header-b

Is using "compulsion" a good way to train my dog?

Compulsive training has been around for centuries and, because it is effective, many traditional trainers today still use force as their method of choice (e.g. use of an electric collar or check chain).

Other people have found, for any of the following reasons that compulsion does not work for them or their dogs as enjoyably or efficiently as do the newer and more effective techniques of positive reinforcement training - especially when used with an identyfing marker signal such as a clicker.

  • "No", by definition, is negative. "No", or the equivalent word in over 10,000 other human languages, comes with a lot of emotional body language - such as frowning and looking unpleasant.  "NO”,”NON”, “NEIN”, ‘NIET” or “NÃO”said loudly or crossly might tell a dog we are angry, have a bad attitude and are upset. But - even if it temporarily  interrupts the behaviour and may make us feel good about our dog training prowess - it does not teach a dog what to do.
  • Punishment, such as pulling on a check chain or giving an electric shock and the negative reinforcement  - when the pressure or current are turned off - teaches a dog how to learn by avoiding something harsh or unpleasant.
  • It is, however, basically unfair to teach a new behaviour by eliminating all unwanted behaviours through harsh words, reprimands, punishment and negative reinforcement. It is fairer, and far quicker, to eliminate guesswork by teaching the right behaviour first up.
  • Some owners confuse lack of response with disobedience, rather than with lack of understanding. So in frustration they increase the frequency and intensity of the punishment by shouting louder, pulling harder - sometimes both - or turning up the voltage.
  • When pain or fear are introduced into training an animal starts to wonder what is going to happen to it next. Its mind is elsewhere and so it cannot and does not concentrate properly.
  • Some dogs that seem to work brilliantly in reality just do enough to get by to avoid an unpleasant consequence.  Dogs that are compulsively trained offer minimal compliance.
  • It is quite inefficient to give hundreds, sometimes thousands, of collar corrections with a check chain in order to teach a dog to, say, 'heel'.
  • A great amount of dog training has more to do with owner's egos than with education of the dog. In reality it is abuse.
  • If dogs are punished for incorrect behaviour, they often become stressed. When they are unclear as to what is required, and are afraid, they are less likely to offer any behaviour.
  • When dogs are fearful of their owners they shut down completely to avoid unpleasant consequences. Dogs, like people, learn best when they have a good and trusting relationship and respect people rather than fear them.
  • Traditional training is often not much fun or motivating for either the owner or the dog and so can become a chore for the owner and dreaded by the dog. Consequently the drop out rate is high, all efforts at "training" cease and the dog has no option but to self-train for the rest of his/her life.

When dogs learn because they have to, they learn slowly and often soon forget. With positive reinsforcement training they enjoy learning sessions and look forward to training as one of the major fun highlights of their day. They learn quickly because they want to and they remember what they have learned.

Click here to return to list of FAQs and main menu