How to Use Corrections with Dogs

Husky pup with toys

Husky pup with toys

Correcting your dog is one of the most hotly debated topics in the dog training world.  With the popular idea of purely positive training, corrections are never used. But with many other trainers, some type of correction, whether only verbal, or verbal and physical, is used on a regular basis. Understanding what constitutes a correction is important, as well as knowing when and how to use it.

Note that there is a difference between a correction and discipline. Corrections are used during training, while discipline is used during everyday interaction with the dog.

Definition of a Correction

Simply put, a correction is to take a wrong action and make it right. It never means that the dog is bad, only that he has made the wrong choice. For example, when the dog is given a command to sit but he does not comply, he is physically placed in a sit, without the command being repeated. If, for example, he picks up the wrong object or doesn’t come on recall, then the trainer will stop the dog verbally and have him do the exercise again. If the dog does not quite understand what is asked of him, then the trainer will gently guide him to what is being expected of him.

Verbal Corrections

Rarely does a dog learn by verbal corrections alone. In order for a verbal correction to be used efficiently, the dog must first understand what is being asked of him. If you yell at a dog sitting 15 feet away that is on a sit-stay exercise to stop sniffing, the dog will ignore you unless you have taught him before hand that sniffing is not allowed.  The dog must first be trained while he is close to you, within a few feet, before verbal corrections from a distance mean anything to him. When the dog is at a distance from you, and you ask him to do something,  if he makes the wrong choice, do not yell at him.  Run to where he is and (gently) make him respond to the correction. For example, if he is working sheep and coming in too hard, and you call out “Easy!” and he does not respond, do not continue to yell at him. Go to him and make him make the correct choice, even if it is a good distance away. Plan on putting on your running shoes and help your dog make the right choices. To avoid these situations, make sure to train the dog solidly while he is only a short distance, (up to three feet), away from you.

Corrections must always be unemotional.

Correct, do not nag

If you find yourself constantly correcting for the same thing but your dog is not understanding what is expected of him, that is nagging. The dog does not know what you want him to do and you as the trainer are not showing him what is expected. Nagging at him does not train him. Instead, retrain the dog so that he understands the command. When he is doing the incorrect behavior, stop him physically, tell him “no,” let go of him and repeat your command. Praise him when he does the correct behavior. Make sure that he understands the command so that he can be right when asked to perform that command.

Never let the dog give you an incorrect choice. Always follow up on your commands and make sure that the dog listens to you and minds you. If the dog is never allowed to ignore you or constantly make the wrong choice, then he will listen to and respect you. If he is never allowed to develop bad habits, then he will always be a pleasure to be around and work with.