Let’s talk about correcting a dog
Updated: Oct 4, 2022
A correction is a punishment.
When correction works, the dog should stop the inappropriate behaviour or the behaviour should greatly subside. This is the scientific definition of “punishment”.
There is a correct and an incorrect way to correct.
The result will tell you if you have applied a correction correctly.
If you keep saying “no no no..”, but your dog just keeps doing the same thing exactly the same way, you have not corrected your dog correctly.
If it is not a correction, it is probably just an annoyance or a nag. Usually, this happens when the correction is not proportional to the intensity of the trigger. For example, you want your dog to come but he is playing with another dog and you just keep saying no no no … come come come… to no avail.
In this situation, your verbal “No” is pretty much meaningless. You will need something that can put a higher meaning to your “No” compared to the value of “playing with dogs”. You will need something of a much higher level than your mere verbal “no”.
But just going high with your correction is not always the solution. In some cases, an incorrectly applied correction can become abusive.
How do we know we have corrected correctly?
In order to apply a correction fairly and effectively, the dog needs to know the followings,
—Why am l feeling the correction?
—How can l make it stop?
—What should l do instead?
If a dog does not have the proper association with the correction, the dog may not know precisely which behaviour he is being corrected for.
For example, you want the dog to stop eating his own poop so you try to correct the dog when he sniffs his poop which is right next to a tree in your yard. However, your correction is applied with unclear communication and poor timing so the dog mistakenly thinks he is being corrected for standing next to the tree. Now, he tries to avoid the tree — instead of the poop — and becomes afraid of going out to the yard completely. Your correction has not only failed to stop his poop eating but you have now created a new “superstitious” association which has given you a new problem — your dog won’t poop in your yard at all.
Other than making the proper association, you also need to tell the dog how to turn off the correction. If you don’t show the dog a proper “escape door” and have not empowered the dog to know how to open that door, your correction can result in a serious mess.
For example, let’s imagine you want to stop a dog from being very rude to another dog during play. You decide to apply an ecollar correction when he tries to mount the other dog. When you see he mounts, you apply a very high correction.
To your surprise, instead of stopping to mount, the dog bites the other dog and gets into a big fight!
The dog has mistakenly assumes that the correction comes from the other dog and decides to respond with an attack.
That is why it is very important to let the dog know precisely why he is feeling the correction and empower him to know exactly what he should do to properly turn it off.
You need to tell the dog mounting is why he is being corrected; and you need to show the dog very clearly what you want him to do once he feels the correction so he will stop the mounting and move away.
We can teach this dog a verbal command such as “off”, and make sure the dog knows “off” means “to disengage” prior to this scenario.
We can also put a long line on the dog.
Once the dog mounts, we say “off” and apply ecollar correction so he knows very clearly that the correction comes from us — not the other dog. When he hears “off”, he knows that he should disengage because he has learned “off” means “to disengage” prior. To further clarify the message, we can also use the long line to guide him to the direction that we want by moving him away from the dog, so he has a very clear understanding on exactly why he feels the correction (ie because the human disapproves of his mounting), he also knows what he should do (ie stop mounting and move away) and has the required skills to do what he should (ie he has done “off” successfully many times prior, and the human is also using the leash to make sure he will succeed in case he still need a little help).
If a correction is communicated clearly and applied timely in a fair fashion, it should be very effective.
The dog should stop mounting, become more polite around other dogs, and is able to enjoy more fun social experience with more dogs.
In this example, ecollar is not the problem nor is applying correction bad. The problem is human error — unclear communication and poor execution.
Correction is necessary and it can be very helpful.
Don’t be afraid to correct; instead, take the time to learn how to do it properly.
Correction is a very important tool. When you know how to use it wisely, your dog will become more trustworthy and reliable.
The funnest thing is, when you have a reliable dog who knows how to make better choices on his own, you will find that you hardly need to correct any more.
Hope this helps.