It seems that dog owners and trainers are constantly discussing the correct training methods for mans’ best friend. Will one method work with all dogs? Should you use the same technique with all dogs? Can you really train using “all positive”? What about correction collars?
In my experience, learning consists of consequences. There are good consequences such as, “if I sit I get my food,” and then there are bad consequences, “if I jump, my human will take away their attention.” So in truth, all teaching has positive and negative associations. However, it’s the level of negativity that is commonly debated.
I like to use the least amount of negativity in my training. I use bad consequences but never consequences that cause the dog pain or fear. I believe that teaching using pain or fear is not appropriate for your average dog. Are there situations to where adversives should be used to save a dog’s life? Yes. But adversives, such as shock, prong or choke collars should be used with care, and should be used by professionals who have precise timing and understanding of dog behavior. These tools should be used as gently as possible.
If used inappropriately, adversive techniques can not only cause a dog to shut down due to fear, they can also cause negative associations with otherwise positive stimuli, or can cause serious physical injury, including burns and trachea damage. All correction collars should be fitted properly to reduce the chances of injury.
I would also encourage you to ask yourself a few questions prior to using any training technique:
“Would I want to learn this way?”
“Would I want to teach my child this way?”
“Would I want my child to use this technique with our dog?”