was struggling to gain control of her young dog Farley,
a beautiful Standard Schnauzer.
cited trouble with mouthing and general rambunctiousness
as reasons for a consultation.
I met Farley, he presented himself as a normal and
energetic young dog. One thing that was apparent
immediately, however, was that Farley never gave June
eye contact — ever. In fact, it was as if she didn’t
even exist, despite her being at the other end of the
walking was a train wreck, with Farley lunging ahead,
and paying no mind to June’s instructions.
talking with June and getting a detailed history, two
things came to light.
June was at odds with her husband over how Farley should
be handled and trained. Her husband felt that the way to
train the dog was through the application of dominant
and corrective measures, which included lots of scolding
and jerking the dog around by the collar during leash
walking. June wasn’t comfortable applying those
June had no real value in Farley’s mind. His food bowl
always had kibble for him to graze on, he had access to
a box full of toys to entertain himself, and he even
spent time running on a treadmill for exercise. And
compared to her husband, she was not an effective
application of heavy corrections had resulted in a
"punishment callous," meaning that corrections
were so standard for Farley that he became conditioned
to them, and they ceased being effective. June could not
deliver the strong punitive corrections that her husband
could, so her corrections had no effect on Farley. Such
is the ugly side of corrective training — the more you
apply corrections, the harder they must become over
time, as the dog becomes insensitive to them.
and I came up with a training plan that did not, much to
June’s relief, rely on punishing the dog, but rather
focused on Farley’s efforts to offer behavior that we
found acceptable. We also devised a strategy to make
Farley see June as an important member of his world by
changing the feeding and toy routine.
of keeping Farley’s food bowl full of kibble, we
placed him on a twice daily feeding schedule. When June
filled his bowl, before placing it on the floor, she
calmly cued Farley to sit.
first few times she did this, Farley just barked, or
jumped toward the counter to get at the food bowl. June’s
response was not to punish; instead, she just walked
away, and Farley was denied his food. She returned a few
minutes later and tried again, with the same results.
After numerous attempts, with Farley not responding to
her cue to sit, she simply stopped, and that meal was
skipped. Same with the evening meal. By the next day,
Farley was pretty hungry, and June was in a new position
of quiet power — the Controller of Food. She went
through her same routine and, holy smokes, Farley sat
immediately when asked to do so.
also had June pick up all of Farley’s toys and place
them out of reach. The only time Farley was given access
to a toy was when he and June were practicing something:
Sit when cued, play with a toy; walk a few steps while
maintaining slack in the leash, stop and play a little
tug. Since Farley loved to play with toys, June felt the
need to interact with him frequently, and working with
her was now his only avenue to toy play.
forward a few weeks and June is happy to report that she
sees improvement every day. Her relationship with Farley
is one of mutual respect and understanding. Farley now
gives her lots of eye contact, an indication that she is
relevant in his world. And June has a dog that willingly
complies with the cues she has taught him, not because
he has too, as June will not use punishment to make the
dog do anything, but because it is in his best interest
to do so, as rewards are offered when he does comply.
Learning new behavior is also going well, with Farley an
eager and willing participant, since the training
process is fun, without correction and includes rewards.
is just one example of the power of positive training.
You can choose to not apply corporal punishment and yet
still teach your dog manners and maintain control. A big
difference between the two training styles is that one
subscribes to the idea that the dog must do a task or
face punishment, while the other sets up the dog up to
want to do a task, or be denied a reward. Both can be
effective, but one training style is about dominance and
force, and the other is about cooperation and respect.
Which relationship would you rather have with your dog?