Pam Garland sent me this interesting letter about her experience with a dog trainer and her wrong-headed attempt to stop dog aggression:
Throwing Cookies At Her Dog
To Stop Dog Aggression?
Pam writes: “I paid $350.00 for a ‘highly trained and experienced dog behaviorist’ who did the same thing – she spent 30 minutes throwing treats at my dog every time he came toward her in an aggressive way. It didn’t help to stop his dog aggression and now after reading this [a prior article I wrote on how to stop dog aggression] it confirms my feelings that I was ripped off.”
You Can’t Stop Dog Aggression
If You’ve Got Your Head Up Your Tookis
I get these types of letters all the time: Dog owners get suckered in by the “cookie bribery/clicker training/purely positive” dog trainer mafia. It all sounds good on paper: Train your dog by never telling him, “No!” Never mind that it’s in no way natural (dogs correct each other all the time, as evidenced by my video of Shorty correcting Juan when Juan gets too close to his bone).
It doesn’t take a PhD in animal psychology to figure out that if you throw a dog a cookie every time he shows aggression, you’re rewarding that behavior. But the pseudo-science behind the purely-positive dog trainers’ argument won’t let them see that: You need to attach a negative association to any unwanted behavior if you ever want to your dog to drop that behavior. For the balanced dog trainer, we do that by teaching your dog what, “No!” means and we attach a negative association by either administering a leash correction or by using an e-collar. It’s a fair, easy way to get your message across to your dog and it models the way the mother dog would correct the puppies: By giving them a nip on the neck.
My advice: Run away from anybody who tries to tell you that you can stop dog aggression by throwing cookies to your dog has got their head up their tookis.