When I first started to read this I thought: ‘this is semantics’ — reading on I concluded that Sara makes an excellent point.
I recently had a client grill me before joining my class. He understood that my method is reward-based but was very concerned about the use of force, he did not believe in prongs, shock, and other compulsion tools and methods.
I have witnessed that same man yank, scold and even slap his dog in the face with his leash in moments of frustration. Guiding him to be more gentle proved to be very difficult because he did not perceive himself to be using force, after all the dog was on a harness or a martingale collar.
The dog was more responsive to me and every other handler in the class than he was to his owner. The owner concluded that the walk about exercises we were doing to help the dogs come under stimulus control while out in public were not helpful to his dog because the dog was too distracted and would not respond to his cues. The dog did however, respond with minimal latency, when I offered the cues. He could not see that his dog was under stimulus control with a high rate of reward and a gentle attitude. For the dog the handler was like a poisoned cue.
Force free. It sounds great, doesn’t it? Of course dog training should be force free! Yet when a recent client asked if I was a force free trainer, I said I wasn’t. My client was taken aback, as many of my blog readers probably are. Let me explain.
I have several issues with the idea of labeling the training that Paws Abilities offers as “force free.” My biggest problem with the label is that it says nothing about what we actually do. Focusing on negatives like this is one of the biggest advertising gimmicks of all time. “No corn, wheat, or soy!” the dog food package proclaims. Yet, reading the label shows that there’s enough barley, rice, and oatmeal in the food that dogs who have issues with carbs are still going to react negatively. “Sugar free – No Sugar Crash!” the 5-hour Energy drink shouts, saying nothing about…
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