Features June 2009 Issue

Fear-Free Dog Training Methods

Pain- and fear-free training methods are effective and enjoyable.

Last month I mentioned how our daily “off” practice paid off when Otto first noticed my friend Leonora’s goats. Otto is fascinated by these animals, which puff up like cats, rear up like horses, and make very weird, scary direct eye contact – very undoglike. As riveted as he was by the goats, every time I said, “Otto, off!” he immediately turned away from the goats and looked at me. Of course, I delivered a bit of hot dog – his favorite treat – right to his lips, each time he so much as glanced at or stepped toward me. It was a calm, drama-free event; no goats or dogs were harmed in the making of that particular scene. It was a great testimonial for the effectiveness of positive training in general, and specifically for an all-positive method of training a dog to exert self-control. I wasn’t yelling at Otto, scaring him (and any other creature around), or threatening his general well-being if he made the wrong move. It wasn’t fear of punishment – or fear of me – or some sort of amorphous “respect” that he had for me, or his “recognition” of my “leadership” that led him to resist his desire to chase or otherwise engage the goats. It was simply another step along a deliberately built, assiduously practiced, behavior modification program. “How did you teach him that?” Leonora wondered.

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