The Art of the Old Masters: Corrections

Posted: May 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’ve been soaking in the hot tub of history again, looking for the soothing heat of “what has gone before”.  I’ve been pre-occupied with my own weakness as a dog-trainer, and it’s lead me to re-inforce things I’ve instinctively believed, and seen proven time and again. It’s also had me on a campaign to hone my skills as a trainer, from the ground floor up. That’s the subject of this post: Always striving to become a better, more skilled practictioner of the dog-training art. Not by creating an “All New, State-of-The-Art , Scientifically based method of Dog-Training” as so many attempt to do themselves, but by immersing my thoughts back into the methodology and common sense of the Old Masters of Dog Training. If you are a “Purely Positive” type, this post will probably have you reaching for one of the various types of sedatives available today. Or leave you crouching over your keyboard, seething, while rifling thru a Thesaurus for synonyms for “Vile”, “Cruel” or “Evil”. And then filling my comments section with spit and vitriole about my cruel and inhumane methods. But’s that’s fine. I know what I’ve seen firsthand, and I know what works. Furthermore, my relationship with my dogs is something that many envy. In spite of the fact that I employ “Correction” and “Discipline” in their daily lives. I also use a training collar regularly, a Pinch-Collar when advantageous, and an e-collar when advantageous. I use them with fairness, practiced skill , and always follow correction with ridiculous amounts of praise. I NEVER hurt my dogs. I am, in fact, remarkably gentle and affectionate to my dogs, and they seek me out for that attention. Maybe more frequently than necessary. My dogs will NEVER run away from me in any situation and get hit by a car, even when completely unfettered by any collar. My dogs know quickly what I expect from them, as I don’t wait around for them to miraculously perform some small behavior that I will need to slowly build over time. “Down In Motion” is not something that should take 27 steps and 4 weeks of time to perfect. Convincing a dog to stop humping your leg is a simple fix as well, and should never be allowed from a well-trained dog. (And you know who you are.)

Anyway, I’ve waxed rhapsodic and gotten off on a tangent. Our subject is “Correction”, or “Discipline”. Both of which seem more like forbidden subjects at times, given the drivel that one finds so common in the Internet cesspool. But there is once again a rising rebellion against, and a recognition of the failures of the Pure Positive movement. Trainers like Ivan Balabanov are turning heads, and gaining influence. And there are many others joining the offensive. The most influential Trainer currently sitting on my book shelf, wrote his “piece de resistance” in 1910.

Colonel Konrad Most, police commissioner at the Royal Prussian Police and a pioneer in dog training, wrote most eloquently on the subject of Correction. Yes, I know, The Colonel is considered to be a neanderthal by contemporary “dog-behaviorists”, and other self-appointed experts. Wolf/Dog comparisons aside, Mosts methods of training are as effective on the field of training today as they were in the days of yore. (Bet you won’t find another writer using “yore” anywhere soon.) Smart trainers are using them still, even if under cover of hiding.

An objective and intelligent reading of “Dog-Training- A Manual” reveals so much of value that many have usurped for “Science”, or political-correctness. My favorite advice that Most gives is to see things “From The Dogs Point of View”. But I’m saving that for another post, as it’s a powerful and profound paradigm.

Correction is the method that nearly every living, sentient creature learns from most effectively. If children are effectively trained, disciplined, and corrected by older, more experienced parents, they learn the rules of polite society, and they contribute to the same positively. If NOT not given Correction, and allowed to do as they will by parents unwilling to stifle their mis-behavior, you end up with the “Occupy” movement, unwanted pregnancy, drug abuse, rap music, bridge taggers, and car thieves. Or worse. In the canine world, dogs that are trained, disciplined, and properly corrected from a young age become wonderful household pets, competition dogs (in various forms), MWD or Law enforcement dogs, Cancer detecting dogs, PTSD assistants, Leaders of the Blind, et al. NONE of those dogs grew up without CORRECTION or DISCIPLINE during development. It started in a whelping pen, and went from there for several years.

The most effective place to start corrections is the Leash in your hand, and around the dogs NECK. NOT his muzzle, and not his belly. That nicely tooled 5′ or 6′ long leather is a gentle guide for the willing and submissive dog, and controlled constraint for the obnoxious or contentious canid. The leash, and the corrections that it makes possible when used properly, are hooked directly to your dogs Learning Center. The Purely Positive crowd is obsessed with working “Off-Leash”, sans any correction. That is one of the failings of the clicker. If the dog refuses to obey a command out of obstinance, or because it works for food alone, then the handler has NO way to control, or instruct the dog correctly to the desired behavior. The cart, (Off-Leash training) has been put before the Horse (basic Obedience), and failure is certain to happen. While Off- Leash is certainly a goal to be admired, it must come after fundamental obedience is achieved. In reality, a dogs willingness to obey commands without hesitation or argument, speaks volumes about the Handler/Trainer’s Intelligence and commitment to the dog/human relationship. The dog learns that obedience is in it’s best interest. Logic tells us that the human on the other end of the leash needs to be an effective Leader, capable of effective use of the leash/collar combination. Using too little correction, and having to repeat the process in staccatto rythyms of frustration is annoying to the dog. And Useless. Comparative to a nagging mate in a marital arrangement.

Yet, violent corrections that lift a dog off the ground, are only rarely to be considered necessary. As in the handler getting seriously injured. Get the dogs attention attention quickly, cleanly, and concisely. Don’t prolong the correction. It should be more surprise than pain, much more. And the timing should be exactly given as the misbehavior happens. Too soon or too late makes any correction inneffective. Now, on to something even more important.

Correction, when complied with, should instantly be replaced with PRAISE and PLEASURE. (I didn’t say opening up the Treat bag you’ll note) The dog needs to learn that obeying leads to affection, and a positive vibe from it’s handler/owner. Proper Correction does NOT create a dog that obeys out of fear, or melts into a trembling pile of fur. Successful Compulsion is only successful when it produces results and instantly turns into Praise and building the dog back to it’s happiest state. In short, the dog learns that compliance leads to everything GOOD. Disobedience or obstinance, is not to be ignored as so many contemporaries would opine incorrectly, but leads to less than ideal results. Dogs figure this out quickly, and most effectively.

It brings to mind the words of another German Officer of some repute with dogs. Capt. von Stephanitz said, ” The Aim of the Whole of Training is to make the dog willingly obedient and so willingly obedient that he can do nothing else but obey…”

That statement completely precludes and eliminates any notion of correcting in Anger, Frustration, or rage. That sort of stupidity damages the relationship with the dog. But so does LACK of correction as demonstrated by non-aversive accolytes. The dog must be shown what is expected of it, and why obedience is advantageous.

Correction IS Communication. Obedience is the offspring of Communication. If you oppose any correction in dog training, quit hiding behind your fear of being chastised by the politically correct chatterers, and develop real skill in corrections. Your dog will thank you for listening to the Old Masters of the Art of Dog-Training.


  1. Weather it is praise, reward, corrections or permissiveness, I always try to drive home how associative behaviors are manifested from stimulus or lack of stimulus is a very basic formulation of animal behavior. I can say with confidence that a good majority of the behavior your dogs or children are exhibiting is from associative behaviors.

  2. Cj Landry says:

    Well said, thank you for your thoughtful and accurate description of the need for balanced training. Colonel Most’s book is one of two that I will never lend out to anyone. You hit the target with the difference between correction and abuse…timing, intensity, and recovery. As someone who volunteers for rescue I see the throw away dogs that have no clue how to live with humans. They are quickly taught with persistence, patience and praise. They are taught, helped, and spoken to. They are touched, rewarded with words and petting and grow to be well behaved companions with their understanding and confidence in humans restored. They respond to guidance and instruction with accuracy and enthusiasm. Their days of guessing over they are eager to offer a quick response to instruction, and often anticipate with accurate that makes me laugh and wonder if they can really read minds.