What is a correction?

In the dog world, the phrase "to correct" is controversial   Many dog trainers argue that there's nothing wrong with 'correcting' a dog because you're simply showing him how to be correct.  I've seen entire blogs written to justify the use of the word, and its application in dog training, by referring to the root of the word "correct" - to make right. I know that I appreciate it when someone corrects my work to help me improve.

If a correction is designed to make the dog correct, why does it often look like the dog is being made sorry rather than being made right? 

This reminds me of a phase in my life where saying something was "bad" really meant that it was "good".  Cool.  The meaning of the word changed, and only a person in a closet would have failed to notice that change.  As a result, we accepted the changed word and we used the original meaning with care to avoid a misunderstanding.

Is it possible that the current meaning of the word "correct" has changed from "being made right" to "applying unpleasant consequences?" I'm talking about the dog world; not the common usage of the word (we are talking about dogs here, aren't we?).

If you cannot decide for yourself if the meaning of the word has changed, then I'd like to suggest a fairly simple test to help you get calibrated.

You'll need three things.  A dog making a mistake, a trainer applying a correction, and a five year old.

While the five year old is observing, "correct" the dog for making a mistake.   Then ask the child, "is the dog happy now that I showed him how to be correct?"

If the five year old looks at you like you've grown a second head, then you may wish to acknowledge that the root meaning of the word and the common usage of the word are no longer the same.

Lets call a spade a spade. A  correction means to make the dog sorry so that they will  perform differently the next time.  If you are showing a dog how to perform correctly, then don't call it a correction.  You are "showing","teaching" or "training" the dog.  And if you are really trying to help the dog, then whatever you are doing should look like help to the random five year old.

Regardless of how you feel about corrections in training, isn't it better to use language that is clear and descriptive of what is really happening?

I've seen people jerk their dogs all over the place in the name of dog training.  I've seen dogs cowering away from their owners and other run away in fear.  I've seen dogs pee and roll on their backs as their trainer approached.  I'm sure each of those individuals would say they were 'correcting' the dog, and many of them would subscribe to the usage of the word that I began with - that they were making the dog right.

I've yet to hear someone say they were abusing their dog.  So, in the interest of clarity, if we are truly showing our dogs how to perform and we care how they feel about their work, we should eliminate the use of the word "correction" from our vocabularies and substitute onother, less tainted word, in it's place.


Mitzi Tinaglia

from my perspective…i’m going to teach-help them at first, once they have learned it and they choose not to do it, then i’m going to show/correct them, physically. that doesn’t mean, well, MEAN.

mary hoelzl

I love reading all of this and I am certainly learning since I am just training my second dog. I was wondering if it really matters about the word, correction, since it means so many different things to so many people. It seems to me the meaning of the word is the action we put with it. I told a trainer when I was just starting to train my first dog that I did not use corrections. She corrected me. She asked if I tried to fix whatever was wrong. I do. But, I think, it is in how you fix it and whether you think of it as wrong or just not quite the behavior wanted yet. I thought it meant something unpleasant. I was just making sure, nicely, that the picture of the behavior was what I wanted. Then I was observing another well known, only positive, trainer at our club. I saw that she did correct. So, I asked her. She said that she did not correct, but only used a word marker to mark the incorrect behavior. I thought that was correcting. All very confusing to a beginner. Then just for fun, I began to see how many different tricks I could teach my dog. I never worried about corrections. I just taught the tricks. A lot of them. In fact we got pretty good at it and in a trick competition with over 1,000 entries from all over the United States, we placed second, and won $3,000 dollars. Just for having fun. I am just saying, I trained them and had fun and always made sure I accomplished the behaviors I wanted. But it was fun training and FUN fixes. Nothing to worry about. My dog did it for the food reward and for the fun. I have now done the same thing with my second dog, teaching even more tricks. Both of us are always eager to try a new behavior, In fact, learning something new is the most fun for both myself and for my dog. You can see it in her attitude. Both my dogs
also get their UD and agility degrees. I teach a trick class and find that it is most beneficial to the human dog team, because there is no pressure and you can learn how your dog learns. No negatives, only guidance and excitement because the behavior is getting better and that is very rewarding. I thought everyone corrects, because to me it did not involve negatives, only encouragement to do the behavior the way I want it. I love Denise’s training because it is so positive and upbeat

I hope this makes sense. I know most of you have trained more dogs. I am fascinated by dog training and behavior.


I would suggest you change your dog to “help” if that is what you are doing.


Entering dog training late in life, and an English grammar nut, and holding an MA in psychology, i always wondered about the word “correction” but never brought it up. I decided it was the politically correct term to make the handler feel better about himself. For what its worth, i call them interruptions, and use them mainly if i’m dealing with basic dog manners, not a particular ring sport behavior. My “interrruptions” are mainly voice, but i do use ecollar for back up intteruption while hiking in forests off leash. The interruption does not necessarily teach the dog anything, mainly its there to do what i hope and that is, stop the dog from escalating an unwanted behavior (chasing deer). Sorry, but this is the line i draw in the “positive only” training sand for the safety of my dog. I follow that by asking the dog to do something i know he is capable of (come, sit,down or heel) with lots of praise for doing it. This all being for basic dog manners and being out and about with my dog. If i’m training for something specific which he has never tried before, in a confined environment, I’m less likely to even use a voice interruption, or even a “no” and instead do what you sugget, help the dog…the bottom line is, you are right. They are far from corrections. To me, they are interruptions.


Nope; I never said a thing in this blog – anywhere – about whether corrections are right or wrong. I said call a spade a spade. If you are doing something to the dog that is unpleasant to reduce the incidence of behavior, go ahead and call it a correction – that is the common meaning of the word, but don’t start in with euphemisms about how you are really “just making the dog correct”. If whatever you are doing does not reduce the incidence of the behavior that you are trying to eliminate, and you continue to repeat that behavior over time, then I’d call it abuse.

When my student’s dogs do something wrong, I might say, “help your dog!” – and no one has ever misunderstood that. If whatever just happened is beyond a simple help, then I’d say “put your dog away and let’s make a training plan”. And there is no doubt in my mind that if I said “correct” your dog, then they would do something unpleasant to the dog – because that is the common usage of the word at this time, regardless of the root meaning of “to correct”.

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