Corrections are an integral part of dog training basics. Because dogs can’t communicate in our own language, we have to make interactions with them easy to understand. This is done through binomial feedback. We offer only two possible outcomes in response to a particular command: we reward a dog for the right response (one possible outcome) or we correct him for a wrong response (the other possible outcome).
Two levels of basic correction
In positive dog training, corrections are given by either withholding a reward or by reprimanding the dog. Outright punishment is avoided in order to build trust between you and your dog and to keep dog training basics fun. The type of training correction you give depends on how well your dog understands a particular obedience command.
Reward or No Reward
During the first phase of training, your dog learns the meaning of a command. The feedback you give at this stage is to either reward your dog for the right response or to offer no reward for the wrong response. It would be unfair to reprimand him since he has yet to associate the right action with the obedience command.
Reward or Reprimand
Once you know your dog understands a command, you should change your feedback to either a reward or reprimand. Unless he obeys a command every time he’s asked, your dog’s not trained; changing your feedback at this point will enforce the right response on all occasions. You know your dog can understand an obedience command when he performs the right action 90-95% of the time. Give him the command 15-20 times over a five to seven minute period as a test.
Properly reprimanding your dog
A basic dog training reprimand must be strong enough to get the result you want without damaging your dog’s concentration or trust in you. Reprimands should be instructive so your dog 1) knows he’s done something wrong and 2) knows how to remedy the situation. For instance, saying “Sit!” in a firm voice reprimands your dog by your tone while the instruction tells him what he needs to do. “Quiet!”, “Off!”, “Leave It!”, and “Outside!” are all examples of good instructional reprimands. “No!” is not a command.
Keep the following points in mind when making corrections during dog training basics:
Reprimands must be immediate
Your dog can’t associate a delayed reprimand with his disobedient behavior, which makes it ineffective. The reprimand must be immediate for your dog to make the connection.
Only reprimand your dog one time
Repeated commands or corrections only confuse your dog. If he doesn’t get it right after the first reprimand, there’s no reason to nag him. He either didn’t hear properly or he didn’t understand your direction. Make sure you’re clear the first time so your dog knows what you expect from him.
Follow up a reprimand with praise
When your dog obeys an instructional reprimand, praise him to reinforce the desired behavior. You shouldn’t get angry or hold a grudge as this will affect your next interaction with your dog. Once he has made up for the mistake, let it go.
Use your voice rather than physical punishment when possible
Verbal reprimands are much more effective because they can be given at a distance and can direct your dog in how to remedy his mistake. Your strength as pack leader comes through in your demeanor and tone.
Make the level of punishment fit the crime
As pack leader, you have to be fair in your assessment of rewards and punishments. Issuing a level 8 correction for a level 2 offense will only erode your dog’s trust in you. Minor infractions only warrant a slight correction while serious violations, such as biting or growling, should bring a serious response.
Corrections are a necessary part of dog training basics. By understanding the methods of positive training, you can learn to use them as a means of communication rather than punishment.