I was in Marietta last Tuesday working with a new Home Dog Training client and her fifteen-month-old Catahoula named Robbie.  Robbie was a great dog with a high energy personality.  The most pressing problem that my client had with Robbie was not listening and not obeying. 

Properly correct your dog 

Since Robbie was high energy, that often leads to lack of focus and direction. I needed to let Robbie know that he should focus and obey his master (my client).  After a few hours Robbie was obeying all the commands my client was providing and showed proper manners both inside and outside the house. My client was very happy with the results.   

What my client came to understand over the course of our lesson and what I would like to share with you is that all dogs simply want to do the right thing and please us. Correcting them helps achieve that.

The one thing that we must remember that correcting does not have to be in the same manner as when, in Cool Hand Luke, The Captain exclaims to Luke, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate”.  That didn’t result in a great, positive learning experience.  We want any correction that we may deliver to allow for a great, positive learning experience.

Some people perceive that correcting a dog is mean and harsh. In other words, it is a punitive action. Being respectful of their opinion, I have to strongly disagree. Correction is never a form of punishment.  It cannot be an action that will scare or frighten your dog.

When your dog is scared, hurt, or frightened, he will not have the ability to learn what is correct based on the fact that what he just did was wrong.  Some people often “correct their dog” by hitting him. Their dog stops doing the “wrong thing”, runs to the corner of the room, and crouches down low.

He was no longer doing the wrong thing so that must be good. This is not true at all. The dog is scared and possibly hurt. The fact that he is off in the corner represents the “flight” part of “fight or flight”. In his mind, he was suddenly attacked without cause and without a path to safety. Since he saw “you” as the aggressor, he will only be more suspicious of you and your future actions.

Proper correcting is all about education.  Let’s go back in time for a moment and imagine that you are in second grade. Your teacher has called you to the board to work through a math problem.  Unfortunately, you got it wrong. Your teacher will now correct your mistake.

Your teacher’s correction will not involve anything that is going to hurt, scare, or frighten you.  Being a human, your teacher will also not do anything that will embarrass you.  Your teacher’s only goal is to educate you as to the appropriate process leading to the correct answer. In fact, you will probably feel better and more empowered after your teacher’s correction. That is because you are now confident that you know the right thing to do.

So correcting is about teaching, educating, and empowering. How does that translate to your dog?

There are several things you need to understand and processes you must always follow:

First, only correct your dog the moment he does something wrong. If you wait until he stops, he will misinterpret the correction and become confused as to your intentions.

Second, when you correct, you must never scare, frighten, or hurt your dog. Your intention is to teach him the right thing to do. Whenever he breaks your rule by doing something wrong, you must always get his respectful focus.

In order to get his focus, you must properly communicate with him. Since dogs overwhelmingly use body language as their mode of communication, you need to send him a message of “Hey, this is the boss speaking and you are doing something wrong” through body language.  You do this by remaining calm, being still, and standing tall.  This is a sign of clear resolution and passive dominance.

Next, you need to provide a unique sound that will enhance your ability to get his focus.  The important thing to remember here is that “no” is a word and not unique in it’s meaning. You must come up with something that your dog only hears when he is in the act of doing something wrong.

Once you have his focus, you need to guide him to the appropriate state where he is no longer breaking your rule. This normally means having him calmly be at your side.

Finally, you need to finish your correction by letting him know he arrived at the right answer. Providing him with high pitched praise is the most effective way of accomplishing this.

Whenever your dog does something wrong, you must use this method to correct him and guide him to the right action. Using this singular process will reinforce his perception that what he is doing is wrong and that he is about to be directed to the right action.

So, as you can see, “correction” is not about punishment; it is about education.  The more you educate your dog on what is right, the less he will do the inappropriate things.

Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over sixteen years.  We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.