In today’s world filled with every conceivable type of information speeding to us from any and every source imaginable it is often hard to decipher which methods of dog training are beneficial to our dogs and their behavior. We have all been inundated with info. We have fat heads. Our brains are overweight and in desperate need of an information diet.
We need clean, wholesome, healthy information. That means we must beware overeating any foolish bit of dog training info that is out there. Remember, if a common dog training method is largely accepted and you are tempted to gulp it down please consider the many people stuffing their faces with fast food because it’s convenient, cheap, abundant, and also largely accepted!
Just because the majority believes in something doesn’t mean it is true or the best way. Always seek the natural answer when dealing with an animal.
One hot button topic many would even consider taboo is whether or not we should “correct” our dogs or pups. In this article I will give you a few good reasons to correct your dogs or pups. Reasons that line up 100% with what the dogs teach us. Reasons that line up with what any astute person can readily observe within a dog park, dog daycare, or group of three or more dogs. Reasons that come straight from the dogs! I will show you that corrections, if performed correctly, are extremely BENEFICIAL to your dog or pup!
First let’s cut through some of the crazy extremeness that exists in the dog training and behavioral community at large. When one is in search of dog training companies or behaviorists or even vets please beware any extreme dogmatism where training is concerned! Make sure the methods are based very specifically on domesticated dogs (not other random wild animals) and based on mother nature’s calming methods. And, above all, make sure the trainer or behaviorist gets tremendous results!
There should be no crazed high-pitched excitable human talk, constant giving of treats, or other foolish bribery in the dog or puppy training methods. If you (or your trainer) act that way – ask yourself, Isn’t that how a puppy acts? And if a pup acts all hyper and high-pitched and over-excited then, Who is going to take the role of leader in your relationship?
I hate to break it to you but…Dogs correct other dogs constantly. Mother and Father dog correct their young constantly. If more people just looked at the dogs honestly they’d see correcting isn’t this horrible, debilitating and negative ordeal but is instead a great tool the older, social canine uses to instruct the younger ones, teach healthy boundaries, and help calm them. This calming corrective beneficial behavior I’m mentioning can be observed anywhere!
In correcting there should be no expensive shock collars you need to purchase. There should be no unnatural things you have to throw at your dog. There should be no spraying them with anything, no tethering them to anything, no hitting them with anything, no yelling. It’s time we get away from all that human foolishness. Calmness mixed with firmness and proper spatial technique is plenty.
Dogs are NOT wild animals and should not be treated like a bear learning a trick on a movie set, or like a dolphin doing a flip to earn a fish from a tourist in Hawaii. Beware of trainers who only teach bribery and excitement or who fixate on one rigid method only (external motivation) as that is the opposite of how the mother and father dog would raise their young. Mother Nature always teaches energy control and the older socially normal canines always keep a relaxed watch over their pups. The mother and father dog (and any balanced, older canine for that matter) are not equipped with treat bags on their hips and do not use high pitched, lavish praise, when instructing their pups. They are usually monitoring the energy (like a referee) in order to keep the peace and the lead dogs always attempt to use as little energy of their own as possible.
Corrections, if done correctly, are very beneficial to puppies and dogs just as they can be beneficial to growing children. If you want to raise a healthy, well adjusted dog (or child) please don’t be an extremist that only trains with excitement and bribery and treats and don’t, on the opposite end of the spectrum, just dominate with harshness and constant physical “corrections.” Corrections should be calming to the individual being corrected! Seek out a balance. It’s OK to reward but never to bribe. It’s OK to correct but never to hurt.
Here’s a wild concept: Why don’t we look to the dogs for methods on how we should deal with our dogs? If we honestly observe them we start to see that a correction isn’t so bad when it is performed the way a balanced, older dog would perform it. In fact, it’s fantastic! I’ve discovered there is a whole art to it! It is an art form based in movement, body language, space, and energy control. A proper dog correction is the art of calmness! It is the art of proper body movement between you and your dog. And, shockingly, most times it doesn’t even involve a physical touch but is more outmaneuvering the wayward dog or puppy and then readjusting their body language until the animal is presenting a calm body position (NOT belly up) which then helps them calm their own energy and will always benefit the bond between owner and dog.
Learning to correct can be simple and is incredibly effective in fixing any and all aggression, fear, dominance, hyperactivity, and many other behavioral dilemmas. The reason that proper corrections should be learned and adopted by more trainers and behaviorists is because it lines up with exactly what dogs do to each other as standard, regular daily behavior. When an older dog is surrounded by other dogs they are communicating often through pattern interrupts/corrections in order to keep the peace for the benefit of the group and in order to instruct their young. It is nature’s way and it is actual phenomenal energy conservation. Another huge reason correcting (when done properly – which I’ve discovered unfortunately it seldom is) is fantastic due to the fact that it actually works and saves times and energy. The mother dog uses ignoring or extreme focused attention and then right back to ignoring when correcting her young. She is a remarkable energy saver.
The ideal correction is a beautiful thing to behold because it keeps the peace, calms the energy, and seconds later, lets the game or activity continue on almost as if nothing ever happened. It is never overboard or emotional and yet there is an intense focus to it when applied the right way. It is always followed by calmness. I sometimes equate it to getting a foul in basketball. If you are a b-ball player and you receive a foul you don’t take it and let it get you down, you don’t play the rest of the game on pins and needles out of fear. Hopefully, you learn from it and quickly move on and get your head back in the game. You don’t totally ignore the foul either because you are aware that if you get 5 fouls you are out of the game and of no use to your team/pack. So when a foul is called – You stop playing the ball game for a second, think it over, and then resume play. It is exactly the same with a good, calming correction that is perfectly timed.
Do you see what I’m getting at? Giving a dog or pup a “correction” isn’t done to intimidate the dog or belittle it or prove you are a macho “Alpha,” it is done to help guide the pup into a healthier relationship with you and/or its surroundings. A correction is not abusive – it is good parenting. (BTW never hang the dog, or roll it, or beat it, etc. Most folks apply their corrections dead wrong!) A proper correction should always be done to improve the animal’s spirit. It makes for a better dog. Like a sculptor chipping away at unnecessary pieces of marble you can chip away at mis-behaviors and unsocial habits in your dog or pup to reveal the true spirit and energy of a socially brilliant and beautiful animal.
Use spatial pressure and tension so that you can then release it and give the dog access to a self soothing calming signal. If you aren’t correcting the right way your relationship is imbalanced in the respect or trust category and behavioral issues will be the result. The guitar needs the right tension on the guitar strings to keep it in tune…too much tension is horrible, it pops the strings. Not enough tension and you can’t make any music! Learn to correct and you’ll have real resonance with your dog.
Remember a correction should never create fear or aggression. We don’t want a pathetic, super-submissive dog. Does this mean we stop controlling an out of control dog? No – we must seize control as a calm, wonderful leader always does in an out of control situation but our goal should always be better relationship and calmness because we also don’t want a dominant, hyper brat for a dog. The correction should get the dog’s attention. I seldom need to correct a dog with a leash. I often correct a dog by getting in his/her way spatially and backing them up a bit. When correcting you are attempting to cut off any misbehavior at the earliest identifiable outset. This makes it much gentler and easier on everyone. And if you can match their energy level you can communicate what you want or what you don’t want much clearer and more effectively. If you do not match the dog’s energy initially their energy will keep escalating into higher and higher unsocial levels. Learning the art of calming/correcting/claiming takes time. Mastering it takes proper observation of nature, dogs, people and years of experience. But rest assured, Dear Reader, it will come with practice, persistence, and patience.
If I could sit you down and teach you the language of Dog (like French or Italian) the word for correct would be the same exact word for calm and the same exact word for claim. Correct = Calm. Correct = Claim. Claim = Calm.
Your dog will always tell you honestly what it needs. Let’s build a relationship with our dogs based on respect and trust instead of bribes or brutality. Let’s seek out maturity instead of just motivation. Let’s make music!
Give me a call but do so only after reading my book on dog and human behavior, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You! (available wherever books are sold! Check out the stellar reviews on Amazon!)