It’s important to understand the methods that a home dog trainer uses before you hire them. There are a number of different philosophies on the most effective way to train a dog. Listed below are the types of trainers that you will run into during your search.
Every dog trainer has their own methods and philosophy regarding the most effective way to train.
The average dog trainer’s methods will fall into one of three categories:
1. Shock Collar
2. Koehler Method (choke chains – yank & crank)
3. Purely Positive (clickers – click & treat)
At A Better Dog, we do not subscribe to any of these methods and have developed a very humane, dog-friendly program that does not fall into any of the categories that are listed.
All methods have their positives and negatives – some can be very negative. You should understand the method that someone uses before you hire them. It will be the basis for how they handle your dog.
Shock Collar Training
Shock collar training is exactly what it sounds like. The “trainer” may refer to them as e-collars, stimulus collars or correction collars, but they are all doing the same thing. They are applying shock to your dog.
When you apply shock to your dog, you are manipulating their behavior by using pain and negative stimulus. You are not elevating yourself as a leader in your dog’s eyes.
You will not be developing your relationship with your dog and you will not be training your dog to honor your commands. They may listen if they are wearing the collar, but your commands may not work at all if they are not wearing the collar.
It’s true that your dog may react quickly using shock, but you are teaching your dog by using physical pain and you risk side effects that cannot be predicted.
Trainers who use shock collars are taking a shortcut to behavior and then leaving you completely dependent on a device. It’s our opinion that a shock collar can become a crutch and that the trainers who use them exclusively are trainers who have not bothered to educate themselves on dog behavior.
We find this method of training cruel and unnecessary and we do not support it.
The Koehler Method .. choke chains .. yank & crank
The Koehler method was developed in the 1960’s by a gentleman named Dick Koehler. It’s refered to in dog training circles as the “yank and crank” method. All training is done on leash in the beginning and the leash is used to force a dog to respond to commands. You are not taught to handle your dog, you are taught how to handle the leash.
The following is taken directly from the koehlerdogtraining.com website:
“One statement: “when choices are influenced by the anticipation of punishment, they will most likely cease” is the genesis for most criticisms of Koehler’s methods.
The critics argue that teaching a dog to anticipate punishment will produce a condition of anxiety which will permanently colour his behaviour; and that the anxious dog will become, at best ‘apprehensive’, or at worst ‘afraid’, of his own behaviour.
I would like to debunk this argument by analyzing a part of our own human behaviour where an action is, in fact, motivated by the anticipation of punishment…stopping for red lights.
Everyday, on every street, in every city, you will see pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers stopping for red lights. How did this come to be? We are not born with a gene that predisposed us to this behaviour; we were programmed by punishment, or the threat of punishment, to do so.
Once we have learned that not stopping for the light produces punishment, but that stopping for it somehow prevents punishment, we simply learn to stop in the presence of the stimulus (the red light) to avoid punishment. Therefore, when we approach a red light we do not feel apprehension or fear for the stimulus, we feel instead, only the need to stop.
Stopping for red lights is really a matter of choice. You may choose not to stop for the light, in which case you will then have to endure the anxiety which follows. Or, you may choose to stop for the red light, in which case you will feel the calmness which follows right action. Either way, it is a matter of choice.”
The writer is actually comparing apples to oranges. He’s trying to justify physical punishment (the use of the leash to physically punish a dog) by comparing it to a negative psychological punishment (getting a ticket for running a red light). It’s ridiculous.
With the Koehler method, a dog is put on leash and then physically forced to submit to the handler’s will. When you run across a dog trainer that says “we’ll have your dog performing off-leash within three session…”, they are not talking about off-leash walking, they are talking about using the Koehler method at the beginning of training and eventually working your dog without the leash.
Again, we don’t support this method. We’ll be working obedience with your dog off-leash from the very beginning. We’ll show you how to build a relationship with your dog based on trust and respect, not fear of physical violence.
Purely Positive Training .. click & treat
Purely Positive dog trainers are also known as “clicker trainers”. Purely positive trainers have taken a lot of heat lately because they are thought to believe in a ridiculous premiss – that you can train a dog just by withholding the treat reward.
Generally, a clicker trainer does not want to help a dog to learn through physical actions. They believe that this is a negative stimulus and should not be performed.
If you are a fan of the dog training shows on television, you may be familiar with Victoria Stillwell from “It’s Me Or The Dog”. Victoria is a purely positive trainer. We like her and her show, but we’ve noticed that you can watch 20 episodes and you might never see her touch a dog.
It’s almost as though a purely positive trainer doesn’t understand that a dog can be physically corrected without using pain or violence. In nature, physical correction is the natural course for all animals.
A nationally known dog trainer named Ty Brown wrote the following:
“It is my contention that there is no such thing as ‘purely positive’ training. If you look at any force in the world there is always an opposite. Down always has an up. Left always has a right.
The only reason you know what sad feels like is because you know what happy is. The only way you have been able to experience victory results from defeats you have had. There is always an opposite.
So how about applying this to ‘purely positive’ dog training methods. If something is positive that means that there has to be a negative to balance it. If training was truly ‘purely positive’ that would mean that you reward your dog with a treat for every single behavior he performs.
If you reward your dog for sitting on command with a treat that also means that you aren’t rewarding your dog when he doesn’t sit. Is withholding a treat ‘purely positive’ Your dog builds a negative association with disobedience because there is no treat. How can he build a negative association if you are using ‘purely positive’ methods.
The problem with ‘purely positive’ trainers is not only the semantics. The methods are so unsound and do not get the desired dog training results. Think about it, if you tell your dog to do a command and his only consequence for disobedience is the lack of a treat, how well behaved will your dog be?
If your dog is running toward the street to chase a cat do you think he would rather return to your side to get the treat or continue chasing the cat?
Purely positive dog trainers and dog training methods are not only misleading but a horrible way to train a dog.”
We don’t support this method either. We don’t use clickers or any other gimmicky devices. We want your dog to respond to you and your commands based on respect for your position, not just because you have a treat in your hand.
Our Training Philosophy at A Better Dog
At A Better Dog Home Dog Training, we use a natural blend of classical, operant and counter-conditioning to teach your dog respect and manners. The foundation of our program is in leadership.
We teach the dog basic obedience, advanced obedience and correction commands using positive reinforcement and humane negative reinforcement. We also teach them that you are the pack leader in your home and that they should be looking to you for their cues on how to behave.
We teach using a three-phase learning program that takes your dog through instruction, correction and performance under distraction. Our dogs are expected to learn the commands, perform the commands on your direction and perform the commands even under distraction.
All of our methods are very humane and dog friendly. We do not use any kind of physical pain or punishment to teach our dogs and we will never give you any gimmicky devices such as a clicker for obedience or a spray bottle for correction.
We never apply the yank and crank method, shock stimulus or drug therapy to a dog.
By the end of our program, we expect your dog to understand that you and the other members of the household are above them in the pack hierarchy. They will be taught to respect you, your things and that they should be looking to you for their cues on how to behave, even under distraction.