While Pattison isn’t happy the old-school method is still employed today, he said it’s also unfortunate treat training is gaining popularity.
A lot of the problems with dogs today, Pattison said in an interview, comes from ineffective, weak owners unwilling to take control of their dogs.
“Look at the dog as an animal. Not as a pet. If they don’t get leadership they’ll start barking, jumping, getting more aggressive. When dogs are given the privilege of being on the bed, sofa, begging for food with no discipline applied, quite often the dog lashes out because it knows it has had its way for years,” he said. “For sure you have to love an animal, but to say we shouldn’t discipline an animal isn’t correct.”
Fisher, on the other hand, said a dog can still be disciplined in a positive way. For instance, if a dog is barking because it wants to play, she ignores the behaviour and walks away -not giving the dog what it’s demanding by barking.
“When people say ‘obedience’ they get a corporal mind set. I want people to understand these [positive training methods] are cues more than commands. Whether we like it or not, dogs have free will, so forcing them or punishing them isn’t going to work.”
Fisher said she doesn’t want a “relationship of obeying” with her own Bearded collie, Quila. She’s not perfect herself, so why should she expect her dog to be perfect?
“I’m definitely in charge of Quila, but I’m a benevolent leader. I’m not about punishment,” said Fisher.
And while she agrees with Pattison that exercising your dog and having rules are necessary, she believes “the whole dominance theory is not correct.”
Fisher, in fact, frowns on using spoken commands with young dogs. She believes they respond better to hand signals; once they understand the signals, you can then pair them with words.
She uses the “clicker” method in her training, which involves clicking a hand-held device every time the dog does what it’s asked, saying “yes” at the same time.
“The nice part of clicker training is it activates the pleasure centre [in the dog]. It’s about the sound and the reward. Training should be play and play should be training.”
Pattison is not a fan of the clicker method, pointing out that it can’t easily be used by everyone who comes in contact with a dog. And what happens if you forget the clicker at home?
Fisher said she’s aware of that criticism, which is why she suggests using the word “yes” in addition to the clicker, for times when the clicker isn’t available.
To those critical of her approach, Fisher wonders why anyone would want to go with negative dog training methods when positive training works.
But Pattison said this training style “degrades the animal.”
“It’s part of the process of humanizing a dog, where like a child you don’t spank them. It’s … created a backlash of unhappy, depressed dogs.”