The Truth About Fear, Force, Punishment and Corrections.

Part 1, Corrections.

Corrections as Information

There are two types of corrections used in dog training. Verbal (or vocal) corrections, and physical corrections, which includes leash corrections.

Verbal (or vocal) corrections include things like saying “No!” “Quiet!” “Uh-uh!”or making a “Tch-tch...” sound.

Physical corrections involve using your hands to physically manipulate (or gently force) a dog into a sit or down position, etc.

Leash corrections can be something as simple as a slight tug on the collar or “hanging” a dog, where you momentarily lift the dog’s front legs off the ground, a technique which should only be used in an emergency situation to prevent a dog from harming himself or others.

In each of these cases, the corrections are simply a way of providing important information to the dog and aren’t necessarily punitive in nature. In fact, they can be quite the opposite.

Still, many “all-positive” trainers like to claim that they never use corrections at all, ever. On a blog post at the Leerburg dog training website, dedicated to training police dogs, military dogs, and other working dogs, trainer Ed Frawley describes this tendency perfectly.

In the past 15 years we have seen many all-positive

trainers (otherwise known as “+R” trainers) who

mistakenly think they can train every dog and never

give a dog a correction. These people either lack

experience or they know better and simply talk the

talk so they can be politically correct. Not in a million

years could any +R trainer anywhere have trained

or certified any one of the police service dogs that I

worked while I was a K9 handler.

In fact, 99.99% of every dog trained in the +R

system will eventually be faced with an off leash

distraction that is more interesting to that dog than

the reward his handler has to offer. When that happens

the dog will not follow his owner’s commands, even

though the dog knows exactly what his owner is asking.

That’s how dogs get into dangerous situations. This

is how +R dogs get in dog fights or get hit by cars.

I also don’t have a lot of patience for +R training

organizations (like Pet Smart) that push purely positive

dog training in their training classes and won’t let their

trainers talk about corrections. They do a disservice to new

dog owners who make the mistake of taking their classes.

I would add to Frawley says that one of the reasons +R trainers are against using corrections is that a good part of their training paradigm involves the mistaken idea that puppies should be trained as early as possible. This is a mistaken idea which is not based on the science of how dogs learn.

In the model of training used by truly professional trainerslike those who train police dogs, military dogs, and other working dogsfull obedience training doesn’t start until the dog is at least 2 years old! No wonder positive trainers would rather avoid corrections, because you never want to correct a puppy for anything!

So, what are corrections, and why are they so important in training?

Corrections are a vital element of behavior and learning in all animals. They’re not necessarily a negative, but an important form of information. In dog training, corrections provide important data to the dog about what you want him to do or not to do. In fact, you can’t fully train a dog without using corrections, and anyone who tries to eliminate corrections entirely will end up with a dog that’s unreliable in one way or another. Again, corrections are an important form of information not abuse.

Two Types of Corrections

There are two basic types of corrections: vocal corrections and physical corrections.Vocal corrections include saying “No,” “Uh-uh,” and vocalizations like “tch-tch,” etc.

Physical corrections include things like a light tug on the dog’s collar, physically manipulating the dog into the proper position, harder pops on the collar, and using the leash and collar to momentarily lift the dog’s front legs off the ground to prevent him from doing harm to himself or others.

Leash corrections are not necessarily aversive. In fact, as Kevin Behan says in the video of Zeke below, they’re no different than Pavlov’s “bell.” There is nothing either positive or negative about them.

In fact, the positive nature of leash corrections can also be seen in this video of Noodles, walking next to me, then forging ahead. As I give him a few corrections he begins to walk next to me rather than pull, he starts feeling more connected to me, and even looks up at me in a happy manner.

Remember, there is nothing wrong with using corrections as long as they a) increase the dog’s ability and willingness to learn and obey and b) don’t induce fear or reduce a dog’s motivation.

Do some dog trainers and owners overdo the use of corrections? Yes, absolutely. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use them. They can actually be a very positivenot to mention effectiveway not only to train your dog, but to deepen your emotional bond.


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© 2016 by Lee Charles Kelley.