Punished dog? To be or not to be

I have really been fascinated with the role of punishment in dog training. Is it effective? How to use it? When to use it? Besides the obvious of why to use it I found myself needing to use it on my oldest male dog. My dog had a problem with lunging at people.

I knew it was fear based and due to the neighborhood we live in. While walking my dog since 6 months old until now (10 years later) we have been in an estimate of 10 fights with stray dogs.

The screaming, growling, and biting still plays over in my mind. This was a horrible dramatic experience for me and my dog even when I carried around a stick and a pet convincer and some other items.

Anybody who knows me knows my dog is like my son/ partner. I was always with him. We ate together. We slept in the same room(not on the same bed). If I could I would of took my dog to parties with me. I did not have the knowledge that I have now when it comes to dogs and wish I did. My dog ended up not having the proper socialization due to these reasons and me being busy.

I while back I invested in a dog trainer who helped me with Fats (my dog). He introduced me to the ecollar. It worked for a time, but I did not have money to continue lessons. Soon I noticed my dog started to revert back to old ways of dog aggression and lunging at people. I then started to dive deep into understanding punishment and its role in dog training. I realize that my dog is old and I don’t want to put undo stress on him. I would like to help others into clarifying the use of punishment with dogs.

Anytime a dog does a behavior you don’t like the result is punishment, whether negative or positive. Negative punishment is the removal of something your dog wants and positive is adding something your dog doesn't like.

Is punishment effective? It definitely is. Punishment is effective in the sense that it stops bad behavior.

This is why so many pet trainers go to using punishment and pressure style training( make the dog do what you say) very quickly. This is because it works. According to Michael Ellis it works 100% of the time and I agree. You can always make a dog do something. Is this good dog training?

Not what I believe. But this is necessary at certain levels of training. The nuances need to be taken into account. I watched my senior citizen of a dog lunge at strangers. When I gave him a punishment, he suppressed this need to lunge at people. He still felt the need to lunge at people because of some fear, but the punishment suppressed him demonstrating this behavior. This is also important for people to understand.

Just because a dog doesn’t act out a behavior anymore doesn’t mean the dog is cured. Emotions effect dogs big time and judge what they do. If a dog is very fearful they can’t learn. This is why I focus on a dog’s attitude with my clients.

I want the dog to enjoy training and love it. I especially want puppies to be willing to try things. This is the reason why puppies receive no 1-2 combo from me( because I would never hit a dog and I don't want punishment to suppress their drive).

How to use punishment? High levels of correction. Many people would say that I am being harsh and that I have no heart. They must not understand how dogs learn. I would suggest they read Pamela Reid’s book Xcelerated learning for dogs.

I know you want to be kind and start low with correction and work your way higher until the behavior subsides. There is one main flaw in this mindset that hurts your chances of truly eradicating a problem behavior.

That is the fact that dogs adapt to the pain sensation. If you keep subjecting a dog to the same level correction then eventually they will get used to it and it will lose its potency. On the other hand if you go as high as the mountains then you will only need to do it a few times. Why do you think you don't play around with fire?

I can’t remember where I heard this analogy from but it reasonated with me. Imagine that every time you parked your car in the wrong place, instead of a parking ticket, your car exploded. I bet you never park there again with your next car. Nagging low level punishment is like parking tickets. Sure it might make some people think twice but not the majority.

We can’t just know how to use punishment; we also have to know when. The reason I don't punish puppies is because they don’t know what I am asking of them.

It is very important to be fair to the dog. If I correct a dog that has not demonstrated that they know what I am asking of them then the correction can have a dramatic effect on them.

This is how some dogs develop what is called learned helplessness. The dog will eventually stop trying and just give up. If your dog understands what it needs to do to avoid a harsh correction then best believe they will do it.

An example of this is if I ask my dog to recall(come). If we perform the exercise 1,000 times successfully then I’m sure my dog understands it. Therefore, if I tell him to come and he doesn’t he gets a correction. On the other hand, if we have been working on the recall for 1 week and my dog comes to me sometimes, then I will not punish my dog for not coming.

If we follow these principals to using punishment then I am sure we will have no problem with being fair with our dog. We will build a better relationship with man’s and woman’s best friend.

What they want to ban is what I love

It maybe out of ignorance. Actually I'm sure it is out of ignorance that a lot of people want to ban one or the other of these two things. The two things I'm referring to is a Pit bull and an e-collar. Both of these items hold a special place in my heart.

My dog, fats, its like a son to me. He is my partner, my buddy, my road dog. I ve been with him since birth and he is 10 years old. We have gotten to know each other likes and dislikes and trust each other.

My dog has aggressive tendencies. As I am a dog trainer now we work on managing his aggression and getting to the root problem. Sometimes I get mad at myself because i caused him to add to the stigma of aggressive pit bull due to my negligence.

I take full responsibility for his actions. How did he end up like this you ask? Well it all started when I was younger and thought I was cool. So if you thought you was a bad ass then you had a big pit bull by your side. I thought it was cool that my dog was game and ready to step to anyone who came near him. People would come by my house and he would lunge at them. He doesn't do this anymore, as far as lunging ( unless you get him excited and he thinks you're playing).

Now I hate when I see pit bulls wild and not in control. They are beautiful dogs who will work to earn their keep, but it is us people who ruin the dog and the dog's name. I deeply regret my ignorance and now fully understand what I did.I now dedicate myself to helping other not make this same mistake.

I remember when I was working in Petsmart and this guy had this big pit bull pulling him. He had the same swag I did when I was younger with my dog. I could tell he didn't understand that these dogs need leaders. They need to be guided what to do.

Anyways, he was walking down one of the isles and his dog was meeting a husky dog about the same age (8 months). The guy with the pit bull was not noticing signs that his dog was trying to dominate the husky. I turned my back for one quick second and I hear growling as I turned back to see the husky cowering back after being snipped by the pit bull. The owner did not notice, but he promoted this behavior.

The same behavior I promoted with my dog 10 years ago. I work hard now everyday to train my dog so that I can make his life as fun now on that I couldn't 10 years ago. I don't have to avoid places being scared he will bite someone. This usually only happens around kids because they always want to do something weird to the dog like grab his tail.

Avoidance is never the key. You have to face the fear and/or problem in order to get over it. I will always promote pit bulls and never let someone who doesn't know any better tell me otherwise.

The E-collar

I was taught first under the positive reinforcement only training. In order for you to understand let me quickly explain the four quadrants of operant conditioning.

The first one is positive reinforcement. This is when the dog does something I like and I reward with a treat of some sort. The second one is negative punishment. This is when I remove something the dog wants in order to get the dog to change the behavior.

The third one is positive punishment. This is when the dog peforms a behavior I don't want and then I give the dog a correction.

The fourth and final quadrant is negative reinforcement. This is when I put pressure on a dog and they learn how to release pressure. This last one is what e-collar training is about. 

Why do some people want it banned? The same as why they want pit bulls banned-ignorance. They don't know how to use the tool. Now in their defense there are people who misuse the tool as well as train pit bulls in aggressive ways, but there are many things they are not considering. 

1. Off leash freedom

Many people don't realize that they can have off leash freedom if they take time to train the dog to the ecollar. It's important to note that I would never put an e collar on a dog and crank it to the highest level and press the button if the dog misbehaves. That is not teaching. That is abuse. I always teach the dog the language slowly. 

2. Low level stimulation

I use low level stimulation. Most times people can't feel the stimulation. It's too low, but the dog can feel it. All the only positive trainers will say it's inhumane, but they can't even feel it. They would ask me if I would put it on myself. I tell them I have and that they should watch my video on it. 

3. Break a dog's attention immediately

If a dog is too focused on something you don't want them focused on like a cat or another dog then you can use this to immediately stop it before the behavior erupts. If your dog is too far away then you wont be able to correct them in time.

This goes along with off leash freedom. Also if my dog is 50 ft away and I need him to come immediately then I can communicate with him what I expect.

These are just a few. Both of these changed my life. My pit bull I wouldn't give up for the world and the e-collar has really upped my level of training and the results I could get. I am thankful for both and I enjoy doing what I do.