Prong during desensitization - does this make sense to you guys? - German Shepherd Dog Forums

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Old 11-27-2012, 06:18 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Prong during desensitization - does this make sense to you guys?

Hi guys,

It's been some time since I've been around this forum. Due to lack of socialization (only met a few play pals) plus a few past negative experiences with some other dogs (tried to attack our dog), our dog became dog reactive.
So before taking him to a trainer, we have tried to use high value treats and redirection to get his focus whenever we saw another dog, but maybe around 2 months passed and things only got worse. Due to our lack of knowledge, we went to a trainer. He suggested us to try the training collars, and he was not convinced when I've tried to suggest him some positive methods, so in the end we gave the choke/prong a try.

So long story short... our dog became reactive towards other dogs since he feels unsure of the dogs he never met before. He would go to them and act controlling, while he's unsure of the situation.
We've tried desensitization through gradual approach to another dog, by reinforcing the good or neutral reactions and correcting the bad reactions with pinch, while in the end we would allow interaction between the dogs (with the other dog being friendly and calm) - for easier reference in this topic, I'll call this the gradual approach method.
We've done this method a few times, and it was working, since in the end our dog ended up understanding that the other dog is actually good and doesn't need to feel unsure about it (instead of only repressing the reactivity, we allowed interactions to cure the underlying insecurity). He even began to feel safer and more positive towards other dogs he sees in the training camp, even thought he didn't meet them.

But then before the training could successfully cure the underlying insecurity, our trainer ended up focusing more on repressing the reactivity rather than allowing more interactions.
After a while, since the training wasn't helping anymore, and then there were things I couldn't agree with the trainer (he can be unnecessarily harsh and too harsh sometimes), I've decided to quit the trainings.

After thinking for a while, I think that we should still try the gradual approach method, but instead of using pinch collar for corrections, we would use distancing as punishment (since approaching and interacting with the other dog is what is most rewarding for our dog). I'm considering to contact a positive trainer to see if we can do this kind of training, since I can't do the distancing part without a controlled training environment (outside the other dogs are in constant movement and reactive as well). I've heard that this trainer does allow play time (after reactivity being improved).


But what I wanted to ask you guys is, does the gradual approach method make sense to you?

I'm asking this coz I've been arguing with a few people who does not support prong, and it seems that they can't understand how it can successfully help in desensitization exercises. I've explained a lot of times that it works since we are not just repressing the reactivity but also reinforcing the good reactions plus allowing final interactions (which is the real cure for the underlying insecurity that fuels the reactivity), but I'm being told for a few good times that incorporating a prong only makes dog associate the presence of other dogs as corrections, and not able to teach the dog that it was them reacting that gets them corrected.
I've explained to them that there's a difference between only correcting and correcting for whatever reason every time we see another dog, and only correcting whenever he reacts while we reinforce and allow final interaction, but to no avail.

I've been wondering if the misunderstanding between me and these people was coz the gradual approach method with corrections incorporated is not something usual or if I didn't explain it well, so I wonder if you guys can share what you think, since in this forum, the views of prong is more balanced and not viewing it as some kind of old school harsh torture device.

Also, did any of you do something similar?
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Old 11-27-2012, 07:32 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Gradual desensitization makes a lot of sense. I was not able to fully get the dog comfortable with other dogs that way but it went a long way and took a lot of time.

I did desensitization first no prong. And rewarded good behaviors, ignored bad and slowly decreased the comfort zone. The distancing approach you suggested. I did not expect this dog to have close up interactions or play with other dogs, just behave around them and not freak out. It seemed we made good progress until the other dog was a few feet away then stalled at that distance.

I did, then, use the prong after the same dog became fluent in attention and heeling excercises and taught him those, later using the prong to correct non compliance (breaking eye contact with me). Then walking him past other dogs....we slowly decreased the difference and I always put him into an obedience routine. Never expecting interaction. Actually I do that with my current young dog who has zero fear or reactive issues. I want him to not find other dogs interesting.

My understanding with using the prong to correct reactivity once the dog has already reacted is that he is already in drive and all that will do is make it worse if he is a strong dog or shut him down if he is a weak one and reinforce his attitude that other dogs are bad and not fix anything. It may look good on the surface but does not cure anything.
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Old 11-27-2012, 07:59 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jocoyn View Post
My understanding with using the prong to correct reactivity once the dog has already reacted is that he is already in drive and all that will do is make it worse if he is a strong dog or shut him down if he is a weak one and reinforce his attitude that other dogs are bad and not fix anything. It may look good on the surface but does not cure anything.
What a nightmare to be going through with your dog. I'm sorry to hear about the negative things that have happened.

I agree with was jocoyn has posted ... especially what I "quoted." You need to be careful because you're not sure what you are doing, and you could make it worse.

It's very difficult for someone on here to give you advice regarding aggression - we can't see the dog's behaviour / how you are handling the dog ... so to give advice could be detrimental.

I would suggest ... if possible, finding another trainer (SIGH ... I know I know!!!) It's not easy, and sometimes it's a step or two backwards. I went through three or four trainers with my first dog before I found someone I really liked.

Hopefully someone will be able to point you in the right direction for a solid trainer.

Good luck,
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Old 11-27-2012, 09:04 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jocoyn View Post
Gradual desensitization makes a lot of sense. I was not able to fully get the dog comfortable with other dogs that way but it went a long way and took a lot of time.

I did desensitization first no prong. And rewarded good behaviors, ignored bad and slowly decreased the comfort zone. The distancing approach you suggested. I did not expect this dog to have close up interactions or play with other dogs, just behave around them and not freak out. It seemed we made good progress until the other dog was a few feet away then stalled at that distance.

I did, then, use the prong after the same dog became fluent in attention and heeling excercises and taught him those, later using the prong to correct non compliance (breaking eye contact with me). Then walking him past other dogs....we slowly decreased the difference and I always put him into an obedience routine. Never expecting interaction. Actually I do that with my current young dog who has zero fear or reactive issues. I want him to not find other dogs interesting.

My understanding with using the prong to correct reactivity once the dog has already reacted is that he is already in drive and all that will do is make it worse if he is a strong dog or shut him down if he is a weak one and reinforce his attitude that other dogs are bad and not fix anything. It may look good on the surface but does not cure anything.
Thanks for sharing. Did you only introduce the prong after the dog is used to another dogs' presence, so that he wouldn't associate the corrections with other dogs presence?

About the last paragraph, would you still think that it wouldn't work if we are only correcting low to mild reactivity (like growling, tense glares or pulling), while not allowing reactivity to escalate more than this by controlling the distance? Wouldn't it work if the reactivity is not very high and we correct it with the proper intensity?
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Old 11-27-2012, 09:19 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Woolf is FA. He is on a prong, only corrections given is for non-compliance, never for reacting to a dog. If he is reacting to a dog, I didn't do my job and redirect him before it escalates. At that point I need to move him back, regroup and start again. What I do is at the first sign of tension, whether it is a hard stare, ears up and forward, mouth closing or just body tensing up; we go into an obedience routine. It's kept fun and he is kept moving, command is given, if he doesn't comply then a correction is given. This is a dog that at 100 ft went ballistic at seeing a dog, to now 10 ft is normal before reacting and in some cases now is meeting dogs.
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Old 11-27-2012, 09:24 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I am in synch with Twyla's response.

If you are at the point where reactivity is occurring I think you need to back up to comfort zone where it is not. The obedience was made firm in the absence of other dogs first. I am fortunate in not having to deal with this for a number of years, too...........so I am sure there has been some loss of my memory on this topic over time.
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Old 11-27-2012, 09:25 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twyla View Post
Woolf is FA. He is on a prong, only corrections given is for non-compliance, never for reacting to a dog. If he is reacting to a dog, I didn't do my job and redirect him before it escalates. At that point I need to move him back, regroup and start again. What I do is at the first sign of tension, whether it is a hard stare, ears up and forward, mouth closing or just body tensing up; we go into an obedience routine. It's kept fun and he is kept moving, command is given, if he doesn't comply then a correction is given. This is a dog that at 100 ft went ballistic at seeing a dog, to now 10 ft is normal before reacting and in some cases now is meeting dogs.
What is FA?

But what if he goes into a tense state and you can't have his attention to the obedience routine, wouldn't the correction for non-compliance ending up correcting the reaction too?
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Old 11-27-2012, 09:29 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Fear agression.

The minute tha dog breaks eye contact he needs to be corrected. If he goes into a tense state he has gone too far. That is why I would close the comfort zone first with NO corrections......using obedience and corrections is in my opinion later.

Find someone good to help you. Someone who can actually see the dog and what is going on. Hard to do over the internet.

You can get to the point with a positive only trainer to where you are making no more progress with desensitization -- then go to the next step, which you may not even need....depends on the dog.
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Old 11-27-2012, 09:36 AM   #9 (permalink)
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People always say you can't coddle a dog when they are fearful (though there are ways you can do it because anxiety/fear can't be rewarded), and no one would ever suggest correcting a dog who is afraid of something like thunder, because you also can't correct anxiety/fear, so just remember that. Once your dog is fearful, has gone over threshold, and you correct them, they are too far gone to register it. That idea of slapping a hysterical person is often cited - snaps them out of it - but what that does is make the hysterical person more afraid of the slapper than of the other thing they were afraid of. If you've ever been afraid of something, or have a phobia or fear of anything, you can use that as a helpful guide.
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Old 11-27-2012, 09:37 AM   #10 (permalink)
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But do you guys think that what I've described in the gradual approach method in the first topic wouldn't work then?

But then why did it work out in our case? Why did my dog end up feeling more secure towards other dogs after a few sessions? Also, with gradual approach we kept the reactivity low so that the corrections never really escalated nor scared the dog. And it was not just about corrections - the gradual approach and final interaction are rewards for reacting neutrally or even positively.

I know that there are better methods and distancing is a better punishment for reactivity than prong, but what I wanted with this topic is to hear from you guys are the reasons of why you would think that this particular method wouldn't work and why would you think that it worked out.

(I hope that I'm not sounding rude here, I really just want to hear about more opinions, and well... English is not my first language, so I'm not sure if the way I write might sound rude or anything)
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