When I first began my professional career over 30 years ago, I studied many of the animal trainers of the day and the methods and philosophies they used. For the most part the methods were primarily based on, that if a dog made a mistake, the need for strong correction was warranted. I knew right from day one that this was not an approach that I would pursue. I realized that I liked to learn when it was enjoyable and invigorating, why not teach our pets the same way? And so I developed the Hugs and Kisses approach to training and behavior, much to the amusement and disdain of others in my field.
Some of the earlier methods of training that were used included punishment: e.g., if a dog digs holes, fill the holes with water and stick the dog’s head and hold it down. If the dog jumps, take your knee and give him a hard blow to the chest. Even the use of slingshots was accepted. I, along with others, knew that there was a better way, one that involved understanding, not dominance.
Common sense was exactly what was missing in the early days. In ensuing years, a good number of trainers and behaviorist started to take a much gentler and more logical approach, “if a dog gets more attention for being good, then why should they be bad ?“ The Positive Method of training and problem-solving was taking hold and it was working. Hundreds of thousands of dogs were educated and enjoyed life as a family member not a member of the pack.
So why the change, why are more and more so-called trainers going back to the harsh methods of the past, where dominance and punishment was the rule? I hear it all the time on my radio show and seminars — that in order for you to have a dog, you must be the leader and demand perfection from your dogs. I say if you want perfection, go to Radio Shack and buy something with batteries! Is everyone looking for that magic pill — that instant gratification which jeopardizes their dog’s enjoyment of life? I say the two keys to a happy dog and a well behaved dog are education and socialization.
Here are some of the methods that I believe are abusive and should not be used.
- Electronic shock collars. I just heard a story of a trainer that used a shock collar on a dog that was barking — of course the dog was tied outside for 24 hours at a time. “DUH”
- Alpha Roll: flipping a dog on his back and making the dog submit. Recently, I read that a child was bitten trying this. Can you blame the dog? And yes the dog was killed.
- How about giving your dog a chance to enjoy? When you go for a walk, remember it’s the dog’s walk — not yours! Let him sniff and pee where ever he or she wants.
- No collars with spikes—some say it doesn’t hurt—well then, tell me how it works.
- No hitting of any kind! I’ve yet to see one dog hit another.
- No hanging of dogs
- If it looks abusive, chances are it is.
Now I don’t want you to misunderstand me — I feel strongly that every dog should be properly educated and socialized. And yes, there are times when you do need to correct, not punish your dog. But we have them for such a short period of time and, just like with people, dogs have different capabilities. Not all dogs are the same, some are slower to learn, some are easily distracted and yes some are smarter than their owners. With all that in mind, if you take the time to understand your dog’s needs and keep him mentally stimulated, then you understand exactly what I mean.
I look at my pets Skyler and Cisko and the hundreds of pets that have shared my home as members of my family and when they get a little wacky I think of my eccentric aunt or hyper uncle and realized that having some faults is part of living.
So the next time your pet is just hanging out, go over give him or her a big Hug and Kiss and tell them how much you appreciate them the way they are.