Michael Ellis, a professional trainer of dog trainers discusses in the below Leerburg video how he doesn’t believe dogs always know what is expected of them. To paraphrase him, “If I’m unsure if the dog understood, then I will go back (in the training process) and help him (understand) using motivational methods.”
The Michigan Dog Trainer agrees fully with Ellis. Before a handler uses a correction to stop unwanted behavior, several questions should be asked and answered:
- Was the exercise broken down into steps and taught systematically to the dog?
- Did the handler give the cue as it was taught?
- Did the dog truly hear or see the cue,
- Was the dog prepared and proofed in the environment in which the cue was given?
- Is the dog capable of performing the desired action (e.g. an older dog may not be able to sit comfortably anymore because of hip pain)?
If the answer to the above questions is “yes” to each, then a correction to stop the behavior may be warranted but only with enough intensity to stop the unwanted behavior. An over the top correction is unnecessary punishment and only serves to vent the handler’s frustration. If the answer to any of the questions is “no”, then the training plan and/or expectations need to be adjusted.