|A word on corrections: (This is where I'm at, at this point in my life.)
As thrilled as I am to see the Old-school "beat it into your dog", "he owes you perfect obedience", etc mentality fade away, I'm uneasily watching the New-school "positive ONLY, NO corrections, it'l shatter your poor doggie's self-esteem" method unfold...bringing with it a whole generation of unruly (and occasionally dangerous) dogs. The "self-esteem is paramount" theory didn't work for human kids, and it doesn't seem to be doing much better for 4 legged ones! Responsibility for the consequences of one's actions, and respect (not fear!) for one's folks and the limits they set are still as relevant today as ever, I believe. Dogs (like human children) aren't born with empathy, ethics, reasonable limits, and good manners...they need to LEARN these things.
One example: most pups seem to learn bite inhibition just fine by their human convincingly shrieking "YIPE!!!" and walking away for a few minutes. :) But, some pups are more determined than others, and may actually need to experience (like they would from other dogs!) that biting others causes discomfort or mild pain to them. i.e., they don't automatically know that *biting hurts*, and "hurting others has negative consequences for me personally". (In fact, biting/killing/hurting others is the single zone where I believe that pretty much ANY correction or method that stops the behaviour is justified--since dogs that bite/kill, will most likely be killed themselves in return. You can't simply let a dog bite you repeatedly (while rewarding for non-biting moments), until the behaviour dies off. The dog needs to know right from the start that this is unacceptable behaviour towards humans. Dogs who bite humans *in retaliation* are even more in need of knowing that this is completely unacceptable--under ANY circumstance.
Personally, I don't believe it's fair to the dog to withhold vital information ("Cold!" or "No, you're doing the wrong thing")--he should have ALL the feedback he needs to make a decision.
IMO, we as humans do need to instill some "hard stops" in our dogs--just as the mama dog did. Dogs do not generalize well, and just b/c the mama taught them some hard stops, doesn't mean the dogs know they apply to us also. I want my dogs to understand that "No" means "NO!"...not that "No" means "you won't get rewarded for doing this, maybe you should try something else". Some behaviours are very self-rewarding, and a dog who has never learned that you will back up your No, may be inclined to think "you can't make me--I will listen to you when I am finished here" when he encounters a new & unexpected scenario. That could be a disaster in the wrong situation.
Here's one possible example: you are walking a dog bigger (& much stronger) than you are. He spies some rancid meat in the gutter, and starts pulling towards it. (Theoretically, you have spied the meat first, and are prepared for his reaction. ;) In my world, the dog already knows that "No" or "leave it" means that he should cease and desist any attempt to haul me over to where he can slurp up the nasty tidbit. If it's a particularly inviting and nasty tidbit, and he doesn't quit on my "No", he'll receive a sharp pop on the lead, as I quickly change the direction of our walk.
If he is hell-bent on pulling me over there, I may go a step further in my correction--justified, in my eyes, as he already knows this is unacceptable...it's not unfair to correct him if he is trying to force me to allow him to do something harmful.(!) The point of a sterner correction is to *prove* to the dog that "No" is a hard stop--it's not up for debate. I WILL back the command up if need be. Experience has shown me that dogs you have raised yourself will respect that sort of limits, as long as they are sure you will consistently enforce your commands. (CAUTION: abused/rescue dogs must be handled much more carefully! If you did not lay the groundwork with the dog, you are not respected as the pack's leader, and/or the dog's background <and potential triggers> are unknown--it is NOT advised to attempt physical corrections on your dog!)
Food for thought: How would the "no corrections" school of thought handle the above scenario with the rancid meat? And how safe and effective will that method be?
How about in the event that the dog has begun to chase/kill a cat, or smaller dog? Do you think it's "kind" or ideal to go through several cats/small dogs, while he learns to offer a different behaviour in the presence of one? Of course not! You correct him...in such a way that he is convinced that this behaviour will stop...stop NOW..and not be repeated. He'll get over it...the same day. It won't shatter his self-esteem ;)
For less serious/dangerous offenses, I will generally cue the dog in more subtle ways, rather than relying on corrections. If you look back on what his mama taught him as an infant, there are various stages leading up to an actual physical correction. First she will freeze, then give the pup a hard stare. If he persists, she will growl...finally, if he leaves her no other choice, she will pin him or use teeth. We humans are perfectly capable of using this great system already in place. ;-) My guys know that if I see them thinking about getting into mischief, I will say "You Better Not!" in a mild, warning tone. 90% of the time, that's all it takes! :-) If they keep at it, I will say "ahem" and either move towards them, or give them a stern warning glare. It's rare to actually need to correct them, once they are familiar with the signals that announce "keep it up, pal, and you will get grabbed by the scruff and escorted outside!" They KNOW I will back it up if I need to...so I almost never need to. ;) It's kinda like when you were little, and your Dad gave you The Look. You stopped immediately, right? ;-)
Adept as dogs are at reading us and picking up on our subtle cues, they see a correction coming a mile away (if you are a fair & predictable trainer). To suggest that it is "unfair" or unkind, or even "unexpected", because they chose to ignore those cues would be erroneous, IMO. What *would* be unfair, would be to correct a dog who does not understand what is being asked of him, to correct a fearful dog who you ~misinterpret~ as being disagreeable, or to otherwise make human errors by failing to thoroughly understand dogs and their language. With your "authority", comes great responsibility to know your dog well, and do right by him!
I don't think corrections should be relied on to teach(!), and I don't think they should be more than a tiny fraction of the dog's life. I also don't believe it is ethical to use them to get frivolous things that "you" want--such as obedience ribbons...nor as a base to mold them to the artificial world of the dog show arena. But, I do think they have their place, in Real Life. Those who've never needed them, may have just never met a hard-tempered, assertive, independent enough dog who doesn't respect you unless he knows you will back up what you say, the way another of his own kind would. Some of those dogs will tear your food right out of your hands if you don't physically stop them! Not all dogs respond to the same methods, after all.
Just my perspective on the issue...as always, thought-provoking alternative viewpoints via EMAIL are always welcome! :-)