You might have noticed that there are many different training approaches when it comes to dog training. Personally I think it’s a fabulous thing because not only all dogs are different but also the humans they belong to.
With the diversity of training styles and approaches there is something available for everybody, for all dogs but also for all people. So each owner can choose what they feel comfortable with and what they think is the best approach depending on their dogs training needs.
A versatile training should be educated in many different techniques and styles and be open minded to learn about everything that’s out there…even sometimes something they might disagree with because in the end, we can all learn from each other and we can all pick and choose what we want to integrate in our training from each style. In the end, all trainers, at least I hope so, want to help better the lives of dogs.
But before I’m starting a huge discussion about what training style is better than the other, there is one thing in particular that I personally would never take out of my training; Giving the dog the full truth!
The full information of right and wrong and yes and no. I always tell my clients “If you tell your dog yes, you have to say no…and if you say no you have to say yes”. It is not fair to just leave them with either or and figure the rest out themselves.
In my opinion as a trainer, simply ignoring unwanted behaviors at all the times and only reinforcing the desired behaviors is not fair. While there are times where ignoring unwanted behaviors even without giving anymore information is the right thing to do, in most cases, for the dog (same for humans though) to effectively learn at an appropriate speed, providing both parts of information (Yes & No) are integral parts to the learning process.
Example 1: Dog Training
If a dog jumps on me, which to me is a big No No because he can hurt me or somebody else by doing this, I will tell him that this is unacceptable and will correct him for the behavior (please talk to a professional how to correct this appropriately). So I’m giving him the information of NO, but at the same time, right after I told him “NO”, I will show and redirect him into the right behavior (such as sitting politely) and reward the desired behavior.
If I would only tell the dog “NO”, but then not guide him into the right behavior, he will likely end up confused and stressed and not knowing what else to do than jumping. He might stop this particular bad behavior of jumping, but there is the possibility of developing another bad behavior. The reason that this could be happening is because he now has to figure out all by himself what another appropriate response could be.
The same happens if you tell your dog only “YES”. Let’s say you dog jumps on you and you just ignore it, maybe turn your back but he keeps jumping on you and scratching you and then finally once he sits you reward him with a big “YES” (maybe you reward with a treat or a pet) you do teach him that sitting is a more desired behavior and you increase the likely hood of him sitting more often, however he is still allowed to pursue the unwanted and rude behavior. In this case, the unwanted behavior might go on longer than desired by not being clear of what you want.
In the dog world, what do you think how often will another dog accept another dog jump on them or behave rudely in another way? They won’t just ignore it. They will likely tell the dog to stop in dog language (showing the NO) and once the “rudely behaving dog” understands that his behavior is unacceptable the “jumped on dog” will now start to engage in a friendly manner (showing the YES)
Example 2: Communication Between Dog & Human
Imagine being forced to live in a new country where you do not speak the language or know the culture. It can be confusing, scary and easy for you to make the wrong decisions. You may shake someone’s hand, give eye contact or maybe you didn’t take off your shoes but unintentionally you have disrespected a culture and could be arrested for it. Dogs go through this everyday living with humans. They do not speak the language and do not understand the culture. They need someone to be a support for the dog to show them what is the right thing to do but also the wrong thing
In such foreign country, wouldn’t you be happier if somebody would show you at least the basic rules in very clear way of saying “We do this, but not this”. When we meet new friends we hug them, only shaking their hands is considered rude. It would probably spare you a lot of embarrassment and discomfort knowing that in this what is considered appropriate.
So having somebody that shows you right and wrong will help you be less stressed and make your stay more comfortable.
Example 3: Parents & Children
If a young child wanted to run through traffic to cross the street, the parent would not allow it but they wouldn’t just ignore it. They would teach them, NO yo
u can’t do this but let me show you (YES) how to safely cross a road.
If that same child went grocery shopping with that parent, would they be allowed to take every chocolate bar off the shelf and just ignore it? No, it is not appropriate. They parent wouldn’t just ignore it and let the child do this but rather teach them that being polite and asking will get them what they want.
Have you played the game hot and cold before? Were there moments where you got really frustrated cause you just stayed in the cold more often than in hot? Can you imagine doing this for the rest of your life in EVERY new situation? That’s what happens to dogs that get only half of the story. That seems like a lot of stress to me!
While some stress in necessary to learn for humans and dogs and sometimes we do in fact need to let dogs figure out things on their own so they can become more independent, if you are not clear with the guidance you give to your dog, which includes the information of Yes and No, it’s like playing the game hot and cold all over all the time
So the next time you are unhappy with a behavior of your dog and are trying to teach him not to do it again, remember that there is two sides of the story and you will have to provide him with the correct version as well.
About the author:
Simone Krebser - CPDT: Owner and head dog trainer of K9 Possible Dog Training serving the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia from Osoyoos to Penticton and Kelowna with result based dog training. Certified dog trainer, certified pet first aid instructor, member of the IACP, dog crazy and chocolate/cheese addict. “My life revolves around dog’s day in and out and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is my goal to help enhance the lives of as many dogs (and their owners) as possible. Your dog is my priority and I’m as committed to your dog as you are. But I can only help those who sincerely want to help their dogs and not only themselves.”