Choosing Dog Training Methods

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Choosing Dog Training Methods

Before choosing a particular training method, carefully examine the technique to
ensure that it will communicate proper associations. Certain methods may not
communicate what you intend. A dog-aggressive Akita was enrolled in a training
program that his owner thought was reputable. The trainer convinced the owner
that the only way to break the Akita of aggression toward other dogs was to let a
more dominant dog put him in his place. The trainer's dog displayed dominance
toward other dogs, so she placed him in a room with the Akita and left the two
dogs to work things out. When the trainer heard a window crashing, she opened
the door to find that her dog was injured, and the Akita had been richly rewarded
for his aggressive behavior with a nice victory under his collar.

If this method does not make sense to you, it probably won't make sense to the
dog, either. One trainer sent around a flyer giving free advice to the general
public on how to stop dogs from digging. The trainer suggested filling the newly
dug hole with water and taking the dog over to the hole by the scruff of the neck
to dunk his head in the water filled-hole. The next sentence on this flyer
cautioned the owner that the dunking probably would not stop the dog from
digging; instead, forcing the dog down to the water by the scruff of the neck was
a demonstration of dominance, a root cure-all for problem behavior. The trainer
thought through the method far enough to figure out that the water would have no
effect on future digging. Unfortunately, he did not explain that the dog would
learn to mistrust his owner for trying to drown him. Shortly after this flyer was
distributed, another trainer was indicted for animal abuse for employing this very
correction technique.

Occasionally, even thinking through a method does not result in a clear
understanding of how it works. One day a fellow drove up to class in a pickup
with his dog in the back. The dog trainer explained to him that it was very
dangerous to have the dog in the back of an open pickup. He went through the
normal lecture on how the dog's nose and eyes could be damaged from debris in
the air, the danger of the dog being thrown out of the truck in an accident, etc.
The fellow proudly said, "I fixed the dog from jumping out of the truck. He was
jumping out and I would throw him back in. We did this for five or six times when
I finally got really mad and threw him in the truck for the seventh time and stuffed
a piece of horse manure in his mouth for good measure. After that the dog never
jumped out again, and the next time he does something bad, I am going to use
that manure trick again."

It was really hard to determine if the dog stopped jumping out of the truck
because he got tired of being thrown back in, or if he was grateful for the gourmet
horse manure treat. If you are not sure about exactly how or why a method
works, it is probably best to avoid the technique altogether. Even the most
popular methods use techniques that may not be suited for every breed or
temperament of dog. A trainer who evaluates each method based on the
efficacy of the associations and motivators will be better equipped to match the
appropriate obedience method with the dog's individual temperament.

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