PhiLosoPhy oN Dog TraiNiNg
writed by Ed Frawley
My philosophy of how to train dogs has been a journey that began when I was a boy in the 1950’s and continues to this day. I get as excited when I learn something new about dog training today as I did 45 or 50 years ago. For me this journey began as a hobby and has evolved into a life’s passion and work. It will end on the day I die.
There is nothing secretive or magical about training dogs. I have learned that good dog training is pretty much all common sense with a foundation based on experience and a clear understanding of the way dogs think and interact (pack structure). The key is to get the right experience.
One only needs to spend a couple of hours searching the internet to understand that there are certainly a lot of people out there who lack experience or are basing their training opinions on poorly acquired experience.
Dog training does not necessarily have to begin when you buy an 8 week old puppy (although it should) or when your 10 year old dog bites a child. In reality it begins on the day you make up your mind to learn how your dog thinks and relates to the world it lives in. It begins when you decide to relate to your dog in a manner that both you and your dog respect and understand. It begins when you make up your mind to develop a meaningful relationship based on trust, communication and control.
Although our family had owned dogs my entire life I made this decision to really try and understand dogs when I was in high school. I was 16 years old and it was the 1960’s. I owned a rescue dog named King and thought he was the cat’s meow.
We took 2 or 3 walks in the woods every day. He was my best bud. I had him trained to hand signals and verbal commands. One morning, before school, we came out of the woods and King chased a cat into the road. He would not respond to my calls to stop and COME. He ran in front of an Austin Martin sports car and was killed. To this day I can close my eyes and replay that event in slow motion.
That one incident changed the way I looked at dog training. It caused me to step back and make up my mind that the next time I would learn how to communicate in a way that my dog would listen to me in every scenario and not just in the ones he felt like doing so.
I wrote this article with the thought that it may help other dog owners develop a new approach on how
they relate to and train their dogs. I hope in some small way it makes you think and develop or adopt your own philosophy of how to train your dog.
There are 3 Categories of Dog Trainers
Three basic categories of dog trainers which I place on a sliding scale.
The first category on the left is the group of people who beg or bribe their dogs to do something by offering a food or toy reward.
Don’t get me wrong, I use food and toys in training, but I also use distractions and corrections. The people in this first category use neither. All of the large pet food warehouses (i.e. Pet Smart, Petco , or
the Monks of New Skeet etc) sponsor this category of ineffective training because they feel it’s politically correct.
The problem with this group is that the dogs often choose to not do what’s asked because they don’t think the reward is worth the task. These dogs end up being pushy, dominant and often antisocial aggressive animals. These are the dogs that are turned into animal shelters as being unmanageable when in fact they act the way they do as a result of ineffective dog training.
At the other end of the scale, on the right side, is the second category of dog trainers. These are trainers who intimidate or force their dogs to do what they want (the William Kholer trainers) . I call them the old school “yank and crank” trainers.
They put a choke collar on a dog and force it to do everything. Many professional dog trainers use these methods because for them time is money and with enough force a dog can be trained to do lmost
The problem with yank and crank trainers is the dogs seldom like their handlers and in fact are often afraid of them. These are the dogs that tuck their tails or lay on the ground when asked to do something. When these dogs are near their owners they don’t look happy because they never know when the hammer is going to fall.
The problem with both of these categories of dog trainers is that their training produces inconsistent
results along with dogs that don’t like or respect their owners. If you don’t have a good bond with your dog, or if your dog does not respect you as a pack leader, you will never reach consistency in training.
The third category of dog trainer is the where I want to be. Category three trainers strive to be in the middle of the other two categories. They balance in the middle but are always prepared to move one way or the other depending on what’s going on in their dog training at a given point in time.
The third group uses food, toys or praise to take a dog through a learning phase. This is where the dog actually learns the meaning of a command – for example it learns the meaning of the word “COME”.
Once the dog understands the meaning of the command the trainer then adds distractions to the program. A good example of this is a dog that has learned the meaning of the command “DOWN - STAY” but now must learn to stay when the owner or someone else tosses a ball in front of the dogs feet or drops a hot dog 4 feet from where he is lying.
When a dog is disobedient under distraction or does not follow directions this third category of dog trainers teaches a dog that they will be corrected for being disobedient.