Not long ago a common belief was that dogs were to be subservient to us, and whatever training practices used to accomplish this were justified. To make a dog subservient required that you be proficient at applying training techniques of force or intimidation.
To the unskilled practitioner these techniques appeared to work, the dogs would usually submit to what you wanted, but at what cost? Often, these dogs were stressed and suffered from anxiety, especially when complying with a demand from the trainer.
Dogs that experienced this forceful style of training would often shut and chose not to offer any behavior in fear of making a mistake.
Learning a new way
Years ago, I too used aversive techniques. Not because I didn’t love dogs, I wanted what was best for the dog and believed that making a dog subservient during training was the most effective way. It wasn’t until I became frustrated with the results that I began to question everything I had learned and practiced thus far, especially this theory that you must be dominant over your dog.
Thankfully, my transition became a reality due to the abundance of scientifically sound research that had been done by so many scientists in and around the field of dog behavior. Their work helped me to realize the errors in my ways and be able to help dogs and their owners in the most humane and effective ways.
Surprisingly enough, old theories still exist today, especially with the popularity of TV personalities who base their knowledge on anecdotal experience. That theory believes that dogs are to be compliant and that we must be dominate to be the leader. The belief that you need to be dominant can lead to the justification that aversive techniques are needed to be able to control the dog.
Thanks to science we know that dogs are complex creatures, and aversive training leads to negative consequences. Some may claim that a shock, pinch, or choke collar makes a dog obedient, but using these tools to get compliance can be stressful for a dog.
Dogs trained in this way are many times afraid to offer behavior because of negative consequences. These consequences can also lead to irreversible physical damage to the eyes, neck, and larynx of dogs, due to the continued use of pinch and choke collars.
Old theories die hard
With so much information contradicting dominance theory, for some changing old beliefs can still be difficult. Coming to the realization that everything you thought and knew about dog training was mostly wrong can be tough to swallow (as least that’s the way it was for me), especially when those techniques appear to be making the dog obedient.
For others, sadly there may be some unconscious pleasure in exerting their control over another animal. Other factors may have to do more with society and being accustomed to quick fixes and not wanting to invest the time in learning something new.
Dominance or intimidation in dog training may have the appearance of success, but it is at best only suppressing behavior and suppression never gets to the root causes.