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A Silent Killer - Balanced Trainers Blog

There is a silent killer in the dog training world. It is not a virus, not a piece of equipment, not a bacteria.

It is an idea.

It is the idea that all dogs, in all situations, should be trained with nothing other than rewards, and without ever the use of aversives. “Reward what you like and ignore what you don’t” is the mantra that is preached, and all will be well in the world. In the dog training community this philosophy goes by many names, some call it Pure Positive (which is not an accurate description), some call it Progressive Reinforcement, some call it Reward only, but for the purposes of this article I will refer to it as Aversive Free or AF.
Interesting article.....
 

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Woolf has come from being a dog who trainers and a vet advised to be pts to being a dog who can mix with small groups of people while monitored using this method. He still has his quirks, will always need management, but using appropriate corrections has helped him learn there are consequences. Contrary to what his previous trainers had said regarding corrections, it didn't increase his aggression and hasn't turned him into a beaten down confused dog.

That has just been my experience with Woolf and working him through fear aggression, emphasis on aggression.
 

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I hate the words "reward only" and treats. Positive training done correctly isn't about shoving cookies in a dogs mouth. The "article" is just as biased as any blog written by a PO trainer. I also have never met a trainer that uses only rewards and never any verbal or space corrections - many just prefer not to use correction collars.

There are always numerous ways to get from point A to point B and they may all be valid. I have had dogs where using corrections for any reason would absolutely backfire and I've had dogs that in some situations definitely needed a correction to get through but I've never had a dog where a physical correction was needed in regards to working through inappropriate aggression. The one thing the "article" has right is that training is not one size fits all.
 

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Woolf has come from being a dog who trainers and a vet advised to be pts to being a dog who can mix with small groups of people while monitored using this method. He still has his quirks, will always need management, but using appropriate corrections has helped him learn there are consequences. Contrary to what his previous trainers had said regarding corrections, it didn't increase his aggression and hasn't turned him into a beaten down confused dog.

That has just been my experience with Woolf and working him through fear aggression, emphasis on aggression.
When it comes to rescuing dogs, sometimes I think it's a "Waste of time" on the aggressive ones. Not that they can't be rehabilitated, but there are SO many friendly, non-aggressive, dogs pts every day in shelters around the country. I just think that in the time it takes to rehabilitate, properly place, and then live out a life long, liability-fear, lots more dogs could be saved. I am NOT trying to argue, or poo poo rescues, just wondering if we should be placing our energies into the 1000's and 1000's of dogs that have good temperaments, decent nerves, etc...instead of the intense man hours that go into "fixing" and "managing" the aggressive, "problem" ones.

And before anyone tells me about the 1000's of hours they've put into rescues, and how I don't know what I'm talking about. I volunteered at a kill-shelter for several years. So many good dogs get put down, it's just my opinion. In this time we live in(in the US at least), of over-run shelters, very high kill rates, etc...we need to educate, time manage, and be realistic. Where is the time better spent?

EDIT After re-reading a little bit more carefully, I think I am discussing a topic that would best be brought up in a new/separate thread. SO pay no attention to this post. Sorry for changing the subject, OP. lol, maybe I'll start another thread some other time.
 

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Extremists.
Everything needs balance. I am all for positive training but if the dog needs a little correction there is nothing wrong with that. I do not agree with a previous trainer I had 20yrs ago when he told us to hang our GSD by his choke chain for snarling at my husband for trying to take a bone away. Extremes of anything usually aren't the best way.
 

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When it comes to rescuing dogs, sometimes I think it's a "Waste of time" on the aggressive ones. Not that they can't be rehabilitated, but there are SO many friendly, non-aggressive, dogs pts every day in shelters around the country. I just think that in the time it takes to rehabilitate, properly place, and then live out a life long, liability-fear, lots more dogs could be saved. I am NOT trying to argue, or poo poo rescues, just wondering if we should be placing our energies into the 1000's and 1000's of dogs that have good temperaments, decent nerves, etc...instead of the intense man hours that go into "fixing" and "managing" the aggressive, "problem" ones.

And before anyone tells me about the 1000's of hours they've put into rescues, and how I don't know what I'm talking about. I volunteered at a kill-shelter for several years. So many good dogs get put down, it's just my opinion. In this time we live in(in the US at least), of over-run shelters, very high kill rates, etc...we need to educate, time manage, and be realistic. Where is the time better spent?

EDIT After re-reading a little bit more carefully, I think I am discussing a topic that would best be brought up in a new/separate thread. SO pay no attention to this post. Sorry for changing the subject, OP. lol, maybe I'll start another thread some other time.
Luckily, it is up to the individual to decide what is a 'waste of time'.

Have a good day :)
 

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Everything is taken out of context here. Positive reinforcement is only one of the four training techniques that is being confused here. In the newer training techniques we use: positive and negative reinforcement and positive and negative punishment. It is not all about treats. If you don't understand the principle it won't work.
This training is called: operant conditioning.
The next article explains it well: Operant Conditioning - Introduction to Operant Conditioning
 

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I do not understand why so many people cannot take a balanced approach in life, not only in dog training but in many subjects.

When our dog was young, she was extremely strong willed and did not respond to positive training methods. We used prong for corrections and then praise. As she became more mature, we stopped the prong as she responds to praise and treats.
Our previous dog was a dream to train, she basically trained herself. You can't apply one method of training to all dogs.

That people would euthanize a dog rather than spend time working with it is just another sign of the times that some people simply cannot handle a challenge, if things are not easy, well good-bye.
 

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When the AF approach fails, the only other option is euthanasia. After all, it would be unheard of to just give a dog a simple correction, to help it understand that there are certain behaviors in life that have consequences. Simple, immediate, consequences.
I've talked with some of my "positive training only" friends about this. In nature, when something is inappropriate or against the "rules" the dog/animal learns via simple, immediate, consequences. Wolf gets unruly with the leader, gets a swift, stern, correction, wolf plays too rough with another wolf, he gets a swift, stern, correction, wolf takes something that isn't his, gets a swift, stern, correction...etc. SO why is it soooo horrible to give, swift, stern, corrections, for similar things in the human world?

I do believe part of this is due to lack of education, so instead of educating owners on these methods, because of fear of misuse, they are told to never even attempt them. To some extent I understand this, corrections need to be done correctly, at the right time, etc. However, I believe this mindset has evolved into, you need to use positive training only...anything else is "old school" and "barbaric."

To me, corrections are just another tool in my tool bag. After assessing the problem, with the guidance of my training director, and other mentors, I will use the appropriate tools when required.

DISCLAIMER: Obviously nature can be "barbaric" and "ruthless," resulting in death, extreme injury, etc....I feel like I have to say, OBVIOUSLY I am NOT saying to kill or maim your dog if it disobeys you. However, I do not disagree with swift, quick, clear, corrections, when appropriate.
 

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That's a very interesting article, thank for posting the link. I'll bet the links at the end of it are just as intersting, and I can't wait to read them.

What drives me bonkers are the trainers who won't admit that they're just promoting their own philosophy. They aren't dogs, so why insist that they know best? Especially when they advise PTS, that's disgusting. Why not admit failure, and suggest another trainer? How egotistical.
 

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A good trainer/handler developes a strategy that bests suits the individual dog. One that can recognize where the fault at failure lies, and realize it may not be with the dog.
 

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LoL. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who believes in partying for the positives and a correction for the negatives. Let me preface this with, I have never hauled off and hit an animal...ever. At the same time, we have distinct corrections for things we don't want; saying No or Aght very firmly. We also do 'time outs' as needed. There are some things that can be ignored, but if I want to mark an action as a bad thing and enforce it so it doesn't happen again, there has to be some kind of correction, IMHO.
 

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In nature, when something is inappropriate or against the "rules" the dog/animal learns via simple, immediate, consequences. Wolf gets unruly with the leader, gets a swift, stern, correction, wolf plays too rough with another wolf, he gets a swift, stern, correction, wolf takes something that isn't his, gets a swift, stern, correction...etc. SO why is it soooo horrible to give, swift, stern, corrections, for similar things in the human world?
Because interspecies communication isn't as clear as same species communication.
 

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I hate the words "reward only" and treats. Positive training done correctly isn't about shoving cookies in a dogs mouth. The "article" is just as biased as any blog written by a PO trainer. I also have never met a trainer that uses only rewards and never any verbal or space corrections - many just prefer not to use correction collars.
Yes, and hasn't this topic been debated ad nauseum on this forum more than once?
 

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From all the 'purely positive' trainers I have watched (mostly AKC clubs) it seems to me that many dogs do get confused as to why they are rewarded....esp those who growl or threaten other dogs....they growl, they look at mom and get a cookie! HUH??? I watched a lady with a Westie make the dog more and more dog aggressive this way....there was no clarity in the training. Have known a couple people with GSDs do similar things....

At both Ivan and Mike E seminars, both known for positive training, they bring up the importance of making a distinction between wanted and unwanted behaviors.....corrections do not need to be extremely harsh - they need to be negative and clear to the dog at the appropriate level for him to understand....in our breed, there are some very very strong dogs who need a different level of negative.


Haven't read the article - have had this discussion with more than enough people already :) :) :)

Lee
 

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I have never met anyone who was totally positive reinforcement. Every person I have met training, had some method of letting the dog know it did not do the proper thing.

I might use an Eh!, or I might say No, I might position the dog where he ought to be, or I might just redo the exercise. In any of these circumstances the dog gets it, that he did not respond the way I wanted him to.

That being said, I think that people give up on positive reinforcement way too soon. I think with a more patient and more consistent handler, a lot of these dogs that are called hard or stubborn, who it is said it did not work for, well, I think it did not work for the handler/dog team, and if it does not work for the handler/dog team, it does not work.

Some people just should not own dogs. And some of those people are into positive reinforcement because it sounds nice. But not everyone that uses that method is of the same vein. Just like, not everyone who slaps a prong collar on their dog and gets immediate results is now going to drop out of obedience classes because the dog is fixed and perfect now.

I have seen an AKC person severely punishing a puppy at a show. There were actually many complaints. Most of the people I have met at AKC shows are actually pretty balanced in their approach to training. You will not generally see a lot of corrections at shows because:
A, dogs should not be there unless they are entered.

B, dogs that are entered are generally at a level of behavior and training where physical corrections are not all that necessary.

and C, there is supposed to be no training in the ring, and people are generally trying to keep their dogs up-beat prior to going into the ring, and many put their dogs up after their run.

I think it is an unnecessary slight on AKC people to suggest we are crazy +R people from what you might have witnessed at a show.
 
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From all the 'purely positive' trainers I have watched (mostly AKC clubs) it seems to me that many dogs do get confused as to why they are rewarded....esp those who growl or threaten other dogs....they growl, they look at mom and get a cookie! HUH??? I watched a lady with a Westie make the dog more and more dog aggressive this way....there was no clarity in the training. Have known a couple people with GSDs do similar things....
To be fair, this method does work. Not if used incorrectly or in the wrong situation, but the same could be said of anything.

Ridley went through his reactive period, mostly due to being attack multiple times by loose dogs as a puppy, and what worked for him was reward for looking calmly at other dogs. Sure he barked and had his little fits, but the SECOND he was looking at them and quite, I clicked and treated. He soon figured out that just because he saw another dog, didn't mean he had to have a fit. Looking at other dogs calmly and quietly was what I wanted, and that is what I got, and what I have to this day. That said, Ridley is an otherwise stable dog who suffered no real aggression issues, just a loud mouth and some puppy insecurities, which are factors.

For the record, there are people who reward a growl. If built up from a dog with no warning signal from neutral to attack, a growl can be very valuable communication.

We can all claim we've watched other people ruin their dogs doing this or that, be we are not those people and we are not aware of their full situations. So how can we really lay judgment?

I think there is room for balance.

I also think aversives are more oft misused than rewards.
 

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The wish to fight any possible failure, to feel just - makes even the fairest and gentlest of men brutal. Instead of admitting their own failure many attribute it to their dogs and try to "correct". If we are talking about a young dog, but not a puppy, the difference between a good trainer and the bad one is that the first one would be able to "read" his dog, and the bad one will use "methods". A carrot and stick motivation is good for puppies only. Like a human child, who is at his five can already be considered a crystallized character, so is the dog - any sense to "correct" there is only if he is very young. How far one can go? The adult needs behaviour modification as much, as a cow needs a saddle. Sadly, yes... That is the only option. Hitler, in every invaded country, was destroying luna houses and PRISONS.
 

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sigh - I was not "knocking" or slighting AKC people - I have done CDs on most of my dogs and my AKC coach is a Rally Judge.....I was a member of an AKC club for years....the Westie I mentioned is one owned by a club member and believe me - we had major major discussions about this many times....after she made him worse, to the point she was afraid to take him to a match or show - she told me she should have listened to me at the beginning as what I predicted did indeed happen.

Every method is going to work for some person somewhere along the line - or it would not be touted.....my point was that there was no marker for negative with the westie - a simple 'not acceptable' and/or a tap would have sufficed, followed by a 'look' command and reward

Lee
 
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