To me there is nothing more aggravating than being in the middle of two warring factions. It seems society has become one of extremes. There used to be a time when common sense ruled most actions instead of misguided ideals. This divide seems to be infecting almost every level of society. Call it trickle down or trickle up, either way it’s impacted almost every action we are involved in. The middle class, the ones who listen and use common sense is a vanishing breed.
Pick anything involving dogs and you will find extremism has taken root as well. Show, work, or pet? Rescue or buy? Breed or not breed? Leashed or free run?
These are just a few examples of topic’s that will quickly bring out the haters from both sides. It’s due to lack of education and work ethics. Education in the dog world means actually listening to experience of those who came before. And being able to comprehend what you are told without pre-conceived bias brought on by a paragraph or headline these people read.
The work ethic is where you actually study some history of your breed to find out if what you hear makes sense or not. There seems to be a lot of dog owners that have very limited real knowledge and a lot of fanatical ideals learned from papers written by even less knowledgeable people with some kind of paper/degree that makes them an expert.
Now that I’ve set the stage, let’s see how this has filtered down to dog training.
Currently there are three factions. The left believes that there are ways to train dogs without any need for discipline. In rare cases with a small weak-willed animal this may in fact be true. Not so much with a breed that is large and strong in will and body.
They will tell you that any method that involves discipline will create a dangerous dog. I don’t believe this at all. In fact, I believe letting a dog do what it wants will get you the same results as letting kids do what they want. You will be creating a dangerous dog, just like you created a dangerous adult when they do not respect authority.
The right-side extremist believes in forcing a dog to do what they want, even if it involves using medieval methods of corporal punishment. Beatings, starving, tossing etc. Of course, neither one is acceptable and should not be done. This method will also create a dangerous dog.
The third faction: This is where common sense must prevail. Many things depend on the dog in question. What works for a strong-willed dog is not necessary for a weak-willed one.
There is no set rule for every dog! This is why you study and understand what it is you are trying to train.
Discipline is key, the dog must understand what you want. But also, you must not break their spirit as that is not what training is about.
Training is a test of wills. In many cases this is what training is all about.
You want the dog to go outside and relive themselves. They want to go in the house or where ever they please. It’s the trainers (maybe you) job to figure out how to make the dog understand what it is that they want.
Horses don’t want to be broken, but they are. A rider show’s the horse that no matter how many times he gets bucked off or bitten he will not stop. The horse eventually accepts the rider because the one with the stronger will, has prevailed. Is this cruel? The left extremist will tell you it is. “All animals should be free to just roam around and do whatever. Even if it gets them killed because they are free!”
This type of thinking is just as cruel as beating the horse with a club. The results will be the same…bad.
Lack of common sense, and sticking human ideals on an animal is courting disaster. An example would be letting a puppy bite you without stopping it. Particularly if this dog will grow up to be a powerful and strong-willed dog like a German Shepherd. Left uncontrolled the owners will live in fear and the potential for this animal not getting its way can mean serious injury to a child or human.
You must have a stronger will than the dog. You cannot reason with them like a misbehaving toddler. They are dogs…not people. They don’t have the same mental capacity as we do. The stronger the will the stronger the trainer/methods have to be to overcome it.
These days you are considered an evil person if you give your kid a smack on the butt at Wal-Mart. Now it includes our pets. Do you really think it hurts a dog to give them a smack on the snout or butt because they ignored all your other methods to curtail this behavior? If you do, you don’t understand that sometimes you have to “reasonably” increase your will. Some dogs do not respond to any other method you may have read about.
The type of correction depends on the dog and his will power. Some corrections are easy and just as effective. I was taught to pick a German Shepherd up off the ground and spin around several times when they act up. This breaks their focus on being bad. Dogs do not like to be off the ground and the spinning makes them even more uncomfortable. A few repeats of this and the dog learns to behave.
This knowledge comes from experience, not a book. It’s passed on by those who actually have trained dogs. Not some propaganda to make humans feel better about themselves.
The do good-ers are fueled by the few dog owners that are evil. Because a few humans miss treat their dogs does not mean everyone does. Don’t go to extremes… like banning the Iditarod because of a few bad mushers. That’s like saying horse racing should be banned because a few people drugged or beat their horses.
Attack the bad apples, not the tree!
In summary, do your homework and learn about your dog. If you can’t bear to be firm with your dog, get yourself get a trainer. Look for real trainers, not someone with a paper they paid for on-line. Check with previous customers and see if that trainer actually helped. Check them out like you would a babysitter or day care you are considering.
The proof of good training is in the results. A well-mannered dog that does not cower in fear of people or objects. He is still a dog but also a member of the family.
I have no use for either extreme. I prefer to use common sense when training my own dogs. Each one is different just like each one of my kids were.
There is no magic wand (method) that fixes all problems.
Like in all things, try to use some common sense and reasoning. Remember a dog is still an animal, and not a human no matter how hard we try to make them that way.
I just posted about training too and honestly I am still finding my zen when it comes to my dog and the approach he needs. I too agree that he needs guidelines and rules, I have had two trainers that I have paid dearly for that have not helped in a huge way but have helped in small ways that I will incorporate into our world. I do believe that I will end up with a hybrid of positive reinforcement and rules/guidelines for him that will establish his place in the family. I basically agree with most of what you say but having a small dog takes a lot of the physical correction out of the equation, not only do they not respond well to it, it is way too easy for people to forget how much stronger and bigger they are than a small dog so I do think there are other means (I also had a lab-x that absolutely needed the odd spanking when she was going through the terrible twos so, no, I am not against proper discipline when other means have failed). Interesting that we are on the same path with slightly different approaches. Thank you for giving me another insight to think about, I love having a lot of input!!
Good article! Like you, I believe there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to having a well behaved dog. I have written an article about the pet application process at animalrightschannel.com and could use some input from pet experts. I hope you will read “Ace your application” and comment.
It’s hard to disagree with this post. I don’t like extreme views because they usually cloud judgement and bring nothing new or helpfull to the subject. I truly believe in balanced training. If you got a small or medium dog, it’s easier to live with certain flaws, I agree. But should we?
I got the feeling from your post (and maybe I’m wrong) that serious problems come with serious dogs. But having a reactive small dog (JRT) I must say it’s not a piece of a cake either. It’s definitely easier to hold the leash but other than that they need the exact same rules. And applying rules doesn’t mean you’ve stepped into the dark side of dog training 😉
Hope to hear more balanced voices in the recent discussion because as I’ve said – extreme doesn’t do any good.
Having bred German Shepherds and now Siberians I can only speak from their serious ability to hurt a human if left unchecked. True, small dogs can exhibit much the same tempers if left unchecked, but probably would not be considered life endangering to humans. My gripe is with people who think any form of discipline is somehow mean and evil. To apply human standards to a dog is not logical or correct.
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I totally agree. I think that because of what you’ve said (big dogs can be more dangerous, it’s just the matter of proportions) it’s easier for people to understand and accept that big dogs need discipline. But when You apply some methods considered harsh towards smaller dogs you’re a beast.
I don’t get it because usually when dogs live without rules and discipline they struggle in life and don’t feel neither safe nor happy.
The message conveyed in this post is absolutely what I want to share with my friends. In order to become a good owner, you need to understand your dog’s needs and characteristics. When he behaves badly but you do not want to be strict with it, you had better look for a professional dog trainer. That would be the best available option. Nevertheless, before hiring a trainer, you need to ask for reviews and feedbacks from previous customers. Do not believe in the advertisements, personal preferences are always more precise.
The training will achieve its expected outcomes when the dog behaves in the way that you want. It must not be afraid of objects or people as those behaviors showcase that the trainer mainly uses aggression to train your dog. He should behave differently, but he is still friendly like a part of the family. In my opinion, I always use my own way of training instead of opting for professional help. There is a small reminder: try to take advantage of your common sense. That’s all. Thank you for the helpful information by the way.