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Getting All Choked Up Over the Use of Coercion in Dog Training

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Maybe it’s the latest applied behavior analysis class I’ve just taken, maybe it’s the decongestant and antihistamine stupor I’m in, but it occurred to me, just now, that maybe I need to try a new approach when speaking to those who still prefer to use choke, prong and Citronella collars to train their dogs.

Being of the positive reinforcement, humane, least intrusive approach to training dogs type of dog trainer, this means when I hear or see people go to the dark side, I try to get them to come on over to my camp, usually by explaining and demonstrating all of the wonderful and simple techniques such as shaping, lure and reward, with or without the use of a clicker. This is what I teach in my dog training classes, private dog training clients, and of course all throughout my dog training game!

But sometimes humans don’t want to listen; I guess they might find it to be punishing. So instead of all of that, how about if I ask them this: How does it make you feel, deep down inside, when you choke, yank, coerce, yell at, berate, or cause harm to your dog just to get them to do what you want? Do you find it to be fulfilling and reinforcing to yourself? Or, as when one person called me today, do you feel bad inside about doing things like that to your dog?

If you feel bad about it, then I encourage you to dump the aversive techniques and try something different! Simple steps such as:

  • Reward behaviors you like and want! Praise, belly rubs, games of fetch and tug, or giving your dog a part of their meal – all will send a message of “I love when you do that!” And you’ll get more of that behavior.
  • Manage your dogs environment so they’re less likely to perform those undesired behaviors.
  • Provide outlets for your dog to let all of those doggy behaviors out!

Trust me, these three simple steps will help anyone achieve baby steps to their final goals. If you know someone who prefers the dark side, you might want to take that first step and forward them this information – who knows, you might find helping others to be reinforcing.

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