When dogs communicate with one another they do so in a way that makes most sense to them via physical and vocal cues. For a dog, the best way to learn boundaries from other canines is to receive one or two well-timed corrections, often in the form of a nip or a growl; no harm, no foul, simply a dog saying, “I don’t like when you do that.” Humans have a number of tools at their disposal for efficiently correcting their pets for better communication; however, many pet owners are made to believe corrections are cruel. Discussed below is why, when performed properly, corrections are an integral part of dog training.
What is a Correction?
If you have ever visited a dog park or even witnessed your own pets playing together, you have likely seen a correction doled out by one dog to another. A correction may be a quick nip or bark that tells the other dog not to repeat its most recent action.
What Types of Correction can an Owner Use?
When co-existing with a dog, it is most effective to communicate in ways that the dog knows best: via correction and reward. Owners can use many types of correction depending on what your individual dog responds best to. These include verbal corrections (a sharp “no!”), mild physical corrections (using two fingers to lightly “jab” your dog to get its attention, a collar and leash, a prong collar (also known as a spike collar), or an electronic collar.
Why are Corrections Important?
Corrections are important because they help the dog tangibly understand why a behavior (i.e. barking, lunging, playing too rough, etc.) is not appropriate. While many dogs can learn basic obedience using a reward based training method, corrections help an owner stop bad behaviors that dogs develop when trying to push an owner or pack member’s boundaries.
How Should I Correct My Dog?
When choosing a method of correction it is important to use the least amount of force as is needed for the animal. For instance, if training a puppy the very first training implement used should never be an electronic collar. It is best to start with verbal commands and light cues and progress only if necessary and always under the supervision of a dog trainer if using items such as a prong or electronic collar for the first time.
Good vs. Bad Corrections
Despite what the title states, there are times when corrections are cruel. A good correction is one that is given immediately after the bad behavior in a swift, confident, and consistent manner. For instance, every time your dog barks inappropriately, a good correction is to sharply say, “no!” followed by silence. A bad correction is one which is given with too much force, inconsistently, or long after the fact. For instance, if you find your dog has had an accident in the house but you did not catch him or her in the act, it is inappropriate to correct your dog as he or she will not understand the reasoning.