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Thread: Training without punishment

  1. #11
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    For dogs that have become difficult to handle due to incorrect early training( by any method incorrectly applied), genetics etc one then has to sort through what is likely to have the best outcome and find someone skilled to teach you the way forward.

    With the help of an experienced trainer who specialised in more positive methods - I rehabbed a very fear aggressive dog. The method I used was based on positive reinforcement. Key to the success was timing, setting the dog up for success and always working under threshold. I didnt have to withold things because I became skilled at how I set her up and how I reinforced her and at recognising her thresholds and her body language and reading situations. She got so much well timed reinforcement it completely rewired her outlook. It was very hard work because this type of method relies some intensive learning by the human, you have to be totally committed and have the guidance of someone who knows what they are doing.

    There are plenty of tools in positve but you have to be committed to really understand how to use them. Problem dogs can be rehabbed this way, but it is never for the faint hearted. It is not rainbows and sunshine, it is hard work, behavioural science and the handlers ability to work with those tools.

    I personally have never had to withold stuff to make a reward valuable for any of my dogs, they have always been driven by toys etc because I played so much with them as pups and instilled the love of play and tricks. Reinforcing all the time what you want at any any moment when you see it. Down the track you may at times have to withold a reward but it is very rare if you have trained the dog to work in a certain way. They come out raring to work for you with so much joy.

    However neither am I against the used of more physically corrective methods if they are trained properly. Like with the use of positive, timing is always the key. I am not skilled in training this way but I would assume that the well timed application of low level correction and release to a dog who is under threshold and learning is way more valuable than harsh corrections and yanking and cranking of an over threshold dog unable to really process any learning. There is a lot of skill in any training method. Unfortunately a lot of people dont really understand it and when faced with a difficult dog will often come unstuck which results in bad press for both positive and physical corrective methods.

  2. #12
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    I am not skilled in training this way but I would assume that the well timed application of low level correction and release to a dog who is under threshold and learning is way more valuable than harsh corrections and yanking and cranking of an over threshold dog unable to really process any learning.
    If a dog is over threshold it's not a correction, it's just cranking away. The point of a correction is to prevent the behavior reoccuring - so it's proportional to the behavior and what works in that particular dog. You always need positive reinforcement to balance it out, you cannot purely train through positive punishment unless you want total shutdown. What irks me is that people who use corrections are tarred with a brush that we must ONLY be using them and abusing the dog when in fact it's the opposite. It's simply like steering a car, you can only turn the wheel one way but if you do the only way to get to your destination is ever tightening circles, if you get there at all. If you want the direct rout you steer, a little left turn, a little right turn and you keep it even. That's all it is, no magic or mystery about it.

    As for fear aggression it's one of the most overused and over misdiagnosed problems in dogs. Any reaction must be fear aggression, when in fact most are simply reactivity and lack of basic training so the dog exhibits genetic traits it has learned to get the result it thinks it wants.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nekhbet View Post
    If a dog is over threshold it's not a correction, it's just cranking away. The point of a correction is to prevent the behavior reoccuring - so it's proportional to the behavior and what works in that particular dog. You always need positive reinforcement to balance it out, you cannot purely train through positive punishment unless you want total shutdown. What irks me is that people who use corrections are tarred with a brush that we must ONLY be using them and abusing the dog when in fact it's the opposite. It's simply like steering a car, you can only turn the wheel one way but if you do the only way to get to your destination is ever tightening circles, if you get there at all. If you want the direct rout you steer, a little left turn, a little right turn and you keep it even. That's all it is, no magic or mystery about it.

    As for fear aggression it's one of the most overused and over misdiagnosed problems in dogs. Any reaction must be fear aggression, when in fact most are simply reactivity and lack of basic training so the dog exhibits genetic traits it has learned to get the result it thinks it wants.
    Yes I agree with your thoughts on training with correction.

    As to fear aggression, sadly the dog I had was most definitely fear aggressive. There was no lack of basic training, she was probably the best obedience dog I ever trained and there had been thoughtful socialisation with experienced people at the local dog club. She was fine with people she had known from the start. She grew incredibly afraid of strangers especially men. She would scream in fear with full anal gland release and her eyes would get a wide eyed very hard look to them and she had poor recovery, it would leave her shattered for hours. It when way beyond reactivity. She was incredibly sensitive to any change in her environment and to loud noises.

    I have adopted a reactive dog before and he was easily sorted, this was very different. This was potentially dangerous. Correction just made things worse in her case. I worked incredibly hard with this dog and she was very well trained.
    I was under no illusion that she would ever be a totally normal dog, there was definitely a screw loose, and I would never have rehomed her under any circumstance but we came such a long way with her and made big changes. Hopefully I never have to go through it again but it made me a much better trainer for the dogs that followed.

    Hers was a genetic problem I feel. I found out later her father was just the same, although her mother was fine and there were a number of dogs from that line with behavioural problems.
    Last edited by Kalacreek; 04-23-2013 at 08:45 PM.

  4. #14
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    Hmm appears to come back to balance and knowledge and knowing your limitations. The animals welfare being primary, any tool in inexpert hands is dangerous and we are talking about dogs not blocks of wood.
    Seems to me Nekhbet would be dealing with behavioural issues way out of my skill range. I think the point really is that we need to keep it positive for your average pooch who is learning and growing. There is no need to go to strong measures when a click/word and a treat does the job. The problem seems to be when people go too far unnecessarily, without knowledge. I would have thought that retraining is the bread and butter for trainers who have put in the time and got the experience to use other tools effectively and humanely.

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    I think also we need to stop majority of the general public like idiots. I see so many clients demoralised by advertising and propaganda, afraid to do much with their dogs for fear of harming them. You can't stuff a dog THAT badly unless 1) there is something already wrong with it emotionally or 2) you go totally left wing, eg beating it constantly. So if your dog needs a correction give it one, show it the alternative behavior and reward it so it can learn what you want. Frankly I see positive only in a lot of cases the long way round the short path, and thats not good for the dog either.

    You need to keep it MOSTLY positive for young dogs. There still needs to be balance. A pup that nips gets a scruff or thumb under the tongue from me. A dog that bites me gets a decent correction for its efforts. A dog that lunges out to the end of the lead not listening gets a correction from the collar. Life is not one sided and the BIGGEST byproduct I see of positive only is a lack of mental resilience in modern dogs. They are not coping because they are not learning - they are being sheltered from reality because we are afraid of having them exhibit any stress reactions. It won't harm them, guide them through it, don't accept the tantrums and don't let the dog get one over you during it's experimental behavior phase. They come out better for it because you have shown them they CAN cope with emotional stress and come out happy. Really, it is the biggest problem we have and it's ruining dogs. It's why at my school no one is allowed to back out of basic agility (handled of course) or not walk over a surface, or not go through the tunnel. We help them over that stress they initially have and within a few minutes suddenly they're pulling their owners to go do it again because of the emotional achievement NOT the 'fun' of it.

    Kalakreek your dog is a totally different kettle of fish and you're right, that level of lack of recognition and reaction is genetic definitely. It is unfortunate but there is not a lot you can do with dogs that have such violent reactions, but good on you for sticking with her

  6. #16
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    Its a funny thing, last week I was having a discussion about resilience in children and how so many fear to fail or avoid challenges. We need to support them to meet and overcome challenges so they feel competent. This in the context of being a teacher and she a parent.
    Here we are in the dog forum looking at similar concepts...lol
    My dog was terrified of storms, I love them, she isn't scared any more as I was calm and kept her asleep by me. She took her cue from me.Being a border collie she is a 'spooker' I have found the more experiences she has the calmer she gets and now manages strange noises and things much better.
    Last edited by farrview; 04-25-2013 at 09:34 AM.

  7. #17

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    Thunder storms still freak my girl out and she picks up on them early, way before i even see a flash of lightning. She just comes inside and finds a rug lies down and wont move till its over. If its just rain shes out there in it. Wish we had a few more storms here in the West to de-sensitze her. Happy she doesn't run away

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nekhbet View Post
    I think also we need to stop majority of the general public like idiots. I see so many clients demoralised by advertising and propaganda, afraid to do much with their dogs for fear of harming them. You can't stuff a dog THAT badly unless 1) there is something already wrong with it emotionally or 2) you go totally left wing, eg beating it constantly. So if your dog needs a correction give it one, show it the alternative behavior and reward it so it can learn what you want. Frankly I see positive only in a lot of cases the long way round the short path, and thats not good for the dog either.

    You need to keep it MOSTLY positive for young dogs. There still needs to be balance. A pup that nips gets a scruff or thumb under the tongue from me. A dog that bites me gets a decent correction for its efforts. A dog that lunges out to the end of the lead not listening gets a correction from the collar. Life is not one sided and the BIGGEST byproduct I see of positive only is a lack of mental resilience in modern dogs. They are not coping because they are not learning - they are being sheltered from reality because we are afraid of having them exhibit any stress reactions. It won't harm them, guide them through it, don't accept the tantrums and don't let the dog get one over you during it's experimental behavior phase. They come out better for it because you have shown them they CAN cope with emotional stress and come out happy. Really, it is the biggest problem we have and it's ruining dogs. It's why at my school no one is allowed to back out of basic agility (handled of course) or not walk over a surface, or not go through the tunnel. We help them over that stress they initially have and within a few minutes suddenly they're pulling their owners to go do it again because of the emotional achievement NOT the 'fun' of it.

    Kalakreek your dog is a totally different kettle of fish and you're right, that level of lack of recognition and reaction is genetic definitely. It is unfortunate but there is not a lot you can do with dogs that have such violent reactions, but good on you for sticking with her
    I think there are a number of aspects to all this. A lot of it depends on what you are training the dog for and your level of understanding. I think if you really understand positive it is possible to train a dog from scratch using almost 100% positive. I have seen some of our best agility trainers train this way and they end up with incredibly toy/reward focussed agility obsessed dogs that are also very well trained. They respond incredibly well to reward based training and shaping because they have been indoctrinated from the start.

    Most normal pet people probably do better with a balance. I am training a young pup for agility at the moment using shaping, a bit of luring, teaching her the concept working for reward and so far I am very pleased with the results and so far have not had to use correction.

    Although I absolutely do not tolerate bad behaviour from any of my dogs, but really they are such good dogs and they very rarely cross me. Things like biting or resource guarding, eyeballing other dogs etc are not tolerated and will most definitely get nipped in the bud as soon as it happens and I will use correction, I find usually once or twice does the job.

    With pulling on the lead, I guess one of the first things I teach my pups to do is to work at my side and I reinforce this heavily with reward, so lead pulling has never been an issue. I very much teach my dogs to come to a zone of reinforcement and also learn the release. I reinforce the release heavily as well so it is on cue. Pups learn this concept very quickly and I am continually reinforcing the behaviours I want. This gets the pup wanting to offer these behaviours. I took my pup to a busy trial and at 16 weeks old she was far more focussed with working in her reinforcement zone than chasing after other dogs and was easy to call to me which I found quite pleasing. I also train my dogs on different surfaces, tunnels, physio balls etc but again using shaping and reinforcement and I find them panting to experiment.

    It is a shame that new dog owners do get very confused which results in badly trained dogs that do as they please. I am really for whatever results in a happy, healthy and well trained dog.

  9. #19
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    Cementing good behaviors has to be done with positive reinforcement - you can't get away with it. As for agility trained dogs there is a big difference between a performance and the all round dog. I've seen plenty of dogs with good trick obedience with many behavioral limitations - reactivity, aggression, fears, hyperactivity etc outside the training field. Obedience is not necessarily a good indicator of allround behavior and manners. The two can intertwine, yes, and a high level of conditioned obedience can help you with behavioral problems. But unless you only pull the dog out of a crate to do obedience you need to look outside the square.

    As for your pup, you have to at least have used some verbal sound or withheld the reward at some time which is positive/negative punishment. You can't avoid it. All positive trainers use negative punishment otherwise you would be rewarding the dog constantly no matter the behavior. Most pups, even working pups, are trained in this way to build confidence and encouraged to participate in long session learning. Corrections come when the dog understands what is required and refuses, or refuses to comply or settle and it's behavior is impeding it's ability to learn.

    If you look at all of yourselves, you know you need an aspect of some form of punishment to prevent a behavior reoccurring. Thats what a punisher is, without it the behavior will come back, sometimes to bite you. Punishment is not just physical punishments like many people think, it is anything that acts as something unpleasant to the dog that prevents the behavior reoccuring in the long term. So the dog has it's head in the bin, you shout NO!! OUT! and the dog is shocked enough not to do it again. Your voice at that time was the punishment.

    Sure use positive only when teaching tricks and obedience if it works for you, no problems. I just spent 6 days at a seminar with two of Europe's most famous Dutch Police Dog Training trainers, and they showed us how they achieve such incredible results with their dogs. Reward is a heavy, heavy part of it, but there is a balance of punishment and also some compulsion to prevent the dog making mistakes and showing it from the first go exactly what you want from the dog. We tried it with our own dogs and I can tell you the results you get in a DAY are astounding with performance and how well the dog retains the information. THey also too believe that socialisation and training should be intertwined, how you act on the field is what you continue in real life. It's an overall lifestyle idea not just session by session training that dissipates. As for the reward, you should see how hard these dogs work and how mental they are over a finger sized piece of composite tube. That's it. WHen the dog gets it they grip it for dear life and will climb the walls for it.

    I teach all of my clients not to combine physical corrections like chains with things like verbal. What for? THe dog only needs the one and thats what the equipment is for. We've lost the ability to use the leash properly as well and thats why we're coming up with a million and one ways to take the long road to the same goal. If you correct the dog with equipment you immediately show them the right behavior, reward them for compliance and for focus. That's all.

  10. #20
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    When I train my sheepdogs I do use harsh and soft voice tone to indicate what I want and I will also use a long line if I need to on the stronger dogs. I certainly dont use toy or food rewards because I am putting context on their instincts, the reward is working sheep, but I dont mess around because you are dealing with live animals that I dont want to put undue stress on. Control is paramount.

    When I train agility I use food and toys for intensive positive reinforcement to capture what I want. I find once they get the hang of this I can withold reward and it seems that they dont seem view it as something negative, it tends to make them try harder. If they dont get it in a few witholds I go back a step because they clearly dont have a good understanding of what I want.

    As I said I certainly do use voice corrections if they have their head in the rubbish or whatever, it certainly has shock value LOL. I always have a sense of team work with my dogs. I aim to have fun and be fair and they know this, they also know that I wont tolerate nonsense. Really correction is not a big part of how I work with my dogs but I will use it if I need to. I think the important thing for me is that we know where we stand with each other. I try and be consistant so the lines are not blurred for my dogs.

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