Dog Manual

Praise And Punishment

"It is impossible to train a dog through his skin or his stomach," is a well known saying, and the trainer who attempts it will never attain success. And when someone exclaims that his dog is more obedient when whipped, I am constrained to inquire exactly how that dog obeys. It will be found that he obeys invariably through fear which is just the opposite of what we want. A dog ought to work with pep, and joy, with shining eyes, willing to repeat on command at any moment for his beloved master. Surely we do not want him to obey shivering, with his tail between his legs, and waiting only for the moment when the command is finished so that he can slip away at the first opportunity out of reach of the master who abuses him!

Shyness is caused by wrong treatment or abuse; by hitting, pinching or whipping. As such abuse originates in the hands, the dog at first becomes hand-shy and, suspicious that he will be punished for everything he does, he loses confidence in his master. In other words, he grows master-shy. No dog is born shy. All puppies come joyfully no matter who calls them. If the mother is shy, it is natural that the puppies should reflect her attitude as long as she remains with the litter. For this reason, the puppies of a shy mother should be taken from her at the age of eight weeks.

Every dog considers his acts as right. And from his standpoint they are right. For instance, he tackles the man who reads the gas meter. Suspicious of the intruder's movement with his flashlight, he considers it his duty to protect his master's property. Wherefore, it becomes our duty to divert the dog's thinking to other channels, not by whipping, abuse or starving for it cannot be done that way. By means of our own mental superiority we must discipline him in a sensible way to do what we want. We must make him understand that acts of his, of which we do not approve, can only result in discomfort for him. Of course the dog should receive praise when he does right; nevertheless, praise ought to be administered as sensibly as punishment else it will tend to produce quite the opposite effect. In fact, the dog that is over-praised and over-coddled often becomes spoiled, destructive and disobedient. I do not like to see owners petting, even kissing, their dogs in public for no apparent reason: such conduct is detrimental to the best interests of all dogs in that it seems to further inflame dog haters. Yes, those who really love dogs, as I do, realize that, insofar as caressing a dog in public is concerned, a gentlemanly restraint is the finest advertisement of true regard for our friend the dog.
It is the problem of the owner to allot praise and punishment consistent with the dog's nature. Naturally throughout all training a dog of soft character needs more praise than a dog of good strong character. Regardless of individuality, however, when the dog performs in perfect harmony" with his lesson, he should be praised, but in moderation. And I believe it need not be added that no dog should be given praise or punishment without good reason.

I myself invariably hesitate to administer punishment for fear the dog may not have understood what was required of him. Frequently, the lesson must be repeated again and again, in a different way even, for the purpose of making the order clear. When the dog docs not respond the first or the second time, the guide must not lose his temper: he must try it all over once more. To strike the dog is to inspire fear, whereupon he may be apprehensive about doing even the right thing through dread of punishment.

It is quite different when a dog goes through his lesson several times correctly, then out of sheer stubbornness refuses to repeat it. This is the time for definite but short punishment such as a jerk at the collar, or a hit with the chainette. But never whip a dog: never do as one trainer, so-called, recommended: "take him by the ears and shake him." Not only is punishment of this kind absolutely useless as a form of correction, it is detrimental to all future training because, as previously outlined, it is done with the hands which must as far as possible be kept away front the dog when punishment is administered. Important also is your conduct after the dog has been punished. Immediately go through one or two commands with him. Give him some slight praise, then make up with him by a little play in order to restore his confidence. Do not, however, mix praise with punishment.

The word NO, or SHAME will constitute the lightest form of reprimand, while the most drastic is the throwing of the chainette. The first mentioned can be employed as a warning in connection with any lesson, whereas the latter should be used with caution and only when it is certain that the dog understands the command but will not respond. Do not punish in any way at all when a dog docs not know his lesson, or when it requires what seems to you to be too long a time for him to grasp it. Be quick to look for faults in yourself, and make allowances for the dog as a creature devoid of reasoning power. And don't forget that you are his mental superior. Once more, let me say, keep your temper. If you cannot control yourself, you can never control anyone else, much less a dog! Nevertheless we must be strict, and accurate, during training. We must see to it that every command is carried out with exactness, otherwise the dog will not regard his training seriously, and success will be doubtful. Don't be sentimental: be firm if you would expect results.  

Things easy are seldom truly successful. Quite to the contrary, results achieved by patient, hard work arc alone enduring. While on this subject of punishment I would like to mention a case that should prove of interest to dog lovers as well as to trainers. Several years ago a man asked me what to do about a dog which would never work in field trials unless he gave him a beating beforehand. The rules governing field trials in Germany are very strict, and the use of whip or training collar at trials is forbidden. Consequently this man had never won a trial despite the fact that his dog was well trained. He was not, of course, permitted to use the whip before the examinations began. I kept this dog in my kennel for a week and after I had won his complete confidence by feeding him, I started practising. The first lesson surprised me for though I knew the dog had been well trained, he would not do a thing! Never have I seen a more stubborn animal. I tried every exercise ten or fifteen different ways, always avoiding use of the whip, of course, for the simple reason that I could not bring myself to believe the owner's statement about the whip being necessary. My resources were at an end!

As a last resort, I cut a soft branch from a nearby tree and, with it in my hand, I approached the dog. Down he went, wagging his tail like a puppy ready for play as he awaited me. Even then I could not whip him because it is against my principles.  So I started to beat the ground close beside him. Each time I hit the ground, the dog was filled apparently with a convulsive excitement. Then I threw the switch away, whereupon the dog shook himself as if rousing from a pleasant nap. Again I began the lesson with almost unbelievable results!

He went through all the exercises with such lightning speed that it was a pleasure to work with him. Every day after that, I increased the distance of the simulated whipping and, after ten days, I found I could beat the ground a hundred feet away and get exactly the same effect. This dog later won many field trials and eventually became one of Germany's outstanding working dogs. And may I add that the owner has always given me full credit for his success!

This is a striking case of animal masochism which of course is rare. From it I have reached the following conclusion: If you have a dog that has been accustomed to the whip and you think you cannot get along" without it, try using it as I have described here. Truly, it is painless punishment, more effective than a real whipping. Hit the ground close to the dog, then watch results.