What is the worst way to train a dog?
The very short answer: any way that causes them pain or terror!
For the longer and more detailed answer, stick around and keep reading.
We’ll go over the worst training strategies in general as well as a few specific examples.
What is the Worst Way to Train a Dog?
The longer answer to “what is the worst way to train a dog” can be broken down into three categories: pain-based, fear-based, and outdated training methods.
We’ve touched briefly on these “bad” training methods when we talked about the good ones, but today we’ll dig a bit deeper.
Let’s start with pain and punishment training, since that’s the worst of the offenders (although fear-based is only a fraction behind).
Related: Virtual dog training vs in-person dog training training: which one is more effective?
Pain-based training methods
Pain-based training methods are those that use painful “feedback” as a way to stop your dog from doing something that you don’t want him to do.
The most obvious (and sadly, most popular) method is shock collar training.
This method (which also goes by the name “e-collar training”) uses a collar that essentially electrocutes your dog when he “misbehaves.”
It’s not just completely barbaric, it can also make your dog aggressive and lead to worse behaviors.
Shock collar proponents are quick to say that the jolts aren’t painful for your dog. However, this study proved otherwise.
The same study also went on to prove that dogs trained with shock collars tend to be more stressed out than dogs trained through positive methods.
Shock collar training isn’t just one of the worst ways to train a dog, it’s also potentially the most dangerous.
Side effects of using a shock collar include:
- Skin irritation from the prongs constantly rubbing against your dog’s fur.
- Sores from aforementioned irritation, which can break open and cause infection.
- Prolonged psychological trauma leading to a lifetime of anxiety and fear.
- Long-term behavioral problems that can last years after the last shock.
With so many cons and very few legitimate pros, it’s easy to see why shock collars and other painful methods are the worst way to train a dog.
Shock collars vs. vibration collars
I just want to clear something up real quick so those with deaf dogs don’t feel misjudged.
Shock collars are not the same thing as the vibration collars used in deaf dog training.
The latter doesn’t shock, but rather vibrates the way your phone does when the ringer is turned off.
Here is a great article that explains how they work, but long story short, the gentle vibration acts as an alternative to your voice or a clicker.
When followed with a treat or other positive reinforcement, vibration collars can be a useful and safe tool for training deaf dogs.
So, now that we know the #1 worst way to train a dog, let’s take a look at the very close second.
Fear-based training methods
While painful training methods like shock collars also fall into what I call “fear-based methods,” pain isn’t the only way to terrorize a dog.
As the name implies, these methods use yelling, punishment, and other intimidation tactics to scare a dog into behaving.
What is fear-based training?
Imagine that it’s your first week at a new job and you think you’re doing pretty well so far.
All of the sudden, your boss comes in, gets in your face and starts screaming at you, “No! No! That’s wrong! BAD! Very bad! You’re a bad human! You’re bad!! Do it again and it’s back to the unemployment line for you!”
How would that make you feel? Most of us wouldn’t think, “Wow, what a great guy! I can really see bonding with him! I’m going to love it here!”
No, most of us would either go into defense mode and “bite” back, completely shut down and live in fear of disappointing our boss again, or just say, “forget this” and quit.
That, my friends, is fear-based training: using yelling and intimidation tactics to terrorize your dog into stopping a “wrong” behavior rather than rewards to enforce “good” behavior.
Not only is it cruel, but it rarely works out the way you intend it to.
Consequences of fear-based training
Fear-based methods lead to a myriad of problems ranging from heartbreaking to downright dangerous.
On the heartbreaking end of the spectrum, you’ll have a dog that shuts down and ignores you entirely or views you as a source of terror rather than comfort.
On the dangerous end, you’ll have an aggressive dog that will eventually bite someone.
Unfortunately, it’s not you that they’ll bite, either. They’re more likely to direct that aggression at other people or animals, including your child.
If you’d like to learn more about the potential long-term damage caused by fear-based training, check out this article.
Now, let’s take a look at that last category: outdated dominance-training methods.
Antiquated dominance training
With the two methods above, owners are intentionally causing pain and fear.
It’s hard to look at these owners and think, “Well, they’re just a bit misguided, they don’t mean harm!”
Those who use outdated methods like dominance training, on the other hand, usually have the best intentions.
They never set out to damage their dog. They certainly don’t want to cause their dog pain or make Fido fear them!
Most of these owners simply fell victim to good marketing.
When celebrities tell you that you need to “dominate” your dog and be a “pack leader,” it’s easy to believe that you’re doing the right thing.
However, recent studies have found that dominating your dog can actually cause significant long-term damage, including making them more aggressive.
In fact, when breaking down aggression frequency compared to certain training methods, the alpha roll itself was responsible for 31% of aggressive behaviors in the dogs studied.
Take a look at this video to learn more about the dominance myth:
Now that we’ve looked at the worst ways to train a dog, the next question is, “Well, then, what is the best way to do it?”
What is the BEST Way to Train a Dog?
That is far from a simple question, but here’s the simplest answer possible: the best way to train a dog is through positive reinforcement.
Of course, there are a few different types of positive dog training. We’ve talked about a few in past articles and will continue to discuss them in the future.
For now, though, just remember this: using pain and fear to intimidate your dog into behaving is the least likely way to get the results you want.