Corrections are ways to improve communication in training and make corrections for training items that are either lacking precision and/or behavioral problems that need to be addressed. Corrections are not the same as punishment (either in the general public understanding which refers to a reaction after a negative event or the more scientific definition of punishment, meaning reducing behavior only or in other words does not mean physical harm in the scientific definition).
For about the fist six months of a puppies life, training goes along usually with minimal corrections (like no, trading items, or redirection to something more appropriate) and punishment might be a simple crate time out. Hopefully you have been doing formal training during this point, which does have less expectation and precision than one would have of a more mature dog going through training.
Why do we need corrections of some sort? When training a dog, you want to give them information in as clear a form as possible, so that they can learn how to understand our verbal communication and domestic living rules. There are many things canines do that are natural and normal for them to do, but do not belong in a domestic, living with and around humans and other critters environment. Because many dog owners want a dog that can go anywhere with them and take on adventures, dogs need to understand the rules in order to be safe and enjoyable in public. Six months is the age many dogs training professionals believe a puppy can receive more responsibility and start to have the responsibility of performing commands at first cue (verbal or signal or what have you). This is when you begin to build the compliance that you want in an older dog on their way to maturity. This may also be the age that your dog starts testing you and others to see how far they can go. This is natural for dogs to do at many different stages, but six months is a good age to begin being very firm about the rules of domestic living.
There are rules that humans need to adhere to for corrections to be an effective and fair part of a training plan. Here are five rules that most often come to mind for me:
- Training and teaching always are the first things you do with your dog before correcting them for non compliance. They need to know what the right decision, position or behavior was before you can expect them to perform it. A correction is not the beginning teaching step. Also remember a correction is not the reaction to an unpleasant event (IE dog bite, growling, going to the bathroom in the house, getting into the garbage ET). We are not talking about that here, and those reactions are not part of the TRAINING process in specific.
- Related to above, a correction must be fair and appropriate to the situation. Remember even when using training collars, the handler/trainer/owner always has control over how much they are used, how well timed they are used, and how consistent they have been in general to the training plan.
- A correction happens when the human is calm and in a good frame of mind. Again a correction is not something that happens in anger or frustration.
- There is usually a second or so between an event (command, behavior, ET) where the dog is giving their learning space. Then a correction (body bump, re-position, molding, collar/leash correction) is given only after giving the dog the opportunity to act based on what you have already taught them. Without giving them that space, you are not giving them the space to think, contemplate, and decide what it is that you want.
- Corrections are never the only information given in a training plan. They are a tool just like anything else that you use for training (leash, collar, voice, body language, consistency, timing, and so on). If you only used correction, you would never be teaching or rewarding. These are ALL part of the training process.
This is a short article on an involved topic. Please let me know any questions you may have. Future blog posts will delve further into this.