Every day as I scroll through my social media feed,I see "trainers" offering services that provide dramatic change in
just one session, "quickly stop your large dog from pulling", " get the focus you want instantly", "stop that barking today"...and so on.
It's clickbait just like those ads that tell youthey can show you how to “earn 5 figures a month with this new method” or can help you “lose 5 stone by adding this one thing to your diet”.
To actually achieve real change that stands the test of time we need to invest time and effort and deep down we all know that. Sure, we can make short-term changes that initially show results but maintaining that change requires commitment and consistency.
When you see dramatic changes in the behaviour of a dog happen apparently instantly or overnight this should raise a red flag. How is this being achieved?
If it's with the use of a piece of equipment, such as choke chain, prong collar, spray collar, shock collar or with leash jerks and alpha rolls, then the answer is by using force, fear and/or pain.
“But it works! (and I only had to spray, choke or electrocute my dog once). My dog still wears the collar, but I don't actually use it anymore.”
*Trigger warning. Reference to domestic abuse.
If you haven't witnessed domestic violence in reallife, then you will have watched a movie where the battered wife walks on eggshells around her abusive husband for fear of getting something wrong. He tells her he loves her and buys her expensive gifts but she knows that one mistake could set him off and result in a beating.
We all know this is wrong. We all know this isn't true love. Yet everyday this is exactly how someone is treating their dog. These dogs rarely properly relax around these humans or when wearing these devices because they know something bad could happen at any moment.
Training ethically takes time and effort and depending on what you’re working on changes generally won't happen instantly but do happen quickly enough provided you're willing to invest time and effort into your training.
It's not sexy and it's not quick but it will last a lifetime and has the hidden benefit of simultaneously forging a better relationship with your dog without the unwanted fallout that occurs when using pain, force or fear.
You see there is a hidden cost when you choose a quick fix. Remember the battered wife. How does she feel about her abuser, really? Sure, she has nice things and there are happy times, but she never knows when that's about to change. Like the dog wearing a choke, prong, spray or shock collar or the dog just waiting to be jerked or alpha rolled, they're both aware that everything could change in an instant. That's how this kind of training works using fear, the fear of being hurt.
Experiencing that level of stress, fear, and suppression each day has not only a physical effect on the body but a mental
one too. A dog will either shut down and comply in a state of learned helplessness or the dog’s behaviour will escalate resulting in aggressive, sometimes dangerous, behaviour in a bid to make it stop and/or escape.
Choosing to train ethically doesn’t mean you’re going to let your dog get away with murder. You might use management to stop your dog from being able to practice unwanted behaviour in conjunction with a training plan and you may even use punishment (which, for example, might look like moving away from your dog when they jump up) but it will NEVER involve, hurting, frightening or intimidating your dog and will usually be quickly followed up with some positive
reinforcement as soon as your dog gets it right.
Resorting to violence in order to train a dog shows a massive gap in education and skill and if a “professional” trainer ever suggests you use these methods I would recommend cancelling their services and finding an ethical trainer instead, before they lay a hand on your dog.
Thankfully, it is no longer acceptable to raise a hand to our children and spouses but when will that be true for the animals we live with and also call family?