Old vs New Training Styles - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 02:39 PM Thread Starter
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Old vs New Training Styles

Hi there,

I've just brought a six month old puppy home, and we're now starting to get into training. Lots of fun so far! I have lots of the Leerburg and Cesar Millan DVDs as well as other books, so it's good to take lots of things from different people; one thing isn't going to work for every dog!

A question came up when I was training today, though: when people advocate either dominance theory or positive reinforcement training, why is dominance labeled 'old' style (normally in a negative sense)? Does that make it any less effective? It seems to take quite a lot of arrogance in modernity to go against dominance simply because it isn't the latest thing. If it didn't work, then how have thousands of dogs before this point been successfully trained - both for working and as companions?

I'm not saying that positive isn't the way to go - I'm just curious why there's such a sea change when an alternative surely must have worked. Is it just catering to a consumerist individuality? I get the 'humane' arguments, but they can't possibly undo all of dominance's advantages? Ultimately it still works, and if you prefer to moderate its corrective elements somewhat, then it can still work well. But why is doing that sold as anything more than a slight, common sense adaption to an already tested formula? Is 'modern' training really SO much better, or is it just oversold?

The conclusion I've come to is: try positive first, then add corrections when necessary. Seems balanced, and I'm pleased to take specific tips from individual trainers. But it also doesn't seem that far away from how people have probably always dealt with things, even if positive wasn't always first to the same degree. Aren't the differences are a little overstated? Why the massive need for changes when something already works - and any of its flaws can be limited through moderation?

Apologies if this isn't too clear/has already been discussed! I also get that I might be overstating the difference - but today it seemed that so many training styles were being offered as something 'radically new'. The reasons for that didn't quite add up.

Thanks!
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post #2 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 03:17 PM
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Because people deduced after a time of observation of training styles, that newer methods were not only kinder, they were much more effective.

The best training TEACHES a dog what you want it to do.
"Old style" punishes the dog for doing something, such as pulling on a leash, until (theoretically) it learns to not do it any longer.
Instead the better method is to get the dog doing what you want (not pulling) and reward that behavior.

Think of how you potty train a child. Do we let the child walk around, playing, and never tell it to go potty in a toilet, then spank it for pottying in it's pants?
Or do we proactively show it where to go potty, and reward it for pottying there?

Dog training is just like that. They are gonna go potty somewhere. It's up to humans to show it the correct spot, not wait until it pees in the house and beat the tar out of it, or rub it's nose in it.
Can you imagine how confused the puppy is when punished for doing an act nature intended it to do??

Reward behavior you want to see, ignore bad behavior - and prevent bad behavior by locking up temptations such as your brand new shoes, trash, etc.
That's it, in a nutshell.
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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 03:28 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks msvette2u! That's a great answer!

You're convinced it's that way because it's simply more effective? In the past, the same results were achieved - but just slower? I'm happy to go with that.

A few follow-ups, though:

i. Why do you think that dominance was so strong for so long? If positive is so effective, surely it would have caught on earlier? It's not that much of a radical break that I can't imagine people having used it previously (even if it was only to become successful in one part of the world, for example) - so why has it only become more mainstream now?

ii. Why do you think Cesar Millan etc. see so much success with dominance-based theories? Is it because they do work (just slower than positive) and sell/become mainstream because they fit with people's ideas of 'how to treat a dog'? I'm just thinking: if positive was that effective, wouldn't there be no arguments for dominance? I see that a mix of the two is probably best, but they often seem so polarised in training materials.

iii. When Millan etc. rationalise their results with 'pack mentality' etc., is that just putting empty excuses on an outdated training method? If there's some logic to 'treating a dog like a dog' etc., then shouldn't that have some power when it comes to training - or are such ideas just, once again, 'how people think' a dog should be?

Thanks so much!
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post #4 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 03:29 PM
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I've kind of trained in both. I've noticed the "old" ways work faster to correct certain behaviors that you don't want to see or maybe don't have the time to redirect the dog. The "new" way creates a better bond with your dog. If you plan on trialing/titling this way creates a dog that wants to do things for the handler rather than just not mess up things. There is a huge difference in the way the dog works when you see the two training styles side by side. The new ways will create a happy, energetic dog, that will do anything you want for you, the old ways tend to make great house pets, very obedient dogs, but not dogs that do it happily. It tends to kill their drive and their "puppy" so to speak.

Don't worry about the ways though...do what works best for you. A good balance is what works best for most people.
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post #5 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 03:35 PM
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Originally Posted by basedinberlin View Post
It seems to take quite a lot of arrogance in modernity to go against dominance simply because it isn't the latest thing.
Ah, but people aren't going against the dominance theory simply because it's not the latest thing. Sometimes the old way of doing things is abandoned, or is at least adapted, because we have new, better ways of doing those things. We've learned a lot about behavior and how dogs learn in the past few decades.

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post #6 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 03:55 PM
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Personally, I think the dominance theory has held clout for so long because it makes sense to us power-hungry humans. It pleases our egos to feel that we are in control of a dog and we are its ultimate "master." We like to be in control, particularly of dumb animals. If we can browbeat a dog into doing what we want, we feel more powerful.

Dominance-based training gets results, as you point out, because fear and pain are powerful training techniques. But we can actually teach a dog, with respect and clarity, and get a solid relationship in the process--without ever having to lay a hand on them or force them to realize that we are "the alpha."

I feel like the positive training movement has been so immensely liberating to human-dog relationships. Rejecting dominance-theory training is freeing to both the dog AND the human. Now, under this positive paradigm, dogs don't have to operate purely out of fear of reprisal; humans don't have to be obsessed with "being the alpha," frantically running around to make sure they are dominant in all things.

I believe better, healthier bonds result from a training relationship that is founded on trust and mutual respect, rather than on power, coercion, and control. And I have a feeling that, if dogs could communicate in this way, they'd agree, too.

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post #7 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 03:58 PM
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i. Why do you think that dominance was so strong for so long?
Because it does work (eventually), and people are set in their ways. They poo poo new things, and call positive training folks "peta people" and believe GSDs are meant to take this sort of "abuse" in the name of training.

Newer methods make dogs HAPPY and a HAPPY dog wants to learn. He isn't doing things because he was punished if he didn't do them.

We base our interactions with our dogs on THIS - Mind Games (version 1.0) by M. Shirley Chong

Not necessarily a training method, but a lifestyle. I don't believe you have to be alpha, or "dominant" over your dog. But I do believe in being a dog's leader
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post #8 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 03:58 PM
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basedinberlin,

Since you live in Berlin, there is an excellent trainer in this area that you may want to consult. His English is really good and he is also frequently traveling to the US to work with kennels out there.

You can't find any better and more balanced trainer out in Berlin. Take advantage of it. Here is his contact information. Impressum - VPG/IPO Hundesport Video Blog
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post #9 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 03:59 PM
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Very well said, doggerel! I agree with many of your points, especially the need/desire for humans to dominate and control "lessor" creatures.

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post #10 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 04:07 PM
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His private lessons for bitework are 20 Euros per 45 minutes, he is also excellent in obedience, since that comes first. Go to the Berlin-Brandenburg VDH Club.

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You are absolutely lucky to have him in your area. I wish I was close to him and could take advantage of his training. He is very well respected in Germany, he also trains Detection (Drug Dogs etc.).
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