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.



Robin, I think you have a good understanding of the common use of the word, and you are not resorting to euphemisms. I appreciate that, whether or not I agree with your training choices.


how about “help your dog!”

Mitzi Tinaglia

“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.” – Denise Fenzi

I’m not sure that I think of a correction as making the dog right. I think of it more as communicating to the dog that they are wrong. It seems to me if you apply collar pressure so to speak (no, not a yank of a jerk are necessary) and re-sit a dog because it broke the sit, that correction is communicating that you did not want the dog to move. If they break the sit again, you will re-sit until they understand they are not to move until released. They are learning to “think”, not BE MADE RIGHT. What do they learning by their trainer making them right anyway?

Jennifer Kinghorn

Im sorry but what is this? There is nothing wrong with correcting your dog, or punishing them within reason if they are bad. They are simple creatures but they can and do learn from us and need to be taught that we are in charge and they dont run the house.


Brilliant insight. My only observation is that the term, “correction” seems to be a euphemism to begin with to soften a the more descriptive and transparent term that was used in the early days of dog training, which was “punishment.”. Unfortunately I’ve seen similar, though not physical, tactics used to “correct” contractors in the workplace — basically powerless people. In either case, I’m not convinced that this type of tactic really brings out a the individual’s ability to contribute their very best to a performance. It simply compels obedience, which in my mind is an entirely different thing. I

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