Beat ’em or Treat ’em – It’s up to you

I’m really surprised to see how many people are against using treats to train dogs.  It seems that there’s sort of a stigma associated with it.  I can tell you as a person who trains all types of dogs, there is not one way to train all dogs, but treats are a good place to start.

Everything I do with dogs starts with a treat and a toy, where it goes from there is up to the dog.         Robert Cabral

Recently I was teaching at a shelter and a dog was brought to my attention that was thrown out of another training program because he was a bit sensitive to be touched on his rear.  He was also a dog that was in a nearly shut down emotional state.  They said no one could get him to sit.  When I asked the method they used to try and teach him, they simply stated a prong collar – and when that didn’t work, they pushed down on his butt.  Or at least they tried.  Anytime someone would reach for his butt, he would circle to get away.  Well, that doesn’t really teach a dog “how” to sit, it just makes him sit to avoid getting yanked or pushed.  Another thing to bear in mind is that if you PUSH down on a dog’s butt, he may or may not sit, but one thing for sure is, he’s gonna resist that push and his SIT will be sloppy.

I worked with this dog for about 5 – 10 minutes and had him sitting without ever touching his butt (or yanking his neck with a prong collar).  I will go on record here to say I have NO issue with prong collars (I occasionally will use one on my dog) or even remote collars.  I do have a problem when we use these tools to teach a behavior that can be taught without it.  There is a saying in Chinese,
Don’t use a sledgehammer to remove a fly from your friends forehead.
This is similar to teaching a dog to sit with a prong collar.  Prong collars are a useful tool in several circumstances, but the dog has to be conditioned to the prong and then it will work.  Just putting a prong on the dog and yanking is equivalent to me asking you the square root of 11 and when you pause, I hit you in the face with a frying pan.  If you don’t know the answer, the smash in the face won’t make you get it.  That is what people seem to think.  If a dog doesn’t know what you want, forcing him won’t make him learn.

We want to use tools such as prong collars and remote collars to limit the amount of force we need to put onto the dog, not increase it.  A correction with a prong collar or remote can be more directed and not as forceful and therefore create a more balanced relationship.  Unfortunately, I don’t know but a few people who really grasp that concept.

So I say, you can beat em or treat em, that choice is up to you, only you and your dog will know which road you choose.  YOU must however be able to face yourself at some point and answer the inevitable question, “Was I fair in my training?”  Is this the way you would want to be trained by someone who could easily dominate you?  Would you prefer when someone is teaching you that they use a compassionate approach?  If that is the case, wouldn’t it be worth it to start with that same approach with your dog?

Teaching your dog what you want him to do is a process, not a chore.  Make it fun and educational.  Using food and toy rewards can make it an experience that will carry over into your relationship outside of training.   All good training should carry over into your day to day relationship.

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