Someone asks their dog to “sit”. The dog just stares at them.
They say “sit”, “sit”, “sit”. Still nothing.
Finally, the person pulls out a treat and asks for “sit”. The dog sits.
This is what bribery looks like. If you see this, something has gone terribly wrong during training.
Every once in a while, I will come across someone who does not believe in using food when working with their dog. The general reason for it is that they don’t want to have to bribe their dogs in order to get them to listen.
This is totally understandable. And it would be a good argument against using food in training…if it were valid. But it isn’t.
Unfortunately, if you have to resort to bribery in order to get your dog to perform, then you haven’t been using the food correctly. So, the issue isn’t the use of food. The issue is the inappropriate use of food.
Have you ever heard someone say that you need to be your dog’s “leader”?
Unfortunately, whenever you hear that kind of language out of a trainer, it’s often an indicator that they are operating from a long-outdated framework. Not only are their methods obsolete, but those very methods have been revealed as being dangerous to your dog’s wellbeing.
While they are correct in saying that you should learn how to lead your dog, the problem is with their understanding of what leadership in actual dog training really is.
Sadly, this misconception of leadership in dog training abounds. Its widespread acceptance is surely influenced by the National Geographic Channel’s popularization of The Dog Whisperer and its brutal methods.
This makes it very difficult to talk about actual leadership in dog training without first addressing the misunderstanding.
Congratulations on bringing a new family member into your home!
Puppy Loki Before He Arrived in Our Home
What an exciting time for you. If you haven’t already considered it, I recommend starting with force-free training as soon as possible. The benefits of early training cannot be overstated.
While this is an exciting time, it can also be an expensive one. That’s why I often call what I do as “dog training on the cheap”. Because the financial impact of a dog can become immense, I try to keep that cost down for my clients as much as I can. I don’t ask them to buy anything that I don’t think that they will actually need.
When I do make purchase requests, I try to suggest the best pricing option I am aware of. Usually, this means directing people to my Storefront. As an Amazon Affiliate, I am able to populate it with only products I am comfortable with, while I offer you Amazon’s low pricing.
Still, sometimes, cheapest is not always best. If appropriate, I’ll recommend a higher-quality, more expensive item, and then offer a cheaper substitute of lesser (but still acceptable) quality if your budget can’t handle it.
Now, let’s go shopping for your new canine companion!
Raising Puppy Loki was difficult. He had (indeed, still has) what I call “ninja” skills. He had a knack for getting things off shelves without me noticing…until it was too late. I needed a way to prevent this.
(Note: This was before I had learned a whole lot about dog training. I would do things so much differently now. So don’t try this at home.)
Utilizing my much bigger brain, I realized that if I put things in front of the forbidden things, then they would act as decoys. That would enable me catch him before he actually stole the more valuable item.
Lo and behold, it worked!
Out of the corner of my eye, I would see Puppy Loki snatch the decoy and prance off with it. I then chased him down and asked for a “drop it”. (Note: He really liked the chasing part. See a problem here?)Once I retrieved the decoy, I replaced it for the next round, which was sure to come.
I don’t know how many times we did this. I was happy with the way things were going. And, truth be told, I confess I was also a bit proud of the way I outfoxed him.
Morgan wearing a Halti front-clip harness with a long 30′ lead. He’s practicing his “sit” while walking.
If you aren’t doing it already, you should probably be walking your dog. There are benefits for dogs who go on walks beyond just physical exercise. Besides, walks with your canine companions can be lots of fun for you as well as your pup.
Once you’ve committed to taking a jaunt down the street, you will want to make sure you have equipment that is appropriate for the endeavor. From a modern, science-based training perspective, that means you will want to avoid equipment that causes physical or emotional harm. Continue reading →