Immersion Training idea - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-08-2014, 01:21 PM Thread Starter
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Immersion Training idea

I've only been to a couple conformation dog shows as a spectator but what most impressed me was the conduct of the dogs.....there were hundreds of dogs, all in close proximity to other dogs.....oodles of poodles, scads of labs, multitudes of Norwegian name it...they were there by the dozens....and not one of them were anything less than incredibly well behaved....not one single bark from any of them. All of them calm, cool and collected.

So, since one can obviously bring a dog into these arenas and convention centers where they have the dog shows, what do you think of this idea...I bring my somewhat excitable GSD who's still learning the fine art of civil coexistence with her peers, walk her onto the main floor when the rings are filled and dogs are awaiting their turn next in the rings and then just cut her loose?? Yeah, maybe it might be pure mayhem for a short bit but after 20 minutes or so, she'd probably pick up on the calm vibe of all the other dogs and cure all of her rough edges in regards to her excitement around other dogs.

And the best part is..all it would cost is the admission price into the dog show...much cheaper than a private this a great idea or what?

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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-08-2014, 02:29 PM
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If you've been working with your dog and he's not leash reactive, which I would assume to be the case then "most likely" it would be fine as long as you can stay calm!

I've started taking Rocky to an on leash dog park. So other dogs around but usually at a distance and if dogs are off leash they are well controlled!

It was actually pretty amazing, I saw the difference between a dog taught to ignore other dogs and a dog that was taught to play with other dogs.

Rocky wasn't allowed to play or get close. But there was this Golden Retriever, that had a frisbee and just sat and smiled while he held it in his mouth. He looked at us and his owner ,he clearly wanted to play but he just sat and watched us.

Rocky never got out of control or crazy but he was clearly more "excited" about seeing other dogs. Rocky has been "conditioned" to be civil around other dogs, the Golden had been conditioned or maybe it's genetics to like other dogs.

I was really surprised at the difference between the two dogs. I found the contrast pretty amazing!
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-08-2014, 03:36 PM
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You might need to check the rules. I think I read that only dogs competing were allowed at the conformation shows.

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-08-2014, 04:11 PM
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yeah , that is my experience , you need to be entered and tell the people at the desk what your entry number is .

Exhibitors have spent time on travel and time from work. They may have spent money on grooming and a pro-handler. Even the entries aren't cheap . Maybe they have booked a motel to stay over .
It all adds up.
When you enter you agree to conduct and ground rules which can be enforced by having you , and/or your entry banned from future shows, or points withheld . In other words consequences .
"You" as an outsider would not be governed by the kennel club putting on the show.

I don't think they want to have someone bring in a dog with problems that would upset the atmosphere . Or bring in a dog that may be unhealthy .

Go to sanction matches which kennel clubs hold for conformation and for obedience . Listings available on line AKC and Canadian Kennel Club . Find one in your area. THIS is the time of year when you start seeing lots of them.



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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-08-2014, 04:15 PM Thread Starter
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Hmmmmmm...okay. So is cutting her loose at the local park when the elementary grade boys and girls are playing soccer out of the question as well?

Not only would my dog have fun but I'm certain the kids would have a blast as well...kind of lighten up the scene....

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-08-2014, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by SuperG View Post
Hmmmmmm...okay. So is cutting her loose at the local park when the elementary grade boys and girls are playing soccer out of the question as well?

Not only would my dog have fun but I'm certain the kids would have a blast as well...kind of lighten up the scene....

I'd personally recommend a school playground at lunch time. This way you have paid teaching professionals there to help your dog learn to behave in a civil manner.

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-08-2014, 04:52 PM
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The idea is not a new one. It was Cesar Millan, who noticed that nearly all dogs behave really well at dog shows. He discovered with their owners after shows that the majority of their dogs are not so perfect in the street or in the park, but he kept that "dog show phenomena" in his mind for some possible training in the future. The secret is hidden in the fact that dogs vertually are unable to isolate the object of irritation in the environment of high concentration of similar objects, in other words - the reason is - there are too many dogs in one place at once. Taking in consideration that our dogs are mainly motivated by smells when it concerns other dogs ( even their olfactory system has a second function exactly for that), they are terribly confused. Confused, like your own nose is confused in a big store perfume department, many people hate to be there and that is understanding.
Cesar Millan tried to develop a technique anyway. He filled a large room with many different dogs and tried to calm down some dog-reactive individuals this way. It worked, but not for every case. So, you just have to try, but don't expect magic - only it become easier for your dog to isolate another dog, like in the wild woods, or even in the fresh morning air in the empty street - he will be back to square one, reactive as ever.
Instead, I suggest you to use a clicker training for misbehaviour. It works, clicker is a great reinforcer.

Last edited by David Taggart; 04-08-2014 at 05:00 PM.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-08-2014, 06:39 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ApselBear View Post
I'd personally recommend a school playground at lunch time. This way you have paid teaching professionals there to help your dog learn to behave in a civil manner.
It would have to be a fenced in playground so the teachers could not flee....but I like your thinking !!!!

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-08-2014, 06:41 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by David Taggart View Post
I suggest you to use a clicker training for misbehaviour. It works, clicker is a great reinforcer.

Never knew that Milan tried that approach....interesting.

I have a clicker but have never used it....I will educate myself on the use of it...thanks.

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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-08-2014, 07:07 PM
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Maybe you would like to copy this:

A Dog and a Dolphin: Training without Punishment
by Karen Pryor
'If you’ve seen trained dolphin shows at oceanariums or on TV, you
will know that dolphins appear to be wonderfully trainable. On command
they exhibit all kinds of precision behavior, including splendid
acrobatics and interactive behavior with other dolphins or with human
swimmers. The audience marvels at how eagerly they respond
and how intelligent they must be; wouldn’t it be nice if dogs responded
like that?
As we dolphin trainers know well, the truth is that dolphins aren’t
geniuses, and neither are dolphin trainers. The dolphins’ speed, precision,
and obvious enjoyment of their work is due entirely to the principles
dolphin trainers use in training them. And the same techniques
can be used on dogs.
The first thing to understand about dolphin training is that we are
working with animals you can’t punish. No matter how mad you get—
even if the animal makes you mad on purpose, by splashing you from
head to foot, say—you can’t retaliate.
Maybe you’re thinking “I bet I could think up a way to punish a
dolphin..” and I bet you could; but it doesn’t matter, because dolphin
trainers don’t need it. Trainers can get whatever they want from a dolphin,
using positive reinforcement only: mostly just a chirp or two
from a training whistle and a bucket of fish. We “shape” every behavior
positive reinforcement. We use positive reinforcement to elicit
prompt and correct response to commands—to achieve obedience.
We can even use positive reinforcement to discipline an animal—to
control misbehavior such as attacking a tank mate or refusing to go
through a gate. This sophisticated use of positive reinforcement results
in an animal that works brilliantly and loves to work.
The methods we use to train dogs often include the use of force,
both to put the dog through required movements and to correct the
dog when it makes mistakes, which it inevitably does. Although we
may also use praise and petting, unavoidably the dog experiences
some confusion, fear, and maybe even physical pain in the training
process. Some dogs tolerate these negative experiences well, but dolphins,
being wild animals, would not. If you were to train a dolphin by
these techniques, the dolphin might learn, but it would offer a sluggish,
sulky, unreliable performance; and it might well begin to exhibit
aggression toward people. (Does that sound like any dogs you know?)

On the other hand if you train a dog the way we train dolphins,
through positive reinforcement, the dog behaves just like a dolphin: it
becomes eager, attentive, precise, cooperative, and capable of fantastic
performance. Here’s how it’s done.
When I talk to dog trainers a big misconception I run into is that
positive reinforcement just means “food.” Wrong. The crucial element
in getting wonderful behavior out of a dolphin is not the food reward.
The dolphin is not working for the fish: the dolphin is working for the
whistle. The sound of the whistle is the magic signal that brings about
that wonderful performance.
For example, suppose, on several occasions, the dolphin heard the
whistle (and later got a fish) when it happened to be jumping in the
air. Soon it would start jumping every time the trainer showed up.
Then it might be allowed to discover that jumping only “works” when
the trainer’s arm is raised. So a raised arm becomes the green light, as
it were, for jumping.
The trainer could gradually impose other conditions—jumping
only “works” when the direction of the jump is away from the trainer
and toward the audience; when the jump is higher than four feet;
when the jump occurs within three seconds after the arm is raised. At
the end of a few training sessions the trainer has trained the dolphin
to “take a bow,” on command and with precision; and the dolphin has
trained the trainer too: “All I have to do is make a certain kind of jump
when she sticks her hand up, and she immediately gives me a whistle
and a fish every time!”
Note that the whistle is not used as a command. It does not tell
the dolphin to start doing something—the hand signal does that. The
whistle tells the dolphin, during or at the end of a behavior, that the
trainer likes that behavior and the dolphin deserves a fish for it. (You
don’t have to stick with food, either; you can also associate a conditioned
reinforcer with a pat, or a toy, or maybe just another chance to
The whistle has now become a
conditioned reinforcer. In the language
of the psychologist, food, petting, or any other pleasure is an unconditioned
reinforcer—something the animal would want, even without
training; the whistle, a conditioned reinforcer, is something the animal
has learned to want. (Some people use the term “primary reinforcer”
for food and “secondary reinforcer” for the signal. I avoid those
terms because I find it leads people to think that if the whistle is “secondary”
it should occur after the food, which of course makes it meaningless
to the animal and useless as a training tool).

What would happen if you tried to train a dolphin to do a simple
jump, away from you, on cue—without the whistle? First, you could
not possibly time the fish to arrive when the animal was in mid-jump,
so no matter what kind of jump the animal gave, it would either get
the fish later or get no fish at all. It would have no way of telling why
you rewarded one jump over another or what you liked about the
jump. Was it the height? Or maybe the way the animal took off or
landed? To develop a jump of a particular height, timing, and direction
you would have to eliminate mistakes by trial and error over many,
many repetitions; you would be lucky if the animal didn’t get bored
(and the trainer too!) before the performance was correct and
Also when a trainer uses food without a conditioned reinforcer
the animal is apt to look toward the trainer for food all the time.
Horses nose your pockets and dogs lick your hands. Dolphins hang
around the training station and worship the fish bucket. And with the
animal constantly looking at the trainer it would be difficult to train
our dolphin to jump facing away from the trainer, toward the audience.
Once you’ve established the conditioned reinforcer, however,
you can use the whistle to reinforce behavior that occurs at a distance,
or with the animal facing away from you, with no trouble at all. And
the well-conditioned animal, instead of nosing around for a snack, is
going on about its business, but also attentively listening for the magic
sound, whatever else it may be doing. In horses and dogs as well, that
attentiveness is a valuable training asset in itself.
Because of the split-second timing that the conditioned reinforcer
makes possible, the whistle also communicates just exactly what it is
that the trainer is looking for. This allows you to teach the animal what
you want, in a very clear way, one detail at a time. For example, let’s
say that a dolphin has assimilated one rule (“Jump facing this way”),
and you know that because the animal almost always jumps with the
proper orientation when you signal it to jump. Now you can add another
detail or rule. You decide “I’ll only reinforce the higher jumps.”
Pretty soon the dolphin has learned one more detail (“I have to jump
facing this way and jump this high.”)
This step-by-step process may seem elaborate, but in practice it is
a fantastic shortcut to complex trained behavior. Even with a naive
dolphin, a trainer can develop an on-cue, spectacular, and very specific
behavior, such as the bow I’ve described, in two or three days—sometimes,
if things go well, in a single 10-minute training session. Many
times in my dolphin training experience I have “captured” a behavior,
shaped it into something special, and put it on cue in a single training
session; and so have other dolphin trainers.
You can easily experience dolphin-training your own dog, using a
conditioned reinforcer, in one quick 10-minute experiment. Some
dogs are afraid of whistles. A handy conditioned reinforcer for dogs is
a clicker, a child’s toy that goes click-click when you pinch it. They are
available in toy and novelty shops, and some import stores.
Get yourself a clicker and a few treats. Make the treats small
enough so that you can give the dog 15 or 20 treats without him filling
up. Some dogs will work for kibble, especially just before
dinnertime, but you might have to go to something more tempting in
demonstrating this with strange dogs. I generally use diced chicken.
Teach the dog the meaning of the click by clicking the clicker and giving
a treat, four or five times, in different parts of the room or yard (so
the dog doesn’t get any funny ideas that this only works in one place).
Then click the clicker and delay the treat a few seconds; if you see
the dog startle and actively look for the treat, you will know the signal
has become a conditioned reinforcer. Now you can establish a behavior—
we call this “shaping.”
An easy behavior to shape is “chase your tail.” There are, of course,
as many ways to elicit this behavior as there are trainers to think them
up: you could turn the dog around by its collar; you could put bacon
grease on its tail tip so the dog circles to lick its tail. Here’s one way to
shape the behavior “from scratch,” without any prompting.
Stop clicking and just wait. Your dog may be intrigued and excited
by now; when you do nothing, the dog is likely to move around, and
maybe even to whine and bark. The instant the dog happens to move
or turn to the right, click your clicker. Give the treat.
Wait again. Ignore everything the dog does, except moving to the
right (don’t hold out for miracles; one turn of the head or one sideways
step with the right front paw is all you need.) If you “catch” the
behavior—if your timing is good—in three or four reinforcements you
will see your dog turning to the right further and more often. Now
you will find you don’t need to reinforce just a single step to the right,
but can reinforce right turns that go several steps, perhaps through a
quarter of a circle; and, from a quarter turn, a full circle may come very
That’s a good time to stop the first session: quit while you’re
ahead is the golden rule. Put the clicker away, with lots of hugs and
praise, and try again the next day, starting with a single step, then a
quarter circle, and then more; it will come much faster the second
From one circle, the next step is to get two circles, and the next
step—an important one—is to go for a variety, rewarding half a circle
sometimes, then two circles, or one, or three full turns, or just one and
a quarter; this keeps the dog guessing. The click might come after one
turn, or two, the dog doesn’t know, so he keeps turning faster and
faster; and thus you begin to develop an amusing whirl after his own
This is a silly trick, of course, and not very dignified; there are
other behaviors you could use for practice, such as targeting, in which
you shape the animal to touch some object with its nose (sea lion
trainers teach their animals to “target” on the trainer’s closed fist; then
by holding their fist on the ground or in the air or over a stand, they
can move the sea lion where they want, without using force). The purpose
of this experiment is not to teach the dog the trick, but to show
you how to use a conditioned reinforcer to shape behavior and how
effective this kind of reinforcement can be.
Why do you need to use a clicker? Why couldn’t you just use your
voice and the words “Good boy” as the conditioned reinforcer? The
main reason is that you can’t say a word, even “Good boy,” with the
split-second precision that you can achieve with a click. With the
clicker and a little practice you can reinforce very tiny movements—
one paw stepping to the right—in the instant that it occurs; a praise
word is inevitably rather “fuzzy,” because it takes longer.
The second difficulty with using a word is that we also talk near
our dogs and even to our dogs when we are not reinforcing them. It is
hard for the dog to sort the meaningful words out from the stream of
noise we make, but the clicker is unlike any other sound in the room,
and its meaning is crystal clear. You will in fact see the difference very
clearly in the way the conditioned dog responds to the clicker (electric
attention, galvanized, thrilled) as compared to the way the dog responds
to “Good dog!” (Huh? Oh. Smile, wag.)
“Well,” I’ve heard dog trainers say, “the clicker’s good for tricks but
not for anything else—you can’t, for example, use it in the obedience
ring.” Of course not, and you don’t need to. The clicker’s value is in
shaping new behavior, or refining details; it’s not necessary in exhibiting
behavior the animal has already learned. But even in the accomplished
champion working dog, the conditioned reinforcer can be a
useful training tool. One competitor told me he taught his Doberman
to understand the clicker, and then used it to reinforce her for looking
into his face, instead of away from him, while she worked. “It’s as if
she were grateful for the information, really: it cleared up the vagueness
for her,” he said. Of course once the dog had come to understand
what was wanted, she did correctly in the ring, without any clicks.
Don’t think, however, that people never use a conditioned reinforcer
in the ring; all the trainer has to do is establish a signal the dog
is aware of that no one else notices. I know a keen obedience trainer
who uses a barely audible sniff as a conditioned reinforcer. I have seen
a competitor convey “Great job!” (as evinced by the overjoyed expression
on the dog’s face) just by touching one finger to her dog’s head.
One competitor I know has taught her dog, Rex, that treats are
called “Billy.” Then as the dog performs in the obedience ring, she can
reinforce an especially good behavior—a nice recall perhaps—with
what appears to be a command: “Billy, heel!” No one questions why
she doesn’t use the dog’s usual name in the ring.
Once a behavior is learned, there’s no rule that says you have to
give a tidbit for every click; so using a conditioned reinforcer allows
you not only to delay the food, without loss to the performance, but to
give less food overall; you don’t have to worry that your animal will fill
up before the job is done. One example: at dog shows I have often noticed
handlers repeatedly baiting or feeding a dog to get nice pose or
alert look. Whenever I see that food-food-food going down the dog’s
throat I know at once the person doesn’t understand conditioned reinforcers!
How much more effective it would be to “shape” the pose,
develop a cue (“Ten-shun!”) and then reinforce the dog with a click
for assuming and holding the proper posture a respectable length of
time, with the food later, outside the ring or when the judge has
moved on.
Another virtue of the conditioned reinforcer is that it works—it
conveys information and affects the animal’s behavior—in all kinds of
situations in which real reinforcement is not merely undesirable but in
fact impossible. Think for example of how useful a simple conditioned
reinforcer would be in training scent discriminations, tracking, long
sits and downs, go-outs, pointing and flushing birds, and all other dog
behaviors that require the animal to work away from you.
It might seem unreasonable that you can control bad behavior
with positive reinforcement instead of “correction,” but dolphin trainers
have many ways to do it. Here are three examples
Establish a conditioned negative reinforcer: this does not need to
be a signal that means, “I’m going to beat you” (although you
could establish that, too) but a signal that means, “Nope, I’m not
going to reinforce you.” It tells the animal that some particular effort
it is making is not going to pay off; the animal swiftly learns
that whenever it gets this “red light” or “Wrong” signal it should
change what it is doing. You could use such a signal, for example,
to help teach a dog not to jump up in greeting, but to keep its
paws on the floor for a patting reinforcement.
Use positive reinforcement to train an incompatible behavior:
in our dolphin shows at Sea Life Park, one animal took to harassing
the girl swimmer who performed in the show. Rather than give the
swimmer a stun gun (or some such punishment) we trained the
dolphin to push on an underwater lever, for a whistle and fish, and
we asked the animal to do that when the swimmer was in the water.
The dolphin could not press its level and pester the swimmer at the
same time; the behaviors are incompatible (and apparently leverpressing
was more reinforcing, because the swimmer harassment
ceased). You are using this technique if you teach your dogs to lie in
the doorway, at mealtimes, so they can’t beg at the table.
• The time-out: sometimes a dolphin does something really bad,
such as showing aggression (swinging its head or teeth at the
trainer’s hand, for example). The instant this happens, you turn
your back, snatch up your training props and fish bucket, and
leave, for one full minute. That’s the end of all the fun. The dolphin
is apt to stick its head out of the water looking dismayed—“Hey,
what’d I do?” In a few repetitions it learns to mind its manners.
Time-outs are used successfully by oceanarium trainers to eliminate
aggression toward human swimmers, even in highly dominant
animals such as adult male killer whales, and to control many other
sorts of misbehavior; the technique is, however, distressing to the animals
and must be used sparingly. (The use of reinforcement to reduce
misbehavior is discussed more fully in my books on training.)
Using reinforcement is a lot of work for the trainer, because it
forces you to think. Oh no, what pain! It’s so much easier just to follow
someone else’s rules: if the dog makes a mess, rub his nose in it. If
the dog doesn’t heel, jerk the chain. However, in thinking about what
you’re going to reinforce, you’ll be a better trainer. And the focus you
will need, in order to perfect the timing of your reinforcements, makes
training a thrill instead of a bore.
From the animal’s standpoint, this kind of training is not a matter
of learning how to stay out of trouble by doing what’s required—a
chore and nothing more. Instead, this kind of training gives the animal
a chance to win, over and over, and also a chance to control at least
part of its world. For example, from a dolphin’s standpoint, once it has
learned the meaning of the whistle, the training is not an exchange of
commands and obedience, but a guessing game in which the dolphin
tries to “discover” various ways to make the trainer blow that whistle.
It is a game, with strict rules, but with equality on both sides. No wonder
the dolphins enjoy their obedient trainers!'
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