Researching dog training and wellness can be difficult with so many sources suggesting so many different methods and tools to use, and many pet owners rely on dog trainers or dog behaviorists for recommendations. However, some of the common tools you see recommended online may actually be harmful for your pup!
It’s therefore absolutely vital to understand more about dog obedience training - especially regarding effective and humane methods of encouraging positive habits in your pup. Let’s take a look at aversive dog training and some dog training tools you should consider replacing!
What Is Aversive Dog Training?
Not long ago, the ruling school of thought in canine training was this idea that you needed to be firm and dominant to train a pup.
The idea was to use something that is unpleasant to teach your dog to reduce unwanted behaviour. This can be anything from an unpleasant sound or even pain from a shock collar or prong collar.
Many dog trainers that believe in aversive dog training may argue that these tools weren’t actually causing pain and that they were humanely developed. However, the entire method of aversive training is centred on causing enough discomfort to a pup that they “learn” not to misbehave.
In reality, while aversive training mayappear to work, it comes with a whole host of unintended negative outcomes.
Impact Of Aversive Dog Training
1. May Injure Your Dog
Most obviously, aversive training can injure your dog. Whether it’s using a choke chain or a painful collar, if these tools are not fitted correctly or are not used in moderation, they can cause serious injuries to your dog.
Furthermore, as your pup gets more and more used to negative stimuli, they require more and more discomfort to get the same kind of reaction. Over time, the effect of aversive training can impact your dog’s health in a huge and extremely negative way.
2. May Erode Trust
Dogs love and trust us to care and love for them. Aversive training may erode this trust they have in us.
With aversive training, dogs eventually start to associate their owner with pain and discomfort. This can most definitely cause your pup to be more wary around you.
3. May Cause Aggression
With aversive training comes plenty of stress. Dogs deal with this stress through fight, flight, freeze or appease behaviour. Depending on your dog’s personality and their trust in you, they may even choose to fight back.
They could therefore pose a danger to you and the people around you, especially if you’re dealing with aggressive dogs. As your pup starts associating you with discomfort and danger, they’ll be constantly on high alert around you.
Training Tools That May Cause Harm
There are many training tools that you may not even realise can be harmful to dogs! These tools are also sometimes encouraged along with aversive training as they provide effective negative reinforcement.
1. Anti-Barking Collars
Anti-barking collars and anti-barking devices are common tools for helping a pup reduce their barking. They often claim to use safe amounts of electricity, ultrasonic sound, vibrations or even odors to provide discomfort to a dog when they’re misbehaving.
However, these collars can still be extremely painful and uncomfortable. Furthermore, it’s difficult for pups to understand what exactly they’re being punished for. Similar to aversive training techniques, anti-barking collars also encourage anxiety and aggression in your pup - which can eventually cause harm to you, your dog and the people around you.
2. Choke Collars/Prong Collars
For pups that often pull too much on their leash, choke collars and prong collars can sometimes be prescribed to provide negative reinforcement.
Choke collars can literally choke your dog to death, or cause other serious injuries like bruising, dislocated neck bones or fractures in the bones around your dog’s neck. Prong collars on the other hand are designed to pinch your dog’s neck when they pull, causing wounds to their neck.
These collars are inhumane and can cause massive injuries to your dog if misused.
3. Retractable Dog Leash
Compared to the above tools, retractable dog leashes seem a lot more innocent. They are also a very common type of leash, and can be very beneficial in the right setting - such as for exploration or free roaming.
However, in smaller areas, retractable dog leashes can cause severe burns, deep cuts and even strangulation due to your pup getting entangled in the cord portion of the leash. As much as possible, it’s better to steer clear of these types of leashes! Regular leashes like Ruffwear’s Knot-a-Leash Dog Leash are much more comfortable and appropriate.
Alternatives to Aversive Training
In reality, effective training can be done without using negative reinforcement. In fact, positive reinforcement-based training can have a more long lasting impact on your pup’s behaviour!
Positive training is based on two main concepts:
- Using rewards to increase a behaviour
- Delaying rewards to decrease a bad behaviour
For example, if your dog is always pulling against their leash, instead of pulling back on the leash to rein them in, try positive reinforcement!
Give your dog treats and walk forward while your dog is still eating to teach them that it’s good for them to stay near you when walking. You could also completely stop moving when your pup is pulling their leash, and only move once the leash is loose again. This way, your pup will slowly understand that a loose leash is a good thing for both you and them!
Positive Training Tools
So now that you have a better understanding of what positive reinforcement-based training is like, you should replace your existing training tools with new, more effective ones!
For positive reinforcement training, you’ll want to get specific types of treats that allow you to quickly and easily reward your dog for good behaviour.
Here’s some things to look out for when looking for a suitable training treat:
- Should be pea-sized or even smaller (depending on your dog’s size)
- Should be soft and easy to gulp down
- Should be irresistible to your pup
Special training treats like Stella & Chewy's Freeze Dried Carnivore Crunch Grass-Fed Beef Recipe Dog Treats are perfect for training. They’re tasty, healthy, affordable and super satisfying to use in training sessions!
Buy a variety of treats to keep your pup from feeling bored. So the next time your pup listens to your command or exhibits good behaviour, immediately toss them a treat coupled with a verbal praise - like “yes” or “good dog”. A training treat bag like Ruffwear’s Treat Trader can also be a huge help in ensuring your pup gets a clear and quick signal when rewarding them.
Fun and interactive dog toys are always a good tool to have in your belt! They may not provide as quick a reward as a tasty treat would, but they serve an excellent purpose too.
Toys are a great way to help your pup get rid of excess energy. But did you know that playing games with your pup using their toys can also be a great way to train them? They’re also a great alternative if your dog isn’t as motivated by food treats. Fun shaker toys with plenty of texture like KONG’s Shaker Dog Toy can be extra exciting for dogs!
Just make sure to keep a few toys out of your pup’s reach and only take them out for training. This helps maintain the value of the toy. Similarly, only allow short bursts of playtime to keep the momentum up!
Again, be very clear when rewarding your pup with a toy. Make sure to praise your dog clearly vocally or with a clicker before giving your dog their toy for a few seconds!
Made just for clicker training, dog clickers like Starmark’s Pro Training Clicker are a great way to condition your pup to repeat good behaviour more often. These clickers make a quick and sharp noise that can serve as an effective method of signalling when your dog is doing a good job.
With dog clickers, you want to first condition your pup to understand that clickers always come with rewards. Once they understand that, you can start introducing verbal commands and other training tricks to help your pup learn good behaviour through clicker training.
Conducting dog obedience training in a humane method can be extremely rewarding because it helps build your bond with them. Your dog will be much more trusting and will feel so much more secure around you if you use the right training methods.
That said, it’s essential that you take your time and have patience with your pup! Effective and long-lasting dog obedience training takes time to cement itself in your dog so make sure to take it one step at a time. Good luck!
Tammi writes articles about anything from data analytics to animal health, and loves doing the occasional craft. But most importantly, she loves hanging out and doing photo-shoots with her dog.