I was speaking with a client the other day about her dog that is afraid of men. Her dog is a rescue, had a rough background including some abuse by the previous owner. She had always been a little skittish around men, but until recently she had not been growling and now my client was concerned because it was becoming more frequent and severe. I asked what she had tried before speaking with me.
She told me that another trainer told her to use a spray bottle filled with water and spray her every time she growled. I cringed and immediately said that is REALLY bad advice. I used to be more gentle when I disagreed with a technique, but now with the popularity of The Dog Whisperer and other trainers that I mostly disagree with, I am getting more vocal when I hear bad training being practiced.
Why is spraying your dog or using cans filled with coins such BAD advice? Let me explain. The most common uses of using spray bottles or cans with coins are when dogs are growling or biting. In my client's case her dog was growling at men. So, her dog growled at a man and then got sprayed in the face. She felt that it was working because her dog stopped growling. However, I asked her if her dog was now comfortable with men. She said that she was not comfortable because she never went close to any of her male guests and still seemed uncomfortable around them.You know what happened? She now has a dog that is STILL uncomfortable around men, but now doesn't growl at them becasue she doesn't like the consequence of getting sprayed in the face when she growled. My client taught her dog not to tell her when she is uncomfortable. That is BAD because growling and other signals are a warning when dogs are uncomfortable. If signals are punished, then you end up a dog that won't tell people when they are uncomfortable. People often get bit is when they don't have an idea when a dog is uneasy.