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Informal Training and General Training Considerations

The tie-down (a short length of plastic coated wire cable with a loop on one end and a snap on the other), a chain leash, short chain, etc., can be used as an alternative to a crate for some purposes. The length of the tie-down ranges from 12 to 24 inches. The length you use is determined by the size of your dog. The tie-down can be looped around the leg of a piece of furniture, tied to an eyebolt, attached to the rear seat belts in your car, etc. The tie-down is not used as a form of punishment, but rather as a way to develop habits. It is important that the tie-down be used as a positive training tool and not for a punishment.

The tie-down is used as a training tool in the following areas:

When we speak of discipline, we mean teaching your dog the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. In order to do this, you must have a basic understanding of how your dog learns. Dogs do not learn in the same way people do. They do not understand concepts such as “right” and “wrong,” but they do make associations between events rather easily. They rely much more on body movement, basic instincts, hearing and scent abilities, and understanding. Most importantly, dogs learn through repetition. Your dog will learn his actions produce specific results. If a positive result occurs after a behavior (reward), that behavior is likely to occur again. If something bad or negative happens after a behavior (punishment), the chance of it occurring again will be less.

The term punishment in dog training is different than the way humans think of punishment. In dog training, we think of corrections as punishment; an unpleasant experience happens as a result of an undesirable behavior. This unpleasant experience should cause the dog to avoid that behavior. The correction must be forceful enough to make a lasting impression on the dog, but not enough to cause any physical or psychological damage to the dog. Punishment covers a large range including: withholding a reward, ignoring the dog, startling loud noises, a quick choke collar correction, a quick pinch collar correction, an electric shock from a remote shock trainer, restraining the dog’s movements, isolating the dog, or confining the dog. The correction must always be tailored to the temperament of the dog and the situation. What matters is not punishing a dog, but making the activity you disapprove of unpleasant enough so that the dog gives it up.

The pleasant or unpleasant result of an action must be immediate for the training to be effective. If you do not catch the dog in the act of misbehaving, you cannot administer punishment without confusing the dog. Do not yell at him, hit him, or throw him outside in the yard; he won’t understand why he is being punished. If he looks guilty and is cowering, it is because he knows you are angry with him (by your body language and tone of voice), not because he eliminated in the house, chewed on the furniture, dug up the garden, etc. When you do catch your dog misbehaving, say “No” in a stern voice and give a jerk or two on his collar, then redirect him to an acceptable behavior. For example, the dog is chewing on something you do not want him to chew on. Redirect him to one of his own chew toys and then praise him. The key is to make an impression on the dog so he won’t want to make the same mistake again. Use only enough force to make him stop whatever he is doing and give him lots of praise when he stops.
If you need to correct him from a distance, for example he refuses to come when called, raise your voice and call him, stepping towards the dog. If he still refuses to come, use a throw chain. Throw it near him, but not at him (do not throw keys or any sharp objects at your dog). This will startle and distract him, but will not harm him. When training indoors, use a rolled up towel with rubber bands or string, so it resembles a folded newspaper instead of a throw chain.

Remember, most things we would punish our dogs for indicate a lack of training. Rather than punish them for doing something you don’t want, train them to do something you would prefer. Set up rules of conduct and consistently enforce them. Inconsistency will only delay training and confuse the dog.