Teaching and training dogs has come a long way. Why is the public stuck on old science?


If you read this blog you might notice that I have started to talk more about humane and scientifically based training methods here. The reason for this is that I realize that people still seem to be living in a world were either punishment or pure coercion seems to be the answer to so many problems including those of solving their dogs’ behavior problems.

A couple of days ago I was in a store and the guy behind the counter was telling me that he had to euthanize his dog. This dog meant everything to him and he was crying when he told me that he would do most anything to get that particular dog back. He has two other dogs but this particular dog was the love of his life.

Clearly the man loves dogs. He started to talk about how well behaved his dogs are and how proud that makes him. So far, so good. Then he told me that he lectures people whose dogs misbehave. Then he shared the advice he gives those people with me. “I tell them: Never hit a dog with your hands! Use a rolled up newspaper! If the dog barks, hit him on the nose with a rolled up newspaper and tell him NO!

At that point I began to have trouble being sympathetic to his ramblings. I carefully explained to him that it would be better to teach the dog what one wanted the dog to do in a specific situation rather than simply punishing the dog. I must say though that I find the idea that using the newspaper is somehow more humane quite amusing.

I often think of a bad conductor having the orchestra play a piece from beginning to end and then yell at the players: “That was terrible! Let’s do it again and this time let’s do it right!”  What are the musicians supposed to do? What specifically can they do to make the next run through better? How can they change their performance to please rather than incur the wrath of the conductor?

That is a perfect example of bad training and applies to dog training just as much as to orchestra conducting or any teaching for that matter.

Punishment is painful but not informative. It creates nothing but frustration, fear and bad feelings even feelings of violence.

Dogs react in the same way the abused feeling orchestra musicians do. Dogs don’t behave “poorly” because they are engaged in a plot to displease their guardians! Although some things might be harder to learn than others, dogs and people generally thrive on praise. Let’s provide them with opportunities to earn lots of it.

People are eager to participate in the latest advancement of technology and medical treatments.I am sure the guy who shared his ideas about dog training with me knows a lot about the newest downloadable apps. Yet his ideas about dog training comes from an outdated book he found in the trash. I shake my head in wonderment.

Below I have linked to an article by Dr. Sophia Yin who is a veterinary behaviorist. She has published numerous books, articles and handouts that I have found very helpful.


Below is the story of how she started training her own dog and the advice that was given to her at the time and the results that ensued.



Asta, canine movie star

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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