Correction vs. Abuse
Updated: Dec 29, 2018
As a balanced trainer I read and see a lot of misconceptions, hate and outright ignorance on what correcting a dog is, and should be. For those of you who are unaware of what a balanced trainer is, it is an individual who uses (rewards) affection via toys, food, and touch for positive behaviors and corrects a dog for dangerous and unhealthy behavior. I don’t really enjoy labeling or categorizing myself because I don’t believe what I do is binary but if it helps the audience understand how I work dogs, then fine, I’ll label it.
Now you may be wondering, what’s a correction to a dog? What does it look like? Don’t you beat and instill fear into dogs when you correct them? Isn’t it mean to correct a dog? Do you hate dogs or something?? The short answer to the last three questions is absolutely not! There are many different types of corrections but they all come from the same source; calm assertive energy. Corrections can be verbal (a sharp “no!”), physical touch (via leash pop, prong collar or light touch to a dog), leash pressure or spacial pressure, and finally a remote correction via vibrate collar, skat mat, etc. Intensity varies whether it’s a pop of a leash, touch or remote vibrate and the second the dog snaps out of it and calms down we flood them with praise and affection. We stop the dangerous behavior and praise the good stuff.
There is a lot of buzz out there in the dog training industry that is wrong to say “no” to a dog, and that correcting an aggressive dog makes it worse, which sadly, couldn’t be further from the truth. What created an aggressive dog in the first place was not saying “no” when the dog needed proper structure, boundaries and fulfillment. When puppies are born they receive rules, boundaries and limitations from their mom and litter mates. They are told when to eat, sleep, and play. There isn’t a minute of their lives not accounted for.
When dogs and puppies enter our home it’s up to us to create the same rules and structure for a dog, which includes telling an unruly dog no (in a way that he/she understands of course). Without the proper guidance, because that’s EXACTLY what rules and structure are, we create an unbalanced dog who is confused and frustrated.
When we tell a dog no, whether it’s verbal or a leash correction or withholding a treat, we shouldn’t be angry, we shouldn’t be hesitant, we can’t be frustrated or nervous. But you see, people only say “no” when they’re fed up and frustrated with a dog, so they yell and scream and sometimes even hit a dog out of negative emotion. That’s why you have people saying that touching a dog to snap them out of attacking another dog or person is “abuse” because they aren’t coming from a calm and confident place. They’re letting their negative emotions control how they interact with the dog instead of understanding the dog and showing him how to be calm in a way he understands.
Those people have never, and never will work with aggressive and out of control dogs because they want to put a band aid on the problem, they want to blame the dog, the owner, the circumstances and they never truly want to heal the dog. When a dog is trying to kill another dog you know what these “trainers” or positive reinforcement only people say? Put the dog down, put him or her on medication, quarantine that dog for the rest of its life to avoid triggers. How in the hell is that a solution? Telling no to a dog is the healthier form of communication. Where a dog is so confused, so out of control and someone finally says, “Look, hey, there is another way to react in this situation, you’ve got another choice.” That’s “abuse”?
What’s abusive is allowing a dog to have a psychological problem for the rest of its life and then blaming the dog for that problem when it was a human who created it and it’s a human who must fix it and NOT through baby-talk, snuggles and treats.
I explain it this way to my clients, if your son/daughter/niece/nephew etc punches their sibling in the face are you going to say, “Here’s 20 bucks PLEASE don’t hit your sister again”? I sure as hell hope not. What you’re going to do is punish your child and explain to them how unacceptable that behavior is. That is exactly what we do to a dog who is unbalanced and out of control. We let them know that’s not an acceptable way of dealing with the situation without physically or psychologically harming them. Our corrections come from a place of love, calmness and confidence. Not from impatient angry, annoyed or fearful energy. I believe in correcting into calmness. When people hear "correction" it has such a negative connotation but my corrections are only guiding and teaching a dog with the unconditional understanding I have for them.
Dogs use their mouths to correct one another. They don’t throw treats at one another, they don’t bribe one another into certain physical positions, they give touch corrections with their mouths, verbal with growling and eye contact to let other dogs know how to be. Do you think this is abuse? No? Ok, great. Well then there’s the argument that dogs know we’re not dogs so we can’t communicate with them that way. What? I’m sorry, what? Why do we attempt to communicate to every other species in a way they understand but not dogs?
I understand the argument that if you give dogs treats over time to which they have negative associations with that the concept is, they’ll associate it with something positive. Instead what’s happening is the handler is giving affection (through treats) to a dog in the wrong state of mind. Meaning, we only want to give affection when a dog is doing something positive because studies show that dogs repeat behaviors when they’re given affection during those behaviors. So, if we use that theory, when a dog is fearful and aggressive, and we try and bribe him /her with treats, we are giving food and affection to the WRONG state of mind and behavior. We actually increase the chances of the dog becoming more reactive. The last time they got yummy treats was when they were misbehaving. That’s how dogs associate it.
Dogs look at us for guidance, they 100% rely on us for all of their needs; physical and psychological. Why would we not communicate with them in a way THEY understand? If someone is speaking Spanish and you’re speaking English and they have no way of learning English, then I’m positive you’re going to figure out a way to learn Spanish, so you can explain to them what you’re saying.
I believe people are moving away from accountability and they avoid facing something negative they’ve created. Blaming the dog is a lot easier than taking accountability to the fact that you created that dog and that no dog is born out of balance and aggressive or out of control (excuse the RARE , very very very rare occasional of true neurotic illness). We’re moving away from saying “No” not only to dogs but to people in fear of coming off mean and intolerant but the word “no” is the only way we keep people and animals in check. We say no out of love and empathy not from a place of negativity.
Brianna Dick Pack Leader Help LLC Packleaderhelp.com