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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-22-2009, 04:53 PM Thread Starter
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The Fallout Of Heavy Handed Training

Here is a good article by one of our members that appeared on Dog Star Daily. It is sort of a follow up to the article I posted called The Problem With Punishment.
January 17th, 2009 by Gillian Ridgeway
We are all looking for a quick fix. We want (and hope for) the magic pill that will make us lose weight quickly, get out of debt in an instant, and give us a perfect golf swing and well-trained dog. But is this reality?

Years ago, it was common to have a choke chain handed to you when you joined a training class. You were shown how to give a leash correction and if the dog acted up or misbehaved, the leash pop got more intense until the dog complied. But at what cost?

Fast-forward to an age of instant access to training theories and methods. We should all be able to follow the maxim “When you know better, you do better.” There is no excuse for using the old-style heavy-handed methods. So why are we seeing a sudden influx of harsh training methods, and what does this mean to the dogs and our relationship with them? Is this the magic pill?

The question should not be can our dogs be taught this way, but should they. Most dogs can be taught various skills by using coercion, but does the end justify the means?
Dogs do things for one of two reasons. The first is to get what they want. Increase the reward and the behaviour is more likely to reoccur. The second is to avoid something they don’t want. To justify the use of tools and techniques designed to create discomfort during the teaching process, it has been said that a little “pressure” will suffice. The fact is, in order for the technique to work, it has to be uncomfortable enough to make a difference to the dog.

The repercussions of heavy-handed training can be blatant or subtle. Blatant is easier to recognize. A dog that has shut down to avoid his lessons will show signs of stress such as licking his lips, holding his tail and body low, moving slowly, and panting. Severely stressed dogs will refuse their favourite treats. It is important to be able to recognize signs of stress in your own dog.

Drive and desire

One problem could be the image we have of a well-trained dog. I remember being at a pet trade show a few years ago. In a fabulous Frisbee demonstration, the dogs came out and loved the action, jumping and running and even jumping up on their handlers out of sheer joy for what they were doing. The audience loved the show but seemed slightly overwhelmed by the exuberance of the performers.

The next demo was of using a shock collar (now commonly referred to as an e-collar) to teach a dog to retrieve. The demo dog was a lovely Labrador Retriever that seemed very compliant. He was put through his paces of retrieving and obedience, and the crowd loved him. The problem was that the audience could not see the subtle details of this dog’s attitude. He seemed compliant, but to the trained eye he looked resigned. He showed no enthusiasm, his tail was low and he moved slowly and methodically… and the joy had left his body. He looked obedient, but is that all we want in our companions? It’s odd that drive and desire are positive attributes for people, but are seen as lack of training in dogs. We know that learning theories generalize among creatures with a brain stem. This means that theories used for people can be applied to dogs. Having taught learning theory to psychology students at the University of Toronto for over five years, I can see first-hand the similarities. We know that punishment eventually proves counterproductive in people; that harsh discipline and standard coercive practices do not work in human society. We also know that using these methods may provide a quick, short-term fix. It has been noticed that free-roaming dogs are social beings with ritualized displays of behaviour to prevent conflict. And it is the displays of submission that are most effective in keeping the peace. The leader dogs control the assets more than they control the individuals. This is important to know when dealing with our own pets. Armed with the knowledge that it is not personal when your dog growls, you can sort out your dog problems without the use of force, which often ends in an escalating scene with you and your dog battling it out. The fallout is sure to be lack of trust. You will not trust your dog, and your dog will not trust you – not the sort of relationship you hope to develop.

Bad management

Why is it, then, that people want to dominate their dogs? Teaching methods based on maintaining control are energy intense. The human team member needs constant diligence to keep everything in line. The need to micromanage becomes exhausting. Most humans also lack the timing and accuracy needed to effectively deliver the peacekeeping signals dogs understand.

Take a close look at some of the dogs used on television these days. Don’t confuse these dog-training shows with anything other than just that, a television show meant to attract viewers. Watch for signs of stress, especially avoidance of eye contact. To the dog, the message is clear – “When I look away it might be because I’m overwhelmed and can’t concentrate.” Knowing that, think twice before popping the collar and calling out “No sniff.”

Distinguishing between stress and naughtiness can be a tricky line to walk, but understanding stress can help you convey your message effectively. Small amounts of stress can be productive, but keeping your dog constantly under your thumb is unnecessary.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for rules and guidelines. The word “positive” has been overused in the dog-training community. It was brought on board years ago to distinguish trainers who chose methods that were a bit more progressive. It does not mean “permissive.” “Respectful and motivational” would be more appropriate. Teach your dog in a respectful way and show him how to be a motivated, keen student.

Can you train your dog using harsh methods? It is possible, but the question is why would you choose that method? Why are more people questioning the use of food in training than questioning the do-it-or-else teaching style? You can always wean your dog off food rewards, but it can take years to rehabilitate a dog that’s been over-corrected. Those factors alone would make me stop and think about how I was raising my dog.

There should be no reprimand before learning. Let’s get the joy back into our dogs.

Dave and Molly
Ian Dunbar was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award from I.P.D.T.A. Here's a picture of me accepting the award on his behalf.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-22-2009, 05:19 PM
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I completely agree. I kind of see parenting as the same way..... Either scare your kids into following your rules, or teach them to *want* to do the right thing. My kids want to please me, don't like to disappoint me.... not because they are scared of me, but because they respect me and I have tried to always instill an internal motivation to "do the right thing."

Just as with proper training---the dog always has a consequence when he doesn't comply, the child has a consequence as well. BUT, it need not be a consequence that humiliates, frightens or intimidates.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-22-2009, 05:29 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by baxterboy View Post
I completely agree. I kind of see parenting as the same way..... Either scare your kids into following your rules, or teach them to *want* to do the right thing. My kids want to please me, don't like to disappoint me.... not because they are scared of me, but because they respect me and I have tried to always instill an internal motivation to "do the right thing."

Just as with proper training---the dog always has a consequence when he doesn't comply, the child has a consequence as well. BUT, it need not be a consequence that humiliates, frightens or intimidates.
Well said.

Dave and Molly
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-22-2009, 05:40 PM
 
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Sounds like a very sensible philosophy. I have been watching Victoria Stillwell's show on Animal Planet, and it looks like positive-reinforcement type training from what I can tell. I want my dog to be well trained so that we can all live harmoniously without squashing her spirit. Still want her to be a dog, and be joyful.

What I'm unsure about (in looking ahead toward with my May puppy) is things like potty training and controlling destructive chewing, etc. in a positive way without any corrections for inappropriate behavior, unless I'm misunderstanding the concept of positive reward training. I am going to try to watch her like a hawk so as to avoid "accidents" as much as possible, and praise like crazy when she goes where she is supposed to, but if I miss a time or to (which is bound to happen) and catch her in mid-squat, how do I get across that it is not OK to use the living room rug without making her afraid of me? I was thinking a sharp sound to startle her, like a bitch would correct her puppy, and then whisking outside or to a litter pan to finish the job, then praise, but is that considered harsh? I can also take things that shouldn't be in her mouth and replace with chew toys, etc., but it seems like there is no getting around some sort of correction if she's in the middle of doing something I don't want her to, like gnawing a chair leg or something. I understand the concept of setting her up to succeed, providing the correct alternatives and praising the good behavior, but if there is nothing unpleasant (and in my mind unpleasant is no more than a sharp sound from mom, disapproving tone, coke can with pennies, etc.) associated with doing something they otherwise find fun or perfectly natural like tasting or marking furniture, etc., how will they know not to do that in the future? Like can they put 2 and 2 together that mom has given me chew toys but never a table leg, so table legs must be off limits? It seems like at some point mom would have to correct them with a sound, a look, etc. when they were going for that table leg so they remember in the future, oh yeah, mom speaks sharply to me when I chew on furniture, or there is a loud rattling sound I don't like when I squat on the rug inside, but she loves me up when I go outside, so I won't use the rug again. Does that make sense?

Sorry about all the questions, I'm still waiting on some training books I ordered from Amazon...
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-22-2009, 06:04 PM Thread Starter
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Hi Diane ,as far as when you catch them about to eliminate in the wrong place, simply catch their attention with whatever word you choose and quickly take them outside then praise and reward later when they do it right. Never scold them after the fact; even if it is ten seconds after. But you are right ,the idea is to set them up for success and eliminate the chance of doing the wrong thing. Two of the biggest problems that people have are with housetraining and chewing inappropriate things. And they can be trained simultaneously with crate training.When accidents occur ,just think of it as your failure to be vigilant and informative . For really good articles on these topics ,go to Dog Star Daily and do a search for Before You Get Your Puppy . Follow the housetraing articles closely, problems arise when you get lazy. Having a new puppy can be very time consuming ,just like having a baby.LOL

Dave and Molly
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-22-2009, 06:17 PM
and Murphy & Gracie too!
 
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It is just like potty training a child, you watch constantly and offer lots of opportunities for success! Seemed like it would never end with the kids and never end with Scooter but it has! Positive training is working very well for us, I'd never use a shock collar on my kids and I wouldn't on my dog either. I don't even like the underground fences!

Ann-Scooter, Murphy, & Gracie's Mom
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-22-2009, 09:07 PM
 
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thanks. I like that site, just ran into it a couple weeks ago, probably through one of your postings.

Yeah, I think the puppy time and energy commitment is the reason I stalled so long and nearly went for an adult instead. I felt like I wanted the opportunity to bond from a young age and experience all the fun, sweet stuff about puppies, but I know what goes with it, so, eyes wide open. I am expecting that this first year will be primarily about the dog and making a big effort to solidify the relationship and work on our blossoming personality, socialization, confidence and good canine citizenship - lol! A lot will get back burnered, but I think it will be worth it in the end. Hopefully someone will remind me what I said about that when I'm having a meltdown from lack of sleep and standing outside trying to coax the 25th potty of the day in the rain!
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