Training with treats, praise, and toys is a reward-based system.  Training with such things as collar corrections, ear pinches, and shocks  is a punishment-based system.  Let’s start with you, the dog owner.  Think of what it was like the last time you learned something new.  Or think of something you learned years ago that was not easy.  For me, that would be tennis.

If my tennis teacher had put a shock collar on me and gave me a few volts every time I made a mistake, I would have been plenty bruised, both physically and mentally, and wouldn’t have learned tennis.   I made plenty of mistakes, and I should have.  I was learning!  Even without the shock collar, if the instructor used nothing but language and tone to shout at me about my mistakes, it would be a very disheartening, ugly learning environment and experience.

I had a few tennis coaches, and the one that brought out the best in me was a very positive, upbeat instructor.  He complimented my good shots right then and there as I made them, and when I fumbled, he either passed a quick remark about what I did or said “Oops, next time.”  If next time I still made the mistake, he backed off the big picture, and  we stepped back to focus on the mechanics problem, till we fixed it.  Encouragement and results fueled my motivation.  I looked forward to our lessons and learning.

Now let’s turn this same philosophy to our dogs.  Dogs are a lot like us in many ways, and they accelerate when learning is fair and fun. Thanks to the work of such experts as Karen Pryor and Ian Dunbar, approaches to dog training are more rewarding for both the dog and handler. They have moved us from a mentality of forcing and coercing dogs into submission into creating a partnership with our canine family member.  They have taught us to be fair and encouraging as we facilitate the success of our canine partners and help them work and think through learning hurdles.   That’s a big deal.

Teach your dog by way of encouragement and kindness.  Step back when your dog doesn’t understand and go back to a place where he does get it.  Then move forward at his pace from there.   The worst that can happen is you give your dog some extra treats and praise.  That will never harm your relationship with your dog or your dog’s trust in you.  And that sort of training will never haunt you.  That’s a big deal, too.

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