Anybody know if a study has been done on balanced training? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-24-2017, 05:38 AM Thread Starter
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Anybody know if a study has been done on balanced training?

I am getting quite tired of the reward focused training community pointing to studies that show that compulsion training is damaging to the dog and not as effective as reward-only training etc. etc. and then applying this to balanced training. The studies they reference such as ecollar studies show (not surprisingly) that dogs trained to perform new behaviors are more stressed than dogs who are trained initially with positive reinforcement.

I define balanced training (I am aware this def. is a gross oversimplification) as using positive reinforcement to train all new behaviors then introducing corrections in the later stages to proof the behavior. This is completely different from using compulsion to train behaviors from the get-go.

I would hypothesize that balanced training methods implemented properly would produce behaviors that are more resilient to extinction than behaviors that were trained with positive reinforcement only without the fallout (potential residual stress and superstitious behaviors) of compulsion only training.

Does anyone know of any studies on balanced training when compared to either reward based focused training styles or compulsion focused training styles? If not, I would love to see one to shut up the positive-only crowd.
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post #2 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-24-2017, 07:39 AM
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It would be nice to see. If they are measuring stress hormones, I would expect a rise of those hormones in training that uses corrections. But stress hormones in themselves are not bad. It is a constant high level of stress that is bad. So you would have to see what exactly that study is measuring.

I do know that dogs themselves use corrections. Usually quick and to the point and then they move on (not fighting, just correcting for over the line rough play as an example). Dogs that never get corrections while training will eventually get one. Life is not perfect. When they do will they be able to handle it? Also which dogs they chose makes a difference. Even between my two GSDs, one needs a firmer correction than the other. What is good for one is too much for the other. How big will the sample be? Far too often the sample size is too small to really be significant.
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post #3 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-24-2017, 09:28 AM
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Not with dogs, perhaps, but you could certainly wade into research on training paradigms with lab rats from the 1960s forward. There's a LOT out there, much of which has been successfully applied to training paradigms with humans in various lab situations. It's always risky to make cross-species comparisons, but (as I recall) a lot of the basic principles are applicable.
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post #4 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-24-2017, 10:45 AM
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I once found a study that showed Belgian malinois were less stressed with shock collar corrections than they were with treats and positive reinforcement. SO wish I could find the link for that!!
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post #5 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-24-2017, 10:47 AM
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FOUND IT!! Thank you, Google!!

http://www.revmedvet.com/2012/RMV163_530_535.pdf
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post #6 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-24-2017, 12:36 PM
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This test was conducted with trained adult police dogs who have been been through a thorough selection from the very beginning of their lives. I wonder how representative they can be for the average dog population. It is an interesting article that is food for thought.
As a pet dog trainer most of my client's dogs were raised with over-used treats and no leadership. I prefer to use the clicker for teaching new behavior and the prong or martingale collar and NILIF to reinforce good behavior if the dog decides to disobey. But still in a reasonable way of course and in situations where I know the dog is able to handle it but decides not to comply.
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post #7 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-24-2017, 01:36 PM
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Yeah it's called IPO, French Ring, Agility, Hunting......

I don't know of any actual dog specific studies that prove what you're asking OP, but it's classic operant conditioning. We know this works, its been born out for along time.

No dog with a decent amount of fight or spirit (aka drive) is ever going to be completely controlled by positive reinforcement alone, at some point it has to be established that doing what I say ISN'T optional. Period, full stop. You don't show that by giving rewards.

And by the way, the people you reference in your first paragraph... they're right! Compulsion training can destroy your bond with a dog and shut down a dog's spirit (drive to work). It might do what you want because it must, but it's never going to reach it's full potential. Ecollars can cause stress especially if you're using them to train a new behavior. Positive reinforcement IS better at training a new behavior.

But the conclusion they reach is the problem, it's classic confirmation bias. They WANT positive only training to work, so they latch onto any evidence they can find and twist it to suit their needs. The problem is because they want things to be nice and don't want to punish their dog, thus they draw some highly suspect logical conclusions.

Stress is merely your bodies physiological response to a challenge, it effects your body in a variety of ways but the simplest way to explain it is it releases adrenaline into your body. I think we've all taken high school biology, so you'll understand that in and of itself, stress isn't good or bad. It can be extremely helpful or if there is too much or it goes on continuously for too long is when it causes damage.

So causing stress shouldn't be something you fear exposing your dog to, you just need to be mindful to take things slow and progressive and not go overboard. And of course, if properly structured, challenges (i.e. stressors) can build confidence and reduce stress over time.

And again, yeah e-collars can cause stress it's a challenge, it causes pain (however mild that may be) and thus presents a choice, keep doing what I want and deal with this negative stimuli or give in. That's why it's generally not advised to be used to train a new behavior. It's used to reinforce that an already trained behavior will be done despite the circumstances or to stop a dangerous behavior.

Long and short is that dogs might not be humans, but they're still mammals. They're not some alien species. The same chemicals and brain functions exist in them as they do in us, merely on a more rudimentary and basal level. This topic is severely over analyzed sometimes, and arguments get taken to reductio ad absurdum by their own proponents. Strange stuff, kinda reminds me of politics.

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post #8 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-24-2017, 02:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfy dog View Post
This test was conducted with trained adult police dogs who have been been through a thorough selection from the very beginning of their lives. I wonder how representative they can be for the average dog population. It is an interesting article that is food for thought.
As a pet dog trainer most of my client's dogs were raised with over-used treats and no leadership. I prefer to use the clicker for teaching new behavior and the prong or martingale collar and NILIF to reinforce good behavior if the dog decides to disobey. But still in a reasonable way of course and in situations where I know the dog is able to handle it but decides not to comply.
Maybe I'm splitting hairs, and it's been a really long time since my learning theory class in college, but I thought a prong/martingale would be an aversive, aka punishment. And in operant conditioning, punishment is (on a simplistic level) a consequence that decreases the likelihood of the behavior being repeated in the future. Reinforcement, on the other hand would increase the likelihood of the behavior being repeated. Just checking my understanding because I am not a trainer and it's been ages since I took a learning psychology class.
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post #9 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-25-2017, 02:11 PM
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First you'd need everyone to agree on what the term "balanced" means.....

I personally hate it, I've seen too many different things labeled balanced that it's virtually meaningless.
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post #10 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-26-2017, 08:31 AM
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Couldn't sleep last night, so I read through the article. I donít know what anyone could reliably take away from this study. The writing is so problematic in places that it's hard to deduce what they actually did and why --- and I'm accustomed to reading fairly mind numbing studies --- what exactly is a "quitting signal," for example, and was it exactly the same for all dogs, in all conditions? Second, it seems that all dogs wore three collars during the training sessions. What was the purpose of that and was any consideration given to potential crossover effects? What exactly was evidence of learning/training, that the dog didn't make the mistake again (yes/no)? Further, if I understand this correctly, if the dog showed evidence of "learning" (i.e., didn't make the mistake), the assessment portion ended. Apparently, if the dog didn't show evidence of learning, it was given a second chance. If that's the case, then any contrasts simply aren't comparable. Finally, that experts adjusted stim levels means that dogs were differentially primed to respond to the ecollar (vs. the pinch collar or quit signal) before the study began. The authors spent a lot of time in the discussion talking around what is a fairly significant design flaw. These are just a *few* of the issues that I saw.

I think the question is an interesting one, but itís not answered by this study.
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