The Seven Deadly Sins of Dog Training
These "Seven Deadly Sins" of maltraining are guaranteed behavior-killers, techniques which will poison your relationship with your dog and end up having negative or unintended consequences. Know the landscape...and stay away from these land mines!!
- Hitting Your Dog ~ Nope, don't do it, not ever. And no, this isn't some bleeding-heart admonishment based on disapproval, this is simply a recognition of what works and what doesn't. Inflicting pain is simply not an effective method of communicating disapproval. This is true of ANY species, including humans. But think about it: between two species that don't have the benefit of verbal communication, it's even MORE mystifying. We can't "explain" to Rex why we're swatting him with a rolled-up newspaper. He doesn't "understand" the concept of punishment, he only knows that you've suddenly become violent and can't be trusted. And, if you keep up this strange and threatening behavior, he might have to resort to biting you to protect himself. Is this really the relationship you want with your pet? Of course not. Effective training has nothing to do with inflicting physical punishment. It doesn't work, and it usually makes things worse.
- Using Their Kennel / Crate As Time-Out Zone ~ One of the essential benefits of crate training is that your dog comes to rely on his/her kennel as a "safe place", a place to go and relax. If you want your dog to go to their crate willingly, you'll never use it as a place to stick them when they've "been bad". By doing so, you're creating negative associations to the very place they *should* think of as "bed". Then, you'll have trouble getting them to go to their crates willingly. More unintended consequences.
- Scolding / Yelling / Raising Your Voice ~ I completely understand the reasoning for shouting at a dog who is running out into the street, but I don't get why some people yell at their dogs inside or when they're angry. The only effect this has is to startle or frighten them. Dogs can learn certain words and cues, but when you shout them you're attaching a tone of harshness and anger that can trigger the fear mechanism and put them on the defensive. Ideally, we will always talk to our dog in a friendly voice, even to express disapproval. They won't "hear" your "oops" or "oh-oh" if you scream it at them, they'll only hear the scary voice. Everybody's heard of "The Dog Whisperer". There is no "Dog Screamer".
- Assuming Bad Behavior is Based on Dominance Assertion ~ No, no, no. Your dog doesn't want to rule over you. He just wants to get petted and eat tasty treats, maybe chase a squirrel now and then. Dogs aren't complicated. And when you come home to find the couch chewed up or a turd in the middle of the bed, they're not "mad at you". Please. They're just trying to figure out how to handle their boredom, or confusion, or fear of being left alone. Go ahead, show out next time you come home to find something amiss. I guarantee you it will change their behavior. They'll do it MORE, and learn to fear you when you come home.
- Rubbing Their Nose In Their Excrement / Urine ~ See This? Bad Dog!! Oh yeah, they "see" it. Hell man they did it why would you think they don't see it? I'm being facetious, but that's closer to a dog's thought process. We humans want to communicate "Don't do this here, this is bad, but..." It's the "but" that gets us. The dog will likely understand that you're mad because they pooped. The fact that it's okay to poop outside but not on the expensive Persian rug escapes them. So, now they know you get mad when they poop. Congratulations. They'll just hide it from you from now on. Here, I'll just poop in this laundry basket, they'll never find it there.
- Taking Away Treats / Toys While They're Eating / Playing With Them ~ This is one of those ridiculous "Establish Your Dominance" tricks made popular by the appalling Cesar Milan, and it's not only harmful, it's potentially dangerous. Yes, you DO want your dog to trust you enough not to be food-aggressive in your presence, but you're not going to "teach them a lesson" by taking things away from them while they're into them. You're just going to teach them that you're a bully, and nobody likes a bully. Especially dogs. And dogs have teeth. Don't try this at home, or anywhere for that matter.
- The Alpha Roll ~ And finally, this bit of idiocy. Like Number 6 above, it's often touted as a way to assert your dominance over your dog. And indeed it does. The problem is dog's don't give a whit for dominance, that's a myth. Humans do, and when they try to assert it by forcefully rolling their dogs over on their back and covering them they're simply making their dogs panic and retreat into fear-reactivity. Or worse: fear-aggression. The Alpha Roll has never succeeded in strengthening a bond with a pet companion, but it HAS sent a few practitioners to the hospital. And a few dogs to the vet for a lethal injection.
I know most of my clients pretty well, and I know most all of you would never do anything on purpose to harm your relationship with your pet. That's why I wrote this article. Many of the things listed above are actually taught as valid methods of training. They're not, and using them is not only ineffective, it will erode the bond you've established with your furkid. Don't go there: count to 10, check your anger, and remember that your goal is to have a Well-Behaved Dog. Not one who cowers in fear when you approach. Choose the positive approach, avoid these Seven Deadly Sins, and remember the Doggie Golden Rule: Wag More, Bark Less. It's all about the love, after all.