Dog Corrections You Shouldn’t Use

Dog Corrections You Shouldn’t Use

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Sam Basso
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What kind of dog corrections should you not use? You are going to get lots of suggestions. That doesn’t mean you should do them.

Do it yourself dog training is usually inhumane. Why people don’t hire professionals to help them really puzzles me. And why people hire the worst dog trainer in town also puzzles me… guys who will do the horrible dog corrections I’m going to describe here in this article. I had one woman call me to tell me she realized she spent $200 just to watch a so-called trainer abuse her dog for 2 hours. C’mon folks! Use your brain!

Just because your dog is just a dog, doesn’t mean you can use torture to solve behavioral problems. A lot of so-called trainers have devised lots of inhumane dog corrections to deal with behavioral problems. I’m going to list a few, but not all of them. I’ll just educate and caution you to not let anyone do this to your dog. You can permanently hurt your beloved dog with some of these methods. Some will backfire and get you hurt. Some could land you in prison. Seek another solution. Forfeit your money and pick another trainer if you have to. Don’t abuse your dog.

We ask a lot of our dogs, and they will take a lot of abuse. We want them to love us unconditionally, and often they will. They will forgive us for doing some of the most horrible things done to them. We shouldn’t abuse their trust just because we have a childish inability to control our anger, have a lack of knowledge about dog training, or because we are damned cheapskates. We should appreciate the good things in our dogs and learn how to properly deal with the bad things. We often don’t deserve the devotion and affection that we receive from them. You should never betray your dog by treating it roughly.

I don’t hurt dogs. I have never injured a customer’s dog. The only “injury” (that wasn’t really an injury) was with a miniature poodle that had sore foot pads after walking on pavement; the dog had never been on anything but soft carpet its whole life, so its feet were sore that evening. The dog was fine the next day.

I learned two lessons that day:

First Lesson: “Mommies and Daddies”, people who spoil their dogs, cause their dogs to have a multitude of problems. In this case the dog would run away from home if the door was left open, and not come back for at least a half hour. The dog would run about 200 yards away, then dart in and out of the neighbor’s bushes. The dog had never been on a leash, always carried around, babied, spoiled, and never taught to obey. Which was worse? Leaving the dog in that state, where it could be run over by a car? Or, to put on a leash and start teaching the dog to obey and not be a brat?

Second Lesson: Start this kind of dog out on soft grass or carpet. This dog had been carried around so much that the dog had no calluses on its feet! It was an early lesson to me about the nature of some owners, and why they have so many issues with their dogs.

Anyone who trains dogs to do any kind of real obedience or real work (such as search and rescue, obedience competition, police training, guide dog training, etc.) has to come to terms with dogs getting sports injuries (muscle pulls, sprains, cuts, abrasions, etc.), just like people do (such as joggers, skiers, martial artists, police officers, yoga practitioners, musicians, etc). Any kind of hard work can result in unintentional training injuries. All my dogs have gotten minor scratches, muscle pulls, broken toenails, and abrasions while training in the field. None were serious, and none required a visit to the veterinarian. Yet, if you train dogs in the real world, real injuries are sometimes going to happen. Hunting dogs get slashed up in certain types of barbed plants. Police dogs can get sprains and broken bones from jumps. Agility dogs can get torn ligaments from hurdles. It’s normal, and is not an indication of improper training or abuse. People get hurt, too. I’ve had injuries when training dogs: hyperextended knee; bruises; cut knee; dog bites; sore muscles; etc. It’s just life.

Does your dog trainer use dog corrections that have the lowest risk they will injure or traumatize dogs? Many do not. I have been hired to work with dogs that the owners had previously injured, unintentionally, because their dogs were untrained and out of control (every one of these cases, the owners had stepped on their dogs paws and broken them because the dogs didn’t know how to Heel beside the handler). The first thing I did with these dogs was to teach them to walk on a leash. I’ve also seen owners injured by their dogs because the dogs were untrained (bites, cuts, bruises, etc.). These injuries, dog and human, never had to happen. If they had hired me BEFORE the dogs got out of control, the dogs would never have gotten underfoot and been stepped on by their owners.

There is a difference between a training injury and abuse. I don’t abuse dogs, and you shouldn’t either. You don’t need to harm or abuse a dog in order to train a dog. Go get help!

The following Dog Corrections have the greatest potential for damaging a puppy physically and psychologically. You should avoid using them, except as I have mentioned herein.

1.) Alpha Roll Over:

This is a form of punishment which consists of rolling a puppy and pinning it on its side or back. The theory goes: since dominant dogs discipline submissive dogs this way, we can use it to discipline our dogs. I have four problems with using this type of correction. First, it’s Punishment. Punishment is a correction after the behavior, not during it. Punishment should only be used as a last resort because of its potential for harmful side effects. Punishment can backfire because the dog might not be able to figure out why they are being corrected. Second, lots of trainers use this form of punishment without really thinking about how to use it. Dogs and wolves end up rolled on their backs in a fight as a way of one dog going after the other, which is part of the process of settling dominance challenges and to organize the pack order. Not always does this end the fight, however. If your dog isn’t doing what you want, but isn’t challenging your dominance, then it would be inappropriate to use the Alpha Roll Over… and it might backfire on you. It’s a teaching problem, not a dominance problem. Third, I’ve seen dogs that liked it when you did the Alpha Roll Over. My second dog, Kate, loved it. She thought it was great that I was giving her my undivided attention! It was a positive reinforcement for her bad behavior! Finally, most people do it wrong. Either the dog doesn’t get it, or the dog sees it as a fight and we are going to be bitten or attacked. Or the dog becomes overly submissive and cowers all the time. I will only use this method to gain leadership over an extremely dominant dog, and even then, I have to take safety precautions. If you have purchased a good puppy and breed, and done what I have recommend in our lessons, you probably won’t ever have to deal with this kind of problem or use the Alpha Roll Over. I know of a man who was mauled by his dog after trying this correction. I know of another woman, trying to imitate Cesar Milan, who was severely bitten by her Chow Chow up and down her forearm, sending her to the hospital. Her hand was in a cast when I came over for the Evaluation.

This kind of thing should only be implemented as a last resort, and you’d  better know what you are doing. I have seen Cesar Millan use this method. I don’t believe it is a good technique except in some very extreme cases. Most people do it wrong, and won’t follow his instructions regardless of how many times they watch his show. And if you watch his show, I’ve seen a dog bite him doing this. Fortunately, it wasn’t that tough or big a dog. Do this with a big, tough dog, and you are going to have broken bones, torn flesh, or worse. I have never recommended this to a student, it is too risky. Novices also don’t have the behavioral background or judgment to know when they should or shouldn’t do it. This should only be done by a professional.

2.) Burn The Nose

This is a form of negative reinforcement in which you burn the dog’s nose with a lighted cigarette in order to make the dog release its bite. This is animal abuse. Do not do it. And a dog with a serious bite on another animal or person isn’t going to let go. You could even make the situation worse. No police, Schutzhund, Ring Sport or KNPV trainer uses this method to teach their dogs to let go of their bites. This is just stupid stuff. Do this to the wrong dog, and you might end up in the hospital after being attacked.

3.) Drowning:

This is a method of punishment in which you shove a dog’s head under water for digging in the yard. If your dog digs holes in the yard, some trainers will advise that you fill the hole up with water and shove the dog’s head in it to create in the dog an aversion to having it’s head under the ground. This method is cruel. It’s animal abuse. It’s not going to work. Do not do it. There is a popular, old time dog training book still stocked in books stores recommending this solution. This is why I don’t recommend dog training books to my customers. So much of what you find on the internet or in books is bad, that I’d rather they stay away from all that garbage. You do this, there’s something more wrong with you than the dog. This is not dog training, it’s you being a jerk.

4.) Hanging or Helicopter:

This is a method of Punishment in which you lift the dog off the ground by its leash (Hanging), or swung around on its leash (Helicopter), until the dog nearly loses consciousness. This is animal cruelty, not animal training. I would only “Hang” if I was defending myself from a dog that was trying to attack and hurt me, and I had no other immediate way to keep myself from being mauled. I would hold the dog away from me by the leash, like any sane person would do, to keep those teeth off my body parts. Afterwards, I would use more sophisticated training methods to deal with the aggression. The hanging wouldn’t teach the dog anything.  “Hanging” is not a training method, it is only a temporary method of self defense when you can’t avoid being attacked by a dangerous dog that you are attempting to train. Some trainers still use this on ALL dogs, even the nice ones (not just the dangerously aggressive one that just tried to kill them), to “teach them a lesson.” You can still find trainers doing this in their dog training classes to all the puppies and dogs! How crazy is that? Hanging a puppy until it vomits or passes out? You can teach these trainers a lesson by quitting their classes and reporting them to the police for animal cruelty. Now, sometimes, you will have a dog that is pulling so hard on a leash that they will push with their back legs and get their front legs off the ground. This isn’t Hanging. This is just an untrained dog straining at the leash. This dog needs to complete Basic Obedience or is a dog that has an aggression problem that should be addressed.

5.) Beating:

Never beat your dog with a hand, foot, rubber tube, belt, stick, newspaper, flyswatter, or anything else. If you beat your dog, then your dog will eventually become a biter. And you could go to prison. Is your anger worth that? Do I need to say more? I include in this category Shoving A Dog’s Face in poop if it defecates in your home. That is abuse, not dog training. Stop doing it! There is only one reason to hit a dog for training purposes. Rubber sticks are used in protection training to acclimate a dog to being in a fight with a criminal. The dogs aren’t injured in this kind of training, and it is used to increase the dog’s aggression in the fight. If you hit a dog, you are more likely to increase a dog’s aggression, not decrease it. Police dogs are acclimated to fighting to save their lives, not to punish or hurt the dogs.  I saw a guy the other day whacking his dog in the face over and over again after his dog attacked another dog in a park. That was not only stupid, it won’t stop the next attack.

6.) Improper Long Line Corrections:

A long (or lunge) line is a very long leash. It can be anywhere from 15 to 50 feet long. When properly used, it can help you gain control of a dog’s behavior at a distance… it’s pretty hard for a dog to run away from you when dragging 50 feet of rope, for example. An improper Long Line Correction is one that will hurt your dog. When you are planning on giving a dog a correction with a Long Line, you must take the following precautions. First, you must never correct a dog without seeing what the effect will be on the dog. If the dog is around a corner or not in your direct line of sight, you could pull the dog into an object that could hurt your dog. You would feel awful if you jerked on the line and pulled your dog into a sharp object that poked out its eye! Second, you must never trip the dog. Long lines have a tendency to get caught up in, and wound around, the dog’s legs. A hard correction could trip and break your dog’s leg. I learned this lesson the hard way. I once corrected my own dog improperly, not watching what was going on, and really hurt one of his hind legs; his rear inner ankle was rubbed very raw from the line, and took a week to heal. I resolved thereafter to be careful to never again trip a dog with a long line. Third, you must make sure that the line will not break. Because the lines drag along the ground as you use them, they will eventually wear out and break. Always inspect the lines before you use them. You don’t want the dog to break the line and run into traffic. And fourth, you must not let the dog use the long line as a Chew Toy. If your dog ever learns that they can bite through the line (and a lot of dogs can do it in a split second), you dog could run away and get hurt. So, you must train them to keep their teeth off of the line.

7.) Ever Increasing Intensity or Duration of The Correction:

Corrections shouldn’t become a form of enforced torture. You shouldn’t keep increasing the pain or lengthening the duration of the correction. You should use just enough force, whether physical or psychological, to get the dog’s attention so you can switch the dog to another behavior. I would also put in this category training a dog the way some use an electric collar. I know of a trainer that was exposed by a TV show, using an undercover reporter and a hidden camera. He was using an electric collar… the dogs were crying out… let’s just say it appeared appalling to me. I have an article on the use of electric collars. It takes weeks just to properly introduce an e-collar, and prior to that the dog should already be pretty well trained. Read it.

8.) Jerking The Dog Around:

This is a form of punishment in which the trainer gets angry with the dog and repeatedly jerks on the leash to hurt the dog. This is not dog training, it’s abuse. Don’t do it.

9.) Mouse Traps:

You’ll read a lot of books that recommend using mouse traps as a way of startling a dog and keeping it off of furniture. I think this is a dangerous method of teaching a lesson to a dog. All the trap has to do is catch the dog’s paw, and you could break the dog’s toes. Try explaining that to your veterinarian. Worse, if it is one of the small breeds, you could break one of the dog’s legs. I think it’s a terrible solution and there are easier ways of teaching the proper behaviors.

10.) Scolding:

Nagging or Shaming or Cussing or telling your dog to Sit won’t get you better performance in the future. Everyone knows that the more you Nag someone, the more they will tune you out. So, it doesn’t work, even with your dog. If you shame your dog, by scolding and carrying on, all you are going to do is cause your dog to want to avoid you. That’s counterproductive. There are better ways to get dogs to obey and to be well mannered.

11.) Shake Cans:

Noise Shyness is a serious genetic fault. It can disqualify your dog from breeding, dog shows, and working obedience trials. It causes your dog to startle and run away from a loud noise. So, if it’s bad naturally, then why would you want to TRAIN your dog to be afraid of noises? Well, that’s what you will do if you use a Shake Can as a Correction tool. Some trainers suggest that when you say “No” to a stubborn dog, that you simultaneously shake a penny-filled aluminum pop can. The shaking sound is very disturbing to the dog, and when paired with your “No”, becomes a powerful Negative Reinforcer. But, I’ve found that most dogs can’t handle the Shake Can and then become jumpy around loud noises and sudden movements. So, you will correct one problem, and create another by using the Shake Can.

12.) Stepping On The Toes or Knee In The Chest:

This is a form of negative reinforcement in which a person steps on a dog’s rear feet or knees a dog in the chest to correct it for jumping up on them. These things are usually done in anger. I think that there’s too much potential for injury to the dog for using this method for correcting jumping. Other methods are more effective and humane. On the other hand, if a big dog jumps up on you, you might have to defend yourself from injury. It’s no fun to get hit hard in the groin. That isn’t what I’m talking about here.

13.) Surgical Removal Of The Vocal Cords:

I know of one person that has the vocal cords removed from all of their dogs to keep them quiet. I think this is a form of unnecessary surgery and a form of cruelty. There are other, more effective ways, of preventing unwanted barking. It is amazing that judges will still mandate vocal cord removal involving barking dogs in legal cases.

14.) Taping or Wiring The Mouth Shut:

This is a method of Punishment used to prevent destructive chewing or barking. This method consists of taping a piece of the item in the dog’s mouth for a few hours in order to teach the dog to avoid chewing the item, or to stop barking. The concept is that the dog will become so sick of the thing that the dog will never touch it again, or the dog will hate the action of barking. I think that this is cruel. First, the dog will try frantically to get the tape off, which might cause the dog to tear up its face with its nails. Second, you’ve got to figure that the dog will become afraid of you, since you are doing a very aversive thing to you. Third, the dog could choke on the item, or vomit and breath in the vomit, and die. If Animal Control hears about this, they will take your dog and charge you with a serious crime. You will go to jail. There are better ways of preventing chewing or barking. This is recommended in some dog training books. Stay away from dog training books! I saw a recent article in the news where the police were looking to arrest a couple who had wired their dog’s mouth shut to stop the barking. The wire had eaten it’s way through the dog’s face. You can bet if they get caught, they will be seeing a lot of wire: the barbed wire of the jail or prison they end up in.

15.) Throwing Objects:

This is a form a negative reinforcement which consists of throwing or shooting an object (light chain, slipper, newspaper, magazine, shotgun pellets, BB’s or rocks from a slingshot, or bean bag) at the dog while the dog is doing some undesired behavior. It’s been traditionally used to teach a dog off leash obedience and to correct bad behaviors at a distance. I find that throw objects make many dogs jumpy, which is a definite disadvantage in a working dog. Second, some people will hurt the dog. They will either throw the object too hard, or hit the dog in the eyes as the dog hears the thing flying at them. Or the object imbeds itself in the dog, such as using a slingshot or BB gun, thus injuring the dog, and probably violating the law. There is one exception to this: I will occasionally use a small, soft bean bag if all other methods have failed. I don’t like using them. It also takes some training and experience to know when it is appropriate to use them. I would recommend avoiding tossing anything at your dog as a correction. I haven’t had to use the bean bags on a customer’s dog more than once over the past three or four years. I know of one East Coast trainer, a so-called “all positive” trainer, who uses this in her training program for all her customers.

16.) Whipping The Dog:

This is a form of Punishment in which a trained dog is spanked with a belt, or some form of whip, for dominance challenges or to “break” the dog. A whip or paddle is used on a trained dog that refuses to work in response to a direct command, or to so thoroughly demoralize the dog that it will do anything that the trainer demands. Either way, the purpose is to force the dog to submit to the Master. Some old time hunting dog trainers will tell you that all dogs will need a good 5 or 10 minute whipping at the beginning of hunting season, just to soften them up and to get them ready to work. This is cruel training. It is also lazy. If you have a dog that is extremely dominant, then you’re at fault for not picking the right dog. If the dog is rusty because you’ve neglected the training, then why beat the dog?  Don’t abuse the dominant dog. Don’t abuse any dog. If he (it’s usually a male dog) can’t be trained for your purposes using humane methods, then find him another home and get a more cooperative dog. Or, find a good trainer that understands how to work with a dog like yours.

Spare the rod, or you’ll wreck the dog. If you have a dog that has gotten rusty on its commands, because you have neglected your weekly maintenance lessons, then don’t abuse the dog. Get into a class and start brushing up on your lessons.

PLEASE ALSO READ:
1.) Will Taping A Dog’s Mouth Stop His Barking?
2.) What Do You Do When Spanking Your Dog Doesn’t Work?
3.) Let’s Talk About Electric Collars

Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.


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