Avoid This “Spooky” Dog Training Mistake

Yesterday I posted a video of a reactive dog class that I am teaching.

In the video you see six “reactive” dogs doing a sit stay very close to each other.

I teach the class with no choke, prong or electronic collars.

I am often asked why I don’t use choke or prong collars in class.

My opinion is that you should never use an aversive collar in a group of other dogs.

Especially when they are first learning.

You see, many of the reactive dogs that I work with become reactive because of the very collars that are supposed to train them.

When you put on a choke or prong collar in the presence of other dogs, your dog can develop what is referred to as “superstitious behavior.” Also referred to as “cross associations.”

Here is what happens. Your dog with a prong collar sees another dog. Your dog starts to pull toward the other dog to say hi. Since your dog is pulling you do what is natural. You pull back and “correct” your dog for pulling.

Your dog feels the pain of the correction while looking at the other dog. The feeling from the collar while looking at the other dog could cause your dog to associate the discomfort with the other dog.

Your dog sees another dog and starts to pull. You apply another correction. Your dog makes the association with another dog. We are now wading into very dangerous territory because your dog is starting to generalize the pain of the correction with different dogs.

Once generalization happens, watch out. You are in for a rough ride with your dog. Your dog can go from a happy, dog friendly dog to an absolute beast on leash. I’ve seen it happen more than once.

So no prong, choke or electronic collars around other dogs. And if you are going into a group class using any of these collars, I would be careful. I would recommend a gentle leader or no pull harness.

To be clear, I use negative consequences when I train dogs. But I am very careful when I use them. Any time you apply a negative consequence to your dog you are putting pressure on him and need to make sure you use aversives correctly and don’t confuse your dog.
Anyway, something to be careful of as you move forward with your training.

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