Coercion-based dog training essentially revolves around using corrections to get a dog to conform. It is very common to hear coercion-based trainers tell their students that their dogs should learn that obedience is not an option, meaning that their dogs should always learn to obey. To achieve this, dogs are consistently corrected for every misbehavior until it is finally appropriate. In such dog training methods, shock chains, grippers, etc. its use is common. Others may even resort to using electronic collars. On the other hand, food or treats are used less often because some coercion-based trainers believe that dogs trained with food or treats tend to be unreliable, meaning they will only obey if you have food or treats on hand. Take the food or the treat and everything they’ve learned starts to fall apart.
Does Food and Treats Have a Place in Dog Training?
In our opinion, absolutely yes! But they need to be managed properly. If you give a dog a prize, come to you, and then reward it with the prize, you’re actually making the prize a bribe. Without treatment, there is every chance your dog will ignore you and do whatever he wants, especially if there are distractions.
Reward-based trainers are therefore very careful when handling food and treat it as a reward for correct behavior rather than a bribe. As a rule (except when tempting), food is never offered as a way to get the dog’s attention before requesting a behavior. Instead, food is often out of sight initially and is offered as a reward only after the desired behavior has been performed. That way, the dog does not trust bribery. Instead, he learns over time that he can be rewarded if the food works as intended, even if it’s out of sight.
Can Reward-Based Education Produce Reliable Results?
Definitely. In fact, many of today’s top obedience dogs worldwide have been clicker trained. And click training in its purest form uses 100% reward-based methods. The use of force or corrections has no place in clicker training. The fact that these top obedience dogs can reliably perform in obedience rings around the world is proof that clicker training works and that the use of force in dog training is not strictly necessary.
Is Clicker Training Superior to Compulsion-Based Training?
We believe that in the hands of the right trainer, both methods are effective and can produce excellent obedience dogs. However, when it comes to applying corrections, some trainers may go overboard using increasingly higher levels of corrections to train their dogs. For example, they can progress from a buckle collar to a choke chain, a grippy collar, and even an electronic collar. Some may even resort to using throw chains to speed up their dogs’ performance. While such methods work, they tend to produce dogs that perform out of necessity, not love. Despite being reliable, these types of dogs tend to appear rather mechanical in the ring. Problems can also arise if compulsorily trained dogs enter competitions too early. In the ring, handlers are not allowed to fix their dogs. If these dogs are not ready for the ring yet, they will always make mistakes in the ring and will realize that their mistakes are not corrected in the ring. The result – a ringwise dog, that is, a dog that performs great outside the ring, but once in the ring everything falls apart.
Given the above, our preferred choice is clicker training. Our dog, Rufus CDX, received the 2009 Singapore Kennel Club Reserve Obedience Dog, Clicker Training of the Year. In our opinion, clicker training produces dogs that perform because they choose, not because they have to. As a result, they are very enthusiastic and will show it with their performances in the ring. Clicker training is also more humane and most importantly your dog will love it.