Pre-test for the final grade?!?!

Perhaps I’m at my breaking point of stress but goodness gracious, if I hear one more person suggest using an e-collar, prong collar, or choke chain with a dog who simply has no manners or who is not focused… I just might lose my cool.  Poor manners and no focus are training problems that are easily worked on through positive reinforcement… really… you don’t need to shock the daylights out of your 6month old puppy because he’s choosing to pay attention to squirrels and not you while outside.  Focus and the desire to choose me over the other cool things happening comes not out of fear but out of being reinforced for making that choice over and over again.  My dogs want to focus on me… they want the opportunity to get reinforced for focus even in very high distraction environments.

It is just crazy the number of people I’ve run across recently who are shock/choke/pop first, ask questions later.  I ran across a woman handling a GSD while I was working Rio at a pet store.  The GSD was young and confident acting but was really poorly mannered–pulling like a freight train, not paying any attention to his handler, sniffing everything, and generally being a pain.  She was constantly yanking and popping (two different motions) on the prong collar and using forceful tones of voice with her dog.  I was actually there purchasing some training treats and ended up in line right in front of her.  Long story short, she approached me on the way out and asked where I took training classes.  She had been trying to train her dog and it wasn’t working and she was really frustrated.  I replied to this with a very simple question, “Well, have you taught him what you’d like him to do or do you just punish for what you don’t want?”  She thought for a moment and it seemed like a light-bulb went off.  She has been so stuck on punishing (pretty harshly) what she didn’t want that she hadn’t bothered to teach the dog what she wanted.  Maybe it’s just the educator part of me but it isn’t fair to punish a dog for mistakes when you haven’t told him/her want you expect–it’s like giving a pre-test and making that grade the final grade.

Mouthing, nipping, barking, pulling, humping, inattention, etc. are all behaviors that can easily be fixed without having to resourcing to pain and physical punishment.  I was body-slammed and mouthed pretty heavily by a 80lb rottie mix with not so good bite inhibition… this dog was as poorly mannered and pushy as they come (but was ultimately friendly).  The owners had been advised to use a shock collar to punish the undesirable behavior… they discovered that making a classically conditioned connection between people and pain is a dangerous thing to play with.  Their dog would sometimes withhold the behavior and then ‘out of the blue’ have and explosion of scary behavior (with no actual contact).  Their shock-first, ask questions later approach created a scary dog to be around.  After a few training sessions, they quickly discovered what a great dog they had and how far they could have come if they had only taught desirable behaviors instead of try and punish out what they don’t want.  Now they were stuck trying to fix the mistakes they made and let me tell you it’s a lot more work to fix a dog than it is to set them up right from the start.

I feel like I’m encountering this punishment heavy training more and hearing/reading this type of advice more and more … and it’s really starting to get on my nerves.  Though, I guess the upside is that those methods frequently break down and people ultimately need a trainer so I guess I benefit in the end.

And for ALMOST the last time… a GUILT-RIDDEN PLEAfor votes for Rio’s entry into the facebook contest.    He is slightly behind but still in the hunt to potentially be featured on local billboards.  So, if you’d like to see huge billboards of Rio (you’d have to know I’d show that off!) please take a minute and vote for Rio.

If you are a member of Facebook, would you please Click Here and “Like” Molyneaux, the sponsor and host for the contest (the contest raised about $1000 for a local shelter!).

Once you’ve Liked Molyneaux, you can “Like” Rio’s Photo  (if the link doesn’t take you directly there, it is located under their photos in the “10 Finalists” album). Voting Ends June 29th so it’s not a long campaign.

If you feel so inclined, I would both welcome and be totally appreciative if you would “share” his photo and voting info with your friends!

14 Comments
  1. Sorry not on FB.

    Sadly we need more dog friendly trainers who can educate owners. I felt we were in the right place to train Bailey when the first class we didn’t bring the dogs, but we came alone and spent the class learning about how our actions impacted our dog’s behavior. We had to learn that what we were communicating impacted the behaviors we were getting. As a teacher that made sense to me and it clicked.

    • Sounds like it was a great first class!! Glad you were able to find a class like that because you are right, although we are growing in numbers, “force free,” Clicker Trainers, Truly Dog Friendly trainers are sometimes hard to find!

  2. I feel I need to respond simply out of being a trainer myself. There are always 100 different methods to get the same results when it comes to dogs. The key is to find one that not only works with the dog, but also the people. I personally am not a treat trainer past a point. I do understand the benefits of it in certain situations, and will use it myself if I feel there is a need. But overall I feel much of what we see is people who simply assume their dog can think in their head and don’t understand why their dogs continue to “be obnoxious.” I do not ever fault the dog for negative behavior, 99.9% of the the time is is caused by the owner in some fashion, so my harder work is always with training the owner to speak dog and gain the respect, trust, and focus from their dog through ways they understand. Many dogs have simply never been taught to focus, settle, watch, or take their cues from people, all of those things can be begun when they are puppies and it just opens the doors wider for training later on.

    As far as e-collars go, I agree with you that you should not be of the mindset of “shock and ask questions later”. Or fry the dog every time they do something undesireable. Nobody including humans should have to “learn” through electrical stimulation. That’s just not fair. This is why we stress to clients or potential ones to leave it up to a trusted professional. I do believe they can be a great tool, but it is never even introduced until we have already taught the task to the dog, and it becomes an extension of the leash and a reminder that despite the leash being off they do still have to recall. I have yet condition a dog to an e-collar for recalls and not have it work for that dog. And they are perfectly comfortable with the collar, recalling and going right back out to run and play again. This includes breeds as small as maltese to labs and shepherds. Again every dog is different with training, it all comes down to finding a method that works for them. It’s about the way you use it, my dogs love their e-collars because they know it means they get to go run or hunt. To me it’s the only safe way to guarantee a recall no matter what comes up, especially with high drive dogs, or hunting dogs. It’s my safety net, to be able to stop my dog from entering a road after a deer or rabbit. But I will try a verbal first, and 98% of the time that stops them in their tracks. But sometimes they simply won’t hear that because they are dogs and are tuned out and tunneled in on that chase, and you can’t fault them for that. So in the right hands I do feel they are a good tool, it can not become a crutch (as I often see with people), or you create a collar wise dog who only will mind with it on. That means there is a break in your foundation between you and your dog and you need to do more work with the basics. There really is no difference in how my dogs listen as a whole with the collar on and off, but as I said it’s my safety net for that 5% of the time their brains turn into predator mode and they simply can’t hear me.

    I respect what you do, and the methods you use… if they work they work. There are always tons of opinions and methods out there, especially when dealing with animals. But there must be that mutual respect/trust between the handler and the dog or you will never accomplish anything remotely solid/balanced no matter what you try. And I think that’s an area where people often fail. They see one person doing something so they think they can do it too, without knowing all that must come first. A lot is also about simply being honest with potential clients about your methods. I heard stories often of places doing things totally different than they said they would, and honestly it’s sad that is the case but people really should do more research before trusting someone with their pet. It creates a bad name for certain tools and methods, that in the right hands I feel can be very beneficial to the dog and their owners. Seems like you see a lot of that, tools used the wrong way, and in irresponsible hands, and it’s sad that dogs have to suffer for it.
    Anna
    http://www.akginspiration.com

    • Anna, although from what I read you are using e-collars in the most appropriate and safe way as possible, they are still a tool that I have never found a need to use and honestly, I wouldn’t use for a wide variety of reasons. I’m not going to go into the reasons but I simply do no find them necessary to proof behaviors and they can cause undesirable changes to the behavior of my dogs.

      Unfortunately the number of people who use the tool in a way that minimizes the pain for the dog are very few and far between (and I live in an area that has an e-collar based training school so they are in the hands of professionals)… the people who abuse the tool greatly are the vast majority. Their dogs are shut down, terrified, robotic, afraid to MOVE unless told to do it.

      • I can understand where you are coming from with all this. I would never want the dog’s personality to change as a result of using the collar, and that’s not how we send them home. We do deal with a lot of hunting dogs here, and it can be an invaluable tool at times for them. But in the end you are not allowed to use an ecollar in an AKC hunt test, so you still have to have that mutual respect going for you even in a hunt situation, and I see that as a good catch for the tests. As I would never want my dog to listen simply because the collar is on, that’s not how I train. They should want to listen, despite the collar being on or off.

        I have heard of several schools of thought/training methods using the e-collar and it saddens me that people would even use them in such ways. Like I said, my dogs both have a great recall even without the collar, and depending on our run location I often don’t even have it on. And none of them have problems with their collars concerning mood changes, shut downs, or fear. Though i too know of people who have ruined their dog’s chances of seeing the e-collar as a good thing. Luna grew up dragging a long line for a long time, and we started Wyatt with that too. It really is about knowing your dog, and finding what works for them.
        I have no problem with other methods if they work for them, this is what works for us, and I do feel I have 2 very solid, happy, confident dogs… on and off leash. But after what you said, I can see how it’s not just about leaving it up to a professional, you have to do your research still and ask lots of questions. And a good training place should have no problem being honest and giving answers if they are in it for the right reasons.
        I appreciate you leaving this up, as I said I do respect what you do.
        Anna

        • I clicked reply too early on my last comment and was finishing it when you added this so i figured i’d just clarify and start a new comment…

          The undesirable change in behavior is two fold… one is that I have found (having worked with a number of dogs who were trained with an e-collar (probably not in the way you describe but they were taking classes from a ‘professional’) is that the dogs lose their ability to offer behaviors… they are afraid to try for fear of being wrong and being shocked. To me, and the way I train, this ability to TRY is so important. My dogs TRY things left and right because they trust that no bad things will happen for their efforts. Dogs who come from e-collar (or physical punishment in general) are often lacking this skill… and it takes lots of time to build up their trust and confidence to be able to try things. The second is an actual change in behavior.. becoming shut down, losing the joy of working, not wanting to have a relationship with their handler OR starting to have issues around electronic noises. A colleague of mine worked with a dog who had been put on an e-collar for jumping and humping issues.. this dog eventually started having huge aggressive displays when he heard electronic beeps (cell phones, alarm clocks, etc)… he had made a very clear connection between the tone/page and pain and so anything that resembled that sound caused him great anxiety and to react.

          There is a growing number of positively trained gun dogs who are reliable in field and working their way onto the competition scene (much to the disapproval of the e-collar community). It’s not a matter of CAN’T be done because it IS being done… but the people who are doing it are fighting an uphill battle with the traditionalists who won’t allow them to join clubs or work their dogs together without using e-collars. Most the the e-collar hunters I do know do it because they think “that’s just how it’s done” they have never even fathomed not strapping an e-collar onto their 10 month old green dog, or using ear pinches, or tying up the dog (all while under the direction of an “expert”–because there are no regulations to the training industry, anyone can call themselves a trainer whether they know what they are doing or not. So even if under the guise of trainer, there is no assurance that trainer is as well versed in the tool as it appears you are, for example, which increases the likelihood of misuse).

          I am not the person who will say people who use e-collars are abusive or bad dog handlers… many of them do it out of love and/or fear of losing a dog in a horrible accident and I can relate to that (though there are others who do it for less understandable reasons). But I will also stand up for what I believe and I simply don’t think e-collars are necessary (I haven’t had a dog that couldn’t have their behaviors reliably resolved without an e-collar using all the other tools in my toolbox) and because they can be so damaging (both physically and mentally), I really don’t think they should be available for John Q. public to just purchase at any pet/sporting store.

          OF COURSE i’m going to keep your comment up! It would be really wrong of me to censure you or hide behind my god-like ability to make your comment disappear LOL! I’m comfortable enough with what I do to be able to respond respectfully (or I hope it has come across as respectfully) to someone I disagree with.

  3. I totally can see where you are coming from, and have seen examples of situations you speak of with changes in behavior, not wanting to offer something etc. If you do not have that trust and foundation with your dog any tool can become a bad thing. I have read about the clicker/positive based hunters, and hey if that works for them so be it. I also know some dogs that do not even want food in a hunting situation. My own for example would tune me out because they want to be out after that bird so bad. Every dog is wired different, but I have read up on that method. You really need to be on top of your game when using a clicker as if your timing is the slight bit off for a clicker savy dog you can be creating behaviors you never wanted or will have to un-do later thus reducing the reliability of that “behavior/command.”

    And like I said, even though I may use the e-collar some during hunt training, it is my last resort, and it is never used when there is any doubt whether the dog understands what I am asking. I am a firm believe that it should not be used to teach anything, and should not become a crutch for you because you don’t want to put the time and effort in to really train your dog. But unfortunately that happens all the time, it’s our society, training is work and we often either don’t want to do it ourselves or sell our dogs short by not setting the bar high when they come home. I always tell clients I rather have them work with the dog without the e-collar to resolve issues before ever even using the e-collar for it.

    A big reason we promote the e-collar is also because it allows a safe way for owners to really run their dogs and feel confident that they can get them back if they need to for safety. I like the 95 % 5% rule. Even if your dog is a master of obedience, very loyal, extensively trained, and you have a great bond with them… they are still dogs. There is that 5% in there that we can never get rid of, nor would we want to (IMO) that can’t really be trained out. And i feel this holds very true for my own dog Luna, I have worked with her a lot over the years, and even my boss says she is probably one of the most obedient dogs he has ever met (and he owns 6 of his own) but she is a hunting dog, and I need to be able to cut through that drive if need be, but it’s my last resort.

    I also agree and think John Q. should not be able to buy an e-collar, and start using it. nor a prong etc. I have actually run into people who have bought them and just stuck them on their dog assuming it’s some magical tool… and in response to learning this I said “well did you ever teach your dog how to “come”??” and as you guessed the response was “no”. I hate hearing things like that, and it just makes me sad. Honestly I kinda wish people would have to take a class on behavior or training before they can even get a dog, let alone breed one etc. But that will never happen, and as you mentioned there are no guidelines/rules about being a trainer. And while this is freeing for some with natural talents, it also spells disaster as we both are far too aware of.
    You have come off as respectful, and I hope I have given you hope that not all e-collar users are bad. I know there are other ways, but it’s that 95% rule that keeps me with this method. And hey if it does not work for a dog, that’s fine. But they will not ever go home ruined/shut down/fearful/robotic because of the way we introduced it.
    Anna

    • I’m not trying to change your mind or change your views at all, only give my response to people who are reading the comments. Since, well, this IS a positive training blog I’d like to give responses to the concerns you point out because there are some common misconceptions mentioned… but I only have time for one so i’m going for a big one.

      Food is the only thing we use as rewards is a huge misconception that is frequently talked about. I use whatever is reinforcing to my dog at the time… during the dead of winter, rewarding a dog with a swim… not so much rewarding…but rewarding my dog with a swim on a 90 day… is very reinforcing for them. I know what my dogs LOVE, what my dogs LIKE, and what my dogs LOVE but only in certain situations. I am most often using food when teaching a new behavior or in a class (because it’s quick, easy, and precise and not terribly distracting to other students)… in the real world, there are many other things I use as rewards–access, tug, fulfillment of drives, etc.

      Shayne is a dog who has a crazy amount of drive… she lives to work. When she is working in drive mode, I rarely use food rewards because it isn’t that reinforcing to her at that point. The reward for responding while in drive is getting to continue to work and fulfill that drive… because she loves work more than anything when she’s in drive mode, it also allows me to send a very clear message about behavior I like along with inappropriate or undesirable behavior.

      If she has a flagrant lapse in responding while in drive, her punishment is loosing access to her work. Knowing what she LOVES allows me to very effectively reward and punish while in drive without the need for physical pain/discomfort. During an entire frisbee routine, for example, shayne does hundreds of behaviors reliably… but the only thing rewarding it is me throwing another disc (and verbal praise/marking)–the continuation of work and fulfillment of drive is way more reinforcing than tossing hotdogs. The same goes for flyball and agility dogs.. most of the time they are not working for food but instead are working for tugs/balls that allow them to fulfill and continue working in drive. While in drive, nothing matters to Shayne except her job… not pain, not food, not lovin’… i use that to my advantage…. I can allow access to her work as a reward and I can take it away as punishment. I’ve seen a single punishment, of ending the ability to work for a period of time, send such a clear signal that it hasn’t happened again.

      Like I said, I have no bad feelings about people who use e-collars… it’s their choice how they handle and work with their dogs. It’s just not a tool i find at all necessary to have a reliably trained dog and I want to let people know there are alternatives.

      • I didn’t mean for it to come off as positive = food. I am fully aware and have used the techniques you speak of with not only my own dogs but some others. Some dogs really could care less about food in different situations. Like I mentioned with Luna in the field, she just wants to get back out and hunt. Which is similar to Shayne wanting to get back to work. And for others it has been getting to play with a toy, or as you said tugging, or even simple verbal praise. I get that. Heck I probably will be using many of those things when I start agility with Luna. I have nothing against it really, I am aware there are other ways to train, and I have nothing against you for the way you train.

        I think in a lot of things we are on the same page, or are at least aware of the same things. Lots just tends to get lost in written forms of communication. I hope this whole response chain helps educate people, as I am all for that. I know what motivates my dogs, and I do use that to my advantage.

        Have you ever had one of your dogs run off after wild life? I think we also have to acknowledge how much knowledge you have, how cautious you are before moving to the next stages of training, and the relationship you have with your dogs from all the time you put into them. Similar to my own, but the average person does not typically fulfill their dog as much as it appears you do, and thus their recall would not be as reliable, what do you do then? And they tend to want to jump too far too quick with their dog because they see me do it, and assume the dog “knows” it then. I’m not saying the e-collar use is then justified, like I said my dogs are reliable off and on the leash/collar. But this human factor with most clients does complicate things. I’m not trying to be the devil’s advocate, I really am interested in your solution to that. I am always trying to stay educated with all this, as dogs often call for creativity in training.
        Anna

      • (apparently I can’t reply to your last reply for some reason…. it may end up below this comment–the 4:03pm comment you wrote)

        Oh I figured you were well aware of the different motivators for different dogs–it was more for others who may be reading this comment thread to clarify since it wasn’t totally clear.

        I do think we are both aware and can ‘see’ the other person’s perspective (and have been been quite respectful… gold-star for us!). I may not agree with what you say but i can see WHY you say it and the reasoning behind it.

        Rio’s a sighthound mix, OF COURSE he chases wildlife LOL… like all the time (he has daily squirrel chases in our yard… squirrels apparently don’t learn so well LOL). The word “Squirrel” is like the f-bomb in our house because if you say it Rio starts whining like crazy and running to all the windows to find the squirrel. I take him for regular off-leash adventures on a friend’s non-working farm. I have enough trust in him to allow him to go well out of my sight and know he is is going to recall. He’s chased deer, turkey, squirrels (actually caught one the other day), chipmunks, and just yesterday a chupacabre (okay maybe not a chupacabre but it was something that was larger than a squirrel smaller than a large raccoon and had a long tail–I had no idea what it was so I didnt’ want him chasing so I recalled him as he ran towards it and he came bounding back to me for the opportunity to get jazzed up [drive building side thumping] and released to go back to chase whatever I called him from [after it was out of sight]). He’s never failed to recall because i’ve done everything in my power to teach him that recalling means only magical things will happen. When we go hike he is frequently out of my sight (probably chasing chupacabres for real or hunting out chipmunks!) and I absolutely trust him to either come back and find me at his leisure or to run back to me when I call for him. It’s been quite the process to build that up (particularly for a high drive sighthound mix [he’s got all the chase drive of the whippet PLUS the “no, i’m doing it my way” nature of the cattle dog] but its’ great to have that type of relationship where he can be out of my sight for several minutes… and I really don’t worry about him.

        Susan Garret just offered a Recallers 2.0 class that may be of interest to you if you want to see a new perspective of how to achieve amazing recalls and off-leash focus (I have no doubt her games could improve my recalls which I would say are very very solid). It’s an e-course but I heard AMAZING things about the class–it was well out of my price range but if i ever get the chance i would jump at it–I’d LOVE to learn what she does because I have no doubt i’d learn lots of new things and get even better focus from my dogs.

        I do hear you that you and I are “Dog People” not just people who like dogs. We are probably a little obsessive (i know i should just speak for myself but i’m making an educated guess). The more you (general you, not you, you) work with your dog (regardless of methods used) the better results you are going to see. If people are not consistent with e-collar training they will not get the results… if people are not consistent with clicker training they will not see the same results. It takes work to train a dog and to keep the behaviors fresh and reliable…

        p.s. I think this has been a great exchange.

  4. Lol this is kinda getting out of hand… I think you get my points so I will stop. Thanks again for letting me say my piece.

  5. It always helps to hear what actually has happened with trainers and their own dogs. I trust Luna out of sight too, happens all the time and she comes back with my verbal. I know I set that foundation as puppy while I hiked with her. Wyatt is even better as he is less energetic in his running and is food motivated more than Luna outside. Luna rather just go back to exploring, he actually wants the food more than that usually.
    I agree that we have done a good job handling how we respond. Being into dogs and behavior and training as much as I am, it is easy to get fired up about it. But in the end I think we want the same thing for dogs and clients, and that’s ways to fulfill the needs of the dog (and owner) to have a happy, healthy, and balanced dog. I probably would be considered obsessive by my Mr… but not some friends I have (funny how that works huh). Anyway, I try and keep it in balance with other hobbies as much as I can, but Luna is a big part of my life and a big responsibility.
    I hope people have learned something through our discussions, I enjoy “talking shop” with people who are educated and have done research to come to the conclusions they have come to about dog behavior/training.
    On a side note, Luna and I have our first agility class tomorrow at the breeder’s house. I have to think of a way to become more wacky/crazy/goofy than I already am with her… ideas? Hopefully she will be able to have fun despite being in season right now around so many boys… or maybe I should be hoping they can focus with her around.
    Thanks again for the discussion
    Anna

  6. UGH. I may be at that same pivotal point you talk about here.

    At my work, force/dominance/intimidation techniques are all that are used, by all staff members (six) except for me and (almost) one other. Today, my manager insisted that I knee a 6 mo old Golden in the chest to teach her not to jump on me. She was jumping on me and I wasn’t reacting because it didn’t hurt me and it was pretty typical for a puppy her age. I told him I wouldn’t do that to a puppy and he said that’s how they learn, and I said, I won’t do it and walked away. A few hours later, I went into the puppy’s play area and began VERY basic no-jump positive techniques – ya know, turn your back/say nothing/do nothing else. Within, I kid you not, three minutes of this, Maggie was sitting a foot away from me and asking to be petted. Then she leaned into me and let me stroke her neck for at least two minutes. Precious girl.

    The thing that has me at the breaking point though is the fact that the punishment techniques were used on my pup today. Elli was pushed off a fence (I told my co workers that she would/could jump the 4ft fence if they walked away from her, and lo and behold..) and pushed away (when she jumped up for attention — even though she knows not to do it — the girl gave her attention and Elli wanted more, harmless). Thank GAWD Elli has a kind heart.

    Anyway. I just wanted to sympathize.

    PS: your very rational question to the lady with the young GSD was admirable and I’m going to save it for future reference in my head. 🙂

    • Ugh…. that would make it very difficult for me to work there as well… glad you were able to get the SIT without having to knee the pup in the chest. Well done!!

      Poor Elli!! What a good girl to take it in stride! that would bug me like crazy!!

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