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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-02-2012, 02:02 PM Thread Starter
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Random training thoughts

This is long. Perhaps it is a form of mid-dog's-life training crisis.

I bought Renji an e-collar and have had just a few sessions with it so far. I am using Lou Castle's protocol for working with the e-collar but am also adding in food/positive rewards. I want to be one of those trainers to avoid the use of positive punishment whenever possible. If a killer whale can be trained with food and tongue scritches and belly rubs, surely a dog can as well. At the same time, dogs do get exposed to so much more as a result of living with us rather than living in a controlled enclosure. An orca may choose not to perform and hey, that's perfectly fine, we'll draw your blood another day because we're not arguing when you weigh 3000 lbs more than we. If a dog chooses not to obey, he could end up under a car, in the teeth of a larger dog, or being that larger dog to a much smaller one. As I experience more with Renji and read of the experiences of others, either on these forums or in books by professionals, my thoughts and opinions on training have changed and, I think, still are changing. Much of this is prompted by me getting the e-collar and also now reading Kathy Sdao's "Plenty in Life is Free."

We do practice a flavor of NILIF at my house. Over time, I have come to terms with the fact that my dog shouldn't have to ask for everything or shouldn't have to work for everything. He can come up to me and get petted and usually dogs. I can likewise ask him to come over if I want to pet him. He is welcome to come over and shove a ball in my face. He must understand though that sometimes I will oblige and other times I will shoo him away. Although, if he is initiating play, that is an indication to me that I am not doing MY job of fulfilling his needs and making sure he's mentally stimulated and physically tired. It is not an indicator that I am slacking on NILIF or that I should even be worried about it.

Sdao's book is an eye-opener so far as well as the experiences of board members here. To name a few, Melanie (Queen of the Chows), Jamie (and her adorable Risa and all their hard work), Packen (lather, rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat), Catu (quality > quantity), Anne Kent (trust the dog), MRL (EXERCISE and TRAIN x a bazillion), I could go on and on. While I don't necessarily agree with tossing NILIF completely out, I do believe it should not be the basis of everything. I think Renji and I have had our best times when we spent a lot of time together on walks, bike rides, hikes, training class, trips to DQ and less time ordering him around or correcting him for forging ahead. All of you out there who practice "Look At That," click to calm, take your dogs everywhere possible and work on sits and downs everywhere possible 8000 times over, you all have it right. I am afraid of Renji's reactions because he has given me reason to fear but it has stopped me from taking him places which hasn't done much of anything to fix him. I finally stopped making a big deal of people coming over and we're now at a point where he sees people coming over either as a non-issue or another ball-tossing machine. I'm getting more progress by letting go and being positive than by cranking down with demands that he sit to get everything.

Back to the e-collar. The e-collar allows me to give Renji very clear, very precise, very consistent, and very well timed communication. A leash jerk can be soft on the first tug, hard on the second, and somewhere in between on the third not for any reason other than the length of the leash is dynamic. A well fitted, functional e-collar is consistent. My timing is excellent with the clicker, poor with the leash, excellent with the e-collar. Clearly I am a button-person. I have added in treats for correct responses and so far am getting very snappy compliance and the look on Renji's face says "Oh okay, I understand what you want!" There is absolutely no pain; sometimes I'm not even sure he is feeling the stimulation even though he is definitely responding. But I still have my doubts about training like this; I feel I am using it because I just wasn't good enough or didn't work hard enough on other methods. My plan is to continue on with the collar training and evaluate the results during and after training. My biggest hope is for us both to gain control over his worst tendencies.

From now on, however, I will be making a concerted effort to get Renji out more. He is not comfortable with outings but the more he experiences them, the less novel and threatening and uncomfortable they will be. I resolve to rain food from the sky when we come across his triggers. We will find other dogs and other dog/handler teams to work with. I will get him around more people. I will tape the clicker to my body and affix a treat bag to my belt. We will desensitize, I will find better means to communicate than a leash correction, I will work on training more incompatible behaviors, I will be more consistent, but the dictatorship is at an end. We will have a partnership. I've had Renji about 4-5 years and I wish I could apologize to him that it has taken me this long to change. Maybe I am still wrong, I know I have a lot more ahead of me, but I know what I was doing wasn't quite right.

I used to think a dog growling over a food or bone should be immediately dealt with. Now I realize how dangerous that can be. This is something best handled in daily life by being someone your dog can respect and trust. Yes, Renji will growl over a knuckle bone at me. He rarely gets these and they are doggy treasures. I ask him to come to me for a piece of cheese and then he can go back to his bone. In time, I foresee the growls easing off. We won't growl over his dinner and I can pick up his bowl at will. Before we react to our dogs' growls, we need to step away and think about the circumstances and work out what needs to be done, if anything.

I'll probably no longer be recommending NILIF in the way as its commonly known, rather I would recommend an owner having issues to give the dog twice as much physical exercise than it is currently getting, whatever it may be, four times as much mental exercise (especially basic obedience and proofing), expose your dog consistenly to lots of different people and environments, give your dog reasons to want to be with you (clicker training, positive training using reinforcers it likes), and decide on rules for the house and be consistent with them (dog doesn't get in bed, dog gets on couch only if it will get off on command without hesitation). Modify as needed to fit the individuals concerned.

Comments, thoughts, stories, suggestions, recommendations, and criticisms are all welcomed. I do enjoy reading about how others have changed and modified their methods over time and why and what their results were.

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue


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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-02-2012, 10:02 PM
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One thought - keep in mind that one of those Killer whales (Florida) attacked and killed one of its handlers!
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-02-2012, 11:13 PM
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Sounds like you're modifying your training methods as you go along and I think that's a good way to train. Do what works, stop doing what doesn't.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-02-2012, 11:24 PM
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Interesting, I am more inclined to this type of training.

Now, does Kathy Sdao recommend the ecollar?
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-03-2012, 01:44 PM Thread Starter
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Codmaster, that is a risk that anyone working with fully wild animals must take if they are to work with them. The circumstances of Tilikum's life were not the best and now he is in danger of even more isolation. When you have animals as intelligent as humans and as social as humans, much psychological damage can occur in containment. Tilikum is a bull orca who should be roaming the open ocean many miles a day. Sea World Orlando's tank is decently sized but definitely not large enough. Judging from prior incidents, he was clearly not too happy with things, and we don't yet offer anger management therapy to non-humans. It's not a training issue, it may be a management issue, but it is more likely a very tragic event that does and will happen from time to time because of the nature of these animals.

Falkosmom, I'm not sure but from what I am reading so far she likely would not.

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue


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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-03-2012, 03:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DianaM View Post
Codmaster, that is a risk that anyone working with fully wild animals must take if they are to work with them. The circumstances of Tilikum's life were not the best and now he is in danger of even more isolation. When you have animals as intelligent as humans and as social as humans, much psychological damage can occur in containment. Tilikum is a bull orca who should be roaming the open ocean many miles a day. Sea World Orlando's tank is decently sized but definitely not large enough. Judging from prior incidents, he was clearly not too happy with things, and we don't yet offer anger management therapy to non-humans. It's not a training issue, it may be a management issue, but it is more likely a very tragic event that does and will happen from time to time because of the nature of these animals.................
Guess that the Positive Only approach doesn't always result in a trained animal.

Whenever I hear "management", I tend to think of the PO dog trainers that I have met here who told me things like "Don't leave anything that the dog wants to eat on the counter or just put the trash pail out of sight" whenever I asked them how to "Train" my GSD not to counter surf or get into the trash.

Same with other animals with this approach, I guess. (More understandable with a Killer Whale than my own dog, though).

BTW, since that particular KW has now attacked at least two handlers, don't you agree that he does need to be treated a lot more cautiosly?

What do you think would happen to a GSD who attacked two people?
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-03-2012, 03:38 PM
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Wild animal vs domestic dog? Not even a comparison.

I've evolved my training methods over the years. When I first started out training other people's dogs, I believed in the dominance theory. There wasn't much out there (Internet was not common and it cost almost 6k for a computer!!) The only books out there were based on archaec methods. I started playing around with different ideas and found a balance and methods that were FAR better than applying the same old methods: AKA dominance theory. I never used a clicker back then, instead, I had a marker word. I wasn't a pioneer in the field, but I did notice that dogs did so much better with praise and food than they did with any form of physical punishment.

To this day, I constantly read, learn, take classes, talk to other professionals, about what is working for them. Sometimes I impliment some new methods and sometimes I fall back on the "ol faithful" methods that have always worked in the past.

Truth is, every dog is different and every human is different. Just because people push ideas on others, doesn't make them right for each situation. The ideal of a "great trainer", whether a professional or Joe Schmo the dog owner, is that we constantly evolve and find what works for each individual situation/dog. Dog training is very much an individualized sport.

People who apply the same methodologies, same techniques, same things over and over and train each dog the same, are dating themselves. They will eventually become out-dated. That's why there is a great importance in continuing education in every professional field.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-03-2012, 03:50 PM
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Wild animal vs domestic dog? Not even a comparison.

I've evolved my training methods over the years. When I first started out training other people's dogs, I believed in the dominance theory. There wasn't much out there (Internet was not common and it cost almost 6k for a computer!!) The only books out there were based on archaec methods. I started playing around with different ideas and found a balance and methods that were FAR better than applying the same old methods: AKA dominance theory. I never used a clicker back then, instead, I had a marker word. I wasn't a pioneer in the field, but I did notice that dogs did so much better with praise and food than they did with any form of physical punishment.

To this day, I constantly read, learn, take classes, talk to other professionals, about what is working for them. Sometimes I impliment some new methods and sometimes I fall back on the "ol faithful" methods that have always worked in the past.

Truth is, every dog is different and every human is different. Just because people push ideas on others, doesn't make them right for each situation. The ideal of a "great trainer", whether a professional or Joe Schmo the dog owner, is that we constantly evolve and find what works for each individual situation/dog. Dog training is very much an individualized sport.

People who apply the same methodologies, same techniques, same things over and over and train each dog the same, are dating themselves. They will eventually become out-dated. That's why there is a great importance in continuing education in every professional field.
Absolutely true that different dogs may need different approaches or combinations for different behaviors.

Are you saying that clicker or PO methods will not work as well as some other approaches with some dogs for some behaviors?
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-03-2012, 04:04 PM
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Absolutely true that different dogs may need different approaches or combinations for different behaviors.

Are you saying that clicker or PO methods will not work as well as some other approaches with some dogs for some behaviors?

Short answer, YES. Long answer: It depends on the capabilities of the humans. My experience has been that the human has to believe in the methods they use. If they don't, they won't be successful. Every rehabilitation depends on how confident the human is. Whether methods or handling, either way, you must WANT it for it to work. Some people just don't have the drive to take it all the way through to the end. Humans tend to be lazy and want the work done for them..LOL (no offence, that statement isn't directed towards any person directly, just an observation).

I can tell you for a FACT that a SEVERELY DA dog (lack of socialization and NO confidence but strong nerves) can be rehabilitated 100% with hot dogs and a clicker. I know this because *I* did it with my Chance and he was 8 1/2 when we started. 6 months later, he was able to be around dogs all of the time, including little fluffies (3 times he had killed dogs like this). Not every dog can be like this as it was a combination between ME and HIM. The dynamic of our relationship was unique to US.

It depends on the mechanism that creates the behavior. Would that method work for a dog with weak nerves and lacking confidence? To a degree. It's a good starting point but other methods may need to be incorporated to continue the rehabilitation process. A dog like that, I wouldn't do 100% positive reinforcement because it most likely wouldn't work to the degree it worked with Chance.

Last edited by Chance&Reno; 04-03-2012 at 04:07 PM.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-03-2012, 04:20 PM Thread Starter
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Chance&Reno, now that is awesome. Another great reminder just how critical genetics are.

Codmaster, management doesn't just encompass things like a head halter or keeping garbage put away. It also entails making sure the animal's needs are fully met. Maybe Tilikum was not getting enough of the interaction HE needed. Maybe he would have rather spent more time with female orcas as opposed with working with trainers. Maybe he should be a candidate for attempted release like Keiko. Maybe he would simply do better in a larger aquarium with one or two buddies. Maybe he was bored senseless and got tired of the routine and would have been happy to have opportunities to hunt and kill fish. Should he be treated more cautiously? Well, like I said, Renji's behavior caused me to isolate him further. That really isn't helping things. If Tilikum, an incredibly social animal, is isolated further, he will probably have a personal **** of psychosis. I feel for the trainer who was killed, I feel for his current trainers who are prevented from working with him further, and I feel for the whale who is stuck in limbo waiting for something to happen.

Quote:
It depends on the capabilities of the humans. My experience has been that the human has to believe in the methods they use. If they don't, they won't be successful. Every rehabilitation depends on how confident the human is. Whether methods or handling, either way, you must WANT it for it to work. Some people just don't have the drive to take it all the way through to the end. Humans tend to be lazy and want the work done for them..
Indeed. In a world of instant gratification, good training takes a lot of committment and discipline and an open mind, as well as the ability to admin error and to accept change.

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue


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