Sep 10, 2018

No Reason to Force Things

Dogs innate interest to please

By Jeremy Moore

When it comes to raising and training dogs, I have long believed there are many ways to do things.

In my early years of working with dogs, I was lucky enough to witness a “softer” style or approach to training. I knew right off that was the style I wanted to adopt. I believed that way of training would allow me to get the most out of my dog’s potential.

I made a particular effort to seek out and gather as much information as I could from those trainers using that style. At that time, there was no Google, YouTube or social media to follow. I really had to go out of my way to witness this kind of training, but I was convinced and determined to figure it out.

The alternative so prevalent in the retriever world requires a significant amount of force. In fact, the word “forced” is a commonly-used adjective with several drills and activities in this style of training.

In recent years there has been some conversation and debate about whether or not the use of force is truly necessary to get the results we’re looking for as handlers. Some folks call what used to be referred to as “force fetching” now as a “trained retrieve.”

The shock collar is now the “E-collar,” almost making it sound like a tech product. I think the reason for these changes is to sound better. But does it really sound a lot better?

The companies making these products have large marketing budgets with heavy influence.

 

Sub: Change in perspective

It wasn’t that long ago I was pretty careful about what I talked or wrote about in seminars and articles, particularly as it related to shock collars and force fetching. I generally would always let my audience know I did not use these methods, then moved on quickly from there.

Several years back, I gave a seminar that turned into almost an hour-long grilling from two guys that were clearly “traditional” gun dog trainers. They badgered me steadily, questioning how I could possibly train a good gun dog without the use of a shock collar. I answered everything they could throw at me, but it did end up becoming a heated conversation.

That day marked the beginning of a different approach I’ve taken to address these questions of force. I’m confident enough in what I’m doing to have answers for those who train dogs using a different style.

This was also the point where I realized that although many others use unnecessary force to train their dogs because, “that’s the way they always did it,” there are likely even more dog owners who simply don’t know it’s possible to do it another way.

I believe dogs possess inherent traits, one of which is biddability or a willingness to please. This has long been bred into domesticated dogs, in addition to many other natural tendencies. It’s among the biggest reasons I believe the use of force is not necessary.

A retrieving breed should not need to be trained to retrieve by force, or even by any other threat of violence. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Why would I use a negative tactic to connect an already innate trait of a dog with something I’d like the dog to learn.

I find those who believe they need to use heavy force in training a dog are often concerned with speeding up the process. My answer to that is we need to stop worrying about the finish line and instead start enjoying the process.

Unfortunately, there is no way to “speed train” a retriever. When we push young dogs further and faster than they are ready, it brings progress to a halt. I think unnecessary, heavy pressure does one of two things:

1. It will shut a dog down, or at best, get the bare minimum out of them. By breaking a dog’s spirit and having them work out of fear, you will not maximize their potential. That kind of avoidance training is just not the philosophy I believe in. 

2. It will create a hard-minded, independent thinker.

This is a slippery slope. As the dog gets harder, so does the trainer. Quite frankly, it’s the lack of patience that most trainers suffer from that makes things get ugly. Pinched ears and toes with burn marks from collars are the result of a trainer’s lack of patience and understanding of what makes these dogs tick.

Instead, try slowing down and determine how to bring out the dog’s innate characteristics. The amount of trust you will gain in your dog as well as your dog’s trust in you will far outweigh any amount of time you save by accelerating the training process.

Trust me, when things get tough in the field and distractions enter into the equation, a dog that trusts you completely will likely be the one to figure things out. A dog that lacks confidence and is working out of fear will likely shut down and fail.

I wrote this article knowing some will read it and completely disagree. And that’s fine – my hopes are certainly not to convince someone who is set in their ways. Instead, I hope to offer an alternative approach to those who might think using methods of excessive force are the only way to train a dog. Just because that’s the way others have always done it, doesn’t mean you have to as well.

Until then, best of luck in your training.

 

Jeremy Moore has trained dogs for more than 15 years. His approach to training is to maximize a dog’s potential without using force and bring out their natural abilities. He created the DogBone training products line, which is designed to allow all dog owners to successfully train their own dog by combining the right tools with the information to put those tools to use. Visit www.dogbonehunter or FB, IG, Twitter and YouTube @dogbonehunter for more information.