Earlier this week I had a truly beautiful session with a dog who has learned that lunging and barking at dogs he is scared of makes them go away.
It was our third session together and we spent it walking round the park gradually decreasing the distance between him and other dogs until by the end of the session he was able to walk past other dogs on the path and ignore them. To a passer by it would have looked a bit underwhelming but for this dog & his person being able to do that was a huge deal. but for this dog & his person being able to do that was a huge deal.
Good training looks dull from the outside. It’s quiet and calm. There are no dramatic sudden transformations like you see in TV training shows because our focus is on preventing the unwanted behaviour from occurring (as much as we can) while simultaneously teaching the dog new skills which will make the old behaviours unnecessary. Our focus is on building what we want.
Traditional training has a different mind set. Dogs are placed in positions where they will react in order to then be able to punish that behaviour. The focus is on stopping behaviour. And it often does so quite dramatically. To the lay person it can look impressive. A dramatic change from lunging & barking to apparent calmness in just one session! But what it doesn’t do is change the underlying reason why the dog is behaving as he does. It addresses only the symptom, not the cause. A scared dog is still a scared dog…he’s just been taught that lunging & barking result in pain. And at some point, on a bad day or when he is feeling unwell or when he’s seen one dog too many that old behaviour can pop back up because the fear is still there.
So we have a choice – quietly teach our dogs new behaviours with empathy while keeping them feeling safe or provoke dramatic reactions in order to then punish them.
I’ll choose quiet every time.