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vulnox 03-14-2014 03:39 PM

Training Method Concerns
 
Hello!

I have a six month old GSD who I took to PetsMart for puppy training back when he was maybe four months old. He learned sit, stay, leave it, take it, down, and to respond to his name. He is ridiculously easy to train and PetsMart uses all positive reinforcement training. I worked with him a lot at home, and aside from situations where he has distractions (other dogs/new environments) I can get him to respond to most commands with just hand signals.

My aunt was dogsitting for some friends who have two dogs that she said were amazing in how they behaved. When they had to go outside they lined up in specific spots and waited for each to be let out, etc, lots of impressive stuff. We found out they were trained at a place nearby and I scheduled my dog, Archer, to go there for more advanced training as the instructor works for the local zoo, seems to know his stuff.

I couldn't make the first class due to having to stay late for work, but it was an intro class and no dogs came. So my wife went. She came home and said we would need a leash and a choker collar. I was immediately unsure about this class when I heard that as most things I read say a choker is needed for more difficult to train dogs, and Archer has been anything but. Plus, and I know some here view our pets as just "dogs", but I feel I have an obligation to this puppy as another living creature I agreed to care for to not just start choking him.

I called them up and their front desk said it shouldn't be required, which was a relief, but when I showed up the trainer immediately was on me about not having one. After discussing it a bit I agreed to give it a try as I was told it was only used for quick corrections and they don't teach owners to actually hold the collar in a choke position. Since my GSD still all but chokes himself sometimes when "pulling" on his normal collar, I thought if it truly was a quick pull and it might prevent that, I would give it a try for that one class.

As the class proceeded I didn't like what I saw. The instructor was having us yank the collar when giving commands, so "Tell them 'sit' and then pull the leash". So it became more of a trigger action than a correcting action. Archer already sits, he was sitting in most cases, but we still had to do the action. Eventually Archer, who is not a skittish or fearful dog at all, started trying to lay down when I was giving him commands in fear of the collar. The instructor wanted me "correct" that action.

I sat across from a boxer that was in the class who was also trying to lay down and the instructor himself was basically holding the front paws of the dog off the ground in a choking manner. Which was against what I was told we were going for.

Archer all but stopped listening to my basic commands, he became more concerned with the next "correction". I left and told him that I couldn't do this and they were good enough to refund my money.

Sorry for the very long story, but I saw very happy dogs turn to some of the saddest looking creatures by the end of that class. Even an extremely affectionate golden retriever looked beaten down at the end.

Normally when I train with Archer he is attentive and happy. I can train with him for well over an hour and he just keeps wanting to do things as he gets his treats and he gets attention from me which he can't seem to get enough of (for better or worse depending on the situation).

Archer isn't perfect, he's only six months old, but he didn't seem like himself in that class and I feel I would rather work twice as much with him in a positive way than to continue with punishment based training.

I know there are some varied thoughts on Chokers vs. Positive training, etc. This isn't even really an anti-choker kind of thing. It is more of a question of do those of you out there that do this kind of training feel I was being over-protective of Archer?

Thank you!

mego 03-14-2014 03:43 PM

I dont like training like that personally.
I correct only with "no" attached and only if my dog doesn't do something I know she knows how to do. By pairing your command word "sit" with a correction all you are teaching is that sit is a bad word. I would have ditched that class too

Use what motivates your dog - it sounds like he really likes training with you how you guys are doing it.

Shade 03-14-2014 03:46 PM

Not my style at all. It's hard but it's really beneficial if you can observe a class in advance and decide whether their style matches yours enough to be effective.

Baillif 03-14-2014 03:50 PM

If done correctly and tactfully it's doubly reinforcing to teach the dog commands they already know with positive reinforcement. There is a period of confusion. Push through it and the dog will learn how to quickly perform the action to avoid the pressure thus making the action itself rewarding.

Lots of people can't stomach pushing through what you saw. If you stick it out and it's being done right and it sounds like maybe it is (although I'd be using prong collars) within 3 days I promise you you will see the happy puppy again. Only this time the behavior will be much stronger and it will be easier to proof against distraction.

glowingtoadfly 03-14-2014 03:50 PM

I have one very difficult little furmonster and although I have been tempted, I have not used a prong with her. Go with your gut:-)

Eiros 03-14-2014 03:50 PM

I use a correction collar on my dog and when used properly, I think they are great tools. Our training club uses them, and we don't have any issues like the poor pups you're describing! It doesn't sound like it was used very well in this case... I don't blame you for leaving!! Any collar, even a flat collar, can be harmful to a dog that's poorly handled... I feel bad for the dogs in this class.


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Shade 03-14-2014 03:55 PM

To me the problem isn't the tool but the method. I use a prong and it's a great tool but it's never made Delgado shut down like the OP is describing, if it did I would quickly stop and think again about what I'm trying to get across.

vulnox 03-14-2014 03:58 PM

I appreciate the responses, and as I mentioned but want to reiterate as to not get on the bad side of anyone, I am not in my post saying I am against the collar itself as a general tool. I understand the uses in more difficult dogs, and even in general training I can see the advantages of having a way to push away unwanted behavior.

My question was more about the class itself, which you have all responded to and I appreciate. Just wanted to be absolutely clear on this. :)

Thank you again for the responses. I feel better about taking him out of the class, what made me unsure is when I started looking for other classes in the Indianapolis area, quite a few of the more serious trainers seemed to use choke or prong collars in their training, regardless of dog temperament, and that got me wondering if I was the problem when it came to this last class. I think I might just need to go see some classes at the other training sites.

Eiros 03-14-2014 04:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by vulnox (Post 5200402)

My question was more about the class itself, which you have all responded to and I appreciate. Just wanted to be absolutely clear on this. :)

I definitely think taking him out was a good idea... They were correcting while giving the command! How does that even make sense... My dog would shut down too :eek::eek:

Baillif 03-14-2014 04:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by vulnox (Post 5200402)
I appreciate the responses, and as I mentioned but want to reiterate as to not get on the bad side of anyone, I am not in my post saying I am against the collar itself as a general tool. I understand the uses in more difficult dogs, and even in general training I can see the advantages of having a way to push away unwanted behavior.

My question was more about the class itself, which you have all responded to and I appreciate. Just wanted to be absolutely clear on this. :)

Thank you again for the responses. I feel better about taking him out of the class, what made me unsure is when I started looking for other classes in the Indianapolis area, quite a few of the more serious trainers seemed to use choke or prong collars in their training, regardless of dog temperament, and that got me wondering if I was the problem when it came to this last class. I think I might just need to go see some classes at the other training sites.

It's a misconception that the tool is for difficult to train dogs. The malinois here learn very quickly and are very easy to treat train. Negative reinforcement through collar pressure is layered over preexisting known commands to strengthen the behavior that's why it's called negative REINFORCEMENT. If you want reliability without resorting to more extreme positive reinforcement tactics it's a good way to go. Again though I'd use prongs. Chokers are silly.


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