Sunday, October 30, 2011

Video Lesson: Tricks, Clicks, and Treats!

Learn the basics of training with a clicker and how to teach your dog three fun tricks: Spin, Take a Bow, and Bang!

**Quick disclaimer: Some bull terriers become obsessive "spinners." If your dog has shown signs of this, please skip teaching the "spin" cue or otherwise encouraging it.**

Friday, October 28, 2011

Book Review: Awkward Family Pet Photos

Anyone who truly knows me knows that while I love to laugh it's not uncommon for me to be way too serious about life. This means that it often takes something really funny to generate a giggle. In my defense, I find it incredibly hard to do normal, everyday things while laughing (such as drive a car, walk, or form a coherent thought) so I'm sure I've developed this "seriousness" as a survival technique.

At any rate, I would like to present a book that is guaranteed to crack you up: Awkward Family Pet Photos by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack. Within its pages you will find a plethora of different species just begging to bring you joy at their own expense. Whether you're a dog, cat, parrot, or opossum lover (yes, I said opossum) you will find a variety of pictures to entertain you and brighten your day. If a good, hearty, full-on laugh is what you're searching for you'll quickly find that here.

Be sure to read all the captions, too. Sometimes they really bring the hilarity of the photo home. From a cat named Wormser who made me contemplate the true meaning of love (and parasites) to a family photo that provoked the question, "Why can't I have a capybara??" this is a great pick-me-up and conversation starter. The book is officially released on November 1st or can be pre-ordered at by following this link.

For a chance to win a free copy of the book, keep your eyes on our Facebook page!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Art of Turning the Other Cheek

Few phrases cause a dog owner to lose faith in a trainer's abilities faster than "Ignore the behavior." Your dog is jumping incessantly or barking constantly and you're told that the best thing to do is nothing at all? How is that ever going to work? It goes against everything we stand for and has the added disadvantage (to the dog trainer at least) of coming off as the absolute weakest and most unhelpful "answer" that could ever be offered. Ever.

"How do I  change a flat tire?"
"Just ignore it."

"How do I reformat my computer?"
"Ignore it..."

This response makes absolutely no sense when referring to inanimate objects. However, that changes completely once you introduce even the smallest amount of brain power. For example:

"How do I get my crazy neighbor to stop asking to borrow my stuff?"
"Ignore him..."

See?? Rude.
Admittedly, for that last one you could end up coming off pretty rude but I guarantee that if you were consistent it would be the answer to your problem. If you ignored your neighbor completely, never giving in to lending out your possessions, he would eventually stop asking for them. (Unless there were more serious issues at play in which case a restraining order might be the way to go). Thankfully, when it comes to dogs you don't even have to worry about being considered rude. Rude is practically their native language!

Of course, the real issue at hand has little to do with politeness. It's about whether or not this really works in dog training the way that all of these wussy trainers (like myself) claim. You can be honest with me; some of you probably suspect that we run to the "ignore it" response when we have no idea what the real answer might be. It's ok.  I forgive you...but only if you continue reading.

Without getting overly technical I want to make it very clear that the basis behind ignoring an unwanted attention-demanding behavior is preventing that behavior from being reinforced. I covered this quite a bit in the Screaming Child in the Grocery Store post, where I described that even a reaction that we perceive as "bad" (such as raising your knee when your dog tries to jump on you) can actually encourage the behavior to be repeated. Physical contact of almost any form is often appreciated by most dogs, especially when the alternative is being completely ignored. Yes, this is still true even if you take on an angry tone/demeanor.

You can be sure you've won the
battle of wills when you see
this face.
That being said, I have found that it often helps even more to emphasize the fact that you are not going to give in to an inappropriate request for attention. Actively ignoring unwanted behavior can help speed up the training process and make you feel a little more like you're actually doing something. Instead of just standing in one spot ignoring your dog, you can spice things up a bit by walking right past him. No eye contact, no physical contact whatsoever. Just go about your business as if your dog does not exist. You may not be able to walk through him and it will probably be tough as he tries his best to get a response, but pretend there is no dog. He may touch you but don't touch back.Talk about one confused pooch! This can work faster because your dog will soon recognize (unless you give in) that you're going about everyday things and nothing he does is earning him the reward that he used to receive. Until, of course, you spot him calming down and keeping all four feet on the floor like a good boy. In which case, he can have a quick dose of praise and maybe even a tasty treat. Don't forget to "mark" the desired behavior immediately by saying "Yes!" or clicking (only if you are familiar with the concept of clicker training; if not, please learn about it before trying to implement it. I will have a clicker post soon). You may have to be a bit nonchalant with the marker at first to prevent him from getting too excited to contain himself again. This will get easier as he figures out what does and doesn't work. Be prepared for him to initially put extra effort into the old way of doing things until he learns that there is a new and better way.

Another common example of attention-seeking behavior is barking/whining in the crate. While there are some dogs who have true separation anxiety and/or need a little more tweaking to their training plan, the issue almost always comes down to accidental reward in this situation. If you've ever yelled at your dog while he was whining in his crate or entered his room to tell him to be quiet you have contributed to the problem and reinforced his behavior. Yes, the yelling was in anger but to your dog, it was an abrasive yet shiny ray of hope. Actively ignoring a dog who is whining in the crate means going about business as usual until it's time for him to come back out. Do not go out of your way to be silent when your dog has been put in the crate or else you'll be tip-toeing around every moment that he has to be there. Make the crate positive by feeding meals and treats there. It can also help to practice crating him in short sessions during the day and certainly helps if he has been given plenty of opportunities to potty, plenty of exercise, and a comfortable bed.

For anyone dwelling in an apartment, this can be a terrible experience as you worry whether or not your neighbors are going to complain about the noise. My best advice is to try to get on good terms with your neighbors, explain the situation, and dress your dog up in cute clothes when he's out and about. No one wants to evict a well-dressed dog. In all seriousness, even if it takes a while to fix the problem this way, it will be much faster than if you accidentally reward your pet for being noisy.

The typical response to this type of advice is "It doesn't work on my dog." If you feel this way please ake a moment to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Is this really an attention-seeking behavior? (If it is jumping up on people or barking while in the crate then your answer is yes.)
  2. Have you eliminated all forms of possible reinforcement of the undesired behavior? (Think about this one very carefully; if your dog wants attention of any kind then even angry attention from you counts as reinforcement!)
  3. Have you considered that any reinforcement basically starts the entire process over? (If you were consistent for a week but slipped up twice the following week, then you have not implemented this training technique properly.)
  4. Are you actively ignoring behavior as described earlier?
Your alternative is usually to use aversive techniques; those that involve pain or other physical discomfort such as bark/shock collars, to achieve your goal. They are usually the answer from other types of trainers who honestly don't know what a true psychological, educated response to your question is. They know exactly how to solve your problem the "human" way (not to be confused with humane). Their answer is going to sound effective right from the start, like a hammer to a nail. When faced with this situation, please remember what was stated before; that adding any amount of intelligence changes the game completely. You're not dealing with hammers and nails or a flat tire. You have a living, breathing, feeling, thinking creature in your care who is fully capable of learning from someone who will take the time to clearly communicate. This is a fact that should be acknowledged and respected.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Real dogs. Real training.

Just in case you were wondering
who's behind our music...
The first "lesson" video is going to premier within the next week so keep an eye out for that. I realize that many people learn best from seeing how something is done rather than just reading. If you have any suggestions for lessons that you'd like to see illustrated on video just let me know! In addition to this, I am going to start answering your questions via video as that enables me to be a little more detailed (and slightly less boring) than I can be in a short paragraph. :)

For now, I just wanted to take a moment to discuss what the video series is all about.

If you prefer full screen/HD quality you can follow this link to our YouTube channel.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Quick Tips on Stay & Training in Motion

Before I go back to attempting to get the most out of a three day weekend (in preparation for an upcoming work trip) there are a couple of things I want to cover. (Sorry for the short post this week but next week will feature an extra special Tricks and Treats post to make up for it. :)

First off, as someone with pet costume photo/judging experience, I know how many of you struggle with dogs who will not sit still for good photos, let alone photos in costume! Some of my proudest (and most relieving) moments in training came from seeing one my students in line for costume pictures when I was the one on the other end of the camera. I always knew that those particular dogs were going to be easy to photograph because they knew how to properly "stay" when told. I've added a "Teaching Stay" link to the Quick Reference page of this blog to help you get on the right track if your dog just doesn't seem to understand the basic concept. The technique described requires a calm and quiet approach, nothing fancy or difficult at all. It is imperative that you follow the advice of adding difficulty gradually (and always make sure to revert back to "easy" stays from time to time so your dog doesn't think it's always going to get harder). Once your dog is reliable with the command you should practice briefly and lightly touching your dog while he/she is in the "stay" position before marking the behavior (saying "Yes!") and rewarding. This will help tremendously when it comes to putting a costume on him (especially something simple like a hat) or even examining him for health or grooming purposes. There will be much more to come on the stay command so if you're looking for something more in depth, just stay tuned.

Next, is the announcement of a new series of video segments called "Training in Motion." Some lessons are much easier to understand when they are demonstrated and some people just learn better that way in general. Not to mention, Training in Motion is going to open up the door for unique opportunities to make the blog more interactive. I am extremely excited about this and hope to have our first full segment posted very soon. Please take a moment to view the Training in Motion teaser below!

Thanks for reading and remember to stop in next week for a really fun blog post! As always, don't forget to suggest our page to others on Facebook. :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Where Do Puppies Come From?

Hancock County Animal Shelter
I'm not a huge fan of writing on thin lines and slippery slopes but I won't hesitate when I know that the message is important. The purpose of this post is not to attempt to tell you where to get your next dog and it is not to make you feel guilty about any choices from the past. However, if you do end up feeling some guilt, know that I'm right there with you as a human being who has made uneducated choices myself. We are born knowing almost nothing and unfortunately, the fairest and most concise answers hardly ever lie on the surface.

Daviess County Animal Shelter
There is a particular line (or any of its variations) that makes me cringe every time I hear it: "I've been breeding [type of dog] for 287 years, I know what I'm doing!" For some reason there are people in the world who think that it takes a lot of knowledge to put two dogs together and convince them to procreate. While the mechanics can get complex, I'm sure that just keeping unaltered dogs together eventually accomplishes this goal. At any rate, the person who supervises this effort is dubbed a breeder. Depending on your standards, they may or may not be a good one. When making up your mind as to whether or not a potential breeder is worth supporting, consider these things:

  •  Does the breeder sell to pet stores? Would you buy a puppy from a pet store yourself knowing that in such an environment they don't receive the socialization, interaction, and care that is vital to them growing into a well adjusted adult dog? Pet store puppies spend most of their time in a small kennel so close to their own mess that they lose the instinct that would normally keep them from wanting to defecate or urinate near their sleeping place. Pet store puppies can hang around like this for months, well past the window of time when it is easiest (not to mention, critical) to socialize them with many other dogs/people and prevent serious problems such as extreme fear and aggression. Why would a breeder want to subject his/her pups to this?
  • How old are the puppies before the breeder will let them go to new homes? This is a HUGE red flag. When working in a large chain pet store there were far too many instances when I saw people come in with tiny puppies who were way too young to be away from their mothers. I'm talking about puppies who were 4-5 weeks old and very obviously ill. Puppies should be with their mothers and siblings for at least seven weeks; many recommend eight.  Again, this is vital to their development and makes a huge difference in how they grow up. During this time they learn valuable life lessons such as bite inhibition.
  • Does the breeder seem a little too focused on how big/small the dog might get? The significance of this question really varies on the breed that you're looking for, but generally someone who wants either the biggest dog or the smallest dog in the world is not really looking out for the best interests of the dog/breed itself. For example, "teacup" is not a real or recognized size as far as breed standards go. If someone is trying to sell you a teacup variety of any pet, go the other direction fast. Health issues run rampant in dogs from one extreme or the other. Yes, some breeds are meant to be small (or large) but please become accustomed with the actual standard for your breed of choice. There are limits to each end of the spectrum.
  • Registration isn't everything! Owning a registered dog can be an attractive idea, but it is important to know that just because your dog is registered does not mean that it is ready for the show ring. "Backyard breeders" are notorious for producing dogs of poor quality as they do not know how (or have any desire) to breed dogs that will maintain or improve the breed as a whole. Even if you have no interest in showing your dog (most of us just want a loyal pet) it is important to note that this type of careless breeding often leads to terrible and costly health issues for your pet. A responsible breeder will do whatever it takes to keep his/her breeding lines healthy and free of disease. In addition to this, please know that it isn't as simple as "CKC is bad" or "AKC is good." Unfortunately, it is extremely common for backyard breeders to register their dogs with either organization.
  • Breeding for profit: A responsible breeder often spends more money than they make or is lucky just to break even. If there is any indication that your potential breeder is in it for the money, you should probably look elsewhere.
  • Health Testing? I've mentioned health issues in pure-bred puppies already so I want to point out that there are ways that a responsible breeder avoids these. Their breeding stock should be health tested (not just a checkup with the vet but rigorous and specific health testing; especially when it comes to problems common with a breed such as hip issues in German Shepherds). The breeder should be very up front about this and most reputable breeders will proudly provide proof. 
  • Environment: This should be a no-brainer but often by the time you get to the breeder's home and see the puppies it's very difficult to walk away. However, if conditions are not sanitary and/or you see unhealthy animals on the premises do you really want to go through with supporting such an operation? A good breeder will often allow you to visit his/her home well before the puppies are ready to go to their new home so this is a great time to walk away with a level head if need be.
  • What about designer breeds? I've had about zero luck convincing most people that doodles and 'chons (designer dogs) are not real breeds so let me just put it this way: They have been around forever. A designer puppy is created when two (usually small and fluffy) dogs are allowed to have puppies together. The results are either mind-numbingly cute (because all puppies are cute) or so ugly that they're still incredibly cute. You have two options: 1) Go pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for one and support someone who probably really believes that they've created a brand new breed in a matter of months or 2) Go to a local shelter or rescue and adopt one for less than what it would cost you to have a new puppy fully vetted yourself. I'm a big fan of mutts but not so much a fan of people who purposely create them for profit.
  • Puppy Mills: Puppy mills usually supply pet stores with a steady of stream of pure-bred (or designer type) dogs. Their dogs are bred as often as possible with little to no consideration given to health, cleanliness, or overall quality of life. If you stay mindful of the cautions  listed above (specifically, no pet store puppy purchases) you'll have successfully avoided buying a puppy from a mill. 
Shelter Dogs come in all shapes, ages, sizes, and breeds. Purebred dogs end up in shelters all across the country for reasons as simple as "it got too big" or "I had to move." Unless you are looking for a show dog or one with lineage specific to some other particular task, you can find what you want in a shelter or rescue. If you find yourself trying to decide between an irresponsible breeder and a shelter/rescue, please keep in mind that most of the dogs in that shelter started off with a breeder like this. Many of those animals never make it out alive.

Owensboro Humane Society
I may have been a little less mellow about this subject than I intended to be but that is prone to happen when I speak about a mistake that I have personal experience with. When I was a teenager, my parents bought me a little Shih Tzu puppy from a backyard breeder and most of the red flags were there. She came home too early (and grew up to be neurotically clingy). She was a terrible, albeit adorable, specimen of her breed (one of the jokes I made to friends was that her eyes had three settings: out, super out, and "almost in"). Of course, she was also the light of my life and my best friend for well over a decade. No one acquires a dog like that with ill intentions, it happens before we learn better. That's the case with most mistakes in pet care; we are fed so many terrible "answers." Most of us receive our information in bits and pieces and usually only half of it contains even a fraction of truth. In order to change this, weed out the myths, and begin to make a difference, we must share what we've learned from actual experiences and from digging deep.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Taking Back the Kitchen!

I once read an article featuring a local dog trainer who visited the interviewer/journalist's home and decided to perform a "behavior diagnosis" of sorts on said journalist's dog. During the trainer's visit, the dog raised itself up on the kitchen counter. Per the author, the trainer immediately stood tall, stepped next to the dog, and calmly pushed its front paws off the counter. Afterward, this trainer announced that the dog had been "claiming the space" on the counter. Apparently, our trainer friend succeeded in defeating the evil dictatorship of The Dog, won back the counter space, and lived to tell the epic tale.

Those of us with a less clouded sense of reality know that dogs who hang out around counters have slightly less sinister reasons for doing so. Maybe this particular dog had become accustomed to being able to snatch food from that spot or maybe that spot regularly brought her closer to people? Either way, she had never been properly taught not to get up there and found it to be rewarding. Did pushing her down harm her? Not likely. But misunderstanding her intention could lead to some very poor training later down the line. Face it; you're more likely be overly harsh and angry toward a dog who you believe is trying to take over your space/territory than you are to one who simply doesn't understand what's supposed to be going on.

He's not a huge fan of this
blog post...
Understand that your dog is not deliberately disrespecting you or trying to rule the kitchen. She simply likes food and just happens to know that counters can be a source for this. Being an opportunistic creature by nature, a canine is going to take a shot at grabbing a bite from the countertop, especially if you aren't there to tell her otherwise and/or she's been able to do it in the past. If your goal is to keep your dog from grabbing food off of the counter, start by never leaving food out on the counter. It's by far the easiest way to put an end to this habit. Out of sight, out of mind. Eventually she won't even think about the countertop as a food source.

Of course, it's not usually quite so simple. Often, counter surfing or being fed from the counter leads to a dog who makes the entire process of cooking or eating a meal extremely difficult. Maybe you find yourself constantly guarding food on the counter while you're in the middle of preparing it? Perhaps you've had to seriously worry about whether or not your dog might shove his face in the oven when you pop it open to check on the rolls? Some dogs just make themselves a complete nuisance by staying underfoot the entire time, posing the risk of tripping you up. It is very important to take a situation like this under control. A strategically placed baby gate can help with some dogs, but if you have one like Obi you will have to put in a little more effort. I prefer to teach my dogs the "out" command so that everyone stays safe.

Follow these steps to teach your dog to stay out of a room when asked:
  • Identify the doorway leading to your kitchen. This is the boundary line between where your dog is and isn't allowed to go.
  • Call your dog over to you and have her sit in this acceptable area so that she will be facing into the kitchen where you can keep an eye on her. Give her a treat when she's calm and take a few steps away as if you were going back to the counter to prepare food.
  • If she tries to follow you into the kitchen, gently tell her "out" and walk toward her, causing her to step back into the acceptable area. Do not become hostile or physically push her with your hands. This particular step will require some repetition and a lot of patience but even the most stubborn of dogs will start to catch on quickly if you stay calm and consistent.
  • Reward your dog when she is in the acceptable area and being calm/quiet about it. If your dog is good at catching treats in her mouth, it's easiest to just toss one in her direction so that you can quickly go back to what you were doing (and so that she doesn't try to follow you back in to the room after you deliver her treat). She must know that she'll be rewarded only for being in that area and never if she steps over the boundary into the kitchen. As she gets the hang of the routine, you can reward less often and at random so that she never quite knows when a treat is coming, but understands where she needs to be when it happens.
  • "Out" is your cue for having her leave the room. Once she gets the hang of it, you can use the word as well as a hand signal (I just make a shooing motion with my hand) to ask her to leave. It never hurts to reinforce this with a treat as long as she is in the right spot.
  • Refrain from using the "stay" command/cue. We don't mind if the dog breaks position (i.e. from sit to down or vice versa) or even if she goes into another room. Our goal is only to make sure she does not step into the room that you are in! The distractions and duration that would be involved in a "stay" for our purpose would likely be beyond the skill level of a dog who is still trying to jump up on countertops. In addition to this, we do not want to muddy up the "stay" command or confuse your dog.
  • It is perfectly fine for your dog to go into the kitchen when you haven't given the "out" command. If you've given the command but now it's ok for her to enter, give her a happy release cue such as "Free dog!" (as in "liberated" not "to a good home") and lots of pets/praise.
  • You can use this technique for any room of the house but in some cases you may have to do a little "retraining" when applying it to a different room. However, most dogs do begin to understand doorways as boundary markers fairly quickly.
You can tell who is new at this and who is the
"old pro." Cricket hangs out in the background
patiently waiting for a possible reward while
Obi looks ready to spring back up for action.
You don't have to use this particular method to teach "out" and with some dogs, you may want to go a different route. If you are familiar with clicker training (using the sound of a clicker to tell your dog that it did something you like) then you can simply click and treat as soon as your dog steps into the correct area. You can even combine clicker training with the steps I listed above. The reason I chose this particular technique for teaching "out" is admittedly because it's been the easiest one for me to incorporate into my everyday life. This is something that I usually end up teaching on a whim when I'm in the middle of cooking (or more recently, helping Matt who happens to be the better cook). The dogs can't hop up on the counter or put their head in the oven during training if you aren't allowing them into the room to begin with so this eliminates a little bit of the choas that you might experience otherwise.

All of this may sound daunting at first, but it is very simple and quick to teach if you can keep your cool and stay consistent. If you're more prone to losing your temper and thus skewing the lines of communication, it might be better to use a management method such as a baby gate, crate, or confining your dog to a seperate room with a door.

As always, feel free to leave a comment with questions or concerns. You may also send an email to:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bad Dog. Bad!

This is his "Who, me? I didn't do it!" face
It would be unrealistic, not to mention hypocritical, to expect a person to never use some form of "punishment" on their pet at one point or another. However, the act of punishment and the interpretation of its meaning often vary wildly from one individual to the next. The concept itself is often misunderstood and then carried out in a way that is either ineffective or even harmful to the animal.

The topic of punishment and reinforcement can become fairly complex but here is what's important to remember for now: In animal training (and psychology in general) the word "punishment" basically means to either add or remove a stimulus in an attempt to decrease the likelihood of a behavior. Here are some simple examples of situations involving punishment:
  • You have a puppy who tends to get a little too rough with you during play. Like the good dog parent that you are, you calmly but immediately stop playing as soon as the pup gets too rough. You've removed play so that (after some repetition) your puppy learns that something she enjoys (playtime with you) will be taken away if she plays roughly.
  • Your dog pulls horribly on the leash every time you try to walk him. Even though you are actively working on teaching him the appropriate way to walk on the leash there are some instances that don't really allow for real practice time to reinforce the appropriate behavior. For those situations, you use a special harness that clips in the front and prevents him from being able to pull. You've added the harness to the situation to decrease the pulling behavior. (For more information on leash training, see this earlier blog post.)
Of course, those examples don't really cover the more controversial end of the subject. Is it ever ok to yell at your dog? Is it ok to hit your dog? What about shock collars, choke chains, or prong collars? How far is too far?

The answers boil down to communication and the relationship that you want to have with your dog. People rely on results and you can get those (of varying degrees) with any of the tools or techniques mentioned above. This is why they remain very popular. However, they aren't the only way and they aren't always the right way. I try not to judge methods but it's impossible for me to not be bothered when I see certain methods used absolutely inappropriately. If you don't understand the reason why some of these things work (or seem to work) as well as the overall effects that they have on you and your dog, then you may want to rethink your position. Please see the following examples to get an idea of what I mean:
  • Yelling/Scolding: I don't think there's a dog owner in the world who hasn't yelled at or at least scolded their dog at some point. I believe that we can communicate a lot with our tone of voice when we use it correctly. I could call Cricket a bad dog all day in a sweet tone and she'd love it. But there is a certain tone I can take on that immediately tells her to stop in her tracks. It's important to remain calm but firm when using your voice to communicate that your dog is in the act of something you don't like. It is also important not to make that moment of sternness last too long (i.e. lecturing or going on a furious tirade.) Timing is also the key. It is pointless to yell at a dog for doing something that you did not immediately catch. At that point, you've lost the chance for clear communication. You'll only serve to confuse the dog (he knows he was bad but isn't exactly certain why) and fuel your own anger. Learn when to let it go. Also, never forget the importance of calmly and quickly showing your dog the appropriate behavior if you have the chance. For instance, if he's just grabbed a shoe to chew on, tell him no and then give him an appropriate chew toy to redirect him. In that scenario, it will also serve everyone well to keep shoes out of his reach so that this does not become a habit or so an already-bad habit cannot be reinforced when your back is turned. Teaching the "leave it" and "drop it" commands will greatly help you to communicate what you want in these situations as well so a good obedience class with an experienced trainer can be of great value.
  • Shock Collars: Sometimes these are simply referred to as "training collars" and their concept is easily understood. The dog does something bad and then gets a shock...right? I used to train at a pet store where these were sold and often received the question, "But it doesn't really hurt them, right?" My answer was always, "Well, that's kind of how it's designed to work. The pain discourages them from performing the undesired behavior." This just goes to show that people usually don't want to harm their dog, they just want behaviors such as barking or aggression to stop. Unfortunately, misuse of this type of tool can lead to terrible consequences. Let's say you want your dog to stop attacking or barking at the mail man so you shock him every time you see it happen. How are we to know that your dog understood exactly what caused the shock? For all the pooch knows, the horrible mail man is even more of a threat because now he comes equipped with psychic shocking powers. You would be much better off teaching your dog that the mail man is not a threat by treating him right before the barking fit even starts. Reinforce your dog heavily for calm and desirable behavior and you'll have communicated clearly and in a way that will not exacerbate the problem or harm the relationship you have with your dog. 
  • Choke Chains/Prong Collars: These items cause pain in order to decrease pulling. There are much more humane products on the market such as those mentioned earlier in this post. Head halters or harnesses that clip in the front can be very effective in decreasing or eliminating pulling without causing damage to the trachea or pain to the dog. In addition to this, teach your dog the appropriate way to walk on a leash. 
  • Hitting: This is one method of punishment that can go from communication to relationship-destruction in the blink of an eye. I honestly can't think of a single situation where it would be better to spank your dog than to redirect or otherwise use another form of training. The act of physically hitting your dog often stems from anger and can too easily lead to eliminating any chance of real communication. It can cause the dog to only focus on the fact that he's being hit rather than acknowledging why it's happening. Because of this, you're instilling fear and losing the opportunity to teach an appropriate behavior to eliminate the undesired one. It can be ineffective at accomplishing anything other than teaching your dog to be afraid of you. And even a quick, harmless swat to the backside is often far less effective than a command such as "leave it" or "out" (which will be discussed in detail next week). Needless to say, full on beating your dog is never, ever, ever an appropriate way to handle a problem. (I rarely say "never" about anything but this is one issue I stand firm on.) You'll quickly be on track to create a very difficult case of fear and aggression.
It is so important to remember that while dogs can be very similar to people, they often interpret things very differently than we do. What makes perfect sense to you can be extremely confusing to your dog. It is unfair to harshly punish your pet when there are much better ways to handle a situation. It is even more unfair when the poor pup doesn't even truly understand why he's being punished in the first place. You'll hear me repeat this often, but I prefer my dogs with their spirits intact. Communication and real training accomplish this while giving you the results that you seek. Fear and pain are often disguised as "quick, easy fixes" because they initially stop any person or animal in their tracks. That fear can be misinterpreted as "respect." Your dog already respects you; he has since you first brought him home. It's very possible that he was already very familiar with fearing people as well. It's up to you as the (usually) more intelligent species to take the time to understand his "bad" behavior and how to fairly, calmly, and mindfully teach him how to be a good dog.