Dog Training

Just about every morning I take my dog out to the woods so that she can meet up with her other doggie pals and run free off her leash. Usually it’s a bunch of stay-at-home moms and dads who bring their dogs to the woods and while the dogs socialize, the adult humans do too. There is this one guy who brings his dog to the woods (off-leash before he even gets there—there is a leash law in my town and if the dog ran from him she could get hit by a car or disappear altogether. A different story in itself).

Anyway, this guy does good things such as cutting and moving tree limbs that have fallen during storms in order to clear the walking paths. He also tries to look out for other people’s dogs, such as during the morning he spotted me standing still in the woods holding my leash when he walked by. He asked if I had misplaced my dog because he couldn’t see her. I replied that she was taking care of her business and I was just giving her some privacy. My friends and I joke that he is always trying to sniff out doggy danger and I have nicknamed him Captain Skip for that very reason. For Halloween, I envisioned him dressing up as Captain Skip complete with a blue cape, dog collar, and large dog bone on his chest. But alas, there was no trick-or-treating in this town because of the big snowstorm; so seeing him decked out in uniform will have to wait until maybe next year.

However, there is one disturbing aspect about Captain Skip’s discipline methods that really bother me. Not only will he discipline his own dog by BITING her on her ear (yes, I wrote BITING), but he will go ahead and bite the ears of other people’s dogs if he sees they are not behaving. One day he did this to one of the dogs that runs in our group. The dog didn’t listen to her owner’s command, so he bit her on the ear because she needed to show her dog who’s boss.

I didn’t witness that incident but I did find it very disturbing. Why would you discipline another person’s dog when not even asked? That’s like disciplining another person’s child without asking! You just don’t do it! I didn’t think much about it, until I was in the woods again the other day and spotted him and another neighbor walking their dogs. He called the neighbor’s dog over and she didn’t come. He called a couple of times and when she finally came over to him he sat her down, grabbed her by the collar, and BIT HER EAR!!!!!!!!!

I was a bit stunned at that scene. My mama bear instinct said that if he ever did that to my dog, I would hurt him. However, as I stood there stunned and seething, I decided I needed to do some research on this method of discipline so that I would be prepared if he ever tried anything with my dog.

My dog was trained by a professional dog trainer. Before the training began, the trainer explained to me that there were basically two types of training—reward dog training and aversive dog training. The reward dog training works by finding something your dog likes such as a favorite treat or a toy and rewarding your dog’s wanted behavior with that something, or discouraging the unwanted behavior by taking away that something. Sometimes trainers will use a clicker so that the dog will associate the clicking sound with the reward.

On the other hand, aversive dog training works by applying an unpleasant stimulus such as a muzzle or a choke collar, kicking the dog, or my favorite (note the sarcasm please), the alpha roll where the owner forces a dog on its back to prevent aggressive behavior. Some other methods of aversive training include staring down the dog and actually growling at the dog.

My trainer used the reward dog training method, which I knew before he even stepped foot in my house or else he would have been gone at the word ‘hello.’ Those who use the reward-based training may not see results immediately but in the long run, one will end up with a happy and emotionally healthy dog. On the other hand, studies have shown that dogs who are trained using the aversive method may respond to commands more quickly, but over time will develop a fear of the owner, behave more aggressively, and have more anxieties.

In addition, over time the dog may not respond to the aversive training because he or she will have become used to being kicked or growled at. My former neighbor used a muzzle on her dog to get her to stop biting (she was a puppy and she was only nipping), and over time the dog became very aggressive and they ended up getting rid of her because they couldn’t control her. Finally, I asked my vet about punishing a dog by biting his ear. She basically said that it sounded a bit crazy. I couldn’t agree with her more. So as the Griswold kids said in the movie Vacation “WEIRDORAMA!!!!!!!!”