Corrections: Your Environment is Trying to Tell You Something

I loved letting my puppies out in the snow this morning. I loved watching them romp and frolic. I loved watching them find little treasures like pieces of ice or sticks in the snow. I also enjoyed watching their communication of correcting one another over and over again when each puppy tried to steal the other’s find.

To say that dogs don’t need to be corrected is the most preposterous concept. Quite frankly, it’s ruining the dog training industry. It’s also making dogs more aggressive due to lack of consequence. We have seen more aggression in domestic dogs in the past 15 years, than ever before in history. We have also seen a rise in positive-only training methods. There is a correlation there. As always, mother nature knows what she’s doing. The first correction a puppy ever feels is from its own mother. She is sure to let the pup know when it’s nursing too hard by giving the pup a hearty nip. Picture wolf pups exploring their wondrous new environment. When you stick your head down a porcupine’s den, you only do that once. Hopefully the quills don’t hurt too bad coming out. It is ingrained in all of us to avoid things that could harm or kill us. We learned to avoid those things through environmental correction. That’s what survival is all about.

When you’re making dinner and you accidentally touch the flame of the burner, you vocalize, and immediately pull your body away. You remember that lesson as you do not want to hurt yourself and get burned. It never makes you afraid to cook.

Imagine you are in a foreign land where you do not speak the language or have any understanding of technology, architecture or any man made hazard.  Let’s say you wandered onto a train platform walking too close to the edge of the tracks. Just as you’re about step over the yellow line and off the edge, a stranger grabs your body and firmly pulls you back. He saved your life. Was the stranger’s grasp on you painful? No. Even if it was momentarily uncomfortable, would you really care when it came to a life or death situation? This is a dog’s reality. We must manually teach them hazard avoidance through the use of properly timed corrections. Running after cars, bolting out of the car, barging the front door threshold are just three examples of daily hazards for our beloved dogs. 

Dogs need to be corrected properly, timely and fairly. Just like anything else there is a right and wrong way to go about it. It is my belief that both positive-only training and correction-only training is unfair to the dog. We must always reward behavior we like and correct behavior that is unacceptable at home or in society. That is your job as your dog’s advocate. Find a local “balanced” trainer in your area that can help you communicate with your dog properly if you are struggling. Do you want a happy, safe dog that understands his role in this world and your environment? Tell him when he’s doing it right and tell him when he’s doing it wrong.


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