Written by Christine Durrant, Professional Dog Trainer and Pet Care Consultant
Every time we interact with our pets we can come from a place of understanding (love) or from impatience/anger (fear). In return, we instill the same in them. Do you want your dog to stop jumping on people by using force (knee to the chest) or, by teaching them to sit when asked instead? I can tell you that the knee to the chest might work temporarily by stunning or scaring them (although it will confuse the dog) but it may also create a fear of knees, legs, feet and people. In contrast, asking for a sit teaches your dog impulse control and manners. The choices you make in how you train your dog can have long lasting implications so I urge you to choose carefully. My motto is “Reward the good, ignore the bad”. You will get more of what you reward and less of what you don’t want if you ignore it. If it’s something you can’t ignore, teach your dog what to do instead.
An example: I was helping a friend’s mom train her puppy the other day. We were working on sit and I was patiently waiting for the pup to complete the request because I know that dogs learn best when they get to make choices. The woman turned to me and asked, “Do you ever get mad and just yell at the dog?”. I said, “No. That could cause the dog to have resistance to sitting”. The last thing I want to create in a dog is resistance. I also don’t want them “performing” for me to avoid punishment. I want them to LEARN the commands and also that I am a secure and trustful person. I don’t want dogs to fear me, I want them to trust that I have their best interests in mind at all times. There is magic in that and it’s one of the best parts of knowing dogs.
Training a dog using positive reinforcement creates a stronger bond, a deep understanding for one another and a permanent means to change ANY unwanted behavior. It can be compared to spanking a child compared to explaining to them why what they did was wrong. Sure, you can spank a child to hurt them and make them “remember” or you can talk to them and come to an understanding of why what they did was wrong and how to avoid it in the future. The communication may take longer but it very well may save much time in the future and when you have a teenager they might even feel safe and comfortable to come to you with ANY problem (we can hope!). I’m not completely against punishments, time-outs and loosing privileges have a place but it’s all about the delivery – is it done in anger or love?
Some people want a quick fix but I would like you to know that’s it’s well worth learning about your dog, what motivates them, brings them joy. Use this to help them learn new behaviors and eliminate less desired ones.
Have fun and enjoy your time with your dog!