With supposedly ‘modern’ dog training, criticism is often leveled at methods that involve using treats or toys to teach new skills. Concerns exist about ‘giving in’ or somehow making a behaviour worse by being nice. Barbara Woodhouse’s name is often mentioned as a heroine of ‘being boss’, when we know these days that choke chains cause huge amounts of harm.
Ironically the other end of the extreme is just that; trainers who learn by rote to click and treat or use toys indiscriminately without reading the dog’s responses. This can leave the dog’s expectations and frustrations running very high, and might miss the point that at some stage, a dog may have to do things that he or she simply doesn’t want to do! The idea of ‘pack leader’ is very out of date, but you are still responsible. What can you do?
The correct answer is somewhere in the middle of these extremes, and each dog will learn slightly differently. It is wrong to force any animal in the name of teaching, and being harsh is simply cruel. Instead, be fair. How sensitive is your dog, and how much of what he or she has learned is really down to your actions (or lack of teaching)? Can you put some daily effort in to help teach rather than punish? Sit down and make a list of what your dog could do instead. Sit instead of jump up. Chew a toy instead of bark. Follow your feet instead of pulling on lead. These are simple to teach. If you lack confidence, seek experienced help. You will be amazed how clear, firm teaching is easier than force.
– Karen Wild