The Power of Positive

So, I have been a bit behind in some of my blog reading and just got around to a wonderful column by dog aggression expert, Jim Crosby.  For those of you not familiar with Mr. Crosby, he is one of the leading experts in dog bite and aggression, serving as an expert witness in numerous cases. He also has a background in training and working with police k9s, which makes his whole-hearted support of positive and non-aversive training all the more meaningful.  I bring this up in the wake of a video gone viral in recent weeks, of a Hammond Indiana, police officer “correcting” his dog after an arrest. While many dog lovers were outraged at the behavior, many supposed experts in the field of working dog training came out to not only support the officer’s actions, but explain why it is apparently an instructive way to treat your companion and co-worker.  One of the things I found most interesting in the reasoning behind the support, displayed a basic misunderstanding of dog training.  Many explanations that I read followed a line of logic that would leave most dogs confused as to what was actually being trained or what they were being corrected for. It has also always confused me that those supporting this type of action want a dog that is fierce enough to fight through pain during the course of its work, but the handlers are using force and pain to correct mistakes. So, do you want your dog to stop because something hurts or keep fighting?  It’s a catch 22 where the dog can’t possibly win.

Fair warning, the video is graphic and has foul language.

I bring this up because in the world of police dog training, and even in the sport dog community there are many who feel this is the only way to work with high intensity, high drive dogs. I believe it to be a uniquely American idea that you can use force to train a solid and reliable animal. Despite programs like the one highlighted in Mr. Crosby’s blog and the great strides being made in training in Europe without the heavy handed methods used by US police, law enforcement in the States (along with the private sector groups doing a huge amount of business in police/detection training) continues to employ outdated methods proven to be less successful. It comes as a surprise since for decades,  there have been highly trained K9 trainers calling for more scientific and more humane training for dogs. You can also see the failures of the force based training methods and poor training in the countless videos and news stories of police dogs gone wild.

So, what’s the point?

The point is simple: demand better training for dogs in your community. These animals have been with us for thousands of years and can do an incredibly wide variety of tasks. We just need to be better trainers and companions and teach them the proper way without fear and force. I’ve said it before and unfortunately, I am sure I will say it again and again, but whether you;re talking about misbehaving house pets or out of control police k9s, it ALWAYS comes down to the training.


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