Consequences vs. Corrections

I'll look at you because I like what happens when I do. I get treats!

I don’t train with corrections. Corrections, to me, imply that the dog is doing something wrong. As far as I’m concerned, if my dog doesn’t comply with my cue or otherwise ‘misbehaves,’ I probably haven’t trained that behavior to the level I’m asking them for. There’s also the baggage the word correction carries. Most people think of collar pops, e-collar stims, or other positively punishing methods when they hear the word “correction.” Which I why I prefer to abstain from using it.

I train with consequences. Positive or negative. Good and bad. The behaviors my dog(s) choose to do are influenced by the consequences of doing them.

For example, the Pupster loves other dogs. If she sees another dog, she usually launches herself at them while wiggling wildly. If she launches at another dog (or otherwise acts out of control), the consequence is removal. She’s trying to get closer so I walk her away. There is no anger or frustration. No collar pops. I simply turn and walk away (I usually cue a “This way” or “Let’s go” as I move). That’s the consequence for lunging. Lunging doesn’t get you closer. It moves you further away.

On the flip side, if she can maintain control of herself, I will step one step closer to that other dog and give her a treat (I’ve been doing some BAT with her recently). The consequence of not acting like a crazed fool is that she gets to move closer to the other dog which is what she ultimately wants.

The more positive consequences a dog has, the more clear they are about what it is you want from them.

I do similar things with Risa though on a more complex level (since Risa and I have been together longer and she actually lives with me). Risa knows how to sit and it’s pretty well generalized. So what if I go to a pet festival and cue a sit in the middle of a crowd of dogs? If she sits, I will probably click/treat her and use effusive praise. But what if she doesn’t sit? She doesn’t get a reward, for one, but I also evaluate the situation. Clearly, being in a crowd full of dogs is very stressing to Risa and I don’t get a lot of opportunities to train her in environments like that. So I don’t get correct her ‘misbehavior’ by telling her she was wrong. I simply evaluate the situation and try and figure out how to set her up for success. If I do re-cue the sit, I will wait several seconds so that it’s clear to her that missing the cue will not result in a reward. If she sits the next time, I will reward her.

So, to sum up my training style, I train with consequences. I reward what I like. I don’t reward what I don’t like or I remove the dog from the situation if they are unable to comply. I don’t correct anything my dog does or doesn’t do. If they cannot comply, I re-evaluate what I’m asking them for so that they can be successful and earn those rewarding consequences. 🙂

About Jamie

I'm just a traditionally-trained artist with interests in dog training. I currently teach classes at the local obedience training club (tricks, freestyle, and Rally-FrEe) and I also teach classes professionally for an organization who helps veterans train their own service dogs.
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