Physical force training

"It is our obligation to make them smile; hey you volunteered for the job."

There are alot of topics I'd like to write about this morning; but one has gotten my undivided attention. I've written about this often; it is a subject I am passionate about. The inspiration comes from a dog that I have written about recently. Luke and I were at the park yesterday; it was a great day, not too hot and we were alone for the most part. After we had our fill of exercise we headed back to the car when we heard something that stopped both of us in our tracks. A bit of a scuffle and a yelp; and another yelp. We stopped and looked around.

There he was; the Shar Pei/Pit mix I've written about before. Although this time he and his "owner" were with another person and her dogs. They were about 100 feet from where we stood; Luke and I both watched. There was some yelling; "NO, NO, NO."" Followed with some serious face pointing; dogs love that, and yanking, lots of yanking. Along with the yanks was more yelping, the dog was wearing a prong collar. I couldn't tell if the problem was within the three dogs or perhaps it was us. Had this dog seen Luke and gone off?

The two women walked a few feet and there was more; some barking, yanking, yelping and then the pit mix was on it's back. With all four feet in the air; this dog was not relaxing, what a stressful situation to be put into. I watched and stood on the edge of my fence. Say something or don't. As I stood watching the owner holding the dog down and her friend standing soothing her two dogs from the stress of the event I shook my head.

This type of situation really gets to me; I find it so hard to contain myself. It is a situation that you have to evaluate in pieces. Somewhere this person learned to do this to her dog; if not a local trainer then she learned this on television for sure. Both of these women thought they were doing a great job. I'll show him, I'll train him up like a pro. The humans had bought into this force method hook line and sinker; they were in the thick of it. The anger filled the air and the physical force control agenda was in full swing. So for me to step in and say "hey; have you tried positive reinforcement?" would have probably been very bad timing.

I stood and watched until the dog was allowed to regain his footing. They chatted and laughed about the incident as they got closer to where I was standing. I drew an imaginary line for myself; one more yelp and I'm going in. As I loaded Luke into the car I listened carefully for the sound. I closed the back hatch and got in my SUV still shaking my head; so much anger. During this whole process; the yanking, yelling and flipping there was so no educating, only physical force. Madness it is; agitation; dosed with some pain and physical restraint, a recipe for disaster.


Mix breed sees a trigger and initiates ritual behavior.

Owner immediately yanks on the pinch collar delivering pain to her dog in attempts to stop the behavior.

The pain adds to the aggitated state that the dog has quickly entered.

Yelling and physical pushing is added; these are not only futile attempts to stop the dogs reactive behavior, it is actually fueling the behavior. The owner is lucky that the dog has not displayed redirected aggression.

The dog now has a clear association to other dogs; pain.

Everytime a dog walks by or is in viewing distance; the dog is yanked on causing pain from the collar. Yelling persues and perhaps an alpha roll. In the dogs mind this is all caused by the appearance of a canine.

No attempt is made to re-educate; the only goal is STOP. I will make you stop.

The dog knows no other behavior associated to this situation. It has never been given an option.

After a physical struggle the walk continues and the behavior continues at each new dog interaction. No lessons, no advancement, only anger, stress, frustration and agitation.

Where is the human/canine connection? Where is the education we as humans are obliged to give our dogs? Where is the compassion? This scene set before me at the park yesterday is a clear sign that we've got so far to go. Yes our dogs should behave and when given and education they should follow our lead. I am a strong leader and feel that all dogs need a leader.

Leadership: an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction.

Being a leader has nothing to do with size, strength or the ability to inflict pain. A good leader; leads. Leading effectively through education, patience, compassion and understanding. Many dogs like the one I have just talked about need educating and patience; and a leader who will take the first tiny sign of success and help it grow.

Sadly with trainers still teaching these abusive methods of training; the compassion part of a human can lay dormant for a much longer length of time. It often takes a look from the outside in that leads to the moment when we realize the err in our ways. Thankfully my moment came many years ago.


  1. Hi there. I am the vice president of a very reputabe dog rescue. We adopt dogs out at Pet Smart on saturdays. We practically "beg" people to sign up for Pet Smart training. Unfortunately, most people think they are just great at trainig a dog. What happens? 3 months to a year later they want to return the dog because it is a "bad dog". I once read that a dog is only as smart as their owner. Boy is this true! So know the dog is older and has many bad habits. Fortunately, I just got a new foster home where one of the girls is a professional trainer. She actually ASKS for dogs in need of training. I am so grateful to her for helping these dogs become adoptable. We are very lucky she chose our group to work with. There is hope after all.

  2. I ran across your blog this morning through a link on twitter and it's very interesting.

    I love to learn as much as I can about training and see it from both sides of the fence. I have trained with positive-only people who don't even allow the use of the word "No" and others who use corrections but focus on the dog & are well known for helping solve aggression issues. These posts about training are interesting but frustrating to read when they complain but don't solve. Besides hearing about how bad dealing with a situation through corrections is, I'd also like to hear how to deal with the situation through positive reinforcement only. I too have an adopted hound who can be a challenge to walk as she reacts when other dogs bark, say from a backyard, at us. This upsets her and I've struggled to teach her that she doesn't need get upset over it. I read your post hoping to learn more about solving the issue positively, but instead just learned "corrections are bad" and that's it. Many people are probably still force correcting their dog because they've just been told "hey that's bad!" and have never been taught another method that works. In my opinion it's important that when you're posting stories like this you must also explain how you would solve the problem for the post to actually be useful.

    Just my $0.02, of course. :)

  3. This is of course only a blog; and being a blog that I write everyday I cannot cover everything. I do cover specific issues; ie leash aggression, fence fighting or basic obedience problems. I have a book that I am getting ready to publish and there is a TON of info online about how positive reinforcement works. I myself use error markers and intervene. BUT my intervention has nothing to do with a yank on the neck. Perhaps I shall blog about this specific issue tomorrow.

  4. I agree with the previous poster. I'd like to hear what you think would be an adequate response or solution to a problem like this.

    My dog also has issues out on walks when other dogs come by. He reacts differently depending on the dog, of course, but the typical interaction generally ends with me having to pull on his leash to correct him. I don't really see a way around it. I've tried to keep his leash relaxed when other dogs come by, but as soon as the hair stands up and he starts staring, it's my responsibility to keep him in control... which usually means I'll have to hold on tight as we pass.

    I'd love to hear an alternate solution. I don't want to be too negative in the way I discipline my dog, but this is a tough and sensitive issue. I'd feel horrible if my lax discipline ended badly for another dog or another dog owner.


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