Positive does not mean permissive.
Discipline is an important part of the learning process, but the form of discipline used in positive training differs greatly from the types of discipline used in dominance training. Traditional trainers often argue that positive trainers do not believe in or effectively use appropriate discipline in training, but that is because the definitions of the word 'discipline' in the context of these two approaches are so wildly different from one another.
Of course effective discipline is an integral part of positive training, but discipline is used by positive trainers and owners to guide the dog into making the right choices and eventually thinking for himself. The concept of discipline in dominance and punishment-based training is used to suppress the dog's instincts and feelings through the use of force or fear – not to truly change the way the dog thinks and feels.
The Good: Humane Discipline in Positive Training:
- Using constructive discipline to guide the dog into making better choices
- Not inflicting pain or instilling fear in the dog
- Influencing an animal’s behavior without the use of force.
- Constructive disciplinary techniques such as removal, time outs, taking something of value away, ignoring behavior and interrupting negative behavior with a vocal interrupter.
The Bad: Dangerous and Ineffective Training Techniques
- ‘Alpha rolls': when a dog is forcibly laid on his back or side and held down until he ‘submits’
- ‘Biting’: where a person uses the tips of their fingers bunched together that are poked into a dog’s side in order to simulate a ‘bite’ that a dog would use to reprimand another dog
- Foot pushes (where a person uses the side of their foot or heel to prod or kick a dog when it is misbehaving)
- Hanging (where a dog is hung by his collar until his air supply is cut off)
- Shock collars that deliver an electric shock when the dog misbehaves.
- Leash yanks or jerks to the neck to curb unwanted behavior
- Yanks or jerks to the neck via a choke or prong collar
- Hitting the dog with hands or other objects such as a rolled-up newspaper
Why Are The Above Methods Bad?
Harsh punishments used by punitive trainers are not only cruel but also potentially dangerous and damage the trust between dog and human.
Punitive trainers often argue that these are effective methods of punishment because they stop dogs from repeating negative behavior. The punishment is most likely to work there and then, but the experience of the punishment can make dogs feel more insecure and wary of their owners and it is common for dogs that are punished in this manner to keep reoffending because they have not been shown another way to behave.
Harsh punishment relies on suppressing behavior but does not truly change it. The dog’s behavior might be suppressed for a time but he still feels the same inside and is likely to react again more intensely, sometimes without giving a clear warning if warning signals have been suppressed through punishment.
The only thing harsh punishment does achieve is to give the person an outlet for their frustration even if it means they have to hurt their dog or instill fear in order to achieve that reinforcement.
Anyone can get a dog to behave using punitive training but it takes a real understanding of dog psychology to use discipline effectively without inflicting pain or fear and to guide a dog into not repeating negative behavior while maintaining trust.
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Articles from Victoria Stilwell
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- Becoming a Dog Trainer
- Social Bullying
- Does Your Dog Respect You?
- Differences Between Male and Female Dogs