I believe that the approach to training dogs should be the same as a doctor’s approach to medicine – First, do no harm.
I have always had excellent results when training dogs using this approach.
If I have to use pain to communicate to a dog what I want from them, then I am the one who is falling short, not my dog.
Dogs are one of nature’s easiest to please creatures, they require little from us in return for their obedience and companionship.
If you find yourself turning to painful training methods like prong collars, shock collars, or pinch collars, then perhaps it is time to reconsider your method of communication with your dog.
What do I mean when I say that you should “reconsider your method of communication”?
Let me explain.
Whether you use punishment or praise you can get a dog to do what you want them to do. Why? Because a dog’s goal is to please.
So, what is the difference if both approaches to training are going to get you what you want from your dog?
The Answer Lies in Psychology
We all have an innate need to feel secure and safe. When we experience positive reinforcement such as praise, these needs are being met. We feel satisfied.
When we experience negative reinforcement such as pain, however, these needs are not being met. Our sense of security is being tested.
We are still going to do what is asked of us because we want to avoid punishment or to feel the pleasure that comes with the completion of a task.
The problem, though, lies in the underlying message of your training approach.
When you reward your dog for desired behavior you are providing them with a sense of security as well as letting them know that they have pleased you. This leaves your dog feeling safe, accomplished, and happy.
When you punish your dog for not performing desired behaviors, you are telling them that they have failed you. Your dog is not able to comprehend why they have failed you or what they did incorrectly, but they do understand that they have failed at keeping you happy and that their sense of security is being threatened.
So Where Do Prong Collars, Shock Collars, and Pinch Collars Come In?
When you use prong collars, shock collars, and pinch collars to train your dog you are using a form of negative reinforcement. You are relying on pain to tell your dog that what they are doing is undesirable.
I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they “have” to use these types of negative reinforcement tools because their dog is “stubborn,” “too strong,” or that the tools are for their dog’s “own safety.” What this actually means is that they have yet to find the correct way to communicate with their dog.
All dogs have a “driving force.” For collie’s this is often a tennis ball, for Lab’s it’s usually food, and for shelter dogs it can be as simple as petting. Of course, every dog is different, but the fact remains that if you want your dog to do what you are asking, you need to speak to them in a way that reaffirms their value to you and your value to them. The best way to do this is by tapping into that dog’s driving force.
This is the principle of positive reinforcement at work and I can guarantee that you will see a much more fruitful relationship with your dog when you put it into action.