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Training Methods - Traditional Training

Humans grow up with correction and punishment as the norm: "if you do this or don't do that something unpleasant will happen to you!" - e. g. being smacked, beaten, shouted at, told we will go to hell instead of heaven, fined, sent to prison, whipped, tortured or - the final punishment - hanged.

It is no wonder that generation after generation of animal owners all over the world, who know no other way, have for centuries used similar 'training' methods to train their beasts of burden and their domestic pets. Many people will continue to do so. Why?

For two reasons:

  • Being reactive rather than proactive is how most of us behave. It is much easier for human beings to use brawn rather than brain!
  • Forceful and/or corrective training techniques often appear to produce rapid results.

These sometimes almost miraculous results are therefore thought of as being 'successful', and make for entertaining and popular television shows on dog training.

TV stations frequently show skilfully edited before-and-after parts of quick fix, flooding methods (e. g. throw them into the deep end and let them sink or swim) and people think 'Wow!' - that was amazing so it must be the right way to do it!' However there is never a mention of the many side effects of harsh training methods or how the dog itself feels about the methods or about its long term behaviour.

Some effective training methods are, in fact, are unbelievably cruel: as for instance with the techniques that have been used for over 4000 years with elephants. To this day a 'breaking-in' programme, such as chaining them to a tree for days on end, is still often used by some elephant trainers to break the spirit and achieve the young animal's total submission to the will of man. 

In conventional dog training the 'command' word always comes first, then a physical prompt or a correction. Once the required position is achieved it is followed by praise and then by lots of practice, drills and repetitions.

The 1963 edition of "The Police Dogs Training and Care Manual' from the United Kingdom states:

"Complete control is the groundwork on which all succeeding training is based. The successful training of obedience is brought about by a series of repetitive habit-forming exercises. From the very first day of training the dog must never be allowed to ignore a command or fail to complete one when given. Disobedience must be met with firmness. At the commencement of training the word or command may be accompanied by physical influence."

The trainer is the 'alpha wolf' of the wolf pack, the 'boss', giving instructions in gruff to harsh voice tones and establishing dominance - often physically through neck scruffs or 'alpha roll overs' - to obtain a dog's submission. S/he demands the behaviour and, if necessary, physically pressures the dog into position. Moving into the right position, to avoid something aversive or unpleasant is rewarded with praise in a happy voice, or a tickle under the chin or by patting.