Training: The Rules Have Changed

Post written by Trish Manche

Dominance, Alpha, Pack Leader?!?!? Are these familiar terms to you? Times have changed!

I had a cocker spaniel years ago that would dump the kitchen trash and shred it everywhere when we left him at the apartment. I didn’t have any experience with kenneling or any dog training. It used to make me angry to walk in and see it, but even more heartbreaking was seeing the dog go from so happy to see me to “Oops, she sees what I did”. I’ll be the first to admit, I was young, inexperienced, and did not know how to handle the situation. You could look for books at the library, but no internet back then. Even now with the internet, there are lots of people on all avenues of social media who claim to be experts and will tell you they know the exact secret of how to train your dog. Even the books on training have changed from what the theme was back then.

All dogs can benefit from a minimum of training. A few years ago, everyone thought the way to train a dog was to be an alpha (a pack leader) to your dog. Harsh correction in some cases and domination over the dog. Some elements are more aggressive than others. I remember being taught the shaker can method years ago, which is used to startle the dog to interrupt a behavior. There is a dog trainer featured on TV who attaches a shoe to the dog’s collar to stop the dog from chewing shoes. I’ve also heard of the use of prong collars, choke collars, or shock collars for control. Also collars that spray the dog’s face with liquid to stop barking, and other archaic methods.

These ideas and practices were widely accepted at the time and some still believe this is the proper way. These ways seemed effective and for a time, corrected the dogs behavior. This method was more teaching the dog that for certain actions, there were consequences. While there are still trainers, including celebrity trainers, who use these methods. Are they what’s best for the dog? Experts now think they are not. Also, does this really help build a bond or relationship with your dog?

More recently, dog experts and trainers have moved to a more scientific based training. It’s not control, but communication. Education is the key to success in teaching a dog about what to expect from the world around them. It’s building a relationship with your dog that will benefit both ends of the leash. Dogs, just like people, want to do what’s in their best interest, but they also want to know what to expect from day to day from their handlers. These methods teach the dog how to make the right decision. This provides structure in their lives and helps to build trust. There are things we can do to encourage them to move toward the behavior we want to see by using high value treats or a treasured toy. Some dogs are food motivated, some are toy motivated, and there are even some dogs who crave praise and attention. You have to find out what works best for you and your dog.

The training goals are confidence, comfort, and communication, these will help you build a strong bond with your dog. Training is bonding.

My thanks to Griffin Ballard for his contribution and recommendations for this post.

Please note the  information shared in this blog post is certainly the belief of the author, but may not be representative of TMHPR and their leadership.

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