Chicago Paws Dog Training Blog

Covers positive reinforcement dog training strategies and tips. Jeff strongly believes that positive reinforcement training is the only option and he is a vocal critic of other methods. You can also find product and book reviews and clicker training tips.

Choke chains can increase dog aggression

I got a sad call from a new client recently. She said her dog was showing signs of dog-dog aggression and, from the advice of someone in the dog park, she hired a trainer that uses choke chains. She said initially the training wasn't too physical, but she ended up firing him because of his increasingly abusive techniques when dogs were around her dog.

She noticed that since those sessions, her dog has gotten worse, and more anxious when dogs come into view. I was not surprised and told her that is one of my main reasons for never recommending physical, or fear-based training.

From a learning perspective this is what can happen and probably happened in this case:

  • Her dog showed signs of aggression
  • She got "popped" with the choke chain which is called "positive punishment" (many people and trainers incorrectly call this "negative reinforcement")
  • The pain possibly stopped her barking, but actually increased the anxiety (she was anxious about dogs coming into view because now it meant pain for her)
  • Her behavior escalated over time because now she became anxious about getting anxious. The way I explain this is that the pattern has been consistent that she will bark at some point, and now she has to worry about two things: the dog and the pain associated with the dog
  • She can't win. Either she shows anxiety and gets choked, or she has to quietly endure a situation that causes her fear

Just remember, dogs react to things that they are afraid of. If you use physical methods, you might get your dog to not bark, but the anxiety will still be there.

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