Be positive! It’s a struggle sometimes, especially when the craziness of life takes over. Sometimes I just fake it until I actually start to feel it. But positivity has power that spreads, no matter what. If someone walks into work and is cheerful and bright, it just brings the whole atmosphere up. I try to be that person everywhere I go. A couple of weeks ago when I went to the shelter I found myself tired, lacking motivation, and just plain down. After spending about 20 minutes in the shelter with the dogs, every negative feeling left my body and I felt great. So if dogs make us feel that great, why would we not want to reciprocate? The behavior team at the shelter works on a train positively only system. There are so many conflicting ideas out there on how to train your dog. I have found positivity to be not only the most effective way to train, but also the only way that aligns with my personal beliefs and values.
When I was in 5th grade my family got a Yorkshire Terrier named Sir Reginald or Reggie. I have spoken about him before as he was with us until I graduated college, so most of my life. We took him to training classes as a puppy. The first thing that they gave us was a “choke chain”. The name sounds awful….because it is. Reggie was probably a whopping 5-8 lbs at the time and they wanted us to choke him if he didn’t do what we thought he should be doing? We didn’t know what we didn’t know back then. So we began training him and if he didn’t walk in a straight line or he pulled we were supposed to use the chain to “choke” him. The thought sickens me now. There has been so much research since then that proves that this kind of training only teaches fear, aggression, and anxiety. Is that what you want your beloved pet to think about when he or she looks at you? I sure don’t. At the shelter we do not use choke chains, prong collars, or shock collars. We don’t use anything resembling punishment. I am proud to be part of an establishment with these ideals.
A lot of people ask me for advice when they get a new dog. I am more than happy to oblige. Unfortunately, most of the time they ask me after they have already started a program or gotten advice elsewhere that’s not working. There are so many trainers out there, and I can’t stress enough the importance of researching them ahead of time. A lot of the dogs that we get at the shelter are casualties of inappropriate training methods. Owners see a negative change in their dog and instead of tying to understand why, they drop them off at a shelter. one of my goals is to stop this from happening. Negative or fear based training creates negative and fear based behavior. Positive reward based training creates a happy, well trained pet that is enthusiastic about showing the right behaviors.
Lets talk about negative or fear based training in more depth. This old way of thinking is that when a dog does something we don’t want them to do, they get punished. Some of these punishments include, choking with a chain, pinching with a prong collar, shock treatments, scary sounds, and worst of all physical violence. Think about how you would feel if you were punished this way by someone. Maybe you wouldn’t do that behavior again, but why? Personally, I would be scared of being punished again. But you might feel differently. Would you be angry or anxious perhaps? Animals aren’t all that different. Eventually that fear, anger, and anxiety will manifest into new and possibly worse behaviors.
I have heard every excuse in the book when it comes to using punishment and fear based training. “When he/she wears the prong collar they are so good that I never have to actually use it.” Well, I’m sure you used it at one point and whether you like it or not, they are only trying not to get pinched again. They aren’t obeying you out of respect or love, but out of fear. I have seen trainers tell owners with small dogs to use prong collars. Here is my general rule of thumb… If your dog’s neck is no bigger than your ankle, DO NOT USE A PRONG COLLAR OR CHOKE CHAIN. It seems like common sense to me, but apparently it has to be said. You could seriously injure your dog. A lot of small dogs have “collapsing tracheae” meaning that area of their neck is very sensitive. Teddy has not been diagnosed with this, but he has so many symptoms of it. He coughs a lot when he drinks water too fast, if he barks to much, or if I walk him on just a collar with no harness. I can’t imagine using something on him that would make it worse.
Another gem I’ve heard is, “You have to break the dog so they know who’s boss.” So let me get this straight, you want to “break” your dog? Break what? Their spirit? Their innocent happy nature? There are ways to show your dog that you are in charge without hurting and punishing them. It is important to talk to your dog while training in a firm tone, but leave the emotion out of it. The last thing you want is to end up screaming at your dog. Its not good for you or them. I was horrified to find out that a lot of the big name dog trainers out there use this idea of breaking, or showing them who is boss. I am constantly reading books and watching shows that that I think can teach me more about training. I want to be the best I can be at what I do, lives literally depend on it. If a trainer doesn’t mention that they use positive techniques only, my advise is to put the book down, change the channel, or change trainers.
Now let’s talk about the power of positive training. Use yourself as an example again. If you do a great job and you are rewarded with a bonus at work, or a free lunch, (whatever you value) wouldn’t you strive to keep doing well? I personally would feel great about myself, along with gratitude towards the person that rewarded me. I also would be confident that I can do more good things. Again, dogs are not so different from us. When they show us good behaviors and are rewarded for them, their brains are being trained to do the behavior that gets them rewarded. What sounds better, a scared, anxious, and angry dog or a gracious, confident, happy dog? It’s a no brainer for me. Choose positivity, choose happiness. I could cite research studies and books that prove what I am saying, but I don’t feel that I need to. I have something much more important, I have 12 years of experiences at the shelter that prove training positively works. I will continue to educate and advocate, whatever it takes to keep dogs happy and healthy, and out of my shelter.
As always, thank you so much for reading! Many of you seemed to appreciate my honesty and passion for what I do in last week’s blog. I love being able to share with you the things that are important to me. I would love to hear your thoughts about this blog as well. Feel free to comment or like. If you think other people in your life could benefit from reading the Single Dog Mom blog please share! If you want more behind the scenes at the shelter and glimpses into mine & Teddy’s life follow us on instagram @singldogmom. DM me if you have any personal questions about your own dog. I am here to help!
Pup of the Week:
I am obsessed with breaking all stereo types when it comes to Pit Bull Terriers, and Patty is no exception. Just look at that smile! It is spring time and the shelter is has been extremely full. Patty has been with us for almost 3 weeks. Let try to find this girl a home!
Remember our little old man Lucky? Who could forget his face right? It turns out I was the lucky one because I got to spend time with this little sweetie. He kept putting his paw on me and trying to “hug” me. He absolutely melted my heart. Right now it looks like he has been adopted! I hope you found your furever home Lucky! xoxoxo