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3 Simple Ways To Ensure Your Dog Training Is Ethical

Sally Gutteridge
Ethical dog training is an evolving art that’s been carried out by positive and educated dog trainers for some time now. It simply means we coach dogs to know what we expect and apply certain guidelines such as the ones below. 

Cues Not Commands

It might just sound like words, but the meaning behind those words is very different as is the meaning for our dogs. Cueing a choice is something we teach after the dog has learned to make the right choice through positive reinforcement. It can be added at any point but generally is most effective if added when the behaviour is reliable.

For example, if we have a dog who jumps up on greeting, we first teach him that jumping up is not rewarding. We do that by setting up a different choice (and taking away the opportunity to practice jumping up) we teach the dog to sit maybe and reward that choice.
We then wait until our dog is reliably sitting on greeting and add the cue for that sit. A cue for a dog, taught and delivered properly, will be seen by the dog as an amazing opportunity to earn a reward. We ask them for something they know how to do, they do it and we reward them, perfect.

Commands on the other hand are our way of telling the dog what we want, or more often what we want them to stop doing. For example, the dog who hasn’t been taught to walk on a loose lead is often commanded to heel. Or the dog who is doing something that makes their human uncomfortable is commanded with “no” or “stop” lots of times a day. Some dogs seem to be commanded to within an inch of their lives, it’s quite sad to see.

So many people use the word “no” with their dog, rather than taking the time to teach and delightedly exclaim “yes” more often. Ethical dog training makes us more yes people and makes our dogs lives much happier and easier.

Training To Meet The Dog’s Needs 

Dogs live in a human world. They are captive animals and no matter how hard we try, they have to adapt to us more than us to them. Ethical dog training means that we teach our dogs to live with us, through kindness and we also do it to help them to cope.

This means helping them through positive reinforcement to be happy through husbandry. To feel secure at times they might feel scared or unsafe and to be as relaxed as possible at the vets. It also means that we empower our dogs to be themselves and to do so in a way that doesn’t cause us or them trouble. For example, we can’t expect dogs not to bark – they are dogs and barking is their right just as speaking is ours. But we can teach them not to bark enough to upset everyone in the street and get us both evicted, taking us right back to cueing a better choice.

No Force and No Fear

Force, fear and punishment does change behaviour, there’s no escaping that. Just as you or I would shut up if someone held our mouth closed or threatened to hurt us if we made another sound - force and threats will cause our dogs to suppress the urge to communicate how they feel too. It doesn’t mean it’s the right way to treat someone though, animal or human.

Ethical dog training or Canine Coaching as I like to call it, teaches kindly through positive reinforcement and guidance. No commands, no force or threats, no expectations from confused dogs and we always set them up to succeed and to be the most wonderful individual that they are.

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