Dog training gone bad. What would you say?
Looking back on my early experiences with training dogs, I feel grateful that Caesar Milan wasn’t a household name yet. Even though positive reinforcement wasn’t a widely used term then, I know now that this is exactly what I was using with my dogs, Teaco and Alicia, back then. I taught them all sorts of tricks using positive reinforcement: jump on the bench, jump off, down, sit, come, heel, etc.
It’s the same method I use when training my dogs today. Why? Because I know it works. It’s worked all my life with all of my dogs. Why would I choose a method that to me seems cruel?
This past weekend I happened to be speaking with someone about our dogs and some of the work we are doing to manage our dog’s barking at other dogs along the fence line. During the conversation, she mentioned that she had pinned her female dog down to let her know that she was misbehaving. Ugh! I inwardly (and I am sure outwardly) cringed when she said this. My face had to have relayed my reaction to this news, if not, then my stunned silence must have done so. I wanted to say something to her about using this type of “training” method. I wanted to tell her how wrong this approach iss and the repercussions of using it. I wanted to share with her the scientific data that shows this type of training approach only leads to more aggression in a dog, not less. Submission? A man-made concept to feel oh so powerful over a often smaller and weaker being.
Yes, I wanted to say all of that. Instead, I froze. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to sound like I was lecturing, but I wanted to educate. Instead, I remained silent and then murmured something innocuous and walked away. To say I was disappointed in myself was an understatement. I could have used this moment to educate instead I shut down because I didn’t know quite how to approach the topic without sounding like I was lecturing.
So, I am asking you for help. How would you have handled this issue? How would you have turned the discussion into one that would educate and not lecture? How can I broach the topic with her again? I welcome all your thoughts and ideas.