That is a good question and you have gotten several good responses. Here is my idea of what works and why. People “assume” a dog can understand respect, right, wrong, love, hate and all types of other moral values when the truth is that it cannot.
A dog does have certain fundamental drives and survival abilities build in in order to make it in this world, but, I assure you that respect is NOT one of them.
Fear is a “feeling” that all dogs understand since birth, every animal does in order to survive. I just love it when people talk about the dog respecting them when that is the furthest thing in the dog’s mind. Fear, as is used in a context that is understandable to us humans and respect are almost identical.
When training a dog that animal has no idea what respect is, he does know what fear is though. There is a very fine line between the two and that line is understood by us humans but not by an animal. A dog understands that if I don’t do “this”, something unpleasant will happen because that is what experience has taught that dog.
I want my dog to know that, I want him to have it in the back of his mind that there are consequences for screwing up and my dogs ALWAYS know when the hammer will fall and for what.
Let me add to Curtis’s diatribe in here and say that both Koehler and Col Most were the most outstanding trainers and NONE of the dogs they ever trained had any negative reactions to their training. Col Most was the father of modern day training and I find NOTHING in his works that I consider abusive other the switch that he mentions.
The ONLY difference between the training methods offered then and now is the DOGS!!!
Back then REAL dogs existed that could take the methods of training that were available and today we have the same dogs that most people in here talk about…soft, no character, no handler hardness and no work drive, for the most part.
I would love for anyone to show me a dog trained by either the Koehler or the Most method that works in fear. Hope I helped!
ADD: Ms Manners, I love your answer and I like you, but, dogs cannot read the dictionary, yours or mine, and they certainly are not capable of understanding such an abstract term as respect.
Is respect reverance, is it obedience, what is it, how do you clearly define it?
What you are refering to is called tractability and biddability, not respect. Your dogs have been taught that you are indeed in charge and they should listen to you, yes, but if you look deeper into why, you will find out that is has little to do with respect and everything to do with a healthy dose of fear.
My mother still tells me to this day, “even the Saints up in Heaven need someone to be afraid of”….she is right, as all moms are!!! Have a great Sunday.


  1. Greek God AKA Greekman

    When teaching a dog what behavior is expected of it I use motivational training which is geared to the individual dog’s temperament. In my opinion a trainers that use fear to *teach* a dog commands doesn’t have the intelligence to figure out another method & fails to appreciate that there is a direct correlation between the quality of the training a dog’s receives & its success at obedience.
    Once my dog clearly knows a command & has had it embedded with consistent practice, I move on to the proofing stage of training, to ensure the dog immediately obeys a command, first time, every time regardless of environmental distractions.
    To proof a dog you would typically need to use some form of compulsion training geared to the individual dog’s temperament. Proofing would ensure a high prey dog would break off from pursuing a rabbit which is instinct driven behavior & very satisfying, *not* to please its trainer, but because it instinctively feared the negative consequence of a correction more.
    A dog which is not genetically sound in the head still needs proofing to ensure its behavior is controlled. I have given a previous dog one helluva hard *I will not tolerate your bullsh*t* collar correction immediately after a lunging & growling at a dog that lifted his front leg off the ground, so he was very clear in his head that there would be an unpleasant negative consequence for his behavior.
    I use the least force necessary to ensure the dog learns that I demand that it obeys a command & yes, fear of a negative consequence can be a part of proofing a dog.

  2. Ûž Memphis Belle Ûž

    I want my dogs to respect me, and to fear disobeying me.
    I do not want them to fear ME. I want them to trust me, and to know that as long as they obey me, nothing bad will happen to them.
    I think good training is establishing a balance between trust and respect.
    Greekman ….my dogs are certainly capable of respect, as defined by the dictionary:
    “4. deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment:”
    They recognize my position as their leader, defer to my decisions, and treat me in the manner that I demand.
    That is respect.

  3. ms manners

    Depends on what you mean by fear.
    Is the “I’ll do what you tell me or else I’m in deep sh*t” fear or respect? When I’ve reached that point with my dogs I’m no longer really training (teaching) the dog but have moved on to proofing.
    As far as dogs who walk around eternally terrified due to weak temperaments – balancing training and proofing can be difficult. It is so much easier to train a stable, even hard dog than a weak one.

  4. Animal Artwork & The Brat

    Comparing fear and respect is about as close as apples and oranges.
    Fear is a temperament issue, and respect is a socialization issue. AND, in all honesty neither has anything to do with training.
    Sometimes I like to dump all the silly titles and get right down to the meat of the issue. There are two schools of thought, *cookie* training and *force* training. IMHO to properly train a dog the issue has never been which one to use, but rather WHEN to use each of them to best facilitate the dogs ability to learn.
    Until people put the time & effort into understanding HOW a dog learns, this discussion of how to train a dog really has no meaning. We are only considering what effect the training has on how we feel about it instead of what the dogs learn from the training.
    If you knew anything about the Military working dog (MWD) training facility at Lackland AFB Texas, and the training/breeding programs that go on there, you would not have made such an absurd statement.…

  5. T J

    Fear IS the factor…let’s be honest. It’s better to rule with fear than respect. What is respect anyway? Ask 10 people and you’ll get 10 answers or a few generic ones at best. In my opinion…the difference between fear and respect is the difference between modern methods of effective training, and Koehler and Conrad Most’s styles of training which is also effective, but in my opinion overbearing.
    A Koehler trained dog is waiting for the hammer to drop…as far as training a house pet, sure, fine. As far as developing a deep bond with your dog, or having a dog that’s happy to work with you, not so much. A Koehler dog moves through robotic movements out of fear. Sitz means sit before the Earth falls on your head. Platz means down before all heck breaks loose.
    In a dog trained with modern techniques which consists of food and tug/ball (play/prey drive fulfillment) rewards, AND corrections, you get a dog who actively thinks in training, who WANTS to figure things out so that you reward them. These dogs work and look forward to reward, Koehler dogs work and look forward to getting through an obedience exercise without getting their neck yanked. But at the same time a dog trained with modern methods does know that consequences are to be had when he fails to comply with a command that we know he understands. This dog isn’t working out of fear, it’s working out of drive, and it’s the control comes from the fear it has of correction, this balance is what I call “respect” over fear.
    I’ve said my piece against Koehler’s methods more than once…but everyone seems to get hung up on 1 silly little point that I’d expect to be able to explain to a child for some reason!
    “I don’t want my dog to work for food, I want him to work for me! I don’t want a dog who only obeys when I have a treat”…*** backwards thinking…You TEACH with reward, you proof with corrections! “Well I had a dog I trained with treats and whenever there was no treat he’d just stare at me and fail to comply” well then I must ask…does the dog truly understand the meaning of the command? If he does, why didn’t you correct him HARD when he refused to comply? Perhaps that’s why he only listens when you have treats, because you left out the part that comes after the learning phase, the CORRECTIONS phase. You can’t have a dog that obeys 100% on praise/reward, you can have one that obeys off of 100% correction, but your dog will hate you (for good reason). Or you can go middle of the road, which is often the best solution…
    -edit- Chetco, training IS one size fits all. The program doesn’t change, the concept never changes, BREED MEANS NOTHING. That’s as silly as saying we should teach different races of children differently in school. Dogs ARE all one species.
    EVERY dog can be taught with positive motivation to teach.
    EVERY dog should be corrected when it disobeys a command it KNOWS
    EVERY dog should undergo a distractions phase to proof the dog obeys under distraction.
    Yes you do have to take into account drive threshholds and the individual temperament of the dog, but that is NOT a breed specific thing. All kids aren’t the same either, some need a firmer hand, some are highly self-motivated, but that isn’t race/breed specific and these kids don’t need a whole different system to learn. Same thing with dogs. I don’t know why people get hung up on the obeying for treats and breed of their dog. Same…species. Same brain that functions the same way. Different motivations? Sure. Different levels of attention, hardness, and drive thresholds? Of course. But that is an individual thing, not a breed specific thing, and it doesn’t matter what the heck you’re training it can be trained in this simple system. Teach, correct for disobedience, proof. It works on German Shepherds, Malinois, Rottweilers, Greyhounds, and my little Chihuahua mutt. It works on EVERY dog with a functional brain.
    You can correct your soft dogs, and your Afghans as well, if the dog shuts down it’s not the training method, nor the dog’s fault, it’s yours for correcting the dog too hard!!! THAT is drive threshold. If you don’t understand drive thresholds you’ll never understand the difference in training a Malinois and a soft breed. Shut down = Dog has been pushed PAST it’s drive threshold, this is a HANDLER issue, not a dog issue. Instead of CRANKING the dog’s neck, a VERY slight tug on the leash or a “No, sit” would’ve been sufficient. Too much to explain here, anybody with questions on drive thresholds feel free to e-mail me, I would write an article but Y!A doesn’t allow that feature! You will NEVER be a good trainer if you do not understand drive thresholds and what they mean in training a specific dog!
    -re-edit- Chetco…in that case you’re implementing the exact same training program I am…only it’s taken into account the hardness/softness of your particular dogs (notice I said dogs and not breed because I’m sure there’s some bullheaded afghan out there who thinks he’s The Terminator, Rocky, and Rambo)! You’re doing exactly as I described! If the correction you give and the no are enough to gain compliance from a dog that just denied compliance before the correction the dog was given a successful correction! You train your dogs the exact same way I train mine BUT you keep their lower drive thresholds in mind! This is the concept. This is the “cookie cutter” 1 size fits all…the training works for you as it does for me when tailor fitted to the dogs temperament type/thresholds.
    I’ll give you another example of thresholds. My chiahuahua/jack russ mix is soft…a “no” is all it takes usually. But if he sees a rabbit or a cat he requires a much harder correction….well that common sense right? But WHY does he require a harder correction? Because he’s in prey drive and his threshold for stress when he is in prey drive is higher than when he’s at home relaxing! The level of correction I usually use will be ineffective. BUT if we were back home, and I used the same correction I did for him hounding a rabbit…it’d exceed his drive threshold and my poor lil mutt would walk around tail low looking fearful of me all day. It’s a fine line between fear and respect and respect DOES involve fear but fear doesn’t always involved respect….squares and rectangles my friends! All squares are rectangles but all rectangles aren’t squares!

  6. Curtis M

    Firstly it depends on what we refer to as “fear”. Greekman is correct that dogs do not read dictionaries. But doesn’t this mean they may not interpret “fear” as we do?
    My first impression of “fear” is of death or pain/bodily injury; survival. But for “pack animals” can not fear be of ostracization from the group? As the group “is” survival? In a group, there must be order and understanding. There must be those who submit to authority, Can we not call this “respect”?
    So, what do dogs fear?
    It has already been touched upon by “ya’ll” that dogs have different temperaments. Forcefulness of correction greatly varies. As well as the dog’s state of mind at the time, particularly if in “prey” mode. I believe each dog rather has a self-imposed sense of fear, be it of pain, or “leader” displeasure. We all have different breeds, with different temperaments, with different “niches”.
    Back to the question.
    Of course, it depends what “training” one is referring to. Potty training. sit before putting the dog bowl on the floor, be still while the dog is being groomed, come, fetch, not pulling on the leash, getting off the chair you want to sit on, agility, obedience, herding, tracking, protection, don’t chase cars, etc. Depending on the “level” of training and its importance, the need for 100% compliance will determine the fear factor and the extent.
    I do believe “fear” (as in discomfort) is a factor in training, if necessary for the individual dog, but mostly, as Animal Artwork mentioned, for proofing. But mostly for what I term “capital offenses”. Running away, not coming, growling and biting.
    Training is firstly show and reward (reward, not just treats). Train a dog what to do. Secondly, training is consequences; be it no reward, loss of freedom and put back on leash, a collar correction, harsh verbal correction.
    My current dog, a BC, has an extreme need to “be right” and is very sensitive to whatever subtleties she picks up from my body language, tone of voice, even a sigh. I have never had to resort to what I consider true “fear tactics” in her training. She has never had a choke chain on, only had one harsh collar correction as a pup when she first actually noticed a car driving down the road and moved towards it, never gotten a shake by the ruff, etc. However, on the rare occasions my daughter’s dog or a rabbit has tempted her to follow, a stern “HEY!” has the effect of a hard jerk of a pinch collar I have seen on other dogs. Does she respect me as her leader? Want to please me? It seems so. So, does she “fear” displeasure? She certainly acts like it.
    My prior dog was less “sensitive”, and more tempted by self gratification 😉 There were several times throughout his life I had to resort to what I call “fear of bodily discomfort” with a ruff shake, a stare down and once an E:collar.

  7. Marna O

    As so often happens, Curtis and I are on two different pages, because we deal with very different dog types.
    Fear never enters into my training a dog. I don’t currently deal with the ‘Curtis’ type of dog, tho I have in the past.
    Training is NOT a one size fits all. Different dogs respond to different cues and stimuli. *Different handlers have different abilities to read a dog and communicate effectively.*
    My dogs don’t respond to fear as well as they do to their pleasure in getting it right. Afghan hounds will totally shut down in response to threat. They have taught me more about communication than any breed I have had.
    Different strokes for different folks.(er..dogs)
    The only thing of importance that relates to ALL dogs, is that they *must* be trained, in whatever way that works for dog and trainer.
    Curtis, a corrective tug to get their attention, or a harsh word, is not *fear*, but is merely a communication. I’m not talking about stringing them up, or even choking…They don’t live in *fear* of the harsh word. They are not afraid of me or in fear of my response to their actions. They ARE motivated by my praise and encouragement.
    I am not a treat dispenser. I treat puppies when they are learning, but my dogs aren’t food motivated.
    My dogs behave well. They listen to my whispers, and watch for my hand or body signals. Often I direct them with my eye or a head nod. When they are puppies, they can be difficult, as they have such high prey drive. As adults, I would challenge anyone to have better behaved or more responsive dogs.
    But, that is all I am after. I don’t train them to save lives, attack a criminal or any such task. That would require a different breed, and training methods.
    You keep comparing them to children? I know my kids weren’t motivated by fear. You can turn it any way you want. But your first sentence states that “fear IS the factor”..and its not.

  8. Chetco

    I must respectfully disagree with our big-time macho-men dog trainers here.
    Dog training is most definitely NOT one size fits all. I have trained dogs of all types of dispositions, and had I tried to train them all alike in a cookie cutter method, I would have been eaten by some and others would have completely shut down on me. The training MUST fit the dog. If you tried to train one of my Gordons using hard tactics, you would end up euthing a dog that had lost all faith in its handler. If I tried training one of your GSDs or Mals with the method I use on my Gordons, I would be in the hospital. It’s as simple as that.
    I do not WANT my dog to fear me. There is a difference between fear and respect. And yes, dogs can and DO respect. I do not act as a doggy ATM, popping treats in the dogs mouth for every ‘sit’ command given. As puppies, I train with treats, but I wean them off, prefering to reward with a hearty ‘GOOD DOG!’ and a pat. They get just as excited over that! When I start off on something comepletely neww fort them, I use treats again at first, but quickly move on to praise and correction.
    My dogs know when I raise my voice, even a little… Mama means business. They do not FEAR me, but they know what the consequences are if they don’t listen.
    So long as I am accomplishing what I want to, I am happy, and honestly, what difference does it make as long as the dogs are well-behaved and happy?

  9. BYBs Care For Money Not Dogs

    Fear shuts her down. I want her actively engaged in what we are doing. If she is just reacting, then I know I’ve messed up, and we back up her threshold. I always want her thinking.
    When we proof, I don’t want to teach her want NOT to do, just so I can correct it. I want that to not be an option.

  10. ✘ Wheaten Mom

    personally I never used fear in training a dog.
    I used a lot of love,kindness,a lot of treats. but never fear.

  11. vaughn_n

    I agree 100% with Curtis M. Great job explaining. The basis of training IS the same! Motivation for teaching, and correction for disobedience. The levels of BOTH of these depend on the individual dog.

  12. Pack Leader- Anti bunny hugger

    At this point there is not much I can add.
    This is the way I see it and do it.
    In my house my dogs fear the CONSEQUENCES of their actions. They don’t fear me.

  13. Launi *Reality can be shocking*

    you should work on getting the dog’s respect. not make it quake in fear whenever your around.

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