Ask the Expert on Dog behavior, Grooming & Pet Food – Rebecca Hayes-Copeland


Ask the Expert on Dog behavior, Grooming & Pet FoodRebecca Hayes-Copeland

Let’s get honest about dog training for a minute. As a trainer, I get tired of hearing advertisements or sales pitches about different tools used for training that are less than truthful. So let’s get honest about some of these devices.

I am a clicker trainer. That means I use a small box to make a ‘click’ sound so I can mark good behaviours and reward them. The rewards can be varied: it just has to be something your dog really likes. This means for the most part food and treats are a go to reward because dogs love food. Easy enough. This type of training is called positive reinforcement because I am adding something (click & treat) to increase (reinforce) particular behaviours: sit, down, come, stay, etc. Dogs perform these cued behaviours because they know good things are coming.

There are other training methods that use specialty collars. The three most common collars are identified by different names but all involve the same principle. Training Collars (used to be called Choke Chains), Prong or Pinch Collars, E-Collars (used to be called Shock Collars): all use positive punishment to train your dog.

Positive because I am adding something (the use of the collar, whether it be check, pull, or the push of a button) to punish & therefore decrease behaviour. This is where I get frustrated with the ‘sales pitch’. Let’s just be honest guys: use of the collar decreases behaviour. If the use of the collar didn’t cause some sort of unwanted association then it would not decrease (punish) behaviours. For example: E-collar trainers claim that it doesn’t hurt, it just ‘gets the dog’s attention’. If that were true then an e-collar wouldn’t decrease behaviours. So, for kicks – let’s just press that remote’s button every time your dog sits. Will he keep sitting? Choke Chains & Prong Collars – same game. Let’s apply those collars every time the dog sits. Will he keep sitting? Is that the correct use of these tools? No – but the point is that these tools do punish behaviour and you should understand that when training your dog.

My intent here is simply to be honest. Know your tools. Which tools increase behaviours (mark & reward, lure & reward). Which tools decrease behaviours and why. If I felt the need to use a shock, pinch or choke collar on a dog – I would be honest that it hurts the dogs which is why it decreases behaviour (punishing it).

My personal philosophy and opinion is that I would rather teach my dog and develop a relationship without using punishment as my primary training tool. So, if you come for classes with me, be prepared for a little box called a clicker and bring lots of treats, toys and play to every class.