Fear of training or training by fear?

Aggressive looking Rottweiler

Two can play that game!

Like it or not we are animals. Buried deep down in our core, there are hardwired behaviors in place to ensure that we survive as a Kingdom and a Species. These behaviors may express themselves differently as you make your way up the taxonomic tree, but even as you reach the top (or most general) level of the scale and arrive at Life itself, the root of these behaviors exists and percolates through the tree.

While it may be speculation to say the all living things experience fear in one way or another, I don’t think that I would get much argument to say that all animals experience it in their own way. Many animals (including humans) have come to recognize fear across species and in turn rely on another seemingly innate behavior to control their environment, intimidation.

Animals use intimidation to gain access to resources and also to resolve conflict without actually having to engage in risky behaviors like fighting. But as humans we are unique in that our reasoning ability allows us to use fear in much more manipulative ways than others in the animal kingdom.

I would venture to say that most of you have at one time in your life experienced intimidation as both intimidator and intimidated. As humans we realize both the power of it and the potential for abuse. But when it comes to training our dogs we seem to forget that intimidation for all its forms is not the same as teaching.

I would be lying if I told you that I have never used intimidation as a tool with any of the dogs I’ve ever owned. But the older I get and the more educated in the ways of behavior and training, the less and less I use it; and it is always a tool of last resort or a result of me losing my temper.

The crux of the matter is this, although intimidation can be effective at getting a dog to stop an unwanted behavior, it can be destructive to trust between you and your dog and furthermore it is not instructive; it teaches your dog nothing.

For instance although yelling at your dog for chewing on your Manolo Blahnnicks MAY get him to stop chewing (at least while you are in the room), it doesn’t teach him the most important thing, what things ARE acceptable to chew on. Surely you are not insisting that the dog give up chewing altogether (if you are then you should not have a dog in the first place)?

Too often I see people yelling at their dogs for behaviors that to a dog are PERFECTLY normal and acceptable. And to make matters worse they don’t follow through with instruction as to what is acceptable.

Look we all get mad and slip up and use intimidation from time to time; after all we are animals. But as humans we need to take an active role in the training or our dogs so that intimidation is a slip up on our part, not our main method of communication.


Kevin, Jackie, Gavin, Annie, Tosha, Elbee