Pressure and Stress in Training
Lets talk about pressure and stress in training.For the purposes of this thread I am going to define stressors as anything ranging from physical pain, environmental pressure (slippy floor, pool of water, loud noises), to handler corrections.
The fad in dog training these days is compulsion free training. You commonly hear statements like "I train without force, fear or pain" insert satisfied expression and a back pat.
Moving beyond the emotional nature (obviously intentional) of that statement, lets drill down on the truth.
I ask is this truly a viable or realistic outlook on training? What do pain and fear really mean? It could be different things to different dogs. Are we really doing our dogs a favour by not exposing them to these stimuli?
Pain and fear can be ellicited in just about every species of animal including humans by stimuli that trigger chemical processes creating the physical and mental stimulation we identify as "pain and fear".
Why do humans and animals have these reactions? Obviously to facilitate learning that contributes to an individuals chances of survival and success.
A mother dog will physically discipline her pups elliciting pain for socially unacceptable behavior. The pups feels the pain, ceases the behavior and is less likely to do it again as it fears the consequence of pain for the negative behaviors.
Thus the pups are more likely to avoid the socially unnaceptable behavior and are more likely to be successful in a pack environment thus increasing their chances of survival.
Lets take it further:
Human mother sees her child playing in the road, she grabs the child, scolds her and sends her to her room. The child who can make a clear connection between her actions and the punishment she recieved for them (scolding and timeout). She is less likely to repeat the behavior as she FEARs the loss of her freedom. In addition she fears another scolding from her mother as it causes her emotional distress.
Lets translate this to training.
Every trainer has different goals, reliable pet obedience, sport competition, LEO work, PPD type training etc.
The importance of reliable and accurate task completion varies from life or death to losing a point for a crooked sit.
Im going to assume everyone on here knows and has an opinion about how effective or non effective punishers are to the training process be it in the learning or proofing process.
What I am going to put out there is an opinion that is held by certain trainers that stress and pressure in training administered fairly and clearly not only create a more reliable dog but an overall stronger dog.
-The dog is more confident in his work as he fully understands the task and expectations surrounding its completion.
-The dog has encountered stress in the training process ranging in intensity. The dog has learned to overcome the stress (whatever it may be) and complete the desired task thus removing the stressor and achieving the reward.
-The dog is better able to handle the stressors it encounters in daily life and continue to function effectively even if they are dissimilar to stress the dog was exposed to in the training process. This is because he is somewhat desensitized to the chemical processes that stress induces. The added effect being stimuli that used to create stress such as low intensity pain or loud harsh noises no longer have any meaningful effect on the dog or his work.
-The dog is more forgiving of handler error or induced stress and will be able to function effectively through it.
-In the context of real work greater levels of stress will weed out lackluster candidates and improve the gene pool and end product (see KNPV)
-The bond between handler and dog is strengthened through the learning process and trust is developed through overcoming barriers be they physical or mental.
Ill use another analogy. When we train for competitive sports (hockey, football, MMA) we expose ourselves to stress, pain and often as a byproduct fear to varying degrees.
When soldiers or LEOs are trained there is mental, physical and emotional stress throughout the training process.
In both groups despite radically different end goals overcoming stress creates mental and physical toughness and derives a stronger sense of self confidence. As individuals they become effective in the completion of their target tasks.
In relation to working or sport dogs, we want our dogs to be king kong, save lives, protect your home, fight the man, overcome environmental pressure etc. How do you square not exposing the dog to stress during training and development while maintaining the above expectations?
Obviously how much pressure or stress a dog is exposed to during training will depend on the dog itself, the desired outcome of the training and the handlers skill as a trainer.
I am not saying that all stress and pressure is GOOD nor is it all BAD but to ignore its value to the teaching and development process ignores evolution and what is inherrent in all intelligent creatures.
Bastian the Beast
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Last edited by Blitzkrieg1; 03-07-2014 at 01:34 AM.