Serious Dog Corrections

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Sam Basso
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
OR, if you are out of this area, inquire about a telephone or e-Lesson
Email: [email protected]

What is a serious dog correction? When should you do a hard correction?

As a general rule, when people are looking for a way to give a dog a serious, hard correction they are at their wits end and are looking for some way to make a dog to do something once and for all. Thus, what they are looking for is a way to punish a dog. I don’t use punishment in dog training. And any good dog trainer knows that this kind of punishment won’t work, that what the owner is contemplating will possibly injure the dog because it isn’t a good or safe method, and might even cause the dog to aggressively retaliate.

On the other hand, when I’m training any dog… I’m actually TEACHING a dog, not punishing a dog. I accomplish this from several perspectives.

The Breed: I know a lot about every breed I work with. I know the origins of the breed and the behavioral tendencies of a dog like yours. I can even make predictions of behavior if your dog is a mix of several breeds. This kind of knowledge tells me your dog’s probable abilities, interests, fears, and so forth. Thus, I have different expectations working with Chihuahuas, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, Golden Retrievers, Bulldogs, Boxers, Dachshunds, Poodles, Shih Tzus, Rottweilers, Miniature Schnauzers, Dobermans or Pomeranians. Thus, I pretty much can guess that if you have an untrained Standard Poodle, it is going to have difficulties obeying around fluttering birds. If you have an untrained German Shepherd, it is probably going to be guarding the home, especially at the door and you are going to want to know how to get guests inside. Then, there are breeds that are incapable of doing things that other dogs find easy to do. If you get a Fila Brasiliero, forget about training it to be a hospital therapy dog. If you own a terrier, don’t expect the dog to be super obedient off leash like you would a Retriever or herding breed.

The Individual Dog: I need to get to know the dog in order to come up with an appropriate solution. For example, I’m working with 3 dogs that break into the owner’s home when she is gone and they pee all over her kitchen. On the other hand, I worked with someone, about a month ago, who had a 3 year old miniature Poodle that was pooping in his fiance’s closet. These were completely different situations, requiring completely different answers. The three dogs are under stress, and we are working to alleviate that. A couple of the dogs are getting to be rivals. With the Poodle, it was basically not 100% house trained. It wasn’t stress, it was a lack of sufficient good training. I’m also working with a very smart, but very sensitive Australian Cattle Dog. She is nervous about being touched. That wasn’t completely obvious at the start, but it has become obvious that the reason we are having numerous small behavioral issues is a result of a lack of trust in being touched or handled. It is a bottleneck in the training, so what might look like disobedience is really a result of her insecurities. More corrections won’t fix any of these dog problems, however.

The Situation: I do an extensive evaluation of each dog, from the first phone call and all the way through working out any problem. I’m always evaluating. Certain situations are impossible for some dogs to handle. There is NO training solution, no correction that will solve the problem. So, to find and use some kind of serious correction means you are going to be abusing the dog, not training the dog. For example, if you owned a Chihuahua, and had a small apartment facing the boardwalk along Venice beach, your dog would bark its head off with each person that went by. Chihuahuas are typically very territorial, and will bark to warn off intruders. If you put those strangers right in its face, the dog will keep barking and barking at the window, and there is NO solution. You’ve put the dog in an impossible position, and it is cruel and unfair to try to use a serious, hard correction to stop the dog from being a dog. Dogs are territorial, and some are more territorial than others. The problem is what you are making the dog face, not what the dog is doing in response to the threat.

Finding An Answer: So, what are you going to do with a dog that isn’t doing what you want them to do? The first thing to do isn’t search the internet for answers. You aren’t going find them there. The advice you do find will be the free stuff from people who aren’t professionals. The stuff you won’t find is the proper methods that professionals use because they sell that information. You should be locating someone good to work with, and paying them to analyze the situation and to help you find a way to work with whatever your dog is or isn’t doing. The next thing to do is cool off. If you are angry with your dog, you are about to do something abusive. Lastly, ask yourself: do I really have a well trained dog? You probably don’t. And even if you do, you’ve run out of answers and now need to consult with someone that knows more than you do.

Is there a place for a serious correction? Almost always, the answer is “no”. People that work with me notice that I use a very light touch when training dogs. If a dog needs a serious correction, it isn’t going to be done out of anger. It is going to be well thought out, lots of other foundation training will be done first, and before we go to the next level it is going to be explained to the owner. The trainer’s years of experience then come into play – this solution has worked well with other similar dogs in similar situations in the past. If I’m doing the training, we will set up the problem and correct the dog properly. If the foundation work was properly done, then the correction will work. If the foundation work is skipped, then the same correction with that same dog would be considered unfair and it won’t work. The idea isn’t to inflict pain or to scare the dog. The idea isn’t to punish the dog. The idea is to teach an alternate behavior in that circumstance. There is a great possibility that a serious correction will backfire if you don’t know what you are doing. So my advice is to look for better solutions. Many times the best answers turn out to not involve corrections at all. That’s what any good dog trainer does. They try to find ways to avoid using serious, hard corrections because they know they aren’t the magic solution, and they don’t always work. You want to think out a workable plan, not find a way to use your last resort training tools.

Many people are looking for a quick fix. I spoke to a guy the other day that wondered if we could train his dog with fewer lessons. He didn’t want to do the work. I told him I wouldn’t do it that way. It wouldn’t be fair to the dog. The guy was lazy and wasn’t thinking about what was best for the welfare of his dog. He just wanted it all done, quick, easy. He didn’t care how. He was ready to use any method, including electric collars on his untrained dog. I haven’t heard back from him, either. I’m sure he found someone to punish his dog for 30 pieces of silver. I feel bad for the dog. Sometimes these types call me back, months later, reminding me of our conversation. Then, I hear how they paid some unqualified trainer to abuse their dog, and they still are having problems, they wish they hadn’t hired that other guy, and now I’ve got to go in and fix not only the problem but whatever else was inflicted on the dog.

Most dogs never need a serious dog correction. They just need good, step-by-step training. Once you get past Basic Obedience, usually these problems melt away.