Ditch the shock
Here’s why this correction approach doesn’t work
Guest column by Rebecca Mason, CPDT-KA, CTDI, M.Ed.
Owner, Love Them, Train Them
Adding aggression to aggression is a recipe for disaster. If you choose to correct your dog using aversives — like shock collars, prong collars, and even leash correction — this simply inhibits the outward expression of an emotion (the thing you hear, like a growl, or the thing you see, like a warning snap).
However, even with corrections, the dog still feels the same way on the inside that he felt before the correction. You’ve just taught him he isn’t allowed to communicate that. You have removed the dog’s ability to warn others that he is uncomfortable, creating a dog who will bite without warning. This is one of the most dangerous and most unfair situations to place a dog in.
If aversives aren’t the answer, what DO you do? As a dog trainer, my job is to educate and advocate. That means education for the pet parent — teaching them dog body language and signs of fear or stress (lip licking, yawning, turning the head away, tucking the tail, wide eyes) — and advocating for the dog, since dogs need different things in different situations.
The most important thing a dog needs to know, without a doubt, is that his owner will never harm him and will never put him in a situation where he feels that others might harm him. Use aversives, and you violate that trust, which teaches your dog that you won’t keep him safe and that he will have to take matters into his own paws.
Advocating means not only being aware of your dog’s needs, but communicating them to others:
- He doesn’t like petting, but you can toss him a treat.
- He doesn’t like having his tail touched, but he would love it if you rubbed his ears.
- He’s a little overwhelmed. We’ll try this another time.
Most of all, if you are seeing signs of fear or stress in your dog, consult a certified trainer who can help you maximize both your own learning and your dog’s joy.
Rebecca Mason is a teacher first and a dog trainer second. She believes that, in order to have a well-behaved dog, it is the owner who must be taught first. Rebecca thrives on interaction with both people and pets and brings passion and determination to her work. She believes that every dog has potential, no matter the age or breed, and that if it can be done, it can be done using positive methods. Rebecca is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and has been training dogs professionally for 15 years. She does not subscribe to the use of force or intimidation and believes that training is about a bond of trust and love between dog and handler.