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1st obedience class

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Hi! I went to an orientation class the other night, for an obedience class I'm considering starting Jedi in. It's taken since I adopted him in Jan. to even get him to the point where I think he can handle it. This is the only dog club I found in my area that does everything...obedience, agility, rally, flyball. I talked to the secretary and she said they use treats and everythings positive. At the orientation they recommended a choke collar for training. The guy described "popping" a dog to get it's attention but then giving it a treat if it does what you want. That seems contradictory to me but what do I know...this is my first class...just a gut feeling. The class would have ten dogs, most with bad manner problems and it seemed to me clueless owners. The guy wears a baseball cap which Jedi still considers evil. Just lots of red flags for me...There are other instructors there but this is the only class open at this time. He seems to be well respected, and his Doberman is unbelievable. Is a choke chain (he called it a training collar) typically used for obedience? What has been your experience with this? I'd like to try agility with Jedi at some point and I've been told it's best to start with basic obedience. He absolutely loves sheep herding but I was hoping to increase socialization with the obedience and try a variety of things to see what we end up liking the best. Thanks for you input!

 

Georgia

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I don't believe that I would attend an obedience class that advocated the use of a choke chain. I am not a person who has a problem with a reasonable, mild "pop" with a lead on a plain, flat collar (although I am more likely to use a light slapping motion with the lead on the dog's side if I need to get his/her attention or response). I think there are much better ways to get good results and establish a trusting partnership with a dog than using a choke collar and the harsh pops that often are used with it by trainers who use what I'd consider to be pretty outdated methods.

 

If you are not comfortable with the trainer and his philosophy and methods, and feel there are red flags that would indicate this to be a class and a method you would not like to utilize, then it doesn't matter that it's the only class open. If it isn't the class for you and your dog, then it isn't an option and you should look for or wait for something better.

 

JMO.

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I agree with Sue--esp. that if you see red flags and you feel like the class is using methods you don't want to use, don't do it.

 

Personally, I wouldn't use a choke chain for a variety of reasons and if they are billing the course as "everything's positive", then they are advertising falsely (or have a very different notion of what "positive" typically means in dog training circles.)

 

I haven't done all that much formal obedience, but it's my sense that there is quite a bit of variation in the use of choke chains. Most of the facilities I've been to for agility and flyball don't allow choke chains.

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I have never been one for choke chains my self. I feel that they are a bit harsh and if you don't know how to use them properly, can cause a lot of damage and are totally ineffective. I would never use one on a dog with long hair like a lot of BC's do, since it can get tangled and hurt them, not to mention Daisy is SUPER soft when it comes to corrections and that would probably send her over the edge! I think that if you have a "gut" feeling, you should go with it. I bet you I checked out about 5 different classes before I settled on one that felt right, I liked the trainer and the other trainers too and I agreed with their methods 100%. I think that a flat collar if worn correctly can be just as effective. But that is just my opinion. But you shouldn't have to second guess yourself....

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.... I talked to the secretary and she said they use treats and everythings positive. At the orientation they recommended a choke collar for training. The guy described "popping" a dog to get it's attention but then giving it a treat if it does what you want. That seems contradictory to me but what do I know...this is my first class...just a gut feeling. The class would have ten dogs, most with bad manner problems and it seemed to me clueless owners. The guy wears a baseball cap which Jedi still considers evil. Just lots of red flags for me...There are other instructors there but this is the only class open at this time. He seems to be well respected, and his Doberman is unbelievable. Is a choke chain (he called it a training collar) typically used for obedience? What has been your experience with this? I'd like to try agility with Jedi at some point and I've been told it's best to start with basic obedience. He absolutely loves sheep herding but I was hoping to increase socialization with the obedience and try a variety of things to see what we end up liking the best. Thanks for you input!

 

Georgia

 

Georgia, I totally agree with your feeling that what the secretary told you and what the instructor was doing are contradictory. Using a choke/check chain to 'pop' the dog is not positive training - it's using an aversive - discomfort for the dog - to punish behavior you don't want and cause him to do something different to stop the discomfort. This is the reverse of positive reinforcement training which is based on rewarding behavior you do want (with or without luring it to show the dog what you want), and ignoring (not-reinforcing) behaviors you don't want. (BTW, it's not just permissive - there are times when you need to say 'No' to the dog in one way or another - but not in relation to the 'tricks' he's learning.

 

Personally I would not be doing an obedience class like you describe. Yes, it certainly helps to have some basic obedience in order to do agility, but it's also super important IMHO, that the dog learns early on that learning and doing stuff with you is fun and exciting and rewarding.

 

If you can't find a class where positive reinforcement is used, you could work with Jedi yourself - maybe using something like Leslie McDevitt's book Control Unleashed as a guide.

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I would not take my dog to a school that advocates use of a choke chain. When we got our BC puppy we were extremely overwhelmed - to the point we almost gave him up. We were using a prong collar for walks - felt like we couldn't control him. We found a wonderful obedience school that specifically tells you no choke chains or prong collars, only positive reinforcement. It was very difficult to follow all the positive methods - seemed weird to me to just ignore unwanted behavior but what did we know (not a lot when it came to training a dog). Since we didn't know much, we thought we'd give it a try & surrendered ourselves completely to the positive & clicker based training. Our Jack just turned 1 (he was 7 weeks when we got him). He is the BEST dog and has even earned himself the good citizen title. I highly recommend sticking with a fully positive based training school, listen to your instincts! Maybe contact your local BC rescue group & see if there are any schools they recommend.

 

Carrie

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The class would have ten dogs, most with bad manner problems and it seemed to me clueless owners.

 

This would be a big red flag for me. The only way I would attend a class with this many clueless owners/dogs is if my dog were already quite solid on obedience and I wanted to add in more distractions to "proof" it. With that many clueless owners/dogs you may really have to keep on your toes to make sure that one of their stupid mistakes doesn't affect your dog.

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I'd find someplace else to train.

 

Also, please don't feel that other people know what is best for your dog just because you don't have training experience. You are your dog's advocate and if your gut tells you that something is wrong for your dog, trust that. I'd rather refrain from punishing my dog because someone else says I must (and I've been told that) and find out later that it was not only unnecessary, but damaging in some way. I've found that if I make my own mistakes in training, I can always find my own way to work it out later.

 

I have left classes because I have felt that the situation was not in my dog's best interest, and I've never regretted it.

 

You do not need a choke collar (or prong, or shock) to train basic obedience.

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I have only ever used a flat, plain collars on my dogs for obedience training. Our club has some awesome obedience trained dogs of different breeds including strong breeds such as Dobies and Rotties and all are trained with rewards/ clickers/ flat collars.

 

On some dog discussion groups the members strongly advocate the use of prong, choke and shock collars. I would think that in inexperienced hands these would be detrimental. Many inexperienced people may resort to these methods to overcome poor initial training and badly behaved dogs and wanting a quick fix. I also dont know why you would start a young pup on these collars either. Some of these trainers deride the use of positive training methods as weak and new age.

 

My own personal experience learnt while dealing with an extremely fear aggressive bitch I once owned was that I made huge strides forward with this girl when shown how to use these postive methods by and experienced trainer. She loved clicker training and the response was fantastic, what a difference this type of training made to her. The help of a trainer experienced in these methods was very very helpful.

 

My personal belief is that with good training a flat collar and postive training methods work so well. The time spent with your dog using these methods will build a great relationship.

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I believe the best thing to do is to continue checking out different classes until I find one that I think will fit our needs, and just trust my gut feeling. In the mean time, I will order some more books and contine training him myself. Funny you should mention it, I've been looking at "Control Unleashed" and also "Click to Calm". I'm also considering finding someone to come to the house and do a couple of sessions with me and the dogs, just to make sure I'm on the right track. I'm not completely sold on large group classes for beginners...at least not for Jedi.

 

Thanks so much for your input, I really appreciate it! :rolleyes:

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I can't recommend Control Unleashed highly enough. I would start with that over Click to Calm. I used Click to Calm with Speedy with good results before CU came out, but now that I have CU, I don't even use Click to Calm any more.

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I went a place that used chokes and corrections. The trainer was supposed to be the best in the whole area. In three easy lessons I got a dog that had serious reactivity and fear aggression. Trust your gut.

 

If you want a good, positive, do-it-yourself obedience program, check out The Levels Book. It also has optional behaviors that will help you prepare for agility.

 

I'm using this program for my service dog and it is really paying off. It's easy and it makes sense and it teaches me how to train just as much as it trains the dog.

 

Good luck!

 

BTW, I also think "Control Unleashed" is great, but unless you really have reactivity with your dog, you'll get a lot farther with the levels book.

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I've used choke chains. Not for anything but obedience. I think it depends on the dog. Most of my dogs were trained on a flat collar. Then came Usher- LOL. I've been told by more than a handful of people that he is one "stubborn" dog. I've even used a prong on him. My obedience trainer is a well balanced trainer. She works with treats and praise, but also uses a choke or prong, depending on the dog for a correction if they are not doing something they already know.

 

Some of this is because of my age (52) and I have been training dogs for over 20 years and am still "old school". I went to the book store today to try and purchase "The Other End of the Leash" . I heard it was good. They didn't have it there. But both of these books sound great and it's never too late to teach a "old person" new tricks.

 

Just to brag. I had both dogs at Petco today getting some treats and I put them on a down-stay while I shopped at the cookie bin. Kids were running around them and they didn't budge. So, whatever I'm doing, I must be doing something right. I released them and they came to me and both sat in front of me with all that going on, so I'm a proud Mama and they were both on flat collars. Chokes are only used for short training sessions.

 

Also, I would add. It's your dog!!! If this makes you feel uncomfortable, you will not get anything out of the class and why should you take a class in something you don't believe in? I feel that a choke chain is a "tool" another method of learning. That's just my 2 cents worth.

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