Before Training Begins
There are three major drives in a dog.
These instincts protect dogs when they perceive a threat or when under attack. It forces the animal into running, fighting, or a combination of both. Using this drive is not a way for you to train your pet. Emotionally, use of this drive for training forces your dog to work with you out of fear. This is dangerous and detrimental to a happy relationship between you and your dog.
This drive relates to social order, insuring all work needed to survive together gets accomplished. Humans call it ‘hierarchy’. To dogs, these are lateral positions, with no one job being more important than the other. Survival depends on these jobs being clearly defined. This is the drive most commonly used in obedience training. It is also the most understood by humans. Leaders are supposed to give the commands and corrections for the group.
If a dog is the leader, he can bite you, direct your activities, come and go as he pleases, take you on walks, and determine where you will go on these walks. When used correctly these drives help ensure calm, confident behavior, emotional stability, and a trust in human guidance.
This is a usable drive for some types of training. A police officer, for example, will throw a toy to reward a task well done. The dog is thrilled to ‘go after’ the ball. Playing fetch with your dog during training sessions is an excellent way to have fun with your dog while burning up their stored excess energy.
The other side of this drive is dangerous. A dog gets the same thrill regardless of what he chases. Cars, children, and other animals provide the same thrill to your dog. An out of control prey drive can kill. Mauling the catch can follow as the thrill becomes too intense for your dog to control. We address this by never allowing your dog to chase anything, ever. If your dog is allowed to chase a cat or squirrel, for example, he can get so engrossed in the chase he cold run in front of car and get hurt.
Let’s talk about how dogs learn.
They make associations between their behavior and what happens in their world as a result of their behavior. This is called Instrumental Learning and can be described as ‘cause and effect’ because the dog begins to make associations between their behavior and what happens as a result of their behavior, both good and bad. Many people try to relate treat based training to ‘positive reinforcement’ by giving your dog treats when they perform the wanted behavior upon being given a command. They propose your dog wants to please you when in fact they are teaching the dog in order to get a treat ‘do this’ and the treat is forthcoming. Your dog may love you but the truth is, they really only want to please themselves.
A dog, any dog, does not do anything to make you happy! Truly, a dog has no means of knowing if you are ‘happy’. They do, however, know if they are. They learn their behavior caused them to feel good or to feel bad. They want to stop bad feelings, and enhance good feelings, because of the way it makes them feel, not the way it makes you or another dog feel! This type of training is completely against good pack mentality.