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Dogs Deserve Patience, Not Punishment

by Anne-Marie Mayes

I wanted to share one of my experiences with going to my camp this summer.  Since my camp is located on a lake that I have grown up at, the building remains the same but the neighbours, kids, and dogs around it have grown and changed.


I was sitting outside in the sunshine enjoying the view of the lake and my dogs are sniffing around.  I see a young dog playing nearby. She is having the best day running around, following her nose, and swimming. She is so excited and happy that she is distracted by one thing after the other.  She pops into my yard, watches the dogs for a minute and then is off in the water again.   I hear her owner calling her repeatedly and starting to get frustrated that she is not coming.  Then I hear, “we should have brought her shock collar”.  My heart sinks. I want to tell them to just go get her and practice rewarding her for coming when called.


Listening to them continue to yell at and threaten their dog was a real damper on what was supposed to be a relaxing holiday. I would much prefer to hear someone calling their dog happily, offering rewards, praise, and play.


In my view, this is a young dog in a very challenging environment.  Unless they have been highly reinforced, consistently, for coming when called it is a lot to expect that they would be able to listen in this situation. I feel that we just assume that our dog will listen and don’t ease the dog into it.  Start with recall on leash and work up to a long line. If you can’t be actively supervising, a tie out is a good option as well.  As an experienced trainer, I know that all these different factors – young dog, no recall training, doing their own thing unsupervised for extended periods, having tons of distractions – mean it is unlikely that the dog will succeed.


What disturbs me is that many people automatically resort to punishing the dog for not being able to respond when they are put in these positions before they are ready. There is so much information out there now on how to train dogs, it’s more important than ever to make sure you get your training information from reliable sources. If we choose to bring a dog into our home, then we should be taking the time to truly learn about them and how best to teach them.  When dogs spend all day at camp swimming, hiking or boating then a little time on leash is not much of a sacrifice to keep them out of trouble.


We humans are constantly learning every day, throughout our entire lives. The expectation for a puppy to magically know everything and be perfectly behaved at one year old is unrealistic. Our kids take 5-6 years to read and write, multiple sessions to learn how to skate; why do we not have this patience or understanding for our dogs? I do not deny that people want the best for their dogs; but I believe that we just want a quick fix to have our dog behave while ignoring the side effects of this training.


I teach classes, write articles and record podcasts to help people to understand how dogs learn and the best ways to teach them the skills they need to live harmoniously with us. All our dogs ask from us is quality time and patience.

article with photo of off leash dogs

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