Dog Training Information On The Internet Can Be Dead Wrong

©Scott Sheaffer, USA Dog Behavior

I recently saw this bit of dog training wisdom on the Internet, "[When] dogs pull on a leash they are being aggressive... To stop this behavior...use a choke collar and every time the dog pulls..."

That advice is wrong on so many levels that it pains me to read it. Hopefully, it bothers you as well.

Finding good dog training information on the Internet can be difficult. There is reliable information available; however, knowing what information to trust is the challenge. You would never use a professional dog trainer without first researching that person. It just makes sense to apply the same standard when looking for information.

I googled various dog training subjects in preparation to write this article. This exercise reminded me that the Internet has virtually no barriers to those wanting to dispense their personal opinions. Degrees, know-how, certifications and experience are not required to post information.

Much of the information found on the web about the following dog training subjects is particularly troubling to me:

1) The old-school thinking about hierarchy (i.e., dominance) amongst and between owners, dogs and wolves is now seen as incorrect. Modern ethology (i.e., study of animal behavior) has a greatly updated model.

2) Many dog breeders and pet stores sell puppy-mill dogs. A breeder's website will never provide enough reliable information to make an informed choice. If you decide to purchase a puppy, always visit (i.e., inspect) the breeder's physical location before you buy.

3) There is an avalanche of anecdotal information on the Internet about dog breeds and their temperaments. For example, if someone from another planet were to drop in and search the web for "pit bull," he or she would find an enormous amount of conflicting information about these dogs. Much of it just dead wrong.

4) When searching the web, shock collars often appear to be the answer for almost all canine behavioral issues. Their appeal is strong because they seem to provide an instant fix. However, they frequently cause much bigger issues in the long run.

5) The myth that dogs routinely protect their owners from bad guys permeates the Internet. The short version of reality is that Max wants the bad guy to leave him, not you, alone and tries to get the bad guy to leave by displaying aggressive behavior. Because the owner is holding the leash, he incorrectly perceives that the dog is protecting him.

6) The web is littered with articles that address the evils of using food rewards. Everyone knows that real trainers use pain and punishment to train - right? To the contrary, research has proven that positive training techniques (e.g., food rewards) are much more effective.

7) You don't have to dig deep to find a mountain of information on the web about how to train your dog to walk politely on-leash. Unfortunately, much of it involves choke collars and prong collars. Teaching a dog how to walk on a loose leash is counterintuitive in a lot of ways. A standard flat collar combined with sound training techniques can provide a permanent solution to this problem.

So, what are some good sources of general information about dogs? I recommend -

Books:

Dogs Are From Neptune, Jean Donaldson
The Other End of the Leash, Patricia McConnell

Websites:

APDT.com
AKC.org