It’s the 21st century. People have studied how dog’s brains work. You would think that everyone would be using positive methods free of pain and intimidation to train their dogs. And yet, so-called “dog whisperers” still go around choking dogs to the point of collapse, jerking them around, and pretty much hanging them with slip leads, (the things you see on YouTube,) and people think it’s okay.
It’s partly ignorance, of course, and it’s partly because of the way people tend to fall under the spell of celebrities, regardless of whether they actually know what they’re talking about. But it’s also an image thing, I think. We want to look good. And we want our dogs to behave like furry little robots RIGHT NOW so they make us look good.
Consider, if you will, a person, their dog wearing a prong collar, standing quietly next to them. a person who holds the leash confidently in their hands. Gives a jerk if the dog takes a step away from them. Tells you you just have to be the pack leader, show the dog who’s boss. Or someone holding a high-tech looking remote in their hands, with a snazzy shock collar on their dog. They press a button and their dog comes running back to them, stops on a dime, and sits perfectly in front of them. And all they had to do was press a button.
Now picture this: a person fumbling with a long line attached to a happy, goofy dog with one hand, reaching into a treat pouch around their waist with the other, singing out “come!” in a Micky-Mouse voice, and cooing “good jooooooooooob!” as their dog comes back to them, rewarding them with a treat.
Not the most dignified picture in the world. Kind of dorky, actually.
But what you may not see is the bond between the silly-looking trainer and their dog. And because of this bond, the long line will eventually be fazed out, and the dog will come on its own. A dog will choose to come back to a person when they call, turning away from much more interesting things to do so. They will do it just as perfectly as the robot dog, but they will do it not because they fear pain but because they choose to. It’s a beautiful thing, and it happens because of patience and practice and patience and practice and lots and lots of patience and practice.
Doing the right thing is usually not the most dignified or cool or impressive thing in the world. In my experience, if nobody agrees with you, if everyone thinks you’re a nut job, well, that’s how you know you’re on the right track. So if someone tells you you should be “correcting” your dog, and you’re being weak, and you need to step up and be a “pack leader,” take it as a compliment. At the end of the day, your relationship with your dog is more important than looking good and getting snappy results. The best results, the most real results, are the ones that are achieved through time, patience, humility, and mutual understanding and trust. Those are the kind of results the cool looking person with the prong collar will never get.