I would prefer to see a prong collar used instead of a choke collar. There are a lot of studies which state the choke collar can cause physical damage to the dog.
That is actually one of our worries. Our trainer said that dog's neck is harder than humans, which I agree, but I don't think that their neck is really that strong as they are also made of flesh. Also, I've read articles that talked about the damages it could be done by long term use. Although on the other hand, it seemed that my dog just needed a few jerks, and then fewer lighter jerks to know that it meant business, so hopefully we won't need to use that when the reactivity is gone.
I used a similar type of training when my dog was dog aggressive and although it worked, in retrospect I wish I would have tried a different method first. She was very dominant towards other dogs but very handler soft. I was o.k. issuing harsher corrections if she was going after another dog because it seemed to snap her out of it but my trainer would give very aggressive corrections if she so much as pulled on leash which I felt was overboard. Please be careful with this type of training because it could potentially make your dog worse if done incorrectly. I was lucky but I've heard of the reverse occurring as well.
Yeah, fortunately, my dog reacted well with this type of correction. Good thing is, he's strong that even the harsh corrections won't get him traumatized, and he's human friendly. At the 3rd very harsh jerk when he reacted towards 2 dogs that were near him, he backed away a bit from the trainer, but was not in fear of him after. I guess that we are lucky that his temperament is that way. Many dogs might get traumatized, or get really aggressive and even bite the handler.
Here is my feeling on this kind of training. What you have done is train out an obnoxious behavior, but you have not addressed the underlying cause of the behavior which is your dog's attitude/feelings toward other dogs.
Training out a behavior with corrections is the easy route and it works for a lot of dogs. I wonder how it affects the bond people have with their dogs? I don't imagine it strengthens it. I think it is a matter of personal preference in how you train your dog.
I have a dog reactive/aggressive dog too. We worked with a private trainer for a year, and she had non-reactive dogs that we worked with. After a dozen sessions, we got to a point where we could continue with training on our own, using dogs we saw in town (who were in their own yards or on leash with their owners). We rewarded avoidance, eye contact with us, basically any behavior that was NOT barking/lunging/growling.
Niko is just a dog who does not like and will never like other dogs, and we are okay with that. All we want is for him to be okay to take out in public where he may see other dogs. You may have to accept that your own dog has his own limits, and may never be a good fit for a dog park.
I personally don't like a lot of things that your trainer did, and would look for someone else. But like I said, training your dog is a very personal thing and what works for some people will not work for others. It all depends on what kind of relationship you want to have with your dog. For me, a relationship that involves fear and pain is not one I want.
Actually, I've explained the method I would use with my dog to our trainer, in hope that he could consider it. Although it would be hard to convince him, I mean, he's the professional trainer that used methods that has always been working, and in his eyes, we are probably the soft owners that couldn't deal with our own dog and are just too shocked when we saw such correction.
He talked about how it is not only flowers in the nature, in which I've often said so myself when I talk about corrections, but I want to believe that when there are other ways we could use the other ways.
Just as you said, the underlying issue is the one we should target. Although I also understood that first we teach him to repress all the reactivity and then we socialize him. But then we could also do the gradual distance shortening, with the help of treats so that he gets more and more used to other dogs so that he won't need to react like that.
But I don't know what to think. It did work with him, in terms of telling him it was not appropriate. It's also probably much faster than the gradual approach. But it's still hard to process and accept the whole training session that happened...
I know that it won't damage our relationship, since he knows what he's corrected for and we won't be doing that all the time of course, and good thing is he is strong. But even so... I'm so confused! And to think that this is the kind of training police dogs gets... It's not that I didn't know about it before, it's just the strength of those jerks that got me in shock!
With the right dog what he did was fine....how do you know if it's right type? The dog will respond positively with no negative after effect such as cringing. Many all positive people have a problem with this, but the future of strong or dominant dogs that are not controlled is often dismal with incidents. I am not saying this is the only way to approach this, but with right dog( and a good trainer can read the dog to know), this is very effective ( as you saw), very time effective thus allowing you to progress on to other training.
The first jerk happened when my dog reacted and wanted to jump and barked to other dogs, and he still tried to go to other dogs (although with less intensity), and then a jerk happened again, and then he still seemed focused on them and the third jerk happened and our dog backed away with a bit of fear towards the trainer. But then he didn't fear the trainer after that, although he stopped reacting and stopped wandering off and paid more attention to us. I could see that he was a bit like "I better be careful" after the jerks, although he wasn't much affected.
It seemed that it worked well, although I'm not sure what to think about it. Yet we are still going to the trainer since we have no more ways to deal with this, and since he learned well so hopefully we won't need harsh jerks to correct him (the trainer also seemed to understand that we can't accept such harshness easily).
But I probably won't use this collar again after the reactivity is solved. I don't care if he might not be perfect in terms of obedience, as long as we don't have serious issues like this one, it's all fine.