Some people claim that using a prong or pinch collar is effective because it simulates the bite of a mama dog on her puppy’s neck.
Others claim that jabbing or poking a dog with our fingers is effective because it simulates the bite of a mama dog on her puppy.
What is it about the mama dog story that makes it so compelling?
The mama dog story is often used because it associates a training method with the image of a protective and caring mother. She plays the disciplinarian role, but she would never hurt her own puppies because she loves them and would protect them with her own life.
By linking this story to a training method, we impart all of these positive mama dog feelings to the method, and can use it to justify training techniques that may otherwise raise valid questions and concerns.
Is Jabbing Our Dog Like a Mama Dog’s Bite?
Dogs are clever. They are very aware that we are humans and that we are not dogs. They know that when we jab them with our fingers or with a collar, it is not their mama dog biting on their neck.
Try jabbing yourself with a finger, with a prong collar, and with your dog’s baby teeth. They are all very different.
In addition, mama dogs have very accurate control of the force and placement of their bites. This is why mama dogs do not accidentally hurt their puppies when they hold, carry, or correct them.
In fact, all dogs have accurate control of the force and placement of their bite. When a dog is young, he learns from his mother and litter-mates not to bite too hard on each other while playing and interacting. That is why puppies should not be separated from their mothers and siblings until they are at least 8 weeks old. Otherwise, they will miss out on this very important lesson.
Unlike dogs, or even mama dogs, we humans do not have such accurate control over the force or even placement of our jabs.
Furthermore, mama dogs only correct their offspring in this way during the early stages of puppyhood. Once a dog becomes an adult, such discipline methods are no longer very effective.
In fact, mother dogs may even get into serious fights with their adult offsprings. Such fights may get as bloody and destructive as fights between unrelated dogs. While a mama dog will never be violent in this way with a puppy, it is a totally different story when a dog enters adulthood, offspring or not.
The mama dog story is very compelling but it breaks apart when we try to apply it to poking and jabbing at our adult companion dogs. As a dog owner, I want to get all the proper facts and information on a dog training technique, not sugar-coated versions that do not hold up under close scrutiny.
But Jabbing My Dog Works!
Jabbing a dog can sometimes work, i.e., discourage certain behaviors. It works not because our dogs think we are their mothers, but because it applies pain to the dog and causes an aversive response.
In essence, we apply pain when our dog performs an undesirable behavior. Our dog stops that behavior in order to avoid further pain and stress.
This is why prong collars and jabbing our dogs can discourage some behaviors when applied to the right dog, with the right timing, force, and redirection.
What Is Wrong with the Mama Dog Story?
The mama dog story is very powerful and it has been used to justify many false claims including -
- Jabbing our dog’s neck with our fingers or with a prong collar is superior to other dog training methods. After all, what can beat the actions of a loving mama dog?
- Jabbing our dog’s neck does not truly hurt him because a mama dog would never hurt her puppies. If it does hurt, it can’t hurt too much. A mother knows best and a bit of tough love today will be good for the long-term welfare of the puppy.
- Jabbing our dog’s neck is communicating to him in the same way as his mother. Therefore, it is the more natural and right way. Anything else is only humanizing and babying the dog.
We make the best decisions for our dogs when we accept a technique for what it is. Jabbing a dog can discourage certain behaviors, but it ‘works’ only because it causes pain.
- Using pain to train a dog is not superior to other dog training techniques.
- Using pain to train a dog can be risky especially when not applied with exact timing, force, and redirection. If not properly applied, or if applied too often, it can cause loss of trust, increased levels of stress, lower quality of life, and even increased aggression.
- Dogs communicate and play with each other through precise bites that we have no way of mimicking because we are not dogs. Dogs also communicate with each other through a variety of other techniques including a combination of body language, scent, and vocalizations.
Whether a dog training technique works or not, depends on more than stopping certain undesirable behaviors in the short-term. It is also important to build a strong and positive bond with our dog, and provide him with a happy and low-stress lifestyle.