Recently I became involved in a discussion about dog training methodology with friends and members of the CAPPDT. I felt compelled to write this post, hopefully I did it without judgement. I know I have addressed this topic many times in the past but it certainly is worth more than one look.
Do you know why someone would train a dog with force and intimidation if they thought it wasn’t necessary?
The answer is…I don’t think anyone would.
Regardless of anyone’s choice of training methodology, we are all united by our love of dogs. Think about it, if you love dogs but train with force, you absolutely must be armed with a litany of reasons why you believe force is necessary in order to satisfy that whispering little voice in your subconscious mind that keeps asking you “. . . what if all of those tree hugging, clicker freaks are onto something?”
Imagine if there existed a world where you can train a dog to do anything you desire; be the most amazing family pet you ever knew – better than any dog you have ever owned in the past, accomplish all of your dog training goals and do it in half the time it has taken you in the past; all without ever physically correcting the dog, or losing your temper while training . . . wouldn’t you want in?
Some of us live and thrive in such a dog training world. A place where dogs are neither blamed nor verbally or physically corrected. Yes, this world does exist. It doesn’t matter if you train competitive field dogs or bad-ass family pets; training this way IS a possibility for all.
It’s Not The Dog…
Perhaps you have seen others try to train without corrections and their dog was poorly behaved, it wouldn’t listen in the face of any distraction and their heeling in obedience could only be described as “sloppy” at best. Just because someone has tried and failed at “food only” training in the past doesn’t mean the “method is flawed” please entertain the possibility that the application of the dog training was the only thing that was flawed.
I know for me, my education is limited, my focus in dog training has been on what I love; creating an amazing family pet first, great agility, obedience or flyball dog next. So I don’t have all of the answers to every dog training problem. But I know there are many others out there that are also digging hard to find “a better way” in all areas of dog training. I also know that most of the methodology I use does transfer brilliantly to most, if not all areas of dog, horse, cat or even children training.
Geeking Out Dog Training
The following chart summarizes dog training as I see it. (Note: I recognize this does not take into consideration dogs with severe behavioural disorders but rather addresses the masses that we see every day in the world of dog training). Knowing that dogs learn through reinforcement, reinforcement is the key to all training. When people lose control of what reinforces the dog the only thing left is punishment. It is one or the other. As I see it, for the untrained dog, the need for punishment increases as the uncontrolled access to reinforcement increases.
Over the past twenty years I have been looking at dog training in this way, I feel there are two keys.
Key Number One:
The better you are at controlling reinforcement, the less you will need punishment in training.
In order to train to a high level of success in dog training, reinforcement is a key requirement. Dogs learn through reinforcement. If the dog has been allowed to continuously find reinforcement in ways that builds undesirable behaviours, then you either have to find something more rewarding (which may not be possible) or punish. No other options really. So here is what excites me;
The more creative you can become at developing, redirecting and controlling the reinforcement, the less you need punishment.
I choose to train with no physical or verbal corrections, therefore, I must be brilliant at knowing and controlling my dog’s reinforcement. It is an ongoing journey of discovery for me.
At one end of the punishment spectrum is the mildest form of punishment, that is simply withholding a reward when you don’t like what your dog is doing.
At the other end of the punishment spectrum would be considered abuse. Severe, life altering pain meant to create fear and completely shut down behaviour.
I think we can agree that no dog training program would promote punishment on this scale as a routine part of life. Generally speaking “traditional dog training” would punish on a level somewhere in between these two points, it would be fair to say every school would dictate their own tolerance or definition.
By training this way you can be sloppy with your awareness of what reinforces a dog. It just isn’t that important because you can fall back on trying to control the dog (through punishment) rather than teach the dog self control and to ignore all reinforcement that isn’t directed from you.
Now let’s examine what I mean by “access to amazing reinforcement.” On the low end, is a dog that lives in a way as I describe in my book “Ruff Love.” The dog earns all of his reinforcement and that reinforcement comes only through the owner. Now obviously this isn’t entirely possible as your dog will earn reinforcement from any person that pats him on the head or when he takes a drink of water in the kitchen. That is why, for my purposes, I see controlling access to “amazing” reinforcement as most important in particularly what your dog thinks is “amazing.”
At the far end of this “amazing reinforcement” scale is the dog that lives in a world without rules. This is a dog that steals food, toys, chases other dogs, squirrels or cats at will, barks non-stop to get what he wants, raids the garbage, the kitchen counter and of course, can be seen pulling the owner down the street on leash or knocking over the guests at the front door . . . you get the picture.
So what all this means is that if you think some level of “Ruff Love is too much work” you will be needing punishment to accomplish your dog training goals.
The better you are at controlling reinforcement, the less you will need punishment to train a dog.
Yes it is as simple as that, as Bob Bailey says . . “simple but not always easy!”
Key Number 2
The last key to training this way is that the reinforcement is used. Effective and efficient training has all reinforcement used as rewards rather than lures. The dog should be able to ignore all reinforcement until a time when it is earned. While training this way all amazing reinforcement has its origin as first an amazing distraction to the dog.
A Training Challenge
I put together this video clip to show some examples of what is possible. You can have three choices. You can obviously choose to not watch it:), you can watch it thinking “ya but this is a professional dog trainer” or “ya but this is a Border Collie” or “ya but this is an agility dog, or “this won’t work in my _______classes” (fill in the blank with Pet Dog or Hunting Dog etc) OR you can just watch this clip with an open mind to endless possibilities.
If you are currently a well-respected dog trainer that is using force because you feel you are working in a special “niche” that requires more muscle than what many of us are using, why not take my challenge. Become one of your industry pioneers. Do what others don’t believe can be done.
Think possibilities not limits.
Be the change your dog world is waiting for (even if they may not know it yet!).
Today I am grateful for all of you that will read this and dare to go against tradition and to look for a better way for your dogs and your students.
This is a nice article about dog training and it’s pretty useful for all dog onwers. Thank you for giving us the chance to learn something new! 🙂
Good post !! I appreciate with your article writing,here its my first visit and i found a great information here.
Thanks for sharing the pros and cons of various dog training methodologies along with the useful video clip. Dogs are just like human beings. Some are shy and introvert, whereas others are active and energetic. So the same methodology cannot be used to all dogs. A professional trainer needs to evaluate the personality of the animal before deciding the best way to train the pet.
I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
I don’t know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!
Such a great blog post, Susan. Every time I start to doubt myself in my quest to completely abandon corrections in my dog training, I visit your blog or YouTube page and remember that ANYTHING is possible with positive training! Keep posting!
Regardless of anyone’s choice of training methodology, we are all united by our love of dogs.
Undeniably consider that that you stated. Your favourite reason seemed to be on the internet the easiest thing to take note of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people think about worries that they plainly don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the highest and also outlined out the whole thing with no need side-effects , folks could take a signal. Will likely be again to get more. Thanks
Just wish I could figure out how to control the most amazing reinforcement for my dog – loose free game birds. I can put the birds in cages -but she can tell the difference just by smell. I’ve made much progress, but I have not completely eliminated “correction”. Still working on it. Open to suggestions for training a dog to work away, in a sport that penalizes a dog for coming back to the human (too many recalls (in the field) can result in a dog that comes back when they should be 100+ yards away). The dog must be absolutely steady on a bird walking around, stop if a bird flushes at her feet, retrieve when commanded and ignore that bird to find another one if so indicated.
Help would be great.
I do retriever field work and I live in the fields. I have chesapeakes from US FT lines.
Since they are pups I teach them to come and work on whisle. I teach recall and stop (sit). I use a lot of throw and tug. I never go without good treats and toys and whisle (we have a lot of heavy winds) and when ever I am out and let them play I work on these two. Inbetween I do some fun games, retrieve line work, search for balls and bumpers. So the dogs walk and see loats of value in me. (wanting the toy, treat and games). I will leash them when I have a lot of flushing game and dogs that will not obey with me (with friends)or when they are young when I have a bad mood day or there is so much game flushing that I see the adrenalin in their eyes. Then we work on basics on leash. If you work consistent, it is amazing how well it works and how much drive the dogs can outlive and still obey.
The whisle is important for distance and consistency.
Great article! Thanks Susan!
Is this post mainly directed at positive punishment, or at negative punishment as well? I will use negative punishment if my dog, for example, blew his 2o2o by just ending the fun.
Wow…thanks for the video. It kind of puts it all into perspective. I wish I would’ve known about you when my dogs were puppies lol. It does make me realize my dogs aren’t nearly compliant to my commands as they should be, although they’re alot better than most of the other dogs I know, it’s still not what I’d love. I definitely plan to work on this with them! Thanks for the inspiration!
I am very impressed by Swagger self control! Wow! He is definitively concentrated on what you ask him to do…And only 6 months old! Thank you, Susan. I am learning a lot from the brilliant recall, puppy peaks and this blog!
I just got back from a class tonight that I take my Aussie girl to. She has done phenomenally at home with just watching Susan’s videos and it shows! We were the only ones in class that hadnt “jerked” our way through heeling. Everyone was really impressed with her and I’m hoping this method will catch on at our class 🙂
You inspire me! I don’t even do agility, but I have your Crate Games DVD, Ruff Love and Shaping Success. Thank you for encouraging me to think outside the box.
And for those who think positive reinforcement training only works with border collies – http://youtu.be/6oYOe2Lgkfg
Here is a link to the Karen Overall Relaxation Protocol:
There has been a thread on the US APDT list about all the quadrants of training, including P+, need to be used in order to ‘proof’ a high drive dog in higher level training.
I posted this link. 🙂 And mentioned in the video that 6 mo old Swagger is doing some higher level obedience training.
I would love a follow up on Lee Baragona’s post.
A bit of background. I adopted a “rescue” mini bull with major issues. By 2 years she had been in and out of Vet/foster homes and had been to 2 obedience camps. Show her a choke chain and she froze- literally. Someone told me about Ruff Love and it did wonders for her resource guarding, recall and attention. BUT she will only listen to me. Unless my son or husband has something cool she wants she may or may not listen to them. This is added to show that I do think +R works.
Now I have a 130 lb year old mastiff that has not had much training/socialization.
Ruff Love is helping but it doesn’t matter what I have with me- steak, cat food, chicken what have you if we are at the vet’s or somewhere else he pulls and ignores me. How do you train for that without negative reinforcement as pulling to him to get where he wants is reinforcement to himself. (He does great in the yard and at home). He also has a huge prey drive and stays in a kennel when I’m at work to keep him and other things he considers prey, safe- no self rewarding by chasing and catching things he shouldn’t.
When your time is limited how to you get results quickly? Yes he is on the NILIF program but again listens to me only.
Any plans on a book for training others in the household to follow the dog’s needed plan?? :0)
I know this is a chat forum not a free advise column. I just wanted to agree with Lee that there are those of us out there that can’t/didn’t start with a young biddable dog and need assistance stopping a behavior with not necessarily giving the dog another behavior to do. ( I do realize that the mastiff needs to give me attention no matter what in distracting situations. What about his prey drive?? Always leave him in a kennel when I can’t be there to watch??)
As Chloe stated get the dog to play with you when a skateboarder rides by. Soon the dog will be looking to play when it sees a skateboarder….. what happens when the dog looks to play when it sees a skateboarder and there is no one to play with?? Chloe also asked what to do with the older BC who loved to chase wildlife- on leash for life? I guess that’s better than being coyote bait.
I too love this website for it’s openness and learning opportunities through sharing.
Stephanie, I suggest you check out “Natural Dog Training.” The founder, Kevin Behan, came up with a training method that can be used right along with R+ (or is it +R?) when it comes to the question of:
“What do I do with a dog with high prey drive?”
“How can I keep my dog from undesirable behavior when I’m away from home?”
“How do I get my dog’s attention in high-stress moments?”
Over time, the goal of NDT is to provide sessions where the dog can hold off on boring old hole-digging in the backyard while you’re at work — or where the dog prefers to look to you when it feels stressed by something (“energized”) rather than straining to get at the thing that will never be reached … the passing dog, the skateboard …
The dog is able to refrain from, or put aside, that temporary, unsatisfying release of energy (the naughty behavior) since it knows that it will have the chance to experience some truly energy-releasing games with you, the owner, even if it’s later in the day when you get home from work. The dog isn’t affected as strongly by stressful situations because it now has a higher tolerance for feeling energized (as one poster put it
… and while that might sound like “magical hooey” or “mumbo jumbo”, terms that R+ trainers have recently dismissed me with just as quickly as the dominance herding trainer above who yelled “Bullshit!” at the woman who asked the trainer to not touch her dog … it’s not impossible. But, as Sharon said above when quoting Bob Bailey, NDT is “simple, not easy.”
Now, I’m no NDT expert, but in a over-simplified sense, the methods are based on play and prey/predator behavior. The owner acts like “prey” and the dog gets to act the part of “predator.” The methods assume that beyond treats, beyond belly rubs, beyond praise, the thing that dogs WANT THE MOST is to act out the orient/eye/stalk/chase/grab-bite/kill-bite/eat behavior of wolves. Well, not the eating or the killing parts…
🙂 But everything else!
(note: for a great visual description of this behavior in our current dog breeds, check out page 199 in Coppinger’s Dogs. In fact, read the whole “Behavioral Conformation” chapter on dog breeds. No, read the whole book! e.g. retrievers show Orient/ Grab-Bite, herding dogs show Orient/ Eye/ Stalk/ Chase, hounds show Orient/ Stalk(mark)/ Chase/ Grab-Bite/ Kill-Bite)
Back to the point. You use games such as tug-of-war and “Pushing” (the dog physically makes contact with you, chases you, jumps on you … a substitute for “grab-bite”) to help the dog release its pent-up energy.
You start with a low-threshold of play, since most pups are uncomfortable with releasing that energy with their owners. No dog really WANTS to bite its owner, after all, whether “kill” or “grab”! Slowly, depending on how the dog handles the anxiety of “grab-biting” you (jumping at you, chasing you, tugging at the toy), the intensity of play is increased. The dog comes to experience a satisfaction in play that beats out boring old never-get-the-thing hole digging, or ho-hum walks around the neighborhood, or even the games that Susan plays with her pups in her training center.
I love what Susan is doing in the video. I would just suggest looking into the NDT methods to help take R+ even further, especially when it comes to highly-energized situations.
Thanks Susan, it is a great post – it’s one of those posts I will want to back to often for motivational uplifting or to use another term validation, for myself as much as anything! It’s a bit like a booster-like when you do a personal growth course and after a little while the effect wears thin and you meet someone who did the same thing and talk and you are right ‘up there’ again!
I have gained so much since I joined your blog group I cannot begin to thank you enough. Already I have a much greater depth of relationship with both my Whippets, but wait there’s more- the boys have a much better relationship with each other too and Connor (my younger boy) is coming out of his shell more and now he will even initiate play with Clancy the older dog who is definately 2IC of our ‘pack’!
We have had so many good responses from playing games and the value added stuff, and we have only been ‘here’ for about 12 weeks, if that!
I can only see our relationships growing and us 3 having even more fun in training and life in the future, as we are about to head off in a few days on a 7 month road trip-camping and bush walking I feel so much more confident that the boys will fully enjoy theexperiance as much I hope I will because of your wonderful blogs and training advice assistance – Thanks again Susan
I have found in my dogs that when they learn something new and challenging and different from what they know, they lose one of the commands they used to react to, while assimilating and getting muscle memory for the new one. It does come back.
That’s why it is good to vary what you repeat in classes and not keep the same sequence.
I’d like to challenge you, Susan, if I might, to offer your insights into a part of dog training that too often doesn’t get talked about. You’ve given us massive amounts of information on how to train new behaviors using positive reinforcement and a bit of -P, and it’s had a huge impact on dog training. However…again IMO, the place where this type of approach confounds people (both “trainers” and most especially pet owners) is when the owner needs to STOP or repress a specific, undesirable behavior. It seems to me that the average pet owner (not dog trainer, but just pet owner) has very few expectations of the dog…simply don’t do anything obnoxious. Many don’t really care a lot what the dog does do – so long as he doesn’t do anything that annoys them. I would love to see/hear your ideas on changing problem behaviors, as opposed to how to create wonderful new behaviors. You’ve tackled recall problems with gusto; maybe you could shift your focus to how to resolve everyday issues when it really comes down to eliminating a problem behavior, without a specific new behavior to replace it (as an example, eliminate digging in the yard, or jumping the fence, or barking at the neighbor’s cat). The owners are probably not looking for any specific new behavior to replace the problem one; they simply want to repress the undesirable one. The dog may have the run of the yard for several hours, so you’re not looking to ask him to do anything specific for such a length of time; you simply DON’T want him to do “X”. In a situation such as a dog being underfoot while you cook, it’s easy to replace the undesirable behavior with a new incompatible one of lying on his bed, cuz it’s not unreasonable to ask a dog to stay in one place for 30-60 minutes, and you’re in the vicinity to reinforce the desireable behavior lavishly. This is where +R flourishes. Not so much in the other situation where an undesirable behavior needs to be eliminated, for the sanity of the household and to keep fluffy from ending up at the pound.
I may have the minority opinion, but I’m not sure the masses of pet owners even want what you want, as far as turning the dogs outside and they stay totally focused on YOU. They want solutions that don’t require their perpetual presence (it’s easy to keep Fluffy from digging if you’re always out in the yard with them, keeping them occupied with incompatible behaviors). And there are certainly many who feel that crating their dogs a great deal, in order to ‘control the resources’, is merely a management technique that avoids the problem but doesn’t solve it and doesn’t improve the quality of the dog’s life. It just seems like these are the everyday situations where the positive trainers run into problems convincing the public to stick to their philosophy. If you could target these types of issues some day, and show us practical, timely solutions that stay within your philosophy, I think it would go a long way towards moving the masses of pet owners and pet trainers closer to ‘do-land’.
I would just like to make a small response to your post. Whenever I have participated in any puppy or beginner dog class (specifically, pet dog training, not with any ideas of going into any sort of competition), the owners are always asked at the beginning to make a list of what they want their dogs to do. They are often confused, at first, because so many are focused on what they want their dogs to stop doing. By looking at things from a different perspective, they can begin to see what motivates their dogs to do things, and how they can use this to their advantage.
lee, I’m glad you brought this up. But the more I think about those issues, and I have thought a lot about them because i want to be all ‘do’ i think in fact you do have to replace something you don’t want with something else. So that don’t chase the skateboard becomes look what i got come play. I think eventually though the dog will look to play when a skateboard comes along but it is a lot of work..I can’t get the average dog owner to stick with it long enough for it to work.Not to mention that most of the dogs I care for have never even been clicker trained or trained in a positive way, so there’s that for both owners and dog to learn. Susan??
@Sarah…rat terriers are often sound sensitive and soft tempered compared to what one normally associate with terrier temperament.
If you are using a clicker, try muffling the sound by putting it in your pocket or try clicking a ballpoint pen instead as the sound is softer.
Try your training sessions before feeding a meal or use cooked chicken for treats. Sometimes you have to experiment. Good luck!
“What the behaviorist correctly diagnosed was that the dog was giving me “position” but not relaxation when he was stimulated. He was then shaped to learn to relax and I worked with him for two weeks AT HOME in a controlled enviroment before we even walked down the street. As I was able to cue him to relax, we started back out into the world…”
I was intrigued by this. Can anyone say more about how you shape a dog to relax on cue? I often seem to find myself getting the “position” without the relaxation–i.e., my dog is barely containing himself from bolting, and we are right on the knife’s edge of control. I’ve had some luck using a hand touch to get him out of that “vibrating with anticipation” state, but I’d love to have a bona fide relax cue.
Awesome blog post!
If you can redirect your dog’s attention, it would be easier to get relaxation. If your dog is staring at something that is causing him to tense up with anticipation (another dog, squirrels, cars, bicycles) it will be impossible to get the dog to relax while he is focused on this other environmental stimulation. The dog needs to have his focus redirected. My Pete, unfortunately, is a car chaser. Ever since I brought him home at 8 weeks, he has focused hard on cars running by. I almost lost him while we were out hiking with one of my older dogs. He literally yanked the leash right out of my hand and tore off after a car. I don’t know how he survived that one, because there was a 2nd car following the one he was focused on. But the planets must have been in alignment or something, because he stopped right on the shoulder of the road, turned around and ran back to me and Annie. Since then, I have been working on redirecting his focus with tug games and tennis balls. He loves both, so he goes into a down automatically when a car goes by, and he quivers from head to toe with anticipation. I say “leave it” and then, “here” as I present the toy and run in the other direction. He is more than happy to leave the car and play a good game of tug or chase his tennis ball.
Dogs do what they enjoy. Dogs do stuff because it makes them happy. They are completely honest about it. Don’t expect your dog to relax if there is something that your dog wants and he cannot get to it. Know what your dog loves and use it to your advantage. Redirect his attention and praise him for looking away from whatever it was that was taking his attention away from you.
If you google control unleashed, read the book & join the yahoogroup, there are instructions there for something called the Relaxation Protocol which was developed by Karen Overall. The RP can be eventually put on cue (I use ‘chill’) or be paired with an object like a mat, or both. Takes time but it’s worth it – actually, the whole CU program is 😀
Thanks, @hornblower! I’m familiar with CU, but I’ve never tried the relaxation protocol before. I will check it out.
Not to hijack Susan’s great post, but Control Unleashed did change my dog’s life (and my training methods). The CU book doesn’t talk a lot about Relaxation Protocol since it was developed by Karen Overall (a mentor of Leslie McDevitt), but if you join the CU_Dogs Yahoo group you can read all about it in the Files section.
My husband and I just got a “rat terrier” puppy. She is only 9 weeks old, but I’ve taught her to tug and we are doing recalls all the time. She is fantastic, but because she is so very small, she is a little nervous about being too far away from me. I’m really trying to train using all positive methods and so far so good. I did discover she is afraid of the clicker and isn’t too keen on treats. I make my own, and have bought some as well trying to find something that really hooks her in. So far its a no go. I’m hoping this is just because she is still such a baby puppy, but it got me thinking. What do you do with a dog that isn’t really motivated by food and/or is afraid of the clicker? I took in an adult Border Collie rescue to foster and he was terrified of the clicker. We just left it alone because he was only a “temp” dog. But how do you address this type of fear issue? And when do you introduce the clicker to a pup? I love what you’ve done with Swagger and all your other dogs!! I’m following the Success with One Jump to train my young Aussie girl and we doing really good. So thank you for all you are doing Susan!!!
Susan, thank you so much for this. Lately, I have been feeling very discouraged by many reports that I have been getting concerning so-called trainers using not only forceful methods, but downright abuse (please google “colorado dog trainer arrested for abuse”). Personally, I completely converted to positive reinforcement training quite a few years ago, and I cannot understand why, knowing how easily these methods work, knowing how amazing the results are, why would anyone want to do things any differently???? I personally came into a conflict with someone recently, concerning my own young border collie, Pete. I was at a local farm, where we are invited to work our dogs on their sheep. An older woman who I did not know showed up and apparently, many of the people there knew her. The owner of the farm made a comment to me about Pete pulling me around. I tried to explain that he only does this when he is in new environments with a lot of exciting things going on, and before I could get a chance to speak about using methods such as not moving or penalty yard to stop this, I was interrupted by him saying that this older woman was a trainer and she could show me how to stop it. She started walking towards us and I stopped her, telling her that I only use positive reinforcement methods. She literally threw her hands up in the air and shouted “That’s Bullshit!” I was floored! Then, over the next week, I was emailing back and forth with the owner of the farm about training methods. Apparently, all the other people there were her students at one time or another, and they all believe that she’s right and I, and all other kooks like me, are wrong. After that, I am finding that there are way too many incidents of p-r trainers running into this sort of thing. The trainer that I work with told me she has been called all sorts of rude names, tree-hugger being one of the gentler ones. I really do not understand this attitude at all, but unfortunately, I think that this whole movement towards forceful methods has been fueled by the television show on National Geographic Channel. It is very frustrating to deal with.
The best way to counter the “Bullshit” lady’s comments is to prove by example how well non-aversive training methods can work. That means you have to work really hard with Pete to stop the pulling in ALL environments. Get perfection at home first, with few distractions, then take him someplace exciting OTHER than the sheep farm and use R+/P- skills to get reliable loose lead walking (so that the disbelievers don’t watch the intermediate steps which to them may not appear to be doing anything). I’m learning that we can’t just verbally tell people how well non-aversive methods can work, they always have some excuse, some example of a dog or type of dog where they just won’t work. It helps immensely if you “walk the talk” with a great, well-behaved dog. Of course, then the non-believers will still say something to the effect that your dog is one of the “easy” ones, but in your case, since people you herd with have seen Pete pulling you, seeing him now calm and biddable outside of the sheep pen will make an impression.
I agree with you 100%, Sharon! I remember going home after that incident and thinking the same thing – that I have got to stop indulging Pete and go to work! He has to become almost perfect, on and off lead, not only because that is how I would like for him to be, but because I need to make an example of him, to show that this works.
And I agree with you about the sheep herding crowd! I went to a clinic (audit) long before I got Pete and was horrified by how many of the people there treated their dogs! I found out later that this was an AKC obedience crowd who knew mostly nothing about herding and many thought they literally could beat their dogs into doing the right thing. Afterwards, I contacted Patricia McConnell, as I have great respect for her and know that she does sheep herding with her border collies. She reassured me that what I witnessed was not normal, however, when training herding dogs, you do have to intervene, often quite strongly, to get the dogs to ease up on the sheep. They are so strongly reinforced by chasing them, that they could really do some damage if you do not take steps to slow them down. i did find a very good herding trainer close by, happily, and Pete is doing well. Thanks for your response, Sharon!
I agree with you.
Positive was starting to catch on, and then *that TV show* came about, ruining our efforts.
Rachel, I find that some (many?) herding people are very inflexible in their training methods. To be fair, the stakes are a lot higher where there is stock around, but that said the best way is to just deflect the attention and then out do them at trials.
Personally I wouldn’t care that much at a herding (or agility) trial if a dog tows me around if they behave in the ring.
I agree with you, Ellen. Please see my response above to Claire, as I sort of responded to you, too!
I am very lucky, as Pete is a very athletic, intelligent and sweet-tempered dog. I really lucked out finding him! Now, I have to be that much better of a trainer to live up to his standards! I am so glad that I found Susan Garrett and this website, because everything that she has written or put on video or put out here on the web for us has been immensely helpful. Pete is starting agility, too, which he seems to love. I’m fired up to start him on the 2×2 weaves!
I read it with a pleasure. Really, with a PLEASURE.
So many instructors more than often refer to a “specific breed with specific drives which need physical corrections or electric collar”… Is anything wrong with a dog with high drives? Actually, it’s a challenge, yah, but why those instructors do not see other possibilities, do not give me and my dog a chance to try our road? The only thing they can is to blame for “ruin their merits in the super sport podiums”…
Thanks a lot, good topic. And tough one to defend in front of “punish method followers” 🙂
Milo is a fear aggressive rescue JRT mix that grew up in an abusive situation, with little or no socialization. The day we picked him up he tried to chew my hand off, and only escaped euthanasia by a last minute change of heart. Harsh correction was not an option; he was prone to emotional shutdown to the point that we took him to the vet, thinking he must be sick. Today, by using no corrections, I have one of the brightest, active, and most wonderful dogs one could wish for. For the past 2 weeks, during the process of moving our household 3 provinces away, I have carried absolutely no treats, and Milo has had no reinforcement other than positive praise and encouragement, and he’s still a wonderful dog!
As my agility coach is prone to say “just because we don’t use corrections doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences.”
Ignoring the risk of sounding like an attempt to sanitize negative reinforcement, perhaps for clarity sake a brief intro to the premise(s) of “startle training” vs. “do training”.
– “startle training”
Simple example being using an open umbrella to get a dog to move from instinctive to non-instinctive mode. The more the umbrella
is used, the more different ways one has to open the umbrella. Done enough times, the end result is the umbrella gets ignored; but the instinct to go after the other end of the umbrella is still there.
Motivates the dog to act in a self-directed non-instinctive manner!
So, the question for the typical training situation would then be, why should methods for dealing with instinctive situations be the choice of first resort for training/handling non-instinctive situations?
Isn’t it all about communication, and our responsibility to adequately deliver (people or animals)? Isn’t communication better received with sugar rather than vinegar and the info better retained?
I’ve trained the biddable(BC) and the headstrong (terriers) and my service dog, starting years ago with,IMHO, antiquated methods. I’ve retrained the older ones with a positive approach. Where they were obliging but reticent previously,their responses now are sharp and more consistent.
Susan keep at it. It’s important to us all.
Thank you so much Susan for sharing your philosophy and practice with us. I discovered your methods almost a year ago and am becoming more and more confident using them with the help of some great postitive trainers here in OZ. The difference in my 7 year old rescue who had been physically abused before I had him with the predictable baggage that created, has been fabulous, and my conviction to keep positive is growing weekly. You are amazing and I love thinking “What would Susan do?” when confronted with training challenges. I really want you to get “Under the influence of Say Yes” t-shirts as suggested in Recallers 2!!! I am challenged to trust my dog more and push myself to make him make mistakes, and use the DWDH as a building block, rather than be scared in case he shuts down. Your methods are so enlightening!!
Oh lady you hit it on the head with the most elegant of taps !!!
Please keep writing, please keep making videos, keep sharing them all over, keep that professional tone that is confident without being arrogant. The dog training world needs you Susan. The more of us there are that help show what can be done without force the better for dogs (and people) everywhere. I love that you do that with style and flash.
There hasn’t been a trainer that inspired me in a long time but I feel inspired and I love that feeling ! Thank you !
Best to you and your dogs…..
I am gaining more and more customers that used to go to other trainers because of the methods I use… clicker and the games I learned in the recallers courses and some of the ones I have created. My clients cannot believe how fast I can change bad behaviour and keep the dog’s energy high.
When I first got my dog, excepting the dogs we found as kids, I brought them to a class where there was a lot of leash snapping and forceful sits, and this didn’t sit well with me. I studied books by the Volhards and the monks of Skete, Stan Coren, Karen Pryor, and found, though the ages, trainers who believed in positive reinforcement.
The difference? With the old method, recalls were iffy because, once out of reach, correction was more difficult. With reward based positive reinforcement, the dog WANTS to be with you.
I was at the vet earlier today and was talking with the interim vet who didn’t know my dog or me, and was amazed at how well behaved he was for the xray, how he stood there so she could listen to his failing heart, and we started talking about clicker training and using it to train dogs and cats… the vet said she knew about it but was too lazy to try it, and I told her that if you could use it to train chickens, which are probably one of God’s most stupid animals, you could use the clicker for anything. I told her were to go to see my obedience trained cat on youtube, and I can’t wait to hear what she thinks.
The crate games have made my dogs and cat beg for training sessions. Using the RZ has given me a puppy who heels perfectly off leash, sitting when I stop, and her recall is amazing, with a natural finish. I only reinforced one side because I love competitive obedience, and the other side can come later.
Positive reinforcement training cannot be beat. Prong collars and shock collars might be needed if training has been missing for years and the behaviour is almost feral, but a little bit of time spent with your dog a couple of times a day, with consistent criteria and reinforcement, you can have a dog that is a wonderful partner in your life, if you put in the time.
One client asked me if I could train men as well…. I didn’t want to boast LOL
Great video and post.
I have been changing my method of training for the last 4 yrs. or so…I found out the “old” way of training was not working for me and my dogs, several yrs. ago I was kicked out of advanced dog obed. class because I refused to do the ear pinch on my dog, there were other methods that would work with him., I have taken both Recallers classes and now I am in PP, ….Patience is a virtue and I still need somemore of that plus some tape over my mouth every now and then LOL
I am very sad to say that I was one of those over-indulgent owners that had dogs that took what they wanted and lived without many rules. Because of my erroneous ways (always claiming “I just want my dog to be happy”) I lost the love of my life – my 1.5 year old got hit by a car while chasing a squirrel.
I am thankful that Susan not only points out that using punishment is not the route to successful dog training, but also the access to reinforcement is key.
I had to learn this the hard way – still crying over it.
I feel your pain. I lost a dog last year to a car because I did not limit his access to reinforcement, and I still kick myself for it and miss him terribly.
Thank you Susan. This is a great post and the graphs really help to explain the access to reinforcement/need for punishment continuum. My first competitive dog was a standard poodle who taught me that ‘force’ or punishment just made her more ‘resistive’ to the exercise we were learning. She was the dog in class that absolutely ignored the teacher who at that time was using a variety of the ‘old’ standby methods. Seemed all the other dogs were in awe of her and were always ready and willing to work for her. ‘My dog’ I said ‘was there to keep her humble’. My poodle, I believed, had to think the whole thing was her own idea or she refused to participate. Now I realize that controlling ‘amazing rewards’ was the ‘way in’ for this wonderful girl of mine and all the subsequent poodles I’ve since added to our home. The more I watch the Puppy Peaks videos, the more I ‘get it’. Have become much more consistent with the gang I have now and hopefully will soon add another puppy so I can ‘start right’ from the beginning.
While I have not read all of your blogs, I am fairly new to the site, I have read quite a few. I agree that this is one of your best. A real thinker and inspiration for those of us that are REALLY trying to cross over to do land. You did a beautiful job of getting your point across in a non judgemental way. When we have a rough training session and things don’t go as planned, it is not longer my dogs fault. It is no longer the end of the world. It is information from my dogs and that information is there to make me a better person, not just a better trainer. Thank you.
Susan, in my opinion this really is one of your best blog posts ever and I think the graphs are perfect. At least they make perfect sense to me. If there should be a new edition of Ruff Love I think it would be a great idea to add this blog post. People would be so much more motivated to stick to the program (because you can see on a glance how much sense it makes) and it would probably eliminate a lot of misunderstanding and confusion 🙂
@Anna-Maria excellent point!
This is a wonderful post! We’ve been doing agility for the past year with an instructor who has taken classes with you and so is very much into no corrections, physical OR verbal. We didn’t start training until my dog was around 4 years old. She was a rescue who showed all the earmarks of having been heavily controlled and probably trained with some punishment. It’s taken her a year but she’s starting to offer more and more behaviors and just seeing the difference in her whole personality is amazing. She just shines.
So thank you for this wonderful blog post because it highlights everything we’ve been experiencing for the past year!
I am a neophyte agility hopeful and have been trying classes in my area trying to find a teacher that “fits the bill.” (Susan, so wish you were in my area.) My most recent experience was with a trainer that, in the last class (and I do mean “last” – I will not be returning), took my 10 lb. dog by the collar with such aggression he was flipping like a fish to get away from her and when I called to her that “he’s a soft touch” her only response was “has this dog ever biten anybody?” followed by the admonishment that I baby my dog and I need to “treat him like a real dog.” (She did not relinquish her hold or try to calm my dog.) The next dog up for the exercise (an exercise which was designed so inappropriately advanced that NO ONE in the class could even come close to getting it right) was confused about what was being asked of him and started running “happy circles” in the yard. The trainer responsed by picking up a 3 ft pvc pipe and throwing it at him to block his path of travel, followed by tapping him on the butt with it, followed by tapping on metal crating to create a noise. My response to this intimidation in training is sheer disbelief, but, because I am so new, I wonder if my gut instinct is correct (that you can get the behaviors you want without intimidation and with a much softer hand that preserves the “relationship” and “bond of trust” with your dog). I did not go back to the class bc my overall feeling is that I have to protect my dog and that I don’t want to reinforce bad habits by asking too much too soon. I’ve decided that this trainer believes you’re not “treating your dog like a dog” unless you are correcting and intimidating the dog (which I do not ascribe to). Your video came in my hour of need and reinforces my decision to go it on my own and try to train for agility competition by watching and reading authors/trainers like you. THANK YOU SO MUCH. I’m certain there are slews of us who do not live in areas densly populated enough to offer us lots of choices in training opportunities, and it is a saving grace that you and other good trainers bother to try to document and make available to us good, humane, and effective training methods that build confidence in our dogs and reinforce the bond of trust with our fur children. Cheers to you!
This type of training is exactly why I developed a dog behavior and training methodology course (DBTM) at the Edmonton Humane Society. It includes providing scientific information on how dogs think and how they learn best. Wishing for the day that no one uses severe training devices for quick fixes. I challenge any ‘traditional’ trainer to utilize a clicker. Usually, they don’t understand the use and why it works. Dog training is about creating a relationship with clear communication so that you can work together to achieve the results you desire. From a nice walk to a working dog.
I use both positive and negative reinforcement in my training, which means that I utilize a prong/e-collar and also a clicker.
I see the purpose of both. Why limit yourself to just one method of training when you can get a better working dog by using both? I train police dogs and service dogs that have people who depend on them.
I found that training simply positive or negative in working animals is not safe or reliable, it creates problems in the future that can have drastic issues. By integrating both methods in my lessons, I have created an animal that has been rewarded for good behavior with perfect timing (clicker) and also corrected for bad behavior with perfect timing (e-collar). Communication cannot get any clear cut.
There is nothing wrong with being open minded. I have fantastic bonds with my dogs and they go on to do great things in their lives. I have grand champions in ring sports and narcotic dogs that have drug bust records.
I have been working for years with a very dog reactive dog who is quite the head case.
Since he is my dog, I am free to experiment with what works and what doesn’t. From my experience with him I know that (a) he needs a lot of structure and direction (b) as Susan has pointed out before, Corrections beyond basic limit setting (“let’s not charge at that dog” sort of thing) just increase my dog’s stress level. Corrections may temporarily suppress the behavior (which might help from a public relations point of view if you’re in a public setting), but they do not address the anxiety or the stress or the emotions, and every time you do that you risk making the dogs’ anxiety worse and creating a much larger problem of a dog that doesn’t give warning before reacting.
Susan (and Leslie McDevitt of Control Unleashed) is so great at keeping me thinking about what is possible. In the long run sticking with positive methods is what will get you further in your training goals.
Such a great blog post, Susan. Every time I start to doubt myself in my quest to completely abandon corrections in my dog training, I visit your blog or YouTube page and remember that ANYTHING is possible with positive training! 🙂
I love this article so much and I totally agreed with you. My first dog is a sheltie and she’s trained negatively for the first 6mths of her life. Although I’ve seen the amazing change of her attitude to work after crossing over to positive reinforcement training, sometimes she’s still afraid of making mistakes and offering behaviours. Recently, I’ve got a chocolate white border collie puppy and it’s so much easier to start with positive training. She offers behaviours and learns fast. Currently, I’m a full time dog trainer offering classes to dogowners in Singapore, teaching with positive reinforcement ie clicker training. I hope I can influence more people to turn to positive training. I’m also following Puppy Peaks. Thanks for sharing.
I have joined the Puppy Peaks program and am looking forward to learning from it.
Swagger already 6 months old?!!!!!!!! I can hardly believe it. My how time flies. And he’s doing such wonderful recalls, sits, downs, retrieves, tugging, outs and distraction work. I am clearly not getting that good results with any of my dogs, especially the instant out-of-the-mouth with the tug toy. This video gives me a lot to think about and strive for. In fact, all the videos help me remember better than the text versions of same. I know they are time consuming to plan and tape, but they are very much appreciated.
I find it very difficult to train a dog who is older than say 5 and who is very low energy.
I the last year I had a 6 year rescue BC in my care who was/is very very low energy and although I identified his preferred reinforcements, he didn’t seem to care if he didn’t get them.
I trained him not to pull which was a big one (the owner had tennis elbow at the time and was ready to let him go because she could not walk him without terrible pain) but I never was able to CONSISTENTLY get him to come back. His big big self reinforcement is wildlife at dusk especially. They have moved recently and he has taken off twice and is in danger because we not talking raccoons anymore, but coyote, wolves, etc. This is when things get murky for me. On leash the rest of his life (hopefully no one will forget for an instant) E-collar??? I recommended a detour to Canada and a few private lessons with you.
Great info – I am trying to think how to apply this to squirrel chasing.
One starter approach would be to get the dog to perform some action before being let out to get the squirrel — gradually building that ‘request’ to be of a value greater than the squirrel.
I had a JRT that was a very driven earth dog, very good at her job. She was also very good at obedience (before rally) and agility. Our training field was a haven for the neighborhood squirrels. To gain her focus we used the squirrels,or the chase I guess I should say as her reward. We started with a recall of the tree, just a look away at first. This was a major give for her so she got the greatest reward I could give her. A chance to do what she loved most, stare at squirrels. It took a few weeks but by the end of this work she would do a perfect about turn recall from a dead run any where after anything. And it started by giving her what she wanted most and controlling that freedom to do so. She was a very cool little worker, impressed be daily. Sort of made me feel like I was better than I was. lol She came to me as an older dog maybe 2, and was labeled as untrainable. Miss her a lot.
What you are describing is the “Premack Principle” where you reward one behavior by allowing the dog to do something s/he really wants to do. The cool thing about this is that it increases the value (and the probability) of the first behavior.
Me, too! And car chasing! (only kidding! I think we’ve pretty much got that one under control!).
I’ve seen a great example of what Susan is talking about in my youngest dog’s agility class. Most of us in the class are training our third agility dog. We all have experience with previous training in “unintended consequences” and are seen as “control freaks” by one lady who is new to dog training. She is really struggling with her dog and I think the underlying problem lies with the dog going to Daycare for the whole day 3 times a week. The lady spends the whole class “entertaining” her dog and still he wanders off, munches grass, chases others as he sees fit. He has learned that the world is a very rewarding place and that he doesn’t need his owner to enjoy every minute of it. Since punishment isn’t acceptable in this class and the lady doesn’t control access to reinforcements, they are not making progress and the lady is VERY frustrated and I expect we will not see her for much longer.
If she does leave, I don’t have to wonder what her summary will be. I expect she will say that positive training didn’t work with HER dog.
You can’t just train positively in class. You have to do the work at home in building and controlling access to reinforcements. This can’t just be public lipservice but needs to incorporate a “jump into the deep end” lifestyle.
With Maya my first dog, I used punishment and slowly learned a better way. Boy, I wish we could have a do-over!
I went whole hog positive with Apache. Too positive! Something we have been struggling with for years.
Now with Inca, I really strive for BALANCE. She is no Swagger, but she is perfect for me and I am loving our journey together.
“If she does leave, I don’t have to wonder what her summary will be. I expect she will say that positive training didn’t work with HER dog.”
And Bob Bailey would say, if it’s not working, you’re not doing it right!
Simple, not easy.
Just be careful using that word “Balanced”.
A lot of compulsion/punishment based trainers use that word to describe their approach to training… using check chains and pinch collars and rewards and calling it “balanced” 🙁
What an elegant testimonial video ! and post
There is one phrase that pops out of the page in your post — “without ever…losing your temper while training”
and this is so true !!
I believe that most all aversive type training occurs out of frustration. I believe that people get frustrated with dogs not being able to understand what is being asked of them. I believe that people get frustrated with dogs because the more that these people ask the dog for desired behaviors, the more the dog shuts down or tries to avoid the person because they are not very interesting. And I believe that these aversive type trainers do not like their ego being bruised, especially in public, so they will not tolerate an animal not doing what it is that they want it to do.
It is all knee-jerk reactions, no thought involved, because they have absolutely no idea how to go about opening a line of communication with a dog. It’s very sad, because it’s the dogs that get blamed for the person’s incompetence.
I couldn’t agree more with you Susan. I have two dogs, one puppy (1 year old, raised with positive training methods) and a 9 year old rescue boy, both are belgian malinios. The rescue boy came with some quirks and had been trained with negative methods – he was afraid to make mistakes. To overcome the quirks – for example: barking and spinning like a rabid dog when the coffee grinder was being used – my husband (with the patience of a saint) taught him to lay down and wait for a cookie until the coffee was made – no force, just patience and reward of good behavior. It has been amazing to watch the transformation of our rescue boy over the three years we have had him – he is more relaxed and happy knowing he won’t be punished for a mistake. I don’t think we could get the behaviors we want from him with force – it would have increased his quirky behaviors. The contrast between a puppy raised with positive methods is evident – the puppy offers behaviors willingly and does not give up if they are not the desired behavior – she keeps trying other things. It is hard to get that attitude if the dog is in fear of correction. Thanks for all your work!!!
I know that there are a lot of methods out there to use when training, but the positive reinforcement method (clicker training, etc) is the best for me. I don’t get that “bad” feeling that I use to get after training with choke collar, punishment, rough voice. I didn’t really understand then why I felt bad, but now I do. I was hurting the one that I loved so much. Now to see my puppy bounce around with excitment, look at me with joyful eyes, and learn things I never thought possible, causes me to feel GOOD about what we’re doing. When the positive reinforcement method works so well and makes pup and mom feel so good – why would we train any other way?
Deborah, I share your feelings. Years ago, when I was doing competitive obedience, I trained two of my dogs, both GSD’s, to do the “forced” retrieve using compulsion/correction. Nothing really nasty like an ear pinch, but basically shoved the dumbbell against the dog’s teeth til they opened their mouth and took it, praised them, took it out, gradually getting them to take it on the ground, then walking up to it to “take it”, and “punishing” by some quick heeling with setups for leash pop corrections if they didn’t pick it up. The next two dogs, my ACD Ringo and another GSD, learned by putting heavy value on the dumbbell with food association and lots of reinforcement for picking it up. The overall net result? Four dogs with extremely fast, happy retrieves! Yup, that’s right, the dogs who were trained with compulsion and corrections performed the final behaviour no differently than the two who had nothing but fond feelings for their dumbbells. Maybe it took a little less time to train with R+, can’t really remember. But I know which training method made ME feel a lot better about training my dogs, and dear Naduah and Tasha, I wish you were with me again so that I could tell you how badly I felt about every punisher I ever used with you!
Susan published another great blog a while ago, pointing out that P+ does work, but there are really only a few very talented trainers out there who have the timing to do it well, and who can balance it with a LOT of R+ (by the way, I don’t consider myself one of them, I think I just got lucky with the retrieves), but I believe her bottom line is: There IS a better way, FIND IT!
As happy current owner of GSD… I second your sentiment. There are multiple was to get to the same place. I like ME better doing R+ 🙂