When I was in the U.K. about 2 years ago, I had the pleasure of spending time with Dr. Roger Mugford on his Farm. Dr. Mugford is a veterinarian and well-known Canine behaviorist that was the inventor of the Halti, a very effective training tool that goes on your dog’s head and acts like a horse halter to help give you better control and to help stop your dog from pulling when you are out walking. Roger was very excited to show me his newest invention the Pet Corrector. The Pet Corrector is a can of compressed gas that makes a startling noise when released. Dogs hate the high-pitched sound when they hear it. As behaviorists, both Roger and I do not like to use training devices that hurt a dog and do any harm. The Pet corrector was invented to “do no harm” but also to be used as an aversive when the dog was doing a bad behavior. Roger’s technique when using the Pet Corrector is to spray the corrector near the dog when he is doing something wrong. While this seemed to work most of the time, I felt that the timing was a bit off. By the time you got to the Pet Corrector, many times the dog was finished doing this bad behavior. As we know, the best time to correct a dog is when he is thinking of doing a bad behavior. The next best time is when the dog is in the act. If you correct the dog after he has done the “bad “ deed, then the dog rarely knows why he is actually being corrected. The dog may know that you are mad, but won’t understand what was the precise behavior that made you correct him. I offered Roger a better solution that would help with this timing issue and help the dog understand why he was being corrected. The idea is to create a marker word that means the Pet Corrector is on the way. In the beginning you should pair the two close together, but after a few repetitions the dog would soon understand that when you used this marker word, the pet corrector was coming. Using a word that is not said in your daily speech is important as this marker is going to be an unpleasant word to your dog.
Here are my tips to make this training tool very effective.
- Come up with a unique marker word i.e. “Shazaam” or “Fooey”.
- When you say “Fooey” then grab the pet corrector and go over to your dog and spray it in close proximity to his face. It is important to always follow the marker word with the Pet Corrector, even if the dog stops the behavior. Otherwise the marker word will quickly lose its meaning and effectiveness.
Timing is critical here. Remember to say the marker word as the dog is thinking about doing the unwanted behavior (or when he is in the act). For example, if your dog is jumping on your kitchen counter and this is the behavior you want to stop, then say “fooey” when he is looking up on the counter to see what is up there. This is perfect timing.
- Never have the pet corrector in your hand when you say “Fooey”. Don’t use it as a threat or else you will constantly be carrying the Pet Corrector around the house. The dog will quickly learn to behave only when the Corrector is in your hand. So say “Fooey” and then go and grab the Pet Corrector and spray it near him. This technique will buy you time and distance. You can even yell “Fooey” across the room and still have great timing.
- Initially it is always best to set up situations over and over. Put tempting food on the counter and watch from a distance. When he looks up at the counter….”Fooey” and here it comes! Repeat this set-up situation until the dog no longer wants to look up on the counters, let alone jump up on them.
With this technique, your dog will very quickly stop these unwanted behaviors and understand which behavior is causing this terrible word to be said (which is followed by that unpleasant noise).