Friday, March 15

Tamara's Training Tips: Discipline/Punishment

Discipline and/or Punishment is a topic that I address with every client.  It is also something that is at the forefront of my mind all the time as I see people on the street administering it to their dogs.  There is a constructive way to do this, in my training it would be a consequence for bad behavior and there is a wrong way to do this which can be just plain abuse. 

It is important that your dog understands boundaries and you know how to enforce them but also make sure you keep your relationship in tack and not simply use fear to rule your dog.  You want your dog to listen to you and trust you, not be feared into acting a certain way.

The strongest consequence for your dog is to take your attention away from them or ignore them.  But this is not always possible.  For those moments I recommend a squirt from a spray bottle, a clap of the hands, or possibly a time out. 

For ignoring, this is a good consequence for things like attention seeking behavior, teaching loose leash walking, manners in public or with visitors in your home, jumping up and other similar bad behaviors.  Remember that ignoring means, no looking at, talking to or touching your dog.  An example on how you would use the ignoring method:  Your dog is really excited when he sees other dogs on the street, as soon as he starts pulling and whining to get to the other dogs, you shorten your leash, stop talking to him, do not look at him and do not touch him, simple keep walking directly by the other dog and when your dog returns to walking beside you and doing a behavior you like, you reward him with a "good boy", eye contact and a pat on the head.

The water bottle is a great tool for excessive barking, unruly behavior on the leash, chewing, biting and many, many other things, but those are a few common ones.  When you use the water bottle you need to simply squirt your dog and try not to look at, talk to or touch as you are doing it.  Remember, the water bottle is the consequence, not you scolding or physically punishing your dog.  An example of use of the water bottle:  Your dog barks excessively at every noise outside.  When your dog begins to bark (I usually allow 1-3 alert barks) give the command you have chosen for "quite", when your dog continues to bark, squirt him with the water bottle.  When he stops barking, say "good boy", give eye contact and pat on the head. 

Clapping of the hands is usually used for most of the same things the water bottle is use for.  You can administer it in two ways, it depends on the sensitivity of your dog.  The first is to simply be in the room with your dog and clap when you see them doing the unwanted behavior.  The second is to get your hands close to their face and clap for the unwanted behavior.  An example of use of the hand clapping:  Your dog is chewing on your couch, you walk into the room and clap your hands loudly.  Your dog looks up and goes right back to it, you walk closer to your dog and clap right in his face, he moves away from the couch, you say "good boy", give eye contact and pat on the head.   For chewing specifically you should also then give your dog the appropriate chew toy to continue chewing.

Time out.  This is a method that is commonly mis-used.  First your dog has to be crate trained or trained to be in a room without you without the onset of major anxiety.  Usually this is used if your dog is being overly hyper, refusing to listen, or being a unruly with guests human or canine.  An example of using the time out method:  Your dog has a play date over, they are playing nicely until there is a fight over a toy.  Pick up the toy, put your dog in the crate (and the play date in theirs if there is one), after 5 minutes or when he is calm, let him back out and continue play.  Be sure when he comes out to at least say "good boy" or give a little pat on the head, this would be the "make up" period so your dog understands you are no longer angry at him.

The most common things I see that make me cringe are the use of leash corrections or leash pops with a choke chain or prong collar and the use of "spanking".  Traditional or Compulsion trainers do use physical punishment on dogs that are exhibiting unwanted behavior.  But this is not my type of training, this type of training is based on your dog fearing you or you have complete dominance over your dog.  There is no relationship and the only reason your dog "obeys" you is because they fear the punishment.

These types of corrections may get what you want in the moment, but they will not get you what you want long term.  Further, I believe any time you raise your hand to your dog, that is not training, that is abuse.  I see it everyday, a spank (smacking the dog on the rump with an open hand), a nose flick or finger slap (flicking the dog's nose with your finger or firmly tapping on the top of it), face/muzzle grab (tightly grab the dogs muzzle to yell or scold), or kicking/pushing the dog with your feet.  All of these I consider abuse.  There is never a need to physically punish your dog to this degree, a water bottle will more than get the job done and if that doesn't work, there are many humane ways to clearly say to your dog, don't do that.

If you have a dog that you feel needs discipline, give us a bark and let us help rebuild your relationship!