In today’s blog post, I want to talk to you about pressure.
you’ll hear many dog trainers, including myself, talk about something called “pressure and release.” This is essentially a training strategy that uses the combination of a pressure—like a leash or body language—and a rewarding release.
Maybe you have a leash pulling towards you, and as the dog comes that pressure is released and the dog is rewarded. Or maybe the dog has been given a stay command on a bed, and when he tries to get up we move toward him, increasing body pressure until he sits back down.
This concept isn’t unique to dog training. In fact, horse trainers use it as well. And it’s modeled on the way life actually works. If you get up in the morning because there’s pressure to pay your bills or make breakfast. Even something like going to the movies comes from the pressure to have fun or avoid boredom. Pressure and release dictate everything we do.
Here’s the problem with training that involves release but no pressure. Treats and praise should be a big part of any training program, but when you use them exclusively you get a one-dimensional dog that doesn’t know how to deal with pressure. And life is pressure! It’s full of other dogs, people, cars, and shopping carts and Halloween decorations. If your dog doesn’t know how to handle external pressure, he won’t be able to cope with those scary things.
In using pressure and release, we teach our dogs to look to us for solutions. By paying attention to the owner and listening to commands, your dog will develop depth. He will learn to react to stress with crazy behavior, but to work through the pressure in a way that is healthy. If all you’re giving your dog is treats and love and giggles, he won’t be able to deal with the world.
Some mentally strong dogs have balance on their own and don’t need a lot of help. But most dogs need instruction from their owners about how to handle pressure in a positive way, they will release it through destruction or aggression or fear. We don’t like most of their methods of release. If we leave it up to the dog, they might release pressure in a way that makes sense to them. Dogs live in a domesticated world that isn’t their creation, and they need our help to deal with the pressure that it creates inside them.
Any one-sided dog training will generally be unsuccessful, whether it’s all pressure or all fun. These kinds of approaches won’t get you the results that you need, so adopt a more balanced training strategy instead. Use both pressures and rewards, and you’ll have a better adjusted, happier dog.