Let's talk about corrections in dog training

While working with a private client recently, we ran into another local Chicago trainer. It was interesting, because we were both teaching our clients the exact same lesson, using different philosophies. The goal was to have our dogs meet each other calmly. My client and I were walking a 2 year old wheaten terrier, and the other trainer and his client each had a dog that they were working with.

I used one of many strategies to get Misty to greet nicely. In this case, I asked her to watch me. Each time she watched me, she got to move a bit closer to the other dog. At a certain point I "lost her" and I moved her gently away and started again. So much of this strategy revolves around two things. Teaching a dog to pay attention and not be single-minded on the other dog and also through repetition teach her to "ask for permission" by checking in before greetings.

As we got closer to the other trainer and the two dogs, I noticed that each dog was wearing a choke chain. Anyone that knows me knows that I do not ever recommend using one of these "tools" for training. By definition, it adds pain to stop a behavior. This is called positive punishment. Often trainers will incorrectly label it negative reinforcement which is something different.

I heard the trainer tell his client that her dog should greet another dog on her terms and that she should "correct" him if he gets up from his sit too quickly. While I did not see her actually do this, this often means giving a pop with the leash to stop the dog's forward movement using the discomfort of the choke chain to help this happen.

On my way home I thought how unfortunate it was that while we were all teaching our dogs the same lesson, the word "correction" in the other trainer's case refers to adding discomfort or pain in the lesson. In my lessons, I "correct" a dog's actions by gently moving her away from her current location until she is able to focus on the task at hand and then continue the lesson.

The most troubling aspect of the word "correction" used in the physical sense is that it implies that there is a clear "right" and "wrong" and it is ok to punish dogs if they make the wrong decision. My strategy focuses on making sure that dogs understand what is expected of them and I encourage, motivate and reward the right decisions. If they make a "mistake" I don't hold it against them or decide that they are wrong.

I look at the whole picture including the current location, the age of the dog, the amount of training the dog has had and adjust my expectations from there.

Latest Blog Posts

How to safely take your dog to a dog park

With summer weather finally here in Chicago, it is time to start thinking about more frequent trips to the dog park. You might feel uneasy when your dog plays with other dogs. Hopefully this...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-20 15:42:00
  • Hits 16591

How long should dog training sessions last?

Did you know it is better to practice short training sessions and stop when your dog still wants more? This strategy will keep training interesting and you will avoid over training.
  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-06 19:36:00
  • Hits 28685

Positive reinforcement dog training strategies

Did you know that there are different styles of training within the positive reinforcement "camp"? There are trainers that only use one style and others (like myself) use many different strategies...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-09 12:48:00
  • Hits 26599

Your dog is acting weird? It might be a physical problem

I received two calls this week that that reminded me about the importance of making sure a dog is physically healthy before I recommend training strategies. One call was in regards to a 3-year old...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-15 04:06:15
  • Hits 27447

The PETA Founder - I Am An Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA

I just finished watching the documentary about Ingrid Newkirk, the co-founder of PETA. I really did not know much about her or her organization before this except for the various news stories that...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-17 14:21:00
  • Hits 56904

Your dog is stubborn? Here are some tips.

Stubborn is used frequently to describe dogs that don't perform a task that is asked of them. Maybe the dog is pulling on his leash, maybe he doesn't lie down when cued, or maybe he lies down when...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-28 12:57:00
  • Hits 27759

How old should a dog be before he can be out of the crate?

Wouldn't it be great if you could just sit a dog down and say, "Welcome to the house. Let's have an arrangement. I will walk you, play with you, feed you good food and give you medical care. The...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-30 15:04:00
  • Hits 29118

Should you use alpha rolls? No.

When I am working with my clients, I focus on determining what strategies are most effective with each individual dog. I have found certain techniques to be extremely effective and I also see...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-27 03:34:01
  • Hits 23548

Do you say, "No!" to your dog alot?

"No" (which means don't jump on the guests)."No" (which means don't chew on the couch)."No" (which means stop barking)Sound familiar?
  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-03 19:10:49
  • Hits 17949

Common dog training questions

I frequently hear very similar questions from multiple clients. I also have random dog training thoughts that come to mind that might not lend themselves to a complete blog post. So, I thought I...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-25 14:15:00
  • Hits 39836