What is ethical dog training?
Maybe let’s start with what it shouldn’t be, shall we? Cause I got a lot of thoughts but let’s start here.
Let’s sit and imagine for a minute.
You’re with your partner, walking through an antique store and you see it.
That missing piece for your house and you are beyond excited to see it.
Just as you go to pick it up off the shelf, your partner yells and yanks on the leash
you forgot you were wearing in your excitement.
You’re surprised, upset and hurt depending on how hard they yanked.
Why did they do that? You were just excited about the thing that you saw.
You just wanted to share it with them.
If that’s how we feel as humans, imagine how our dogs feel when we do this with them. If the foundation and education aren’t there, frustration and behavioral issues can set in for them because they want to do the right thing… they just haven't been taught, or, hear me out, we are actually unintentionally reinforcing the behaviors we don't want.
So if they haven’t been taught, and we just yank their chain when they’re trying to sniff that awesome bush that a dog named Nala peed on two days ago, what do you think is going to happen? That walk, that started out okayish, is possibly going to go downhill very quickly.
Because they’re frustrated, we aren't allowing needs to be met, and they can’t communicate!
We have the bonus of being able to verbalize to our partner that they hurt us, but our furry friends don’t. All they know is that they were happily sniffing this particularly interesting tree and we’re yelling words they don’t understand and yanking roughly on their lead.
Don’t get me started on prong or shock collars, guys. There’s not enough room on this page for me to expound on my deep-seated hatred of them. It’s easy to force a dog to do something, especially out of fear or pain, but actually teaching a dog how to make a "proper decision"? It will totally change your relationship for the better.
By giving them the skills they need to make those decisions will help your dog not only maintain the integrity of the relationship they have with you, but also the integrity of their mental health.
And yes, dogs can make a decisions.
Here’s the thing: Dogs don’t understand us when we communicate in a way that makes initial sense to us. Their perception of us will drive how they respond to us and that will result in either positive or negative behaviors.
So if we’re yelling, yanking on their leads, using shock or prong collars, what do you think they're going to learn?
You’re scary and if they’re going to do something bad, like poop in the house, they should hide it (by eating it or migrating behind furniture).
That the punishment is unpredictable and they don’t know when or what they’re doing wrong because we really haven’t TAUGHT them anything.
So if that doesn’t work, what does?
Let’s go back to your partner and the antique store. What should’ve been done differently?
Like I said, we have the benefit of actual communication, so if your partner was confused about you wandering off, instead of yanking your chain, they should’ve communicated their concern of you wandering off (or said that the vase you were looking at was hideous).
When we are training, we are building a relationship with our dogs. It’s not an alpha or DOM relationship. It’s communication and comprehension being used together.
When I work with your dog, and they FINALLY get it, and perform the behavior that I’ve been asking for, you can bet your ass I am going to be their #1 (okay, maybe #2 in line of you!) fan and be excited! A "hell yes" may even slip out!
“But why the language, JC?!”
Um, did you not see the name of my company?
When I get excited, your dog sees that I’m excited. My excitement reinforces that the positive behavior they performed (not like dance recital perform, although dogs in tutus are adorable) is praiseworthy and something they should keep doing. (Don’t worry, I can keep it clean for kid-friendly households as I am pretty well trained myself, just ask my mother!)
Ethical training is understanding your dog on both a scientific and primal level and meeting their needs.
For example, working breeds. They not only want, but have an instinctual NEED to work, and if you’re going to adopt a working breed dog guess what you need to do?
Either give them a job to do or prepare yourself for your house to be in a state of disrepair when you get home (to put it mildly).
There isn’t a magic wand to fix all of your dog issues. There isn’t a magic wand to fix all of your issues as an owner. But what we can do is work to meet the needs at hand and set you both up for success.
Just like kids don’t go from Pre-K to high school graduation overnight, your dog needs time, consistency, and patience on this journey to be able to live their best life.