Good dog training should follow the three E’s

There are many ways to effectively teach a dog.

Not so long ago, most of the accepted methods for training were forceful or aversive. Unfortunately, some of these methods still are in use among the abusive and uneducated.

One of the pioneers of gentle training techniques was Barbara Woodhouse. This English dog trainer was instrumental in paving the way for today’s nonaversive and positive methods of training. She was a genius at molding behaviors with lures and gently “modeling” a dog into positions without force. But even Woodhouse used some techniques that can be considered rough by today’s standards.

If you have researched dog-training methodologies at all, you probably have noticed that a percentage of the available training books advocate the use of a “choke chain” (otherwise called the training collar). When used properly, this training device relies on aversion to get the dog’s attention or to make a correction when your dog doesn’t respond to a command correctly. A sharp snap of the leash tightens the collar around the dog’s neck, startling the dog with a momentary, low-level pain.

The choke chain is not a training device for leash pullers, as is commonly thought, and when used incorrectly can, at the least, cause misalignment of the spine and trachea damage. At worst, it can cause brain damage and even death. Because there is such a high risk for misuse of this device (you may not realize that the choke chain should be worn with the free ring up, for instance), the training world probably would be much better off without it.

Your efforts to train your dog should focus on building a bond and nurturing trust. This bond becomes the motivator that drives your dog to learn, focus and respond.

Why would anyone want to use force or violence when positive reinforcement works so well? Why should your dog trust you if he knows that you are likely to hit him when he is unfocused or confused? That’s like your supervisor yelling at you when you have problems with a difficult task. Stress won’t help you concentrate or focus better. Abusive treatment of dogs in the name of training, just as abusive handling of employees in the name of supervision, doesn’t work. It does, however, tell us a lot about the trainer.

For any method of dog training to be successful, it must be:

Effective – If it’s not effective, what’s the point?

Efficient – Both you and your dog will become frustrated if training takes too long.

Enjoyable – Fun is an important ingredient in motivating both you and your dog.

The proper execution of any training program is dependent on these three ingredients.

But, ultimately, the most important ingredient in your training program is you, the owner. The trust you nurture in your dog will be evident in his willingness to look to you for leadership and his motivation to work with you in any and all situations. Those qualities are in your dog right now but cannot be developed through the use of harsh training methods.

Dog training can be whatever you want it to be. If you rely on anger and force, the relationship and trust will suffer. If you rely on motivation and reward, while providing appropriate consequences for misdeeds, training just gets better and better.

Julie Winkelman is a certified pet dog trainer and a certified dog trainer. Reach her at www.alphacanineacademy.com.