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My reasons for "positive" training


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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.

 

This is strictly my opinion, so others may know things I don't, but I believe that the reason you see more correction based training at the higher levels of obedience is simply tradition. You certainly can get a 198 to 200 using R+ methods.

 

My obedience instructor has top level titles on her Aussies including several Dog World Awards (as well as tracking and agility titles) and she is exclusively R+. Look at Patty Ruzzo, Dawn Jecs, Sheila Booth (who does Schutzhund, not the same thing as ACK obedience I know but still top level stuff), and Susan Garrett.

 

Obedience has been around for what, 60 years? Clicker and R+ has been widely used for what, 10 or 15 years? Compare the top levels of agility, a sport that got it start about the same time R+ did and you will see very few handlers using R- or P+. As people learned how to get the speed and obstacle performance they wanted they used the more modern methods and now those are considered the "gold standard."

 

I say in 20 years the obedience world will catch up.

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Agreed ^^

 

I've seen videos of protection sport dogs trained using positive methods and now compete at top levels - it's very impressive. Remember, positive training doesn't need to mean that the dog never receives a correction rather that the dog is trained using motivation and drive.

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Is that fair?

 

It would be handy if the characterizations that you describe really fit all "apples" or "oranges" to a tee, but in fact, most people don't fit so neatly into categories like that, regardless of their approach to training.

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The apple believes that (a) Border Collies aren't difficult to train (or consult) to average pet owners needs and (:rolleyes: 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.

 

Donald McCaig

 

I really have no idea where you are getting your information, but honestly that makes me laugh out loud and be very depressed at the same time. Your idea that you can sort people into groups like apples and oranges is laughable, it simply doesn't work like that.

 

In case you didn't know, I'm a positive trainer.

 

a. I couldn't disagree more. Border collies IMO are NOT a good breed for the average owner, they require much more dedication and understanding than the average owner can or wants to give.

 

b. After ALL other options are exhausted, these are valid options. Why wouldn't they be? Why is this just confined to "apples?" I know many people that are not what you would consider apples, and they pushed meds for one of my dogs more than the positive trainers I knew.

 

c. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by this, but yes of course there is a scientific theory on how animals learn best in most situations (including horses, birds, rats, dogs, cats, people, etc). Are you trying to dispute this? You know it is called a THEORY for a reason right?

 

d, e, f. Corrections are necessary in some situations IMO, such as stock dog training to high levels. I honestly have no idea how you can do that using JUST positive methods. So for that, I use corrections (verbal and pressure). However, if someone were to find purely positive way to do this that gave the same results, I would probably do that. But as I said, I don't see that happening. I do feel that when a lot of people use corrections, they are just trying to get rid of the unwanted behavior, instead of actually trying to understand the dog and why it is acting this way. A lot of the time this results in a person that nags their dog and damages the relationship they have. I do think that extreme corrections used improperly or on the wrong dog can make a dog shut down, and cause serious damage, because I have seen it happen personally.

 

I know many kennel club people. Many of them compete in obedience. Many of them are positive trainers, and are very successful at competitions. At my kennel club's all breed show this year, the woman who won high in trial trained her dog using positive methods.

 

Here is another positive trainer, winning B in the Crufts Inter-Regional Obedience competition:

 

They aren't hard to find if you actually look for them.

 

But you are very obviously stuck in your ways, so I'm not expecting anything from this post.

 

Autumn

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I really have no idea where you are getting your information, but honestly that makes me laugh out loud and be very depressed at the same time. Your idea that you can sort people into groups like apples and oranges is laughable, it simply doesn't work like that.

 

In case you didn't know, I'm a positive trainer.

 

a. I couldn't disagree more. Border collies IMO are NOT a good breed for the average owner, they require much more dedication and understanding than the average owner can or wants to give.

 

b. After ALL other options are exhausted, these are valid options. Why wouldn't they be? Why is this just confined to "apples?" I know many people that are not what you would consider apples, and they pushed meds for one of my dogs more than the positive trainers I knew.

 

c. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by this, but yes of course there is a scientific theory on how animals learn best in most situations (including horses, birds, rats, dogs, cats, people, etc). Are you trying to dispute this? You know it is called a THEORY for a reason right?

 

d, e, f. Corrections are necessary in some situations IMO, such as stock dog training to high levels. I honestly have no idea how you can do that using JUST positive methods. So for that, I use corrections (verbal and pressure). However, if someone were to find purely positive way to do this that gave the same results, I would probably do that. But as I said, I don't see that happening. I do feel that when a lot of people use corrections, they are just trying to get rid of the unwanted behavior, instead of actually trying to understand the dog and why it is acting this way. A lot of the time this results in a person that nags their dog and damages the relationship they have. I do think that extreme corrections used improperly or on the wrong dog can make a dog shut down, and cause serious damage, because I have seen it happen personally.

 

I know many kennel club people. Many of them compete in obedience. Many of them are positive trainers, and are very successful at competitions. At my kennel club's all breed show this year, the woman who won high in trial trained her dog using positive methods.

 

Here is another positive trainer, winning B in the Crufts Inter-Regional Obedience competition:

 

They aren't hard to find if you actually look for them.

 

But you are very obviously stuck in your ways, so I'm not expecting anything from this post.

 

Autumn

 

I'm a big fan of "it depends on the dog." Personally, I use a combination of positive and negative reinforcement. Mick likes verbal praise. Doesn't care much for treats and hates clickers. However, he is a hard dog, and after using more positive methods, I do use a prong collar on the live ring for him. He doesn't even respond to a correction on the dead ring.

 

I've seen dogs shut down with a pronged collar, but Mick isn't one of them. One collar that I do have issues with is the choke chain, because I feel most people can't properly use them. Actually, most people can't properly fit a prong either, but IMO, a prong is less likely to cause damage.

 

I also initially used a prong on Sinead to teach her leash manners, but she no longer needs one, and is actually very rarely on a leash, as she's proven herself not to need one in most situations. Sinead does very well responding to just verbal praise and the occasional treat. She's the most eager to please dog I've ever worked with.

 

I don't think either breed is suited for the average dog owner, but I think Sinead would do fine with just about anyone. She's a very easy dog. Mick, well...I've learned a lot from Mick. I consider him the most difficult dog I've ever had/worked with...but I was given fair warning on him.

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I agree that a choke is much more dangerous in the hands of someone who doesn't understand how to use it. The prong collar looks medieval, and certainly requires some skill to use. But the choke can do real damage very quickly. I still know people who leave a choke on as the dog's everyday collar. They think it's OK if it's a nylon choke. I wish the nylon choke had never hit the market. They are a menace, especially on a long-coated dog. I hate them almost as much as Flexi-leads. :rolleyes:

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I agree that a choke is much more dangerous in the hands of someone who doesn't understand how to use it. The prong collar looks medieval, and certainly requires some skill to use. But the choke can do real damage very quickly. I still know people who leave a choke on as the dog's everyday collar. They think it's OK if it's a nylon choke. I wish the nylon choke had never hit the market. They are a menace, especially on a long-coated dog. I hate them almost as much as Flexi-leads. :rolleyes:

 

I've seen choke collars used with success, but Mick would rather strangle himself than accept a correction with one, and most people don't know how to properly use one. Personally, for anyone wanting to use a prong collar, I suggest watching the Leerburg video on how to properly fit one.

 

There was an argument with an idiot recently on pit bull chat with a guy who insisted it was safer to keep a choke on a dog indoors over a buckle collar. He was quickly smacked down.

 

And yeah, I experienced an egregious example of why flexis suck recently at a town carnival. Somebody was walking their obese basset on one (unlocked flexi), and the dog charged up onto the deck wrapped itself around several people and a table while the owner was like, "Oh, he just wants to make friends" as the dog is practically ripping down tables and people.

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I've seen choke collars used with success, but Mick would rather strangle himself than accept a correction with one, and most people don't know how to properly use one. Personally, for anyone wanting to use a prong collar, I suggest watching the Leerburg video on how to properly fit one.

 

Your post reminded me that even Leerburg is using a clicker now...I think he also advocates corrections in addition but one baby step at a time...

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Your post reminded me that even Leerburg is using a clicker now...I think he also advocates corrections in addition but one baby step at a time...

 

He does use clickers these days as a marker. I'm not opposed to using clickers, actually...but they seriously weird out Mick. With Beag (the other BC that I had...miss that bitch), I did use clickers to success. She was a much softer dog than Mick. She was so sweet and friendly.

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Dear Doggers,

Amongst the objections to my discussion of apples and oranges, Ms. Autumn's are most detailed:

 

I suspect Ms. Autumn is British. While I know a little about British animal welfare organizations and a bit more about British sheepdog training I know nothing about British "positive" trainers. I've never seen one train. My remarks are about North American "positive" trainers I've seen work, interviewed and studied.

 

 

With that out of the way, I'll respond to two of Ms. Autumn's points:

 

 

"c. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by this, but yes of course there is a scientific theory on how animals learn best in most situations (including horses, birds, rats, dogs, cats, people, etc). Are you trying to dispute this? You know it is called a THEORY for a reason right?"

 

The difficulty is not the word "THEORY",it's the word "scientific". That behaviorism is a THEORY is indisputable, that it is a "scientific" theory is believed only by behaviorists and positive trainers. Most scientists and philosophers of science call behaviorism "scientism":i.e. looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, is an eggplant.

 

Ms. Autumn continues:"I know many kennel club people. Many of them compete in obedience. Many of them are positive trainers, and are very successful at competitions . . .

They aren't hard to find if you actually look for them."

 

In the US on the Balanced Trainers (pet dog trainers list), the challenge was: "Has one purely 'positive" trainer put an OTCH on a dog?" Nobody could name a single soul.

 

Do note the adjective "purely". Some balance of rewards and corrections have underlaid dog training since Xenophon. Almost all trainers, however they define themselves, use both. "Purely Positive" trainers abjure all corrections and, in this country at least, apparently do not win OTCHs.

 

On a side note, I said that "Sue Miller" was a famous "Apple" (positive trainer). I meant, of course, Pat Miller, who is a fine trainer and is a strong advocate of "purely positive" methods. My apologies to Pat.

 

Donald McCaig

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The difficulty is not the word "THEORY",it's the word "scientific". That behaviorism is a THEORY is indisputable, that it is a "scientific" theory is believed only by behaviorists and positive trainers. Most scientists and philosophers of science call behaviorism "scientism":i.e. looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, is an eggplant.

 

Donald McCaig

 

Well, I'm a PhD-level life scientist and former lab rat and I can't follow much of the so-called scientific mumbo-jumbo spewing out of the "positive" training world and I personally find it an annoying turn-off. I think that most (successful) lab rats will tell you that scientific theory is fine, but equally as important is a feel for the organism (i.e the intangible art component of science).

 

Without going into the goobly-gook, I use mostly "positive", (i.e motivational) methods with my dogs, but also use corrections, which don't have to be hanging a dog by a choke collar. I don't even know what "purely positive" means--my guess is that at least some of these people use corrections without realizing it or just call them something else. Like the so-called "zen down"--what a bunch of hypocritical nonsense.

 

So, maybe I'm a pear?

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I recently had a person come out that had had border collies for many years, mostly pets with occasional casual stockwork. She got two pups (not quite at the same time) and one was shy, like some can be, and the other is an amiable, confident male. She said that she was disappointed because she had set out to make sure the female was never corrected. She felt that, by using corrections to train she had made past dogs too shy. Both dogs listened well to her and wanted to work but the female had a much harder time. When she was stepped into to go the other way or given a little "hey!", her reaction was to instantly suck up to her owner and give up working the sheep. The male, who from day one was already on the go and she had corrected him over his puppyhood, quickly sorted out what his job was meant to be and did it with confidence. You could step into him and he'd go nice both ways, he'd come on a little fast to the sheep and you'd give him a hey! and he'd say, okay boss.

 

I guess my point is that many shy dogs are naturally that way - we do them a favor by showing them that a correction is not the end of the world, at least when it comes to stock work. Her different approach to raising them hadn't made the shy dog confident or the confident dog shy.

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Well, I'm a PhD-level life scientist and former lab rat and I can't follow much of the so-called scientific mumbo-jumbo spewing out of the "positive" training world and I personally find it an annoying turn-off. I think that most (successful) lab rats will tell you that scientific theory is fine, but equally as important is a feel for the organism (i.e the intangible art component of science).

 

Without going into the goobly-gook, I use mostly "positive", (i.e motivational) methods with my dogs, but also use corrections, which don't have to be hanging a dog by a choke collar. I don't even know what "purely positive" means--my guess is that at least some of these people use corrections without realizing it or just call them something else. Like the so-called "zen down"--what a bunch of hypocritical nonsense.

 

So, maybe I'm a pear?

 

Hey, Blackdawgs, I was reading this thread and scratching my head and had already decided I was a pear as well! (I'm also a "lab rat"). I also train my dog using a combination of "positive" reinforcement (I'm lucky; he's both food and toy motivated) and corrections (usually an "ah-ah", occasionally a "HEY!!! GIT out of..."). He's "only" a pet, but he is a remarkably well-behaved one at that, to the point where everyone, and I mean everyone, he meets comments on it, though he's still (at not quite 1.5 years of age) an adolescent. If I were ever to train him to work stock, I can't imagine doing it without "corrections" (verbal or using body language as "pressure"). Nor could I imagine training him for rally obedience or agility without bringing out a clicker. I guess I'm one of what I suspect is a large fraction of the BC Boards membership who believes that both "positive" incentives and appropriate corrections have their proper place.

 

Some random thoughts:

 

1) As several people have pointed out, a lot of "positive" trainers happen to employ corrections. Sometimes the media loses sight of that. For example - here's an article about Victoria Stilwell from Time.com that my older son just sent me. The article claims she is "spreading her system of positive-reinforcement training virtually and with troops on the ground: this June she launched a podcast (available on positively.com and iTunes) and franchised her methods to a first batch of 20 dog trainers in the U.S., the U.K., Italy and Greece. She uses positivity as a counterpoint to dominance theory and reserves her aggression for the poorly behaving humans."

 

Makes it sound as if she's "purely positive", doesn't it? But watch her program "It's Me or the Dog" and you'll see her using corrections and deterrents: "ah-ah", body blocking, removing a dog to a location in which it's isolated if it isn't exerting control over an undesirable behavior, putting a sound alarm inside a fridge to train a dog away from raiding it, and so forth. She also uses rewards. What you won't see are e-collars, choke chains, or alpha rolls.

 

2) Behavioral theory isn't what we call a "hard" science. Most view it as a subdomain of psychology, usually lumped among the social sciences. To be sure, there is compelling evidence that many behavioral issues have a biological origin. But by its very nature (and please don't think I'm knocking any of the social sciences - my husband and several of my friends were trained as economists!), a social science is harder to test rigorously than are the 'hard' sciences. So it's much more difficult to achieve a level of scientific "proof".

 

3) Raising a dog has a lot in common with raising a child. Consistency is important. I happen to believe that insistence on manners is as well. I've known too many adults who don't correct their children because "I just want my daughter to feel like I'm their FRIEND!" Kids don't need for their parents to be their friends - most have many friends in school. They only have one set of parents (except in the case of divorces). Kids and dogs both need to understand boundaries. I happen to think that dogs and kids both benefit from the presence of a "benevolent dictator" who remains in charge. (The difference is that with kids you eventually completely remove the scaffolding, while with dogs you will always need to keep some in place). But that doesn't mean you'll EVER find me doing an "alpha roll".

 

4) I've been in a "Control Unleashed" class with reactive dogs. (Mine wasn't fear-agressive, just had trouble as a pup controlling his excitement, and was getting overstimulated). I saw apparent miracles being worked with conditioning of these dogs using treats and clickers.

 

Take this all for what it's worth. I haven't trained a dog to an obedience or agility championship, nor have I trained a dog on stock. But I see a lot of sense in what Victoria Stilwell practices, and Patricia McConnell writes - understanding what motivates a dog (and how they differ from humans) sure helps.

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These discussions are always interesting to me, as someone who does train without corrections. To me that just isn't the big deal that it seems like for a lot of folks. It's kind of like the fact that air is invisible. While that's true, it certainly isn't the most important thing about air. "Invisible" does not define air. "Invisible" does not tell us what air is. And while it is true that omission of corrections in training is a characteristic of reinforcement based training (aka to some "purely positive" nails scratch loudly on the chalkboard as I type that), the fact that corrections are not included does not define reinforcement based training, nor does it tell anyone what reinforcement based training is. Nor does it tell anyone what one can or cannot accomplish through it.

 

Those who do not use corrections in training just aren't going around thinking, "now, I'm not using corrections" or "how can I do this without corrections?" Nor are we thinking "is this working better than it would be if I were using corrections?" Nor "some people who use corrections have prestigious titles - oh my!" Corrections aren't even on the radar.

 

When I approach training, whether it be simple manners stuff, sport stuff, or behavior modification for reactivity, fear, etc., I make a plan and I include the use of training tools that I might use, taking the individual dog, the training challenge at hand, and the situation into account. When that happens, the tools that I consider are all reinforcement based training tools. There are too many too choose from most of the time. I am not thinking at all about the things that I choose not to use. And that's just no big deal to me.

 

To be clear - I do consider reinforcement based techniques a "big deal" (to me). I love the training process, love the results, and I love the relationship and connection that I've developed with my dogs, and seen other develop between themselves and their dogs, through using them. That's not about "no corrections". It's about what reinforcement based training is. Not what it is not.

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These discussions are always interesting to me, as someone who does train without corrections.

 

I think that if you spent some time in a field full of sheep with a very enthusiastic Border Collie, you may rethink your view on corrections, especially if your very enthusiastic dog had a part of a sheep in its mouth. My experiences (albeit limited) in this realm have caused me to rethink my view on corrections and my relationship with my dog. And my relationship with my dog has improved for the better as the result of this soul searching.

 

I think that "positive" trainers and the APDT are doing themselves a disservice by spewing their scientific mumbo jumbo and bragging about their "scientific" approaches to dog training. In the end, pet dog owners just want their dogs to stop crapping in the house and jumping on guests...and they really don't care if the training methodology is "scientific" or not. I had considered going to the APDT meeting this year, but really don't feel like listening to "science" for 5 days--I get enough of that at work.

 

Having said this, I never in a million years could have gotten my (pit)bulldog around an agility course without "motivational" training and I had to shape both the bulldog and the BC to play ball with a clicker and cookies. I envy stock dog trainers because they don't have to deal with the motivation thing. I suppose one difference between a stockdog trainer and a "positive" trainer is that the stock dog trainer would rehome a dog that doesn't show an interest in sheep, whereas the "positive" trainer would create the interest in sheep with a clicker and some cheese sticks....

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I think that if you spent some time in a field full of sheep with a very enthusiastic Border Collie, you may rethink your view on corrections, especially if your very enthusiastic dog had a part of a sheep in its mouth.

 

This is also something that I always find very interesting.

 

The "it wouldn't work on sheep" objection.

 

And the "if the dog had a sheep (child, bottle of poison, moving car, etc.) in it's mouth" objection.

 

"It wouldn't work on sheep" is about as relevant to me as "it wouldn't work to teach a dog to fly a rocket to the moon". Truth be told, I'm more likely to try my hand at training a dog to fly a rocket than I am to train a dog to work stock. As was said earlier in this thread - apples and oranges.

 

As far as the dog having sheep (a child, bottle of poison, moving car, etc.), use of what is necessary (yelling at the dog, etc.) is damage control, not training. I don't train my dog by putting something dangerous in his path and then "correct" him for interacting with it. That would be training with a correction. Doing what is necessary to avert a dangerous situation in the heat of the moment is simply that. Again, apples and oranges.

 

My experiences (albeit limited) in this realm have caused me to rethink my view on corrections and my relationship with my dog. And my relationship with my dog has improved for the better as the result of this soul searching.

 

And so, we're different. My experience was the opposite. And my relationship with my dogs has also improved.

 

We also differ on the motivation thing. I enjoy the process of building motivation in training. It provides a unique opportunity to learn a lot about the individual dog and to grow as a team.

 

I think that "positive" trainers and the APDT are doing themselves a disservice by spewing their scientific mumbo jumbo and bragging about their "scientific" approaches to dog training.

 

Could you give me a concrete example.

 

Say I want to train my dog to lie down at a distance of 20 feet (not in a stockwork context). What would the APDT say about this particular training question that you consider to be scientific mumbo jumbo?

 

I'm not asking to be sarcastic, not to back you into a corner. I really would like a specific example - even if not that one - where you are hearing scientific mumbo jumbo being "spewed".

 

Granted, people who are really interested in the behavior science behind reinforcement based training do enjoy discussing it - just as people who are interested in the technicalities of any discipline tend to enjoy such discussion. But the practical application of reinforcement based techniques requires no knowledge of the science behind it whatsoever. Most "pet people" can absolutely housetrain and teach a dog to keep four on the floor around company using reinforcement without any knowledge of science.

 

ETA: I'm also interested in an example of where the APDT is "spewing mumbo jumbo" outside of their own convention. I would expect things to get technical at a convention. That, if I'm not mistaken, is geared toward experienced trainers who want to go deeper into the study of the discipline of dog training.

 

Are they producing materials geared toward pet-client type folks that are highly technical? I'm not aware of anything like this, so am interested in references if you know of anything like this.

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Well, I'm a PhD-level life scientist and former lab rat and I can't follow much of the so-called scientific mumbo-jumbo spewing out of the "positive" training world and I personally find it an annoying turn-off. I think that most (successful) lab rats will tell you that scientific theory is fine, but equally as important is a feel for the organism (i.e the intangible art component of science).

 

Without going into the goobly-gook, I use mostly "positive", (i.e motivational) methods with my dogs, but also use corrections, which don't have to be hanging a dog by a choke collar. I don't even know what "purely positive" means--my guess is that at least some of these people use corrections without realizing it or just call them something else. Like the so-called "zen down"--what a bunch of hypocritical nonsense.

 

So, maybe I'm a pear?

 

This is the point where my blood pressure rises slightly. Describing learning theory as "goobldy gook," "hypocritical nonsense" and "mumbo jumbo" is at best disrespectful.

 

May I ask, what is your PhD. in and what kind of a lab did you work in?

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Your post reminded me that even Leerburg is using a clicker now...I think he also advocates corrections in addition but one baby step at a time...

 

He has a whole video on marker training now. I watched a couple of Michael Ellis videos that Leerburg has filmed in the last couple of years. I thought they were well done and made a whole lot of sense.

 

Here is a link to some ME video clips that I posted a while ago.

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Hi Mr. McCaig;

 

My 1st question is: if you don't believe that dogs learn by the basic tenets of behaviorism, how is it you think learning happens? This doesn't have anything to do with positive reinforcement, corrections etc, because those are all parts of behaviorism's theory of how we learn.

 

 

The difficulty is not the word "THEORY",it's the word "scientific". That behaviorism is a THEORY is indisputable, that it is a "scientific" theory is believed only by behaviorists and positive trainers. Most scientists and philosophers of science call behaviorism "scientism":i.e. looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, is an eggplant.

 

Can you link me to some references for this? I know there are some criticisms (some quite valid) to many aspects of behaviorism, but I have not understood that particular POV.

 

One valid argument is that behaviorism is a one-dimensional approach to behavior that doesn't take into account free will and it ignores internal influences such as moods, thoughts, and feelings. I get the latter argument, but the 1st puzzles me, especially as it relates to learning,

 

Regardless if we are training with corrections and the mindset of "I'll teach what not to do by adding an aversive when you do it" vs "I'll teach you what I want you to do by adding a reinforcement you like when you do it," the dog makes the choice of what behaviors he offers. In neither instance do we physically force the dog into a position (except some very aversive training models but I think for now we need to set that aside) eliminating freewill. How does that not allow for freewill on either instance? Are we saying the dog is helpless to choose the preferred behavior if we reinforce it with something the dog likes? I don't think anyone has suggested that, they have simply stated the more a behavior is reinforced, the more we are likely to do it.

 

As for the idea that it doesn't account for internal influences, I suppose it doesn't, but my answer to that is when looking at a dog I can't read his mind to know his exact emotional state...and therefore I can only go on observable behaviors.

 

Another valid criticism is behaviorism does not account for other types of learning, especially learning that occurs without the use of reinforcements or punishments. Again, this is valid and many behaviorist contend that there can be a happy internal state or fearful internal state that act as positive and negative reinforcements that we can't see.

 

Ms. Autumn continues:"I know many kennel club people. Many of them compete in obedience. Many of them are positive trainers, and are very successful at competitions . . .

They aren't hard to find if you actually look for them."

 

In the US on the Balanced Trainers (pet dog trainers list), the challenge was: "Has one purely 'positive" trainer put an OTCH on a dog?" Nobody could name a single soul.

 

The problem with this is 3 fold.

 

1. As I discussed in another post, ACK obedience is dripping with tradition and has been around a lot longer than the advent of positive reinforcement training. If you look at the highest levels of other sports (agility, freestyle) which ask for equally precise behaviors you will see the vast majority being positively trained.

 

2. In addition, one of the hallmarks of high level obedience is super precise movements and zero extraneous behaviors. R- and P+ are best at extinguishing behaviors. R+ tends to encourage a dog to think and offer behaviors which is not what you want in a Utility B ring.

 

3. You are making the hugely erroneous assumption that the ability to put an OTCh on a dog defines a trainer as "the best." I know a few OTCh dogs, and in many cases the dog is the defining factor. Isn't it Bernie Brown who is famous for "going through dogs" until he could find one that was "OTCh material?" I have a dear friend, who I believe loves her dogs and has good intentions, but who I disagree with philosophically with on many levels. Her very 1st obedience dog was a wonderful, amazing, super intelligent dog who went from Novice A to OTCh with her. He would do anything she asked. When he didn't get what she was asking, she escalated the corrections. I saw her do some stuff to him that made me cringe, and this was way back when I was a pretty heavy handed "corrector" of my dogs behavior. He got that OTCh. None of her subsequent dogs have. She trains the exact same way, same method, same theories, same attitude, and none of her (5) subsequent dogs have attained that OTCh. This suggests to me that it is often the dog, not the training method, responsible for the title.

 

In addition, attaining an OTCh requires a huge amount of trialing and a huge cost. I have attended shows in Ohio where a score of 198 in Utility B did not result in any OTCh points because there was a run off and and 1st and 2nd were a 199 and 198+. An OTCh can be very expensive...which is why many people don't pursue one. My obedience trainer has put a UD on 3 Aussies and recieved numerous dog world awards (back when they were given). I asked her one day why she didn't try for an OTCh and she laughed and said "are you kidding me? I don't have that kind of money!"

 

Finally, if you look at trainers like the ones I mentioned in a previous post (Dawn Jecs, Sheila Booth, Susan Garrett) you will see trainers at the top levels of the sport who may not have an OTCh for a reason (Susan Garrett is Canadian, for example, and Sheila Booth does schutzhund).

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Mr. McCaig, it's actually Mrs. Autumn FancypantsfromBritain.

 

And no, I'm actually not British. I live in Idaho. :rolleyes:

 

Don't have much time to discuss point by point right now, but I pretty much agree with rushdoggie's previous post.

 

Autumn

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Count me as another scientist "pear" also.

 

So statements like this confuse me:

 

Regardless if we are training with corrections and the mindset of "I'll teach what not to do by adding an aversive when you do it" vs "I'll teach you what I want you to do by adding a reinforcement you like when you do it,"

 

(my bold) Why must it be assumed that it is either/or, and that these two "mindsets" are at cross purposes, just because someone uses corrections as part of their toolbox, and feels their training and relationship is better for it?

 

I clicker train my dog to do some things. I also train him on stock. I also use plenty of pressure and corrections in more general pet training.

 

I was thinking about this thread this morning, and felt like sharing "My reasons for using corrections in my pet dog training" (i.e., leaving sheep out of it):

 

I was sitting in the nursery with my 2 month old, and was not able to easily move. Not only was she on a nursing pillow that is difficult for me to get aligned properly, but she suddenly spit up and I caught it in my hand against her cheek. Moving would have spilt it all over the floor, my clothes, etc.

 

I look around - darn!! No receiving blanket. These squares of flannel are like the hitchhiker's guide towels of the baby world, it turns out. Can be used for mopping up stuff, swaddling, covering up cold baby feet, putting down to protect furniture during a quick change, etc. As such, we have these things scattered all over the house, usually in easy reach. But stupidly I was not able to access one from my rocker. My husband was gone.

 

I really didn't want to stand up. Odin was next to me, as usual. I could see a r. blanket through the doorway into my bedroom, sitting on the table next to her co-sleeper, with a variety of other stuff. Hmmmm... maybe I could have Odin go get it for me?

 

Several things stand in our way here. One, he's not trained to bring a "blanket". Actually, he'd never been taught what a receiving blanket was. And, he's been corrected for putting his paws on the co-sleeper table before, when he was trying to lean in and kiss the baby, so he doesn't do that any more. Finally, he's not actually, formally trained to "bring" me anything but a leash and a ball, by that command.

 

Still, I asked him, pointing awkwardly at the blanket I wanted. He got excited, and after a few requests, miraculously got that I wanted him to bring me something, not a toy, and not a leash. "Bring me the blanket!" I said, pointing at the blanket on the table. He tried to grab the corner of our comforter on the bed and pull it off. :rolleyes: (Ok, these dogs are TOO smart!)

 

I issued a verbal correction that means No Try Something Else (uh-uh). And I pointed to the co-sleeper again. He looked at the co-sleeper, started to bring his feet up, thought better of it, and turned to me and barked. Again, I corrected. No Try something else (than barking at me to express your confusion). He began to try again at the table - Yes!! He gingerly put his feet up there and grabbed the first thing off the table - a shirt. Correction from me: No Try Something Else. You could practically see him scratching his head. Then, he grabbed the banket - YES!!! My enthusiastic praise caused him to drop the blanket in excitement and run towards me happy and empty-mouthed. Uh-UH! Bring me the blanket!! He ran back, grabbed the blanket, and brought it!

 

Much rejoicing by both of us. He handed it right over, not a hint of tug as there would have been if he had been 'bringing" me the leash or a toy. All was saved with the spit up. And he was rewarded by getting to kiss baby feet, and a pat on the head with lots of praise, and then he relaxed at my feet again, looking very, very happy.

 

So, here is my dog, not trained to do this. I had the unreasonable expectation he could. I corrected him several times during his attempts anyway. Could I have trained this with no corrections and a clicker? Sure - in a much greater length of time (this took maybe 1 minute). Instead, I didn't train anything. I communicated with my dog. And he liked it as much as I did.

 

That, to me, as a pet dog owner, is not only priceless - it is useful. Could I communicate by only expressly saying "yes, do that"? Sure? But if you ask me, a conversation is SO much more effective if you can use the other half - BOTH expressly saying "yes do that" and "no try something else." Not saying the latter with ignoring unwanted attempts either, but by actually SAYING it. In other training, a correction may be expressly saying, "NO, really DON'T do that", or "hey, you know better." A reward may mean you're on the right track or it may mean job well done, but either way, I want all of these ways to communicate at my fingertips. I personally think he's better for knowing that I have high expectations sometimes, and also that the world doesn't end when I tell him he's wrong, try again. YMMV.

 

PS - Isn't he the best?? :D I love this dog!! :D

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I think that most (successful) lab rats will tell you that scientific theory is fine, but equally as important is a feel for the organism (i.e the intangible art component of science).

 

<SNIP>

 

So, maybe I'm a pear?

 

 

I agree whole heartedly with the statement I bolded. Guess that makes me a pear, too.

 

Edited as I had left a sentence in I hadn't meant to.

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Count me as another scientist "pear" also.

 

So statements like this confuse me:

(my bold) Why must it be assumed that it is either/or, and that these two "mindsets" are at cross purposes, just because someone uses corrections as part of their toolbox, and feels their training and relationship is better for it?

 

Well, actually, my point with that was discussing the validity of behaviorism, which was brought up by several posters as a tangent to the thread. What you did with Odin (who sounds like an awesome dog, btw) was using positive and negative reinforcement to direct him. Kinda like playing "hot and cold" as a kid.

 

Whether you could have communicated to Odin the correct item to retrieve using only "Hot" as opposed to "Hot and cold," probably, you could have, but as you pointed out, by adding in the "no-reward marker" of No, etc, you communicated quicker and it was useful.

 

As I stated in the very 1st post in this thread (which was a specific answer to a specific question Mr. McCaig posted in another thread) I could not be said to be 100% positive. The word NO has escaped my mouth many times, as has ENOUGH and some words I should post here as this is a family board.

 

I choose to train the way I do because of the results I get. P+ and R- communicate "don't do that." They don't communicate what you do want. R+ communicates "do THAT" and since doing what I want and not doing what I don't want tend to go hand-in-hand I find I get results quicker and I find my dog is more eager to try to figure out what I want.

 

YMMV.

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Why must it be assumed that it is either/or, and that these two "mindsets" are at cross purposes, just because someone uses corrections as part of their toolbox, and feels their training and relationship is better for it?

Thank you!

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