3 Common Beliefs that Can Cripple Your Ability to Train Your Dog


©Scott Sheaffer, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior

Humans are incredibly resistant to letting go of long held beliefs - even when faced with evidence that should point us in a new direction.

The following popular beliefs can get in the way of our relationship with our dogs and decrease our effectiveness when training them.

Belief: "Dog owners must use punishment in order to have well trained dogs."

Dogs just don't get punishment and, therefore, it doesn't work too well. Why? They rarely make the correct connection between the punishment and their misdeed. It usually just tarnishes the relationship between animal and owner.

Giving rewards and taking away rewards is a much more effective way to mold behavior - and more humane too.

Belief: "We can learn about dog training by watching TV."

TV dog trainers represent the real-world of dog training about as much as Grey's Anatomy accurately depicts the life of physicians. The fact is that most serious behavior issues like aggression and separation anxiety take months to improve - not 30 minutes.

Think of the stars of these popular TV shows as actors - because that's what they really are. We need to be very careful about using their techniques with our dogs; oftentimes their training methods can make things worse.

A better bet is to find reputable and knowledgeable information sources when we have training issues - and follow their advice.

Belief: "Shock collars can quickly fix just about any dog behavior problem."

Shock collars seem like such an easy fix for so many canine behavior problems. Unfortunately, besides being inhumane, dogs frequently make the incorrect association with the pain.

For example: A dog owner is tired of his dog defecating on his kitchen floor. He fits the dog with a shock collar and shocks him every time he sees him doing this. Within 24 hours the dog completely avoids the kitchen and starts defecating in the den and living room instead.

What happened? The dog made the unintended association that when he is in the kitchen, bad things happen so he just moves to another area of the house.

Shock collars simply attempt to stop a symptom; they rarely address the root cause. When a root cause is correctly identified, correcting a behavior problem is much easier and the results can be long lasting.