Why Trainers Who Use Prong Collars, Force and Dominance Theory with Fearful Dogs Are Horrible

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 16, 2017

Charlie is a two-year-old Border Collie / Fox Terrier mix who lives in Omaha. The guardians set up a dog behavior training session with me to address Charlie’s anxiety and fear around unknown men, leash pulling and desire to heard cars. When the family hired Dillion’s Dog Training to help with his pulling on the leash, desire to herd cars, Charlie growled at the dog trainer due to his dominate / force-centric techniques and approach.

I was expecting a nervous, anxious or human aggressive dog when I knocked on the door, but what I saw when it opened took me completely by surprise.

It took me literally one second to tell that this was not an aggressive dog. His tail was between his legs so I know he was a little uncomfortable, but the rest of his body language was soft and non confrontational. After tossing him a single treat, his tail came out, started wagging and he communicated he wanted to meet.

It makes me angry to see people like the folks at Dillion’s Dog Training referring to themselves as “dog trainers,” as in my opinion they only know one thing, how to punish a dog into submission. A prime example is using a prong collar as they suggested in this case.

Multiple studies show long term use of pinch or prong collars cause a dog to become or increase its anxiousness. I abhor them and have NEVER needed to use one after working with all over 2,000 dogs.

Not only do the Dillion’s crew use prong collars, they recommend that their clients practice something called “snap praise” where they violently jerk the leash up while saying the expression “good dog” fifteen times. They ask their clients to do this 3 or more times a day. In my opinion this is nothing short of animal abuse. Fortunately Charlie’s guardian recognized this right after their session with Dillion’s and stopped doing this to Charlie.

If you are reading this and have or run into a trainer who’s solution to your dog problem is a tool that causes pain and discomfort, find another dog trainer, who, you know, actually TRAINS a dog rather than abuse them. You are your dog’s advocate. So if someone asks you to do something that doesn’t feel right, stop them and ask them to explain. If they can’t do so, stop the session and find another dog trainer.

A good dog trainer will show you how to use Positive Reinforcement, positive dog training or force free methods so the dog understands what you want and inspires them to act the way you want.

I demonstrate how you can do this for one of Charlie’s issues, jumping up toward anyone who starts to provide him with attention or affection.

Charlie has some issues for sure. His desire to herd cars is likely an offshoot of his herding instincts kicking in, amplified by anxiety – some of which I directly attribute to residual from working with the moron’s at Dillion’s Dog Training. I take that back, I don’t want to insult morons by associating them with what I believe to be the animal abusers over at Dillion’s Dog Training.

Adding structure, asking Charlie to earn things through his actions (like sitting before you throw the ball or let him out the door) can boost his self esteem and confidence while also helping him develop self control.

The more Charlie’s guardians boost his confidence and take over leadership tasks, the less he will feel a need to try to do them on his own. His car herding and growling at some men are almost certainly related to that perception.

Throughout the session, Charlie showed an extremely high intelligence; figuring things out within a few repetitions. He is a sensitive dog, but that is never something I think of as a negative. Its something that can be boosted by using positive dog training methods and the correct (non punishing aka force free) approach.

Although I am primarily a dog behavior expert, I suggested that the guardians book a dog training session with me in a month or so to do some force free leash training and work on his car herding attempts if it continues once they get used to leading him with these new methods and removing the perception of responsibility Charlie has now.

Now that his guardians know how to better communicate with him in a way he understands, stat recreating situations in lower intensity to train him how they would like him to behave and stop using a prong collar and the dominance theory methods the aforementioned “trainers” suggested, they should see Charlie’s confidence grow and his unwanted behaviors drop by the wayside.

I am so glad I was given the opportunity to work with Charlie; one of the smartest and most gentile dogs I have ever met. What a BEAUTIFUL personality and  dog.

I am REALLY looking forward to coming back to teach him to walk in a heel next month.

ROADMAP to SUCCESS

  • Stop using the pinch or prong collar and throw it away.
  • Stop petting Charlie when he is in an unbalanced or excited state of mind including when he gets excited as people arrive home.
  • Increase Charlie’s daily exercise to help him burn off his excess energy.
  • Use the fetch periodically throughout the day any time Charlie shows a spike in energy.
  • Ask Charlie to sit and wait before throwing the ball. If he gets too wound up, put the ball away and play with him or distract him. Wait until he relaxes completely before starting again.
  • Practice having the ball or other objects he fixates on, on the floor without being able to get them. Wait for him to return to a calm state before letting him have it or throwing it again.
  • Start petting Charlie with a purpose.
  • Start using passive training to reward Charlie any time he engages in desired actions or behaviors like coming, sitting or laying down.
  • Change the command word to “here” and reward him richly when he responds.
  • Come up with a “naughty” dog name and stop using “Charlie” to disagree with him.
  • Avoid speaking to Charlie in a raised tone.
  • Instead of rebuking or correcting Charlie, apply a consequence of stopping the attention or affection. Resume as soon as Charlie does a desired action.
  • Practice the recall exercise a few times a day while gradually increasing the distance between people. Always reward with affection or a treat when he comes when called.
  • Introduce rules and boundaries and enforce them consistently to help all the dogs start to adopt a follower’s mindset. Whenever correcting them, ask the dog to do something it knows immediately afterword so you can reward it.
  • Use the 4 escalating consequences introduced in the session to disagree with the dogs when he breaks the rules, but use them as soft as possible with Charlie.
  • Teach the puppies to calm down and develop skills that require self control such as the stay and do not allow them to hound Charlie if he repeatedly tried to get away.
  • Be aware that the puppies having an anxious energy can negatively impact Charlie’s behavior. Under stressful situations, remove them if they are adding to the anxiety.
  • If any of the dogs have an activity they struggle with, recreate it in a lower level of intensity (increasing the distance, turning down the volume, slowing it down, etc) and practice it in small steps while richly rewarding the desired responses.
  • Practice the door answering exercise to teach Charlie to stay behind a boundary and let the humans handle door duty. If protecting this with all three dogs at once is too much, practice with each dog individually.
  • Practice the leashing exercise a few times a day without going for a walk. Stop and sit down any time they move in front or get excited. Wait for them to calm down completely before trying again.
  • Set up a dog training session to train Charlie to walk in a heel with a loose leash and if redirect him if he is still trying to herd cars.
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This post was written by: David Codr

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