Figuring it out

This is not the shaggy dog who was crossing the street but a sweet boy taken several years ago at a very fun shoot. 

The other day I was stopped at a red light waiting for it to turn green.  As I lingered there a couple walked across the street with their shaggy dog.  They each had a coffee in hand and were obviously headed home after visiting Starbucks.  As I watched them meander to the other side of the street I saw their dog balk and then stop.  They both stopped and stared at him as he stood frozen, not willing to budge.  Of course this got my attention.  I was now very interested in this bunch.  Finally the dog walked and then once they got to the sidewalk he again jammed on his brakes.  It was the prong collar.  The couple were in a hurry to cross the street which meant that the leash was tight. So the dog the dog was enduring pain; he did the only thing he knew to do and stopped.

The two owners stood staring at him; the leash still taut.  I could clearly see what the problem was but they stood puzzled.  The man yanked and tried to coax the dog to no avail.  Finally when he put his arms down in dismay, the leash now loose; the dog moved along.  I remember years and years ago, I attended an obedience class with one of my first poodles.  This class was the catalyst into positive training for me.  Not because it was a great class; no, the class itself was about as harsh as you can get but because of this I longed to find something different, a better way.  During the class we had to heel our dogs around and around.  It was what you did at these type classes.  We had slip collars on the dogs; which are basically cloth choke collars.  The teacher had the collars fitted so that they sat right up behind the ears.  I remember getting into an argument with one of the assistance as she attempted to fit it far too tight for my liking.  "It will slip down if it's not tight," she said.  No I was not having it.

Once we started heeling we were to give corrections to our dog for lagging.  My boy immediately stopped and reacted quite dramatically.  The more I corrected the more he dragged behind.  The whole memory makes me shudder; but it is the reason I am a positive trainer today.  My boy was quite sensitive and this harsh yanking had him so unglued that he completely shutdown.  Not good.  We left the class and did not return.  They teach or assistance had no actual knowledge of canine behavior; they only knew to yank and correct; knowing nothing of all the fallout behaviors that will follow.

Dogs learn through association; so of course my boy hated his collar.  He wanted nothing to do with all that negative stuff.  Soon after I discovered positive training and we never looked back except of course to explain why to many, many people over the years.  I am quite shocked by the number of choke and pinch/prong collars used these days.  Dog necks are not meant to be yanked on; no more than our necks are.

I see fallout behavior related to harsh or pain related corrections all the time.  Sadly the owners don't put their action and the dogs reaction together to figure it out.  One day while at the park an obvious novice owner was working with her young and boisterous lab.  He was getting very excited by the presence of Luke and Elsa.  But as soon as he started she tightened up on his leash and prong collar sending him into a pain induced frenzy; which she saw as a result of Luke and Elsa, not the collar.

When your dog reacts, take the time to figure it out.  Look to see if it might be something that you are doing.