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Thread: Victoria Stillwell on positive reinforcement training

  1. #1
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    Default Victoria Stillwell on positive reinforcement training

    This is really Victoria vs Cesar, though his name is never directly mentioned.

    It is long (14 minutes) and I got a bit bored halfway through, but found it mostly interesting and even moving. Especially the sentiment that using positive reinforcement training benefits everyone, not just the dog or its owner.

    I know a couple of people I would love to watch this...


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    Really? Do you know that 'positive reinforcement' trainers actually use negative punishment?

    I get sick of rubbish like this to be honest. I have seen Victoria Stillwell and how far she gets before she HAS to give up on a dog because her methods are so limited.

    Positive reinforcement is one facet of Operant Conditioning. It is NOT a training method in itself, that is impossible. Reinforcement, be it positive or negative, encourages a behavior and punishment decreases the behaviors expression. I think the fact is so many people who dont really understand dog behavior have simply seen the work 'negative' and 'punishment' and assumed that its meant in the more conventional sense of 'bad' and 'painful' when it means the total opposite.

    There is a line between training and abuse. You don't have to be a 'traditional' dog trainer to supposedly hurt your dog I've seen plenty of 'positive' people with some VERY unhappy dogs.

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    I actually think everyone who has some basic knowledge of psychology will know about the four components of operant conditioning. I guess it's the focus what counts... i.e. do you focus on the unwanted behaviour you want to stop or do you encourage the wanted behaviour.

    IMHO if you 'like' the idea of clear hierarchies that are set in stone you're probably more likely to use Punishment to stop unwanted behaviour. You may be relying on your status to just 'tell' the other person/dog what to do and what not to do. However, if you believe hierarchies are nothing more than a flexible construct that go with the flow... you're perhaps more likely to notice the behaviour you want to see and reinforce it accordingly.

    I know a couple that is so busy establishing themselves as alphas over their young dog that they actually often overlook their dog doing the right thing. But they'll jump on every paw she steps out of line. As a result the poor dog gets rarely praised and very frequently yelled at - it almost seems they take it personally if their dog misbehaves...

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    I actually think everyone who has some basic knowledge of psychology will know about the four components of operant conditioning. I guess it's the focus what counts... i.e. do you focus on the unwanted behaviour you want to stop or do you encourage the wanted behaviour.
    Why can't you use both in conjunction with one another? Why is it an all or nothing approach? There is nothing wrong with setting out with a pocket full of delicious treats while having a correction chain on your dog. It can work perfectly well. Correct the bad, redirect the dogs focus and immediately reward it for doing the right thing. Boom, fast learning and proofing all in one.

    You don't have to believe that you're 'better' then the dog to use punishment. It's another tool in helping the dog learn what behavior is acceptable and what is not, hence helping the dog be a good all round dog that is proofed while being trained.

    You will never create a happy, loyal connection with your animal without reinforcement, the relationship is give or take. People who do not reward enough at my school get told, I will not have a dog yanked and cranked. But if the dog flies at another dog or will not settle it will get a correction.

    Too many people are stuck in the idea there are only 2 camps. 'Positive reinforcement' training and the people who use punishment who supposedly are just out there to dominate your dog with their archaic ideals. Decisions should be made on an individuals merits, understanding, education and technique, not which 'camp' they fall into.

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    I took the actual content of the interview with a grain of salt. They seemed to be really commenting on the "alpha male, punishment only" methods that used to be the norm and used a lot by Cesar Milan - who they are really commenting on. I totally agree that comments like "you can train a dog out of aggression using just a tiny bit of treat" or whatever it is they said are quite ludicrous. But I see it in light of what they are reacting to. And I liked their idea that training your dog affects the whole community, because I do suspect that more 'alpha male owners' tend to think that their dog is their business and nobody else's, if you know what I mean.

    I too know someone like that Margoo. And when their dog does come immediately when called, she cowers when she gets to her owner. She is also suspicious of anyone approaching her suddenly because half of the time she has NFI why she is being punished (ie. rolled over and growled at) because she never gets shown (ie. rewarded for) what she IS supposed to do - just punished when she doesn't do it. Makes me very sad. And makes me extra happy when I see the happy look on Banjo's face when she comes running over when I call her. And our recall success rate is bloody good. But she would be classified as 'an easy dog', my Banjo. And maybe they should've just concentrated on those in the interview...

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    Even Cesar Milan says - don't try these methods at home.

    But he's kidding himself if he doesn't think people do this at home. Even my mother tries it on my dog, doesn't seem to work for her - and she wonders why my dog isn't very interested in doing anything she asks her to. But get my dog working for the pie crust my mum has left over from her lunch and whoo hoo - very interested and obedient dog.

    I prefer reward based training - dog does what I want - she gets a reward (positive reinforcement), dog doesn't do what I want - she doesn't get a reward (negative re-inforcement). Unfortunately I have huge gaps - like she would still chase a possum or cat if she's given the opportunity. Where as my brother can yell NO at his dog - backed by some serious positive punishment (hitting or pinching or squeezing or ripping on the dog's neck) for ignoring that word, and his dog will stop. Or so he thinks.

    Trouble is I'm crap at dishing positive punishment and my dog has only just started to look forward to going for walks - after a year of yank and crank with the slip collar at dog club - so from when she was 12 months old - till now when she's four yo, the last three years have been me working at undoing the mess caused by using the slip collar and yank and crank. Maybe in another year she will actually get excited when I get the lead and collar out.

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    actually removing a treat is not negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is the operant response is followed by the removal of an aversive stimulus (eg ear pinching for a forced retrieve)

    You can argue you removing the treat is negative punishment, since you are trying to prevent the dog not obeying by removing the appetitive stimulus (treat) and hence 'punishing'. Punishment doesnt have to be physical to be a punishment.

    Remember reinforcement is something that increases a behavior being exhibited again, punishment decreases the likelyhood of it being exhibited again.

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    Oh dear, the yank and crank.
    Do you mean a check chain?
    Or is the collar a bit kinder to the dog?

    The instructor at our "obedience school" decided to make an example of Snoopy
    on his first time at obedience (they bumped him up a grade from puppy school).
    The ba$tard just about strangled my little guy with the check chain and I have never
    passed his leash to anyone since. His neck was still sore the next day or two.

    We did go back one more time as I wanted to see if Snoopy was afraid to go in,
    luckily not, he just wanted to play with his doggy mates.
    This guy was big on yelling also, so I just taught Snoopy at home after that.

    Someone on here suggested "be the tree" so that worked for us, as well as speaking
    very quietly when out on walks. The quieter the better, as Snoopy is a bird dog with
    superman hearing and a nose to match. I found that finally I had his full attention all
    the time and I never yell "come" it is now "Snoopy! Pssst" in a loud whisper.

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    You're right nekhbet

    I meant negative punishment (taking away the reward to reduce a behaviour) and I'm always getting it wrong... not very intuitive labels.

    At dog club I'm always trying to encourage people to release the tension on their lead and check chain / choke collar. Their dog gets to the end of it - my dog is such an inviting tart - and they never let the pressure off - even when their dog does a polite sit next to them. And I say "you have to reward your dog for doing the right thing, loosen up the lead and collar".

    I never get (understand) instructors telling people to be loud with their dogs. We're talking about animals who can tell the difference between the milk bottle coming out the fridge and the yoghurt tub, and also knows the difference between freezer door and fridge door - from the next room, or from outside... And I swear being quiet with the commands helps them pay attention.
    Last edited by Hyacinth; 10-05-2012 at 10:32 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nekhbet View Post
    Why can't you use both in conjunction with one another? Why is it an all or nothing approach?
    I don't think there is anything wrong with that. Negative punishment and positive reinforcement go together anyway as I understand it. I'm no expert by any means but how I understandt he four aspects of operant conditioning is... Good behaviour + treat = positive reinforcement. Negative behaviour + no treat = negative punishment.

    But as I said earlier. I think it's the focus that makes all the difference. To stay with the example of this couple I mentioned earlier... they get so bogged down in the 'must-be-boss' idea that they don't even see how hard their little dog is actually trying. Even so... they forget all about rewarding and it's all of a sudden all about punishment. So I think the criticism isn't so much on the actual training methods... it's rather the mindset behind it.

    That's also what I got fromt he Victoria vs Cesar clip. What they were criticising (sometimes a little annoyingly I have to agree) is what sticks to the brains of the masses when they watch too many Cesar shows: a 'must-be-boss' attitude. I too find it sometimes a bit sad because it makes me wonder what this fascination with total submission actually says. Not about our dogs but about us as a species.

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