The Theory of Corrections
in Dog Training
By Ed Frawley
One of the most misunderstood areas of dog training, by beginners and so called professionals alike, is how and when to correct a dog. The lack of understanding of corrections is where many people get into trouble when they train their dogs.
Unfortunately in the past 20 or 25 years we have seen a movement in dog training that promotes
strictly motivational methods to train dogs. These misguided methods don’t encompass corrections.
The people who promote these programs do a disservice to the art of dog training.
When new pet owners first learn to train, they think corrections are either: a verbal reprimand, a jerk
on the leash, or putting the dog in the bedroom for inappropriate behavior. For some dogs this is
enough, but for those trainers who need to take their dog to a higher level of performance this is not
The wrong kind of correction, or a poorly timed correction, or even the lack of correction is what gets
people in trouble. This article will explore the world of corrections in dog training.
My hope is that by explaining the theory behind the various forms of corrections owners will become
better educated and therefore better dog trainers. Through this article you will find that I am not a fan
of forced training. But with this said, you will also learn that to ignore corrections during training or
to use the wrong correction at the wrong time can actually set your training back and possibly destroy
the bond between you and your dog.
To understand corrections we must first explore the goals that different trainers have for training their
Some trainers follow the theory that “the end justifies the means.” These people use a lot of force when they train a dog. This is a common approach for many professional dog trainers. These people must accomplish a great deal within a short period of time or they can’t make enough money to justify the time spent in training a customer’s dog. I am not a fan of forced training which is why I am not a fan of sending dogs off to a professional trainer.
My goal in training is to teach my dog to first trust me and then when that’s done, to follow my voice
command. In the “trust phase” of training the dog learns that I am fair but firm. My dog sees that I treat it with respect and expect respect in return. It learns that above all I am consistent and when I ask him to do something he must do it. You can get a better understanding of how I approach dog training if you read the article I wrote on my philosophy of dog training.
Some people confuse the bond with a dog and what I want to call trust. Many interpret a bond as being a relationship of love and that’s not what I look for in my dog. A dog can love you and not respect you. I can’t have a relationship with a dog without having respect from that dog.
Getting a dog’s respect is not something that happens over night. The trust phase can take months. The DVD I produced titled Building Drive and Focus teaches the foundation for this phase of training.
Corrections vs. Forced Training
There is a difference between giving a correction in normal training and forcing a dog to comply. This
article will also explore both areas.
While I am not a fan of forced training I understand it. Unfortunately in my career I have used forced
training and today I regret doing so. Maybe in some small way this article is written as an apology to my past dogs that deserved better than I gave them.
While this article will explain the various methods used to force a dog to comply, I only include this
information so readers will recognize these methods if they see them in a local obedience class or if they hire a professional trainer to solve a problem and that trainer uses too much force.
I hope trainers are willing to walk away from these environments because they know there is a better
Formal Obedience Training vs. Pack Behavior
First let us examine the difference between corrections used in obedience training and corrections used for inappropriate pack behavior.
If you have my Basic Dog Obedience DVD you will have heard me say that “you never correct a dog in formal obedience training unless you are 100% sure the dog knows the meaning of the command he is refusing to follow.” There are not a lot of rules in dog training but this is one of them for obedience training.