Coercion Vs. Motivation: Dog Training Methods

I wish people would do research whenever they get a dog.

There is so much controversy in the dog training world and while all dog training methods do work, either by motivating a dog or coercing them, all dogs should have the chance to be trained with positive reinforcement methods. While some dogs may need a shock collar or any other training tool other dogs do not.

Training tools work because they cause extreme discomfort or pain and should not be taken lightly. Training tools only force a dog to listen to you; if they ever want the extreme discomfort/ pain to go away, they’ll have no choice but to listen.

Positive Reinforcement” Trainers

Positive reinforcement methods serve to help a dog make the right choices and motivate a dog to listen to you instead of fearing that they’ll be corrected.

Positive reinforcement trainers, also known as “purely positive” trainers, value what their dogs like and do not like and listen to their dogs. They respect their dogs and do their best to keep them comfortable while rewarding them for the good behaviors. The bad behaviors are ignored or managed so the dog can’t repeat the bad behaviors, preventing self-rewarding.

Pros:

  • Builds bond, trust and confidence.
  • Focuses on what a dog likes instead of what they don’t like.
  • A happy dog who’s willing to try new things.
  • Motivates a dog.

Cons:

  • Can result in a fat dog.
  • Lack of focus by distractions (can improve with training).
  • Frustration from teaching too complex of a trick too soon (our fault).
  • Confusion from lack of clear hand signal or verbal cue (again – our fault).
  • Dog can become too reliant on reward if not properly used.

“Balanced” Trainers

Balanced trainers use all 4 quadrants: positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative punishment and negative reinforcement. They use all training tools and are okay with pushing the dog over-threshold (the point where a dog is overstimulated) and usually do not offer treats or toys but instead offers attention as a reward.

Whatever the dog does will either result in either a pleasant experience or a punishment. The only thing is, balanced trainers are supposed to do a balance of both rewards and corrections but it’s nearly impossible to do 50% reward and 50% punishment; they’ll either execute more rewards or corrections. Another thing to keep in mind: if the corrections are executed more and performed severely while the rewards are few and less value then the result will most likely be a ‘shut down’ dog. “If you are having to punishment something, then there is likely something else that you need to be reinforcing even more.”

“Traditional” Trainers

Traditional trainers or punishment based dog trainers are still around today (ahem, Cesar Millan, ahem) but are slowly being replaced by positive reinforcement trainers and balanced trainers. They use shock collars, prong collars, and/ or choke chains, just like balanced trainers. These trainers believe in being “pack leaders” and the dominance theory. They use things like alpha rolls to promote “submissiveness”.

Pros:

  • Can produce quick results.

Cons:

  • Results in a fearful dog or a ‘shut down’ dog who is afraid of trying new things in fear of being corrected.
  • A dog who is fearful of his owner.

All dog training methods work like I wrote earlier and each takes different amounts of time to achieve the desired behavior. Also, each trainer have differing views on the journey to achieve the desired behavior.

Although some people view positive reinforcement training to be ‘unrealistic’ because of our society focusing more on the negatives than the positives, it doesn’t have to be like that for our dogs. I’m sure most if not all dogs (and people!) would much rather be rewarded than punished.

The problem with coercing a dog is they might not deal with punishment and express their dislike with it by biting. Or a soft dog may deal with it and start acting aggressively toward other things in its environment. Besides, no one knows what the dog is really learning; it may actually be learning that being in that specific location (or anything in its environment; a child or dog) causes pain and the owner causes pain too.

That’s the primary are reason why I motivate instead of coerce (besides the fact that I own a sensitive dog). Springy, my leash reactive dog, is worse when I yell at her and give her leash pops but when I reward her for not reacting she is more likely to stay calm. Scooter, he and I already have a very weak bond as a result of me teaching him that I am not trustworthy; I am unpredictable and cause harm.

Also, many dogs have been traumatized by punishments but many other dogs have gotten worse with kind, gentle teachings. It all depends on the dog but they all should have a chance with being trained kindly.

Also another thing to think about: motivation is another thing to do because it can be extremely dangerous for a child (young child) and elderly person to do any sort of correction. A child may not even have enough strength to do a correction and an elderly person may have arthritis in their hands that make it painful to do a correction. A person who has a disability (depending) may not be able to do a correction either. Besides some dogs who either snap or growl if what they think is not fair; Springy for an example has bitten me twice before (one time in the face and on the side of my leg but not because of punishments) and has growled at me numerous times for moving her off the couch or bed. She, I don’t know about anymore, would be a dog most likely to attack if she thought something wasn’t fair which is another thought to think of before doing any sort of correction.

I’m not exactly trying to bash other people who use corrections and “bad” training tools because maybe that’s what you are used to or don’t know any better but this is something to think about before doing any sort of correction on a dog. I also believe anytime a person who uses corrections in dog training is being desensitized to hurting or making dogs extremely uncomfortable and your dog liking you less and less. I do know (or hope) you love your dog and want the best for them and your dog loving you but why feel like a dictator instead of a motivational leader? It’s a lot more fun then feeling like the boss all the time.

 

 

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