Effective Correction

Part of your pup’s time with you will be learning how to respond to correction. As raisers we all have a desire to love and care for animals. However, correction can be used and will help shape your puppy into a successful guide dog.

In order to be an effective teacher to your puppy you have to understand that there is a difference between how people communicate and how you communicate with your puppy. Dogs do not speak a language. You cannot explain to them what they did wrong and how they can fix it. Dogs are not capable of grasping explanations that humans are able to relay to each other.

Correction needs to be done effectively and correctly so the pup understands why they are being corrected. Guide dogs have to learn there is a consequence for undesirable behavior. Giving correction will relay to the dog their behavior was unacceptable. Then, the opportunity to try to correct behavior should be given.

In order for your guide dog puppy to learn that they have done something unacceptable there must be consequence. The difference between enjoyable rewards and correction will give your puppy the guidelines to understand what acceptable behavior is and what will not be tolerated. Correction is not physical abuse, and under no circumstances is physical abuse allowed! That includes and is not limited to hitting, spanking, grabbing the muzzle roughly, slapping, or anything that would be painful. Physical abuse is not tolerated or effective training. We will immediately remove the puppy from the raiser if physical abuse occurs.

Learning how to understand your puppy’s temperament and emotional strength is necessary to raise a successful guide dog. In order to correctly motivate, praise, and correct your puppy you need to recognize what they respond to best in each situation. At different times in their lives you will only need a quick verbal reprimand as correction, but at other times you might need a strong leash correction to redirect your pup. If you have any questions or you are unsure about corrections please contact your advisor or area coordinator.

The only acceptable and approved corrections are leash/collar corrections and verbal correction.

Correction should only be given when the dog fully understands the correct behavior so they can offer that behavior instead of the unacceptable behavior. Do not correct a dog for not responding to a verbal cue, poor coping, or poor self-control if you are not completely sure the dog fully understands your expectation.

How to Give an Effective Leash and Collar Correction

The leash correction should be given by a quick snap back on the leash. It will not hurt or frighten your pup, but it will distract and redirect their attention or stop them from an unacceptable behavior. It helps your pup engage and focus on you.

The leash should start off loose without tension before the correction and be loosened immediately after the correction has been administered.

  • Your goal is to stop the behavior with one correction. If the pup does not direct your attention to you it was done ineffectively. You either need to correct with better timing or deliver it with stronger movement.
  • Snap the leash back, not up, and then return the leash back to its slack position.
  • Frequent or ineffective corrections will cause your puppy to ignore them, and eventually they will become ineffective.

Never use a leash correction on a dog that is wearing a head harness like a Halti, Gentle Leader, or an 8-collar. They are not designed to allow corrections and can hurt your puppy.

Effective Correction

  • The goal of an effective correction is to immediately stop your pup from their inappropriate behavior with one correction. If it takes more than one correction, you did not correct properly or you were not firm enough.
  • Corrections should not be emotionally charged. If you are correcting out of anger, frustration, or because you have lost your temper it will affect your puppy and your role as their leader.
  • Use enough force to redirect your puppy’s attention and stop their behavior but not enough to frighten or scare them. They should respect and understand correction, not feel afraid.
  • Follow your correction with praise for directing their attention toward you. Offering praise will motivate your puppy to engage with you after corrections. It will establish that what they were previously doing was inappropriate, and listening to your correction was the right thing to do.
  • Wait to see if the pup stopped their behavior completely before offering the praise or if they just stopped briefly and then went back to the previous behavior. For example, if your puppy is pulling toward dropped food on the floor and you gave them a correction, but then they went right back to focusing on the food, that is not an acceptable response to correction and should not get praised. However, if your pup stopped pulling and stood next to you politely after correction, that would justify praise afterward. The pup was doing something inappropriate, responded to the correction, and stopped doing the undesirable behavior and replaced it with an acceptable one.
  • Never strike your puppy for any reason. The only effective corrections are verbal and leash corrections.

Understanding leash corrections

  • The administration of collar correction should start and end with a loose leash.
  • A quick, sharp pop on the collar through the leash is correct. Do not give long, constant pulls.
  • Timing is everything. The correction should be during the action.
  • Leash corrections need to be administered correctly based on the pup’s size, focus on the poor behavior, emotional state, and body sensitivity.
    • Little pups need little corrections.
    • Big dogs usually need stronger corrections.
    • Little dogs with strong focus on the behavior might need a slightly strong correction.
    • Big dogs with high emotional sensitivity need less correction.
    • Mild distraction or focus on the poor behavior need mild corrections.
    • Intense focus or extreme poor behavior should get a bigger correction.
    • A young puppy that doesn’t understand what is expected of them yet should need a light pop.
    • An adolescent or adult dog that knows what is unacceptable should receive a stronger correction.
  • If your pup did not respond to the first correction, administer one firmer than the first correction.
  • Understanding your pup’s strength, focus, sensitivities, and emotional state is very important to give effective corrections and communicate your expectations for behavior to your pup.

Remember that reward is more important than correction. Work harder to praise correct behavior than correcting poor behavior. If you are an effective leader and trainer, your puppy will want to please you and offer good behavior.

As a puppy raiser the tool you always have with you for training and puppy raising is your voice and body. Using body language can be an effective training tool as well as using your voice to communicate expectations. Oftentimes, when people interact we often use “NO!” “Don’t” or “Stop” to effectively communicate with each other. However, those are all words that can become ineffective when overused with dogs.

When raising your puppy it is necessary that you avoid overuse of negative, ineffective terms. They can be effective only when used infrequently and successfully. In public you are a liaison of the Guide Dog Foundation and the public should hear and see more praise than correction. This gives yourself and the public a positive experience of puppy raising.

Teaching “No” to Your Guide Dog Puppy

  • “No” should be taught and not used when your pup is out of leash. Remember that all verbal cues need the raiser’s follow through.
  • When using “No” it should be used in conjunction with a leash correction. It should be said just before or as you are giving the physical correction.
  • “No” should be said at a normal volume with a firm and serious tone.
  • Like other verbal cues it should not be repeated over and over for the same behavior. Saying it repeatedly will teach the pup to ignore the word as a correction.
  • An effective “No” should stop the inappropriate behavior immediately and then be followed by praise – just as a leash correction used alone.

The word “No” should be used sparingly and only when warranted. It should not be used instead of collar corrections or repeatedly. Using the word “No” can be used in serious situations such as stopping a loose puppy from running into the street or from ingesting something dangerous. Remember, however, if this verbal cue is used frequently and ineffectively, it will not be useful in detrimental situations because you have taught your pup to ignore the verbal cue when it is given.