Training Method Concerns
I have a six month old GSD who I took to PetsMart for puppy training back when he was maybe four months old. He learned sit, stay, leave it, take it, down, and to respond to his name. He is ridiculously easy to train and PetsMart uses all positive reinforcement training. I worked with him a lot at home, and aside from situations where he has distractions (other dogs/new environments) I can get him to respond to most commands with just hand signals.
My aunt was dogsitting for some friends who have two dogs that she said were amazing in how they behaved. When they had to go outside they lined up in specific spots and waited for each to be let out, etc, lots of impressive stuff. We found out they were trained at a place nearby and I scheduled my dog, Archer, to go there for more advanced training as the instructor works for the local zoo, seems to know his stuff.
I couldn't make the first class due to having to stay late for work, but it was an intro class and no dogs came. So my wife went. She came home and said we would need a leash and a choker collar. I was immediately unsure about this class when I heard that as most things I read say a choker is needed for more difficult to train dogs, and Archer has been anything but. Plus, and I know some here view our pets as just "dogs", but I feel I have an obligation to this puppy as another living creature I agreed to care for to not just start choking him.
I called them up and their front desk said it shouldn't be required, which was a relief, but when I showed up the trainer immediately was on me about not having one. After discussing it a bit I agreed to give it a try as I was told it was only used for quick corrections and they don't teach owners to actually hold the collar in a choke position. Since my GSD still all but chokes himself sometimes when "pulling" on his normal collar, I thought if it truly was a quick pull and it might prevent that, I would give it a try for that one class.
As the class proceeded I didn't like what I saw. The instructor was having us yank the collar when giving commands, so "Tell them 'sit' and then pull the leash". So it became more of a trigger action than a correcting action. Archer already sits, he was sitting in most cases, but we still had to do the action. Eventually Archer, who is not a skittish or fearful dog at all, started trying to lay down when I was giving him commands in fear of the collar. The instructor wanted me "correct" that action.
I sat across from a boxer that was in the class who was also trying to lay down and the instructor himself was basically holding the front paws of the dog off the ground in a choking manner. Which was against what I was told we were going for.
Archer all but stopped listening to my basic commands, he became more concerned with the next "correction". I left and told him that I couldn't do this and they were good enough to refund my money.
Sorry for the very long story, but I saw very happy dogs turn to some of the saddest looking creatures by the end of that class. Even an extremely affectionate golden retriever looked beaten down at the end.
Normally when I train with Archer he is attentive and happy. I can train with him for well over an hour and he just keeps wanting to do things as he gets his treats and he gets attention from me which he can't seem to get enough of (for better or worse depending on the situation).
Archer isn't perfect, he's only six months old, but he didn't seem like himself in that class and I feel I would rather work twice as much with him in a positive way than to continue with punishment based training.
I know there are some varied thoughts on Chokers vs. Positive training, etc. This isn't even really an anti-choker kind of thing. It is more of a question of do those of you out there that do this kind of training feel I was being over-protective of Archer?