To Force or Not to Force, that is the Question
To Force or Not to Force, that is the Question

To Force or Not to Force, that is the Question

Picture this:

Your arm is broken.
You need to be able to continue living your life, so you get someone to wrap it up for you, in a really tight, strong wrap, and then you go about your day.
You get done all the things you need to do, but holy momma, your arm still hurts and you can’t use it the way you really need to.
It’s supported, sure, and you can use it a bit, but it still causes you pain and it doesn’t heal properly, which means it will always give you pain.

Now, instead of wrapping it and getting back to life immediately, what if you went to the doctor. They did x-rays to see where and how it is broken, they set it in the best possible place, and then they put a cast on it.
The cast is cumbersome, it’s awkward, and it takes eight long weeks to heal.
Once it’s healed, it still aches a little, but you know that the bones are in the right place, and you know how to use it so that it doesn’t hurt.

That’s the difference between a balanced or forced method of training vs the positive reinforcement method.

One might get you results quickly, sure, but it’s also going to end up causing you issues… and likely more issues than the original one you were trying to remedy.
The other takes a little longer to see the results, but the results are longer lasting because you used the proper tools to get to the root of the issue, and you feel good about it in the long run.

So yes, you may get the results you want, you might even get the results you want faster, by using a forced or balanced method of dog training.

But you won’t get to the root of the issue your dog was having.

Which means you essentially put a Band-aid (or a really tight wrap) on it instead of taking the time, patience, and understanding needed to truly heal your dog so that they don’t think of the issue as an issue anymore.

“It’s just a dog.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard this in my life. And if this is how you feel, then Your Happy Dog Coach may not be the right spot for you. 

Your dog is a dog, yes. They are animals and not humans, there is no disputing that.

But just because your dog is not a human, it does not mean they don’t have feelings. Because they do. Sometimes, they have really big feelings and they don’t know how to deal with them, so end up behaving in ways that we don’t deem acceptable. 

Studies have shown that dogs do, in fact, have emotions. They just may not be as in depth as human emotions. (I will list the studies I’ve found at the end of this post.)

Think about it this way:

You pick up your dogs leash and they start to wag their tails and run to the door. They’re happy and excited, right?
You open their food bag/bin and they start to drool. Again, do you think they’re happy and excited?
Well, if we can all acknowledge that dogs can feel excitement over those things, then why not realize that they feel other things as well? Isn’t it possible that the behaviors of dogs are ruled by their emotions? 

When your dog is afraid, what will they do? Growl? Curl their lip up? Bark or run and hide (or both)?  I plan to do a specific post about body language so when that’s done, I’ll link it here.

Here’s where I try to tie this back in to how this post began…

Let’s say your dog sees another dog and starts to growl.

You decide to give his leash a yank to make him stop, sure, he might stop. But that feeling he felt while looking at that other dog didn’t not disappear.

Instead, you’ve just taught him that the next time he sees another dog, and feels uncomfortable enough to growl, something even worse is going to happen: the human he trusts, the one who is responsible for his well-being, is going to hurt him.
Which, if you can’t guess, is probably going to make him more reactive towards other dogs instead of learning to ignore them. 

Now, what if, instead, when he started to growl, you called his name in a happy voice? Do you think he might look at you?
And when he does look at you, what if you tell him he’s a good boy and give him a tasty snack? What would happen then?
Maybe, just maybe, he might learn that when he sees another dog, nothing bad happens.
AND if he chooses to look at you instead, he’ll get some love from you, and maybe even a tasty treat!
If that gets repeated enough times, guess what? He will start
EXPECTING that good feeling when he looks at you instead of growling when he sees another dog.
And when he gets that good feeling, and gets consistently rewarded for it, he will want to do it more and more and more!

Does this mean you’ll always need treats with you?

Honestly, probably. At least until all of the behaviours you want stopped get stopped.
Because, frankly, would you want to do something that’s not natural for you, something you really put work into, without getting paid to do it?

Not likely.

Well, neither does your dog. At least not for the first few years, until the good habits and behaviours are all in place and have become second nature. Then, sure, leave the treats at home. 

But if your arm is broken, don’t just wrap it up (yank, yell, berate). Get it x-rayed, casted, and take care of it for the next few weeks until it’s healed.
Change the feelings from negative to positive. 

Yeah, it might take longer, but I promise you, your dog (and your relationship with your dog) is worth the time and effort.