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My reasons for "positive" training


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There was a recent thread where the question was asked: if more traditional/correction based trainers get good results, why would you do something different?

 

I can only give you my answer.

 

I am a "dog person." My family always had a family dog, and I always gravitated to dogs. My mom tells a story of a toddler me heading straight for a barking, chained GSD in a public campground when she took her eyes off of me for 5 seconds and that GSD laying down with me and licking my face. When I was about 10 we got my Dad's "dream dog" a Great Dane, and I wanted to walk her but he was afraid she would overpower me and drag me down the street, so he made me take her through a dog obedience course so he would feel confident she would listen to me. I adopted my 1st dog as an adult as soon as I lived somewhere I could have a dog.

 

That 1st dog was an adult Golden Retriever, and I signed up for obedience classes asap. This was 20 years ago, so it was a dog club based, choke chain correction class. I remember watching my instructor alpha roll a big Rottweiler during our second class. I really liked training my dog, and I learned quickly, and was encouraged to take an intermediate then an advanced class. I was encouraged to consider getting an ILP and try for a CD. I did this with decent scores and I was totally hooked. I became an apprentice instructor, then an instructor and started training for a CDX. I also started working in the animal shelter as a kennel worker, then an office worker, then a humane officer.

 

In the meantime I adopted a middle age Siberian Husky, and I met my ex-husband who was also into dog training, he has a Border Collie and a Siberian and we started being very active in rescue. Over the next few years we adopted another BC, and a Dalmatian and fostered probably 2 dozen dogs (BCs, Sibes, and Dals, mostly). We titled the Golden, the 1st BC (the second was epileptic) and both Siberians.

 

At some point, I realized that my Siberians were not like other dogs. People literally laughed at us for training a Sibe...you could give one of our girls a correction and they would look at you with a look that withered...like she was saying "was that really necessary?" I learned about using food treats and had good results so I used them with all the girls, but I still mainly used corrections. I chalked this up to Siberians being weird and abnormal, that a dog should be able to learn and do what I asked "because I said so" and "because they respected me." After all, that how the Border Collie and Golden did it.

 

My Golden, Lacey-Roo, was what some people would call "stubborn." She was the canine alpha in our house, and had a whole slew of bad habits including being an incorrigible trash stealer and smart enough to work around my management techniques. I reacted to her "stubborness" by escalating the corrections and punishment. I loved her dearly but she was a royal pain in my butt sometimes. We were always locking horns and arguing with each other. We had this one thing that she refused to do an out-of-sight down. She would stay in a sit until the cows came home but as soon as I left her for the down she would get up. She did it fine in practice, but after 1 CDX leg early on I think I showed her 20 times without a Q. I was absolutely convinced that she was doing it to spite me. I consulted many "famous OTCh" trainers who all offered me advice about how to "correct her" because she clearly understood as she was consistent in practice (ex: one suggested I find matches and to have a "judge" at a match yank her up or all the spectators yell NO when she got up).

 

One fine sunny Saturday after several of such matches I loaded her up in my big van and drove to a local show. I unloaded the crate and my chair and went to get her from the van. I opened that side door, and she looked outside at the dog show environment...then promptly climbed over the back seats and crawled into the cargo area of my van. It all hot me at that moment...what had I done to her in the name of winning? I stood there and cried for about 10 minutes, then I went in and retrieved my crate and chair and excused myself saying my dog was sick.

 

That moment had a profound effect on me. I suddenly stopped seeing Roo as my adversary, as stubborn, as trying to show me up. I saw her as a dog who had a lot of stress and high expectations piled on her. I had failed her...

 

I stopped obedience all together. Agility was in its infancy in my area so I started playing that with her, and my 1st instructor showed up how to train with rewards and stressed no corrections. I saw this dog BLOSSOM. Our relationship improved immensely. She was 8 years old the 1st time we stepped into an agility ring, and she was so happy, running with tail waving and learning complex sequences and turns with ease.

 

That experiment started a revolution in my ideas about how dogs learn, about my relationship with them, about how to get cooperation vs blind compliance. I wasn't thrilled with the precisions that "cookie chucking" gave, and so I learned about using a clicker. I got good with a clicker, and every dog I owned and handled was suddenly eager, happy, learning and growing.

 

By then I had a large pack of my own (Border Collies, Siberians, a Golden, Dalmatians, and a Papillon) and was almost always with 1 or two foster dogs. I have trained probably 50 dogs in the past 20 years. I have also instructed hundreds of owners on basic obedience, intermediate obedience, agility and "pre therapy dog" classes in 4 different clubs around the country. As the years have gone by, I have almost completely cut out corrections in dog training. I am not 100% "positive" as some would say, as I will still occasionally yell at a dog or apply an aversive (like a crate time out) but my whole view of learning and teaching has changed.

 

I also went back to college at some point and became an occupational therapist, and as part of my education I learned about learning theory and applied it to dogs as well as humans. My job is 90% training humans and positive reinforcement and marker training works with people too. I recently did some TAG teaching with patients who were having a hard time mastering certain tasks that required new learning and muscle memory after serious injury. One gentleman in particular had struggled for 4 weeks trying to learn how to stand without rocking back on his heels. When he did this, he leaned backwards and would frequently fall. In 2 sessions TAG teaching him I got him standing on the balls of his feet. It was awesome! He was so thrilled with himself to have finally mastered this and because of it he was cleared to ambulate in his apartment by himself giving him independence and dignity.

 

So, this is why I use "voodoo." I know many people feel like behavioral theory is hooey, but in my real life experience on many, many dogs, and also humans it works.

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At some point, I realized that my Siberians were not like other dogs. People literally laughed at us for training a Sibe...you could give one of our girls a correction and they would look at you with a look that withered...like she was saying "was that really necessary?"

 

I know that look! Boy did I ever get that from my Lurcher, Grace. She "broke" me of ridiculing "cookie pushers." (Even turned me into one... But don't tell anyone! :rolleyes: )

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I too used to solely believe in corrections and bashed the "cookie poppers" constantly. Once my female sibe began to show some pretty dominant female behaviors towards me (she's always been a "mother hen" sort of dog with other dogs) I immediately brought out the pinch collar and within a matter of weeks it made her shut down. I was distraught and upset at "what i had done" to my girl. I read the book control unleashed after a lot of recommendations and started applying some of it's techniques with my dogs... and have seen such a difference. Live and learn i guess :rolleyes:

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Maybe I didn't read all of the voodoo thread, but I didn't get the impression that positive training was considered voodoo. My understanding of the thread was asking why send a person to a behaviourist when I trainer might be considered the "right" course. Maybe I missed something, that happens a lot.

 

But yes, I agree, positive training works better than correction/beatdogintosubmission methods. I grew up teaching all my dogs to heel using sharp jerks on a choke chain, and yes, they did learn to heel...eventually. But with my re-introduction to dogs, I taught my pitty to heel in about 5 minutes using body pressure and rewards. Clicker training continues to make me laugh at how easily I can teach my dogs anything. I taught a hand stand in a week. Try that one with a choke chain -lol

 

I'm not sure that anyone would suggest that correction-based methods are better or as good as current behavioural training. If they do, they either haven't tried it, or screwed it up awfully bad.

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Maybe I didn't read all of the voodoo thread, but I didn't get the impression that positive training was considered voodoo. My understanding of the thread was asking why send a person to a behaviourist when I trainer might be considered the "right" course. Maybe I missed something, that happens a lot.

Brad,

You didn't miss anything. The whole point of that thread from my POV was to point out that lots of folks call themselves behaviorists, but that doing so doesn't make them so (same with trainers).

 

I honestly don't know why anyone should feel that they have to defend their training methods (short of doing cruel stuff, which is indefensible anyway). If it works for you, then do it. That's what I do. And for the record, I use a mix of positive and correction-based, though the correction part is simply voice/body pressure correction that I feel is necessary because it will transfer over to stock training. Most manners-type behaviors I teach by using positive methods. I've never understood the whole "either/or" thing, from either side of the table.

 

J.

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Brad,

You didn't miss anything. The whole point of that thread from my POV was to point out that lots of folks call themselves behaviorists, but that doing so doesn't make them so (same with trainers).

 

I honestly don't know why anyone should feel that they have to defend their training methods (short of doing cruel stuff, which is indefensible anyway). If it works for you, then do it. That's what I do. And for the record, I use a mix of positive and correction-based, though the correction part is simply voice/body pressure correction that I feel is necessary because it will transfer over to stock training. Most manners-type behaviors I teach by using positive methods. I've never understood the whole "either/or" thing, from either side of the table.

 

J.

 

This thread was not in reply to that whole thread but in response to a specific question in one post. Something to the effect of "if you know X works, why would you do Y." My long winded answer is I find Y works better.

 

That said, I'm not sure I agree with you on teh point of the other thread, but it left me scratching my head a bunch as to what exactly the OP was getting at so I just left it alone.

 

(edit: I'm not sure what happened there, half my post disappeared.)

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After putting a high level obedience title on Gyp, I thought I'd test the waters and go further. That didn't last long. I couldn't stomach the level of training required to shave off a 1/2 point to be in the placements and seriously competitive, all her confidence with what she knew was lost. It broke my heart because this was a dog with major confidence and attitude. This is a dog that gave me everything she had to reach my own goal (not hers). I admit, it was pretty darn easy with her. She is whip smart and extremely intuitive and so tuned into me, the ride was easy with mainly positive and reward based training. As I said, I wanted to test the waters up there but I knew that if I saw any change in her, we were done. I quit competing with her 2 years ago. We still go to class and enjoy ourselves with no pressure on her. I train my way with her and luckily my instructor leaves me alone about that. Gyp's confidence is back, she still loves working with me that way and darn, she's still got it. But that's for me and her to enjoy now :D

When I got Chase, I was like what is this scared heap, what am I going to do with this?! Well, somebody's got to love him and it may as well be me. I had no choice but to figure out and try different ways and I love the results with him. He's never gotten any kind of correction for anything he's done wrong in obedience. I've taken a more let me show you what I want attitude or I try harder at figuring out ways for him to understand what I'm asking. This is a dog who was afraid of his own reflection in the window. He now goes to his obedience classes and thinks he's the sh**. He really is though :rolleyes: (You know, like a kid that's never been told anything but how wonderful they are their entire life - LOL.) But this is what he needed to help him out of his shell and be shown that the world isn't all that scarey and can be fun. No, he's not to the level of obnoxious, I'm not sure if he has it in him... he might though, I'm watchin' him. Would I be as lenient with any dog? Nope, not even Gypsy.

I'm not sure what's happening with me but as I get older and go through experiences with the dogs in my life, I feel I am more lenient and understanding with them. I want them to be dogs and I want to enjoy and appreciate them being dogs. I'm not as quick to correct other than situations where they would be in danger. I am around alot of people training for competition so maybe I've just seen too much of some sad things happening to the dogs. (I think from lack of understanding the dogs and for the sake of those people being competitive and maybe just plain not knowing a better way). I try to be an example. It could be that I haven't found the right instructors.

I'm pretty sure Chase will never see the inside of an obedience ring. I'm not quite sure if I ever will again. Possibly I would, if I had the right dog for it. But I'm so not going to try to fit my square little peg into a round hole.

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Brad,

You didn't miss anything. The whole point of that thread from my POV was to point out that lots of folks call themselves behaviorists, but that doing so doesn't make them so (same with trainers).

 

I honestly don't know why anyone should feel that they have to defend their training methods (short of doing cruel stuff, which is indefensible anyway). If it works for you, then do it. That's what I do. And for the record, I use a mix of positive and correction-based, though the correction part is simply voice/body pressure correction that I feel is necessary because it will transfer over to stock training. Most manners-type behaviors I teach by using positive methods. I've never understood the whole "either/or" thing, from either side of the table.

 

J.

 

Aww, you know how it is... The "reformed smoker" wants everybody to quit. Even when smoking a butt keeps a person from murdering the neighbors kids. :rolleyes: But seriously... For me it's sort of a coming out of the closet thing. I used to be really hard on the cookie-pushers. Now I'm not. I'm sorta proud of that. My scaredy-dog still wears a choke-chain when we hit the street. Why? Because I know that's one collar she can't break or slip if she has a full-on panic. (Which she hasn't for a long time now, but ya never know...) Usually I have the leash hooked on both collars so the choke won't tighten unless she managed to break or slip the flat collar. It's my fail-safe.

 

I agree, everyone should use whatever method works best for them on a given dog. For me too, that means a mixture of several kinds of training. I'm not patient enough for all-cookies-all-the-time, but I do use 'em a lot. And yup, if burning hair and toenails will get me from point A to point B with the least amount of wear 'n' tear, then I'm all for Voodoo!

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This thread was not in reply to that whole thread but in response to a specific question in one post. Something to the effect of "if you know X works, why would you do Y." My long winded answer is I find Y works better.

 

That question really stood out for me, as well. It definitely merited some consideration.

 

I have very little first hand experience with X. The limited experience I had with X did absolutely nothing good for my dog. In fact, it created problems that I had to spend years to un-do. I've watched others - for years now - use X with mixed results. Mostly I see them nagging their dogs to the point where the dogs tune them out. Often I see them confusing their dogs. Rarely do I see dogs responding to X with enthusiasm or that kind of attitude that I want a dog of mine to have.

 

On the other hand, I learned Y in the first place. I have found that Y works. Y has produced results that have gone beyond my expectations. I see others use Y, also, and I observe that those who use Y well, or even halfway decently, have dogs who are well behaved, are reaching their potential at what they are trained to do, and have the kind of attitude that I want a dog of mine to have.

 

To me the "experts" are abstract. They are "out there". They may have letters after their names. They may have "prestige" from high level accomplishments. But what I see in everyday life makes a far greater impact and what I see, in fact is that Y works and X falls short far more often than not.

 

I see Y fostering both the attitude and behavior that I want in a dog.

 

I see X failing to do so most of the time (this is, again, in my observation in the contexts in which I train).

 

So my question is - why would I even want to bother with X?

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As you point out, Kristine, *context* has a lot to do with it. And I think Mr McCaig's points (in other threads) along with those of other handlers, also show that the "successful" and "accepted" (and I'm not necessarily saying that always equates with the "best") methods often vary with context.

 

If I were training my dog(s) to be pets, companions, or performance dogs only, I'd probably go very largely with "positive" methods (and I do, for those contexts). In training on livestock, I use voice and body corrections and rewards that include letting or not letting the dog "have the stock", using a correcting or rewarding or positive voice, and applying or releasing body pressures. So, that's a combination which is what I feel most stockdog trainers use, to one degree or another.

 

Sometimes, I think we are comparing apples and oranges in these discussions. Perhaps a widening rift between the stockdog people and the pet people, while ideally, I really think we each have something to share with each other and are on the same page more often than not. We each want to use the kindest method that produces the best results for our own situations, personalities, and dogs.

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So in other words, for those of you who use Y, X didn't work (or you didn't like the way it worked), so you went to Y. Which is pretty much saying the same thing, just from the other side: "If X works, why do Y." "If X doesn't work, then why not try Y."

 

These two concepts are not mutually exclusive after all.

 

I know that stockdog training methods have changed significantly in some ways and not so much in others, over time. As people find that certain aspects of X don't work, they move to Y, or even Z. I'm assuming the same works in pet training or any other sort of training. I still don't see why it has to be all X, or all Y, or all PDQ, all the time. ISTM that most good trainers adjust their techniques to the individual dog, to get the most out of that individual dog. I'm sure not training Ranger the exact same way I trained Pip or Phoebe or Lark, nor did I train them the same way I trained Twist. I'd like to think I learned from past mistakes, built on successes, and tailored my training to the needs of the dog at hand in that moment. And that means that it's highly likely my training methods don't fit one specific category (unless that category is so broad as to encompass A LOT).

 

Heck, I remember when choke chains were de rigeur in training a dog to heel. I even used one on my first dog. I don't think I've used on since, though. But I'm not going to denigrate those who do use one--properly and successfully. Per usual, it seems a lot of the complaints about other methods are the result of observing their misapplication. Blaming the method for the incompetence of the person using it.

 

In any of these discussions, I think it would be helpful to remember context, as Sue points out. What works for a person training for one specific type of activity might not work for another. Unless you have trained in every venue in which you (the general you) swear your methods will work, you're just blowing smoke. For example, never correcting a dog might work quite well for most household pet situations, but it likely won't be effective when the little monster is taking down a sheep. Likewise, I can't even imagine how I would have trained Pip to sit up if I hadn't use a food lure. I'm sure someone has done it by some other method and that it worked beautifully for them, but I can't envision it at the moment. I train a lie down on pups with a food lure too, but when I want a lie down on stock, I certainly don't reinforce compliance by tossing food at the dog. At that point, I know that the dog knows the command, so refusal to do so would get a verbal correction and compliance would mean that the dog would be allowed to get up and instant later and keep working (yes, a different sort of reward, but in a much less controllable situation).

 

Like I said, I don't get the all or nothing approach some folks take in these discussions, and like Sue said, I think often we're comparing apples and oranges without even acknowledging it.

 

J.

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Sue- you touched on something apropos for me, at least. I recently went to a farm where the young aussie was just an idiot. He was tormenting the older dog, jumping all over me, my car, and was out of control. The owners had hired an obedience trainer, and made good progress with the dog, but not the owners. The dog simply did not respect the owner. The older dog was left to do the correcting. He specifically asked me how he could walk the dog, and back in the day, when I taught obedience, I would have said the walk-change direction if the dog pulls- repeat method. But, since working dogs on livestock now, and seeing how respectful the dogs are to their handlers, by and large, I do things differently. I want the dog's mind to know that I lead the walk, and to do that, he will get a tap by the stock stick if he pulls ahead. He doesn't even have to be on a line, I simply want to be leading the walk. It doesn't take an intelligent dog long AT ALL to learn this. It also deals with brash, running up to other dogs/people, behavior. Anyway, me and said Aussie worked on this for, well, maybe 2 mins, and he got it. He wasn't cowed, or sad, or any other emotions, in fact, he looked rather relieved to allow someone to take the lead.

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Sometimes, I think we are comparing apples and oranges in these discussions. Perhaps a widening rift between the stockdog people and the pet people, while ideally, I really think we each have something to share with each other and are on the same page more often than not. We each want to use the kindest method that produces the best results for our own situations, personalities, and dogs.

 

I would agree - often it is apples and oranges.

 

The question "if you know X works, why would you do Y" could be expanded into "if you know X works in context A, why would you do Y in context B"?

 

While, often, context B and context A are very far removed from each other and there really is no direct relationship.

 

Add into that, when it comes to our dogs, we all have limits on what we will and will not do, regardless of context. I think a lot of these discussions have an element of an underlying debate on what those limits should or should not be. (Ex. one person considers use of some type of corrective collar to be always harmful to the dog, another considers it completely harmless if used in certain ways) And, when it comes down to it, those limits are a completely personal thing. No amount of "success" that another person has, regardless of context, is going to convince someone who considers a technique, tool, or approach to be beyond the limit of where he or she will go in training. The fact that "X works" is completely irrelevant to a person who considers "X" to be beyond that limit. That even if everyone else in the world views "X" as "no big deal".

 

Does that make sense?

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As you point out, Kristine, *context* has a lot to do with it. And I think Mr McCaig's points (in other threads) along with those of other handlers, also show that the "successful" and "accepted" (and I'm not necessarily saying that always equates with the "best") methods often vary with context.

 

If I were training my dog(s) to be pets, companions, or performance dogs only, I'd probably go very largely with "positive" methods (and I do, for those contexts). In training on livestock, I use voice and body corrections and rewards that include letting or not letting the dog "have the stock", using a correcting or rewarding or positive voice, and applying or releasing body pressures. So, that's a combination which is what I feel most stockdog trainers use, to one degree or another.

 

Sometimes, I think we are comparing apples and oranges in these discussions. Perhaps a widening rift between the stockdog people and the pet people, while ideally, I really think we each have something to share with each other and are on the same page more often than not. We each want to use the kindest method that produces the best results for our own situations, personalities, and dogs.

 

Agreed 110%!!

 

I think much can get lost in differences in terminology, too.

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Sometimes, I think we are comparing apples and oranges in these discussions. Perhaps a widening rift between the stockdog people and the pet people, while ideally, I really think we each have something to share with each other and are on the same page more often than not. We each want to use the kindest method that produces the best results for our own situations, personalities, and dogs.

 

I agree, and I love the bolded Sue, but this thread isn't talking about stockdog work, and the thread that caused me to write wasn't either. I know just enough about stock dog training to make a fool of myself discussing it, so I won't even go in that direction. Nope, this was about regular old, run-of-the-mill, everyday dog training (stuff like walking on a loose lead, waiting at doors, stays) and also higher level competition stuff (agility, obedience).

 

I get my knickers a little twisted when people talk about how behavioral science is hooey and how its doesn't work or someone calls it "quasi-religious." I use it DAILY with animals and people and get awesome results. This thread was my way to talk about that.

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No, it isn't talking about stockdog work but I think it's valid to realize that the context has importance and that there may be more than one reasonable, humane approach to train. As important as context are the handler/trainer's and the dog's personalities, and what is the best fit for all concerned. And that may vary, I am sure.

 

And, I guess, this being the "general" section, comments with regards to stockdog work/training and experienced based on stockdog training, are best confined to the "stockdog" section, where they belong.

 

Back to the other side of the gulf...

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Back to the other side of the gulf...

 

But I don't think there is a gulf, perhaps a stream, but not a gulf

 

The same methods work. While clickers would be counter productive to stockdog training, the two very successful open trainers I took lessons from used markers such as "good" or "there" to tell the dog that they were working correctly. It's the same principle. They let the dog use it's brain to figure it out without micromanaging. They tell them when they're right and when they're wrong in simple terms. They teach a dog to be an active participant in it's training. They teach the dog how to deal with pressure and how to take a correction. I think the same basic principles pretty much run true across the board when it comes to training dogs for just about anything.

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And, I guess, this being the "general" section, comments with regards to stockdog work/training and experienced based on stockdog training, are best confined to the "stockdog" section, where they belong.

 

I think the reason stockdog training comes up so much in these general training threads is because when you train stockdogs, the way you (or, I guess I should say, I) relate to the dog changes in everyday life as well. I started out as a regular pet owner, and I learned to train the Y way, mainly because I suspected training Sophie X way would have led to daily challenges and eventually shutting her down if I wanted full compliance. She was a very difficult dog, and the most efficient way to get her to do what I wanted or needed her to do was to convince her that that was what she wanted as well. Positive training seemed to be the best way to accomplish that. When I got into stockdog training with Taz, I learned about pressure and corrections. Taz is a very easy dog off stock--he has always wanted to do whatever I asked of him. But on stock, it was a different story--as a novice, my judgment was (and often still is these days) incorrect, so he fought me much more. So I learned to use pressure and corrections to work with him and show him that he was not free to substitute his judgment for my own on the field.

 

Now, a few years later, enter Meg. She is five months old now and a firecracker! She is a very bold, confident, bossy little girl. I am teaching her manners using largely positive training, but I find it invaluable to also use pressure to correct her when she is being a brat. For instance, she is a very agile, athletic pup, and she likes to climb onto things, like the coffee table. My puppy manners class trainer has suggested I attach a leash to her collar and gently pull her off the furniture when she jumps up. This seems clumsy, slow, and a little impractical to me. A less positive approach might be to yell and just move her off the table (which, incidentally, is guaranteed to make this pup jump back up more forcefully). Instead, what I've found to work best is to loom over her and tell her to get off the table. She sees me approach and jumps off herself because it then becomes uncomfortable for her to remain on the table. I don't know if it is a better method long term--putting this pressure on her hasn't made the jumping stop for next time--but it's the most effective method for dealing with the jumping at the time. So this knowledge of using pressure is from the stockdog training world, but it spills over into my everyday-life training as well.

 

Another example of using this kind of pressure is when dealing with Craig, my ornery old stockdog. He doesn't like to go into his crate and will bite me if I try to grab his collar and make him go in there. Similarly, if I throw cookies (or cheese or chicken) into the crate, he doesn't budge off the couch. He seems to know the food is short-lived and the crate time is longer and seems to calculate that it's not worth it. The easiest and most effective way to get him into his crate is to make it uncomfortable for him to be anywhere else. He understands pressure and does not fight going in (or at least not until this weekend, when he had a little retesting moment--and when the results were the same, as in it was still uncomfortable to be anywhere but the crate when I asked him to go there, compliance returned with gusto). It's one of those ways Julie mentioned that using tools learned in one context can help in another--and the reason I think so many folks want to talk about stockdog training when others are talking about manners training.

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I think the reason stockdog training comes up so much in these general training threads is because when you train stockdogs, the way you (or, I guess I should say, I) relate to the dog changes in everyday life as well.

 

I can relate to that. That has been my experience, too, with reinforcement based training. Especially behavior modification through reinforcement.

 

Last week at camp I watched Speedy be completely normal. I watched him go up to people like a normal dog. I watched him go up to dogs like a normal dog. And this wasn't about his behavior so much it was about his entire demeanor. He was not passing for normal - he was normal. It was incredible to see. Especially knowing where he started and how we got to this point.

 

Using reinforcement based training and behavior modification to help him get from where he started to where he is now has changed the way that I relate to dogs in everyday life, just as stockdogs have done that for you. It was so much more than training. Through the work that we did together, he transformed into a dog that I would hope that every dog I own will have the chance to be like. And, of course, the transformation was not just his. I was changed just as much, if not more, through the process.

 

There is so much more to it than "cookies". There is so much more to it than using a clicker. There is so much more to it - much, much, much more - than the omission of corrections. There is so much more to it than the behaviors that one might teach. And it is about much more than my dogs and I have learned. It is about the transformation - both as individuals and in our relationship as dog and person - that my dogs and I have experienced through this type of work.

 

. . . using tools learned in one context can help in another--and the reason I think so many folks want to talk about stockdog training when others are talking about manners training.

 

And that's the same reason why the folks who have had done behavior modification through reinforcement also want to talk about that while others are talking about manners training.

 

I can't speak for anyone else, but I've found that it is such a profound and powerful experience that I find that it relates to every aspect of training and relating to dogs.

 

And - I can't help it - I get pretty enthusiastic about it. It's hard not to get enthusiastic about something that has been life changing, profound, and beyond amazing for both dog and handler.

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And - I can't help it - I get pretty enthusiastic about it. It's hard not to get enthusiastic about something that has been life changing, profound, and beyond amazing for both dog and handler.

 

What a great story, Kristine. I really wish I had known how powerful clicker training can be when I had my phobic dog. I did a lot of things right. Learned lots,. Changed my approach to training. Got a puppy who brought out the brave and the goof in him (HUGE). Didn't take him at his word that no, thanks, never leaving the yard was fine by him. Took him lots of places. Learned what patience really meant (also HUGE) . And best of all got him into agility which gave him so much confidence. But I never did clicker training until I got my hard headed little Lhasa. We really do become better owners and trainers with each dog. Good thing! :rolleyes:

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The same methods work. While clickers would be counter productive to stockdog training, the two very successful open trainers I took lessons from used markers such as "good" or "there" to tell the dog that they were working correctly. It's the same principle.

I use such markers too, and try to get my students to do the same (though often they're so focused on what the sheep are doing, or what the dog is doing, or trying to see both at once that they forget to offer those words of praise and so I'm the one saying "good" to their dogs). The key, of course, is balance. I strive for a dog who understands that "good" (which is the term I use most often) means "you've got it" and "ahht!" or "hey!" means "that's a wrong choice; stop it and try again." Generally, if the dog is *thinking*, a "good" will shortly follow an "ahht!" Overall, the dog may hear more corrections than "goods" simply because I also try to shut up and let the dog work, and if the work is going well, there's no need for me to say anything because it should all feel right to the dog, which is a reward in itself. But it still comes down to both positive and negative feedback, while not being so much in the dog's mind that the dog can't think about what it's meant to do, which is control livestock (and this part is predicated on the understanding that no matter how well *I* read stock the dog can read them even better and so can react even more quickly than I would).

 

I do think there is a gulf though. As with many belief systems, people who buy into one type often can't even begin to see how another type could be as effective, as good, as useful (just take a look at the discussions on raw feeding, for example). And I think Sue is right that we are often talking at cross purposes, but those of us who bring up stockdog training do so because it is *our* paradigm (just as positive reinforcement is others' paradigm). Most stockdog trainers I know use both reward and correction (not the same as punishment), which is the main difference between that and reward-only systems. And really I think the only reason correction may be necessary in the case of stockdogs is because there is another life(lives) in play, and those lives must be protected. And so when we start talking about reward-based training vs. other (in this case, stockdog) training, people tend to focus on the differences (one includes corrections) without actually considering why a correction might be necessary and therefore lose sight of the similarities. And if the same methods are carried over into every day manners training, it's because, like with reward-only trainers, the method has been found to work, and work well. My take anyway.

 

And FWIW, stockdog training has also been life changing and profound and beyond amazing for both dog and handler. I think we've established numerous times on previous occasions that various training methods can have this end result; that is, the whole life-changing thing isn't limited to one style of training or another.

 

J.

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But I never did clicker training until I got my hard headed little Lhasa. We really do become better owners and trainers with each dog. Good thing! :rolleyes:

 

I wish I could go back and start at the beginning with Speedy, knowing what I know now! How much more we could have done and so much faster!

 

Of course I wouldn't wish going back on him. He's at such a good place now and I wouldn't want him to be afraid of everything in the world again even for a split second.

 

Maybe a dog with very similar issues someday. I'll admit it - I will do it again. I will someday actually seek out such a dog to adopt and rehab insofar as it is possible. It won't bring an OTCH or a MACH or high performance in any discipline, but that's not really what I'm after.

 

Helping a dog like that is a very worthwhile experience. Difficult, sure. Frustrating at times, absolutely. But totally worth it.

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Maybe a dog with very similar issues someday. I'll admit it - I will do it again. I will someday actually seek out such a dog to adopt and rehab insofar as it is possible. It won't bring an OTCH or a MACH or high performance in any discipline, but that's not really what I'm after.

 

Helping a dog like that is a very worthwhile experience. Difficult, sure. Frustrating at times, absolutely. But totally worth it.

 

I can see myself taking on another fearful dog, as well. I wouldn't want to tackle significant aggression but another dog like my sweet, shy guy, definitely. There is something so rewarding about watching the shy dogs blossom and gain confidence. And I've never bonded with a dog the way I did with him. He's been gone 6 years and I still miss him.

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Dear Trainers,

 

I have enjoyed the many thoughtful responses here. There is a sense in which - as several have noted - we are talking about apples and oranges. For what follows I restrict myself explicitly to Border Collies

 

The apple believes that (a) Border Collies aren't difficult to train (or consult) to average pet owners needs and (B) when they turn out to be unusually difficult, management or pharaceuticals (or in rare cases dietary changes) can alleviate the problem and © there exists a scientific learning theory and (d) corrections are at best risky (e) a failure to understand correct learning theory and (f) often inhumane or cruel. Very few if any apples compete at the top levels of competitive obedience because they dislike the methods used to bring out the highest level of performance from their dog. Often this particular epiphany turns them to apple training for life and the epiphany is often cited as it is here and by others, including Sue Miller, a leading apple.

 

The orange believes that (a) Border Collies aren't difficult to train though many pet owners can't handle them, whether apple or orange. The orange doubts there is a scientific learning theory, but there is a tremendous literature of trainers stories and theories which sometimes conincide with the "scientific" theory. The orange believes that corrections, from frequent, verbal and mild to rare and harsh are part of every dog's vocabulary. Most oranges believe that harsh corrections are dangerous and require near perfect dog reading, near perfect timing and a calm soul. Although all dog owners manage their dogs, oranges do less managing than apples do. Some oranges compete at the top levels of dog obedience and stockwork. They are likely to deride apples because they don't and, in the orange's view cannot prove the worth of their training theory publicly.

 

There. Is that fair?

 

Donald McCaig

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