Thursday, April 11, 2013

Aversive Training Tools vs. Positive Training Tools

I often hear clients or other trainers say that they want training "without bribing the dog with treats". They say "I want my dog to behave because he loves me and wants to work for me". However, they then often slap a shock collar (e-collar), prong collar, or choke chain on the dog. I could go into the many reasons that these methods are the exact opposite of getting the dog to work for you because he "loves" you, but that is covered in many different writings (see:

Instead my focus here will be on the fact that ANY tool that you use to train (corrective collars, aversive tools, treats, play, etc.) have to be faded away from.

  •  When you use a tool to train a dog the goal is to eventually be able to work your dog without it, and that requires fading it out of the training system. Getting rid of the tool that was used to initially train the dog is the same regardless if what the tool is. Gradually you work without the tools when behaviors are consistent, and if there is regression you bring the tools back for a short period of time. When you teach a new behavior, you reintroduce the tool to help the dog learn. It is easy to become addicted to the tools (keeping a corrective training collar on the dog for the rest of its life, or using treats every time you want a behavior), but the fallout is still the same if you don't fade it out properly; the dog won't behave the way you want it to without the tool.
  • There is no magic trick, no short cut to dog training; it requires a clear set of rules, consistency, and good timing, to work effectively.

Personally, I prefer the method that makes my dog and myself happy, that keeps our relationship positive, and has the least amount of side effects possible. I prefer to use treats in training because I can fade them away and still have consistent behaviors at the same time as having a happy dog, who is not stressed, and wants to work with me. My happiest moments are those when I see how happy the dogs are to be coming to training class; even those who initially were scared, unsure, or aggressive. As a dog owner I want training to be a fun and pleasant experience for myself and my dog, after all, isn't that the whole point of having a dog?

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