, stop ranting about the meanies and go do some more research so that you can enter the debate constructively. Either that or, if you are going to run away on every Facebook page or Yahoo group from the hard questions posed to you, stay gone and let the rest of us learn together.

Advertisements

Let the Dog Decide

Finding the Right Dog Trainer – Harder Than You Think

Here’s some advice from Jean Donaldson on how to choose a dog trainer.  After her suggestions, I’m going to take the liberty of telling you how I would want her questions to be answered if I were going to try to find a trainer for my own dog.  You may not realize it, but trainers do, from time to time, attend one another’s classes, participate in working seminars, or take classes from trainers who are experts in dog sports or aspects of training that we are not expert in.  As an example, I can lay a simple track and have my dog follow it for fun, but I certainly am not an expert in lost person behavior or variable surface tracking!  So, if I wanted to know more about scent work of that kind, I might take my dog and go to classes with someone who does.  Anyway, back to the topic at hand – how does the average pet owner find a trainer?  (Jean’s comments are in bold font.  My comments are italicized.)

The animal training industry is completely unregulated and anyone can call themselves an animal behavior professional in spite of having no formal education or qualifications. So what can consumers do to protect themselves?

1. Ask for formal education and credentials.  
It’s important that a dog trainer gets an education in the science of how dogs learn.  If the trainer has a degree in a behavioral science, has taken classes in psychology, motivation, or learning theory, or has had exposure to these concepts via a school such as the Academy for Dog Trainers, Karen Pryor Academy, Companion Animal Sciences Institute, etc., that’s good indication that the person is interested in legitimate science, and not the “voodoo” that many people spout about their dog training abilities, as if those somehow came from osmosis or from the vapors somewhere.  Beware of any schools that still tout “dominance theory” or suggest the use of shock collars.*
(Addendum: In 2015, the Pet Professional Accreditation Board began an independent psychometrically sound testing program for dog trainers which also has an ethical component that prohibits the use of choke, prong, and shock collars by its certificants. Consumers can now begin to look for the PCT-A (Professional Canine Trainer – Accredited) designation when seeking a professional.)

2. Ask for continuing education involvement.
There are now many opportunities for dog trainers to receive continuing education, both in person and online.  If the person has done this, they ought to be able to tell you through what organization, the name of the presenter, and the topics presented.  More importantly, you should get a sense that they enjoy keeping up with the latest studies and they will not be afraid to alter their opinions based upon valid research.  For example, one of the pre-eminent authorities on wolf biology, Dr. David L. Mech, who originally coined the term “alpha” has recanted the original implication of the term because new research shows that it is inaccurate.  Hear him tell it in his own words:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNtFgdwTsbU.
Good trainers are always trying to learn more themselves!  “I’ve been training for twenty years.” is NOT a credential.  It’s also quite possible for a trainer to have been doing it wrong for twenty years, or at least not as humanely as they could have!


3. Ask for scientific evidence supporting any claims about behavior.
Behavior modification occurs because of two types of learning, operant and respondent.  In simple terms, operant conditioning takes place in a three part contingency.  There is an antecedent, a behavior that the dog performs, and a consequence.  So, this is the learning that takes place, for example, when we teach a dog to “sit.”
In respondent learning, there is only a two part contingency.  The dog learns, “If this happens, then that happens,”  This is the type of learning that changes a dog’s emotional response to something.  This takes place, for example, when we rattle the lid to the cookie jar and suddenly the dog comes to the kitchen.  He has learned that the noisy lid predicts that you will pull out a cookie for him.
A trainer should be able to tell you about these things.  The quadrants of operant conditioning, and the process of desensitization and counter-conditioning should be as familiar to the trainer as the tools of your own trade are to you!

4. Ask what actual physical events will be used to motivate your animal (keep asking if you receive obfuscating answers such as “energy,” “leadership,” “status” or “dominance”).** For example, ask, “What exactly will happen to my dog if he gets it right? And what exactly will happen to my dog if he gets it wrong?”

In good science-based classes, a dog that gets it right is going to hear a marker word or sound, and then receive a reinforcement (food, toy, privilege…)  For example, trainer enters the room and asks the dog to sit for greeting.  Dog sits.  Trainer reinforces the dog with a click/treat.


A dog that gets it wrong in a good training class will not be called stubborn, willful or stupid, he’ll simply get no reinforcement, or he’ll have a privilege withdrawn, and be given another opportunity to get it right.  Example: Trainer walks in and dog jumps on trainer.  Trainer withdraws all attention and turns away.  Once the dog is on the floor, trainer returns and reinforces the dog for having his feet on the floor.  Trainer gradually lengthens the time the dog’s feet are on the floor before giving the reinforcement.  After a while, the dog needs only occasional reinforcement for keeping all four feet on the floor.

No physical punishment should occur.  No choke collars, no prong collars, no shock collars.
http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/chokeandprongcollarpositionstatement
http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/shockcollars

5. Ask what side effects each procedure has. Fear is a particularly concerning side effect as it is difficult to undo.
No trainer worth his or her salt wants to add to a dog’s problems.  That’s why an understanding of the science is so important.  Aggression, learned helplessness, fear, are all to be avoided, but they are easily installed in dogs by those who persist in using aggressive or confrontational training.  Here’s an example of Dr. Sophia Yin using science (counter-conditioning) to change a Jack Russell Terrier’s mind about how he feels about air being blown in his face.  Before: Can you imagine a child exhaling while laying on a couch near this dog???  After: He’s changing his mind!:
http://drsophiayin.com/resources/video_full/counter-conditioning_a_dog_to_blowing_in_face
Had Dr. Yin punished the dog, he might have stopped the growling temporarily, but the dog’s dislike for air in his face would still have been there.  In this training, the dog actually learns to LIKE having air on his face!

6. If you feel at all uncomfortable, don’t be bullied: get another opinion.
Places where you can seek help:
http://www.dacvb.
http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/

You are entitled to full information before consenting to any training or behavior modification procedure.
~ Jean Donaldson

* “Until these devices are illegal, consumers must protect themselves and their dogs by looking beyond the marketing messages of those who profit from their sale and use. It is not necessary to use electric shock to change behavior. It is not necessary in humans, in zoo species, in marine mammals or in dogs.”
~Jean Donaldson

“Absolutely, without exception, I oppose, will not recommend, and generally spend large amounts of time telling people why I oppose the use of shock collars, prong collars,
choke collars, and any other type of device that is rooted in an adversarial, confrontational interaction with the dog.”
~Karen Overall, MA, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVB, CAAB

** http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/DominanceTheoryPositionStatement

When Your Teeth Hurt, Do You Call a Plumber?

Yes, this is a serious question.  When your teeth hurt, do you call a plumber?  Of course not, you call a dentist.  But, do you call a dentist who would use wooden teeth to replace the rotted ones he might extract from a patient’s mouth?

If you have a training or behavior problem with your dog and you call your friend, watch a TV show, ask your dog’s breeder, pick a trainer from the list your rescue or vet gave you without checking their credentials or auditing a class, or buy a dog training book from the average bookstore, you are doing the equivalent of going to an 18th century dentist and expecting him to know how to straighten your teeth when braces haven’t even been invented yet, or asking a plumber to fill the cavity in your left premolar.

Training and behavior modification of dogs is a completely unregulated industry, so, unlike a modern dentist, who must graduate college and maintain continuing education, and actually KNOW how to treat you (or even a plumber who must either go to trade school or apprentice with a legitimately licensed plumber), a trainer can just hang out a shingle and use any method he wants to try to train your dog.

Finding a dog trainer who will not hurt your dog, either physically or EMOTIONALLY, is not easy.  You, as a consumer, especially if you have not adopted a new dog within the past ten or fifteen years, might not even be aware that there are new and different methods for training dogs which do NOT involve painful devices.  

Years ago, most trainers were using some form of compulsion from leash pops to helicoptering. Today’s compulsion trainers, who haven’t adopted more modern methods, may still use harsh tools and punishment.   Some of them, realizing that public opinion may finally be leaning more toward science-based force free training that keeps dogs happy while educating them not to rip up your slippers or greet guests nicely, are adopting language on their web sites to fool you in to thinking that they are much more positive in their approach than they really are.  (Just one example of this: Shock or correction collars have suddenly become “remote” or “reminder” or “vibration” collars that are set to “beep”  – what the trainer doesn’t tell you is that those collars have multiple settings and that some dogs are given shocks that are higher than that “buzz” you felt on your wrist when the trainer let you try it for yourself to prove how “harmless” it was.)
Certification is not universal or mandatory, and no certification currently exists that guarantees that your trainer will be using modern force free methods, any more than AKC registration means that your puppy didn’t come from a puppy mill.  

So, how do you protect your dog from harmful methods that some trainer is telling you are fine??? One way is NOT to send your dog to any trainer who operates a “boot camp” – if you want the trainer to train your dog, be present during the sessions, and if anything is being done that you are not comfortable with, stop the session!  You are your dog’s only hope of protection. If you still want a trainer to train your dog, but absolutely cannot be present, then send the dog to a trainer who belongs to the Pet Professional Guild.  It is the only national organization that requires member trainers to pledge that they will avoid the use of choke, prong, or shock collars.  
There are some regional organizations forming as well, so that local force free trainers can have other safe trainers to refer back and forth to.  

Another way to keep your dog safe from harm is to reject the services of anyone who tells you that you need to be a pack leader, show your dog who’s boss, be the alpha, or dominate your dog.  Veterinarian behaviorists, who DO need a solid education in dog behavior before they can practice as such, are advising regular vets not to refer their clients to trainers who use such outmoded techniques: http://avsabonline.org/uploads/position_statements/dominance_statement.pdf

You can also prohibit, in writing, the use of choke, prong, or shock collars on your dog.  If the trainer gives you any problem about that, then you know that he or she lacks the skill to train your dog without those devices.  Modern trainers have largely adopted training methods used by marine mammal trainers (ever try putting a prong collar on a whale?), and marker, or clicker training, that teaches dogs by reinforcing them for behaviors you like.

For more information about modern training, see Pam’s videos at www.pamsdogtraining.com, or visit the Kikopup channel on YouTube.  If you are in the Boston/North Shore area, contact us at Paws for Praise for help or a referral.

 

Dinosaurs and Dog Training

I was struck by a message I recently received from someone who told me that they had seen many shelter dogs put to sleep for what were essentially minor issues that could have been resolved by a skillful trainer.  I was certainly with him that far.  But, in the next sentence, I was a bit stunned.  He said the only time he had seen such dogs really be rehabilitated was when they were sent off to a doggy boot camp.  The dreaded “we had to use punishment, it was to save their lives” argument was being made again.  And, yes, “boot camp” is often still a place where dogs endure prong collar corrections and shock collars. (The prong, or pinch, collar, in spite of my abhorrence for it, was never designed for a trainer to make a correction with it, it was designed to just sit there until the dog pulled, whereupon he would “self correct” when he encountered the painful stimulus of the prongs digging in to his neck, and at the level at which he found them painful, not the level the trainer decided to perpetrate on him, but that’s another blog post…)

I agree that some dogs have been punished so harshly that unwanted behavior does seem to disappear.  They seem “cured.”  But, mostly that’s due to global suppression of behavior, not learning.  In fact, the dog just gives up, realizing that he cannot avoid the unpleasantness.  A condition of “learned helplessness” arises.  The downside to it is that the dog becomes less trainable in general, because he’s unwilling to offer new behaviors lest they be met with the same result – pain, so he just sits there.  Ever wonder why so many force trainers use platforms where dogs just sit there to demonstrate how “obedient” they are???  Shut down doesn’t have to LOOK shut down, the dog just IS shut down.  But, I digress.

Trainers have been using harsh punishment for decades, eons even.  They’ve become quite good at it, and we know that timing is oh so important in training, which is, honest-and-truly, a mechanical skill.  So, when a shelter or rescue sends a dog into training with one of these people, they perceive a successful result when the dog returns.  They mark it a success, even if, several months or years down the road, the dog bites someone.  Longitudinal studies of how well shelter dogs are rehabilitated are nearly non-existent.  But, it’s safe to say that behavior (or lack thereof) must somehow be maintained by either punishment or reinforcement and the new adopters may or may not have the skills to do either.  

The fact is that our modern dog training movement, which is more reliant on clicker training or progressive reinforcement training, is in its virtual infancy compared to the more punitive styles of the past.  The “crossover” trainers, who adopted “positive training” (which, incidentally does involve consequences, and is not permissive) in the past few decades, are now the leaders of the movement (which, sadly, was set back about 50 years by the magic of television and a few unqualified people posing as dog gurus of one sort or another).  People like Karen Pryor, Bob Bailey, Keller and Marion Breland, proved that any animal, even chickens and goldfish, can be trained using non-violent positive reinforcement techniques.  Entities such as The Academy for Dog Trainers, Karen Pryor Academy, and Companion Animal Sciences Institute, are now educating trainers comprehensively in this science.  The drawback is that many of these are NEW trainers, relatively speaking.  They don’t yet have the “chops” that will come from just handling hundreds of dogs.  But, when they do, they will almost certainly replace the “dinosaurs” who could not adjust and adopt the modern techniques and technology.  Just as people who refused to accept computers became irrelevant in the workplace, trainers who remain stuck in the past will become the collateral damage of the learning curve, as well as the desire most owners have NOT to hurt their dogs.  As science and ethics-based trainers become more skillful, word of mouth will be as good advertising for them as it once was for the trainers whose work looked adequate, but didn’t give full measure to the ability for “the thinking dog” to partner with humans in miraculous ways.

Certainly, we realize that there are four quadrants of operant conditioning, but it’s rarely, if ever, necessary to use all four to get the result you want.  The way that people cling to the aversive end of the spectrum is not because it doesn’t work, it’s because they simply haven’t taken the time to become equally skilled at the non-aversive side of things.  If non-aversive works, too, why not couple skill with ethics?  Because you are a dinosaur?  Hope not, because you know what happened to them.

 

Effecting Change – Money Makes the World Go ‘Round

Admittedly, one of the first things I do in the morning is to sit down with my towel wrapped around my wet hair, cup of coffee on my desk, and play Words with Friends in between checking the morning Facebook activity.  It’s not all fun and games, though.  I am, as the illustrious Jean Donaldson has described me, a “warrior princess for force free training.”  Granted, that isn’t all I use Facebook for.  I like to catch up with far away friends, network a homeless dog or two, giggle a bit at the useless bits of fantasy, or participate in some of the “wall wars” as much as the next person.

Today, I happened upon a lovely blog post from Maureen Backman, of Dog Connect, called Fear: When Nothing Else Matters.  I was struck, as I always am, with the difference between how people like me, and Maureen, view dogs, versus the way other people, whose agenda is much more geared toward compliance than learning, view dogs.  But, even more than that, the thought occurred to me that there are people whose general bent toward dogs is kindness, yet they opt for training tools that are unkind because they think they have to.  The odd thing is that many of us used to be like them until we discovered that we didn’t have to.  Doing that takes a willingness to literally jump out of your comfort zone, not easy to do if you are already making a living at training dogs by means which you think work perfectly well (why fix what isn’t broken), or if you are already training dogs for a very important task, such as assistance dog work, that has a human safety component very different from the one a pet dog has to observe.

Why, after all this time, are so many people dragging their feet and clutching their prong and shock collars as if they were the veritable keys to Heaven, I thought.  Just as with Earl, Maureen’s newly acquired dog with separation anxiety, perhaps fear is a component.  Change is hard, and scary, for many people.  And, sometimes, people who resist change aren’t really as opposed to the change itself as they are to the background conversations they hear in their own heads about it.  They may fear being inept – I imagine that competitive results-driven force trainers whose dogs go out and score 98 in obedience would be humiliated, while learning a new method, to have dogs that don’t rise to that level quickly enough to avoid embarrassing them.  Somehow, they don’t seem to see that if you know operant conditioning, you can use any of the quadrants successfully.  They prefer the familiar, instead of testing the waters of the unfamiliar.  They perceive positive trainers as “soft” and yet many positive trainers used to use those traditional methods, but had the courage to try the newer paradigm when it first became apparent to them that there might be some truth in the science, or at least some better ethics about how we were treating the animals we trained.  I view traditional trainers rather like the aging board members who still insist that the executive director’s secretary call them to inform them of meetings when everyone else on the board has long since adopted email as the accepted mode of communication.  Laggards exist wherever there is discomfort with change, even when the change is good and makes things easier, or more comfortable in the end.

There are many theories on how to go about convincing them, but when people are clutching their prong and shock collars as if they were the keys to Heaven, not to mention that they are profiting from their use in competition or in business, it’s unlikely that simple ethics are going to convince them.  Just as with dogs, we may need a more powerful motivator.  If the Cheerios don’t work, try a meatball, right?

What if, instead of just complaining on Facebook, we took financial action?  What if we refused to purchase any product that puts profit into the pocket of the manufacturers of choke, prong or shock collars.  What if we didn’t take that cheaper puppy class at the big box store that sells those devices?  What if we didn’t donate to the shelter or rescue that is using such devices on dogs and directed our donations to the ones that use kinder methods?  If enough people did that, change could be effected much more quickly.  Just as it became socially unacceptable to drink and drive, or to smoke when you’re pregnant, maybe we could make it socially unacceptable to choke or shock a dog into compliance when there are kinder methods that are every bit as effective (Shapiro, Bloomsmith & Laule, 2003, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science).

I no longer recommend any products by PetSafe (Premier) for this reason.  I avoid the big box stores and patronize my local pet supply stores, even if the prices are slightly higher.  I don’t donate to assistance dog organizations that use prong collars.  I try to avoid rescues and shelters that use or recommend such equipment or who refer pet owners to trainers who use them.  Political change is not easy – and maybe my efforts don’t parallel the courage of the people who walked over the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma in the 60’s, but I am willing to take the hit if people think my view is unpopular, or my goal unreachable, because my conscience is clear.   I’m not always successful, sometimes I spend and find out later I should not have, but at least I have tried to spend ethically – just the way I try to train dogs.  Those who use positive methods are rewarded with my patronage or donations.  Simple operant conditioning.   Stop reinforcing behavior you don’t like, and reinforce behavior that you do like.

 

Ditch the Prong

Traditional trainers frequently advocate the use of prong collars to teach dogs to avoid pulling on their leashes, which, admittedly, is one of the harder exercises for novices to teach their dogs.  It’s also one of the most annoying and easy habits for dogs to get in to.  When you think about it, most people unconsciously move their arm in response to even a slight tug from a puppy, and before you know it, the little dog has had many dozens of reinforcements for pulling, simply because he got to go further in the direction he was headed at the time he pulled.

Some trainers argue that these tools, when used correctly, speed up the learning curve for the dog.   They even make the medicine seem sweeter to take (for the owner) by saying that incorrect use is what causes harm.  But, let’s take a look at how the device actually works.  When the dog pulls, the collar tightens, driving the prongs into the dogs neck (positive punishment) until they hurt enough that the dog stops pulling in order to alleviate the sensation he doesn’t like (negative reinforcement).

Some trainers liken the action of the prong collar to a mother dog’s “correction” but I have yet to see any appropriately socialized dam causing real pain to her offspring.  Trainers who characterize a grab as a “bite” to impress you of its harmlessness, are not only unethical, they’re actually showing very poor understanding of doggy dynamics.  Dogs’ corrections are exceedingly swift, and ordinarily tempered by EXQUISITE acquired bite inhibition, but they generally do NOT cause prolonged pain, especially around the entire neck.  Such trainers act as if science doesn’t exist (we know that positive reinforcement and negative punishment work just as well to modify behavior as the quadrants of operant conditioning that harsher trainers use).  Also, we humans are not dogs, and the lightning fast, yet benevolent, corrective response is not even within our clumsy capacity to deliver, much less have a dog understand it as such.  To them, when we correct, my guess is that they merely perceive us as unpleasant or unpredictable.

Trainers whose skill set is lacking in principles that are now used routinely to teach even large predators, such as tigers, to present their limbs to zookeepers for injections or blood draws, are likeliest to continue using unnecessary instruments that induce pain (“remote” or shock collars fall into this category as well).  The truth is when you know better, you do better, and there are many trainers who haven’t learned enough yet to feel confident applying ethical science to dog training.  Even more disturbing, there are many who close their minds completely to any attempt to learn how to master these techniques.  Sadly, in an unregulated profession, there are many hacks, and your dog is in danger if you don’t practice due diligence in finding someone who will “do no harm.”

When choosing a trainer, read the philosophy section on their web pages, but beware.  Many of the people who still use antiquated methods and equipment consider themselves “positive” and will use language designed to have you think so, too.  One way to insure that the trainer you hire will not use pain or fear in training your dog is to look for membership in the Pet Professional Guild, or a commitment to Progressive Reinforcement Training, a term which noted trainer, Emily Larlham, coined to describe the modern training paradigm.

Image

So then, back to the little pulling pup, or the bigger dog with a confirmed pulling habit.  The first thing to do when revising your training strategy is to realize your own contribution.  Learn to remain static and not have your hand move at all in response to the pulling.  Temporarily, (or permanently if you like – I wouldn’t judge you harshly if you did that) use a no pull front clip harness, such as the Freedom Harness to give yourself some leverage that is not as unpleasant to the dog as a pain-inducing collar.  Realize that training takes time, and should start in a non-distracting environment (so use the harness out walking until the training is complete).  If you are not near a force free training facility and want to learn to train the walk without pain, there’s a wonderful set of Polite Leash Walking videos by Helix Fairweather on Vimeo.com.

I think it’s important to realize how valuable the relationship is between dog and handler.  I personally do not want anything painful to happen to my dog while she’s near me, lest she make the association between me and the unpleasant thing.  That diminishes trust, and can ruin your recall if you have a dog that becomes leery of getting to you, or remaining with you once there.

More information on why I don’t recommend prong collars and a bit about me.

Happy training – and make a tail wag!