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If you don't want to read the whole thing, here is my ultimate question:
--Has anyone titled a dog in obedience using positive only or positive mixed with mild corrective methods?--

This is most likely a silly question, and could belong in the training forum, but it specifically pertains to obedience.

I had my puppy (nearly 8 months) in a beginners advanced obedience class that focuses on fine tuning behaviors for the ring.

I am trying to train using positive mixed with mild correction (verbal and mild equipment corrections).

Long story short, I didn't like the instructor correcting other peoples dogs, and I was concerned that she might correct my boy even though I had said that I am the only one to correct him. She made a 4 month old lab puppy yelp multiple times on a prong! That was enough for me to un-enroll and lose my money if it comes to it.

Anyway, she had said her methods are positive, but there needs to be a balance between positive and negative (in the form of a prong snap). She said that my training methods won't work for this advanced level of obedience.

Am I living in a dream world? Is it possible to title my pup using positive training and some mild correction?


I believe my dog learns well this way, and if the instructor were to give him the types of corrections she gives to other dogs, I think it would break everything I have been working for. I have worked really hard to show him that people are good, and that others won't hurt him, and if he were to be corrected by someone other than myself, I don't know what would happen.

Last thing, I don't know if this is a valid excuse, but the obedience class is right after work, so I get home and jump in the car with him (normally we jump in the car to go run and play, or go to agility). So you can imagine how excited he is to see other dogs and play with them.
He exhibits nice control when we are heeling behind and by other dogs, but everything falls apart when he watches the recalls. Keep in mind this was the first class, so it was super exciting, but every time a dog would run past, he would jump up and start barking wanting to play. Should an 8 month old puppy be able to exhibit control no matter how much pent up energy he has?

Thanks!
 

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Am I living in a dream world? Is it possible to title my pup using positive training and some mild correction?

Nope, no dream world. Sounds about perfect to me. Sure at some point you're probably gonna have to use some punishment but to lay into a 4 month old puppy like this is just wrong!!


Should an 8 month old puppy be able to exhibit control no matter how much pent up energy he has?
I'm gonna say no. That's asking a lot for a puppy.
 

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Short answer is, YES.

I don't think you should expect perfection from an 8 month old puppy. And I know a GSD breeder/trainer/AKC Obedience Judge that totally agrees with that. (I go to her for supplementary training before trials.) That said, some people do start training puppies at a young age, as young as 2 months and have good results. But I have a 9 month old (Boaz) and, while he does very well in training, he still has his puppy moments. As of yet, he doesn't get any type of correction and he is working on a flat leather collar. Food is a major motivator with him. He's about ready for some Novice Rally work. I haven't trained specifically for Novice Obedience yet. I like to start with rally, Novice and Advanced, before I move to Obedience.

Balto is 3 years old. I can NOT use a correction at all if I want him to work. He's very soft and sensitive. He has a CD and an RAE.

Ciana has RN only but ,typical Belgian, you cannot correct her without her sulking.

When fine tuning for a trial I might give a quick leash reminder to reinforce a "Sit", but nothing harsher than that.
 

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Yep! My boy Belgian was trained with positive methods and got his CD with all scores in the 190s. He's not really a soft dog at all - I just like the results of positive methods vs. correction based methods. He'll be going for his CDX soon. My youngest Belgian was trained with pretty much all positive methods and got her first RN leg with a 98 - the only thing that kept it from being a 100 was that she laid down instead of sitting on a front exercise.
 

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Yes.

Every dog is different. Some need more positive. Some need more verbal corrections or a prong (and fyi, a prong doesn't "hurt" like the dog is being abused, but nothing wrong with not wanting to use one).

I am a little concered that you are doing agility with your dog at 8 months...hopefully it's just very low things that don't involving jumping?
 

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I guess it really depends on one's definition of positive. If by it one means never giving the dog any sort of negative experience, then no I do not believe this is possible.

One also has to really look closely at some "positive" methods.

For many dogs, particularly those who are handler soft, a leash correction is far kinder, and more clear, than a verbal correction or more personal negative feedback coming from the handler.

Many food trainers think nothing of starving a dog for a couple days before a training session, or feeding a dog only during training and if he doesn't perform as they like, he doesn't eat. To me, that is downright cruel, yet they will often brag that their dog was trained through positive only methods using food, and never got a collar correction. Hummm.....

Is sending a dog into a high state of drive, then witholding the dog's drive goal for less than perfect perforamance, as many toy trainers do really positive? I wonder if they have any idea of the mental stress such drive blocking and frustration puts on the dog, but again if they get what they want without using collar corrections they will brag about their purely positive trained dog.

Then there are people who micromanage and control their dog's life so much that it's it is deprived of social interaction anywhere outside of training. But once again, if they starve the dog in this case for social interaction rather than food, but never need a collar, it's all positive, right?

Yet many dogs subjected to such methods of "positive" training would probably, if asked, much rather get a collar correction or two if it clarified what the heck the handler wanted so they could learn quicker, and consider such preferable to the deprivation and drive and emotional manipulation.

And then on the other side of the coin you've got dogs who stimulate into more drive and enthusiasm with some pops on that evil ol' pinch collar.. so is that really negative or punishment for those dogs? Yet if someone so much as sees you with a pinch collar on your dog, you can no longer be considered a positive trainer it seems.

As far as myself, I have trained and titled many dogs with primarily, but not exclusively, positive methods and very little in the form of correction. What corrections were employed were for the purpose of fine tuning, and providing that black/white clarity that dogs need and appreciate. When they do get corrections, verbal or collar depends on the situation and mostly on the dog and what will be the most effective communication for the dog. Corrections are not supposed to be punishment, they are supposed to be information, and when delivered properly with that in mind they get the message across in a way the dog understands and appreciates and in no way causes any mental or physical harm.

As far as an 8 month old puppy, I certainly don't expect a pup of that age to be fully trained or reliable in every situation because to be such requires not just training experience but mental maturity. And the only thing that brings mental maturity is age, which an 8 month old just doesn't have.
 

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One also has to really look closely at some "positive" methods.

Many food trainers think nothing of starving a dog for a couple days before a training session, or feeding a dog only during training and if he doesn't perform as they like, he doesn't eat.

Then there are people who micromanage and control their dog's life so much that it's it is deprived of social interaction anywhere outside of training.
FTR I've not done any of these things to any of my dogs (although I'm not sure what exactly you mean about the toy drive thing, so can't comment). The most correction I have ever used for obedience training is a verbal "no" or "eh-eh" or a leash pop to get the dog to refocus. The leash pops are not really meant to be punishment and are followed by treats/play when the dog does refocus. And my dogs are kinda the opposite of micromanaged ;)

Good results are possible in performance sports with positive training, little "punishment" and not having to use the above methods.

To the OP, I'd suggest Sue Ailsby's Training Levels. It's a full training course that you can follow through at home to build a good foundation for anything you may want to do with your dog, all without the use of force. Sue Ailsby is a pretty accomplished dog person from Canada and has trained service dogs, agility dogs, carting dogs, water work dogs and obedience dogs using the methods outlined in her program.
LevelBook
(shes also working on a new version: Steps to Success: StepsToSuccess)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I am a little concered that you are doing agility with your dog at 8 months...hopefully it's just very low things that don't involving jumping?
Low impact only for my pup until his plates close! The jumps we do are 3-6 inches off the ground, just enough for him to know they are there.


I guess it really depends on one's definition of positive. If by it one means never giving the dog any sort of negative experience, then no I do not believe this is possible.

As far as an 8 month old puppy, I certainly don't expect a pup of that age to be fully trained or reliable in every situation because to be such requires not just training experience but mental maturity. And the only thing that brings mental maturity is age, which an 8 month old just doesn't have.
Wow thank you for all of the great responses!

My idea of positive is to use as little verbal/equipment correction as possible to get the behavior I want. That varies between dogs of course, and varies due to age. I do NOT consider starving a dog, or any other tactic as positive. Yes, I withhold a meal if I am going to be training, but I do not consider employing extreme tactics a form of positive training.

I want my dog trained in an every day scenario that doesn't rely on withholding things or obsessively controlling.

I have a solid foundation of obedience in my opinion, heel (with turns on loose lead), sit, stand, stay (down/sit 1-2 minute), and recall. He is very sloppy with the recall, slow to sit and down, and always backs up on a sit where his nose will be at my back pocket. But I am chalking that up to experience.

If I see he knows and understands the commands, I figure I can perfect them later down the road, right?

He is in the process of getting used to the prong collar, he has about 3 days of work on it, and I find it an effective tool, but the corrections I deliver, if any are more of a 'tap' to remind him of what we are doing. My corrections are not used as a form of punishment, where as the lab puppy the instructor corrected was harsh and not needed.

At this point, I am in the process of looking for a new class that focuses on positive styles, and understands that I have a puppy. I don't want to stifle him by not allowing him to be a kid.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
To the OP, I'd suggest Sue Ailsby's Training Levels. It's a full training course that you can follow through at home to build a good foundation for anything you may want to do with your dog, all without the use of force. Sue Ailsby is a pretty accomplished dog person from Canada and has trained service dogs, agility dogs, carting dogs, water work dogs and obedience dogs using the methods outlined in her program.
LevelBook
(shes also working on a new version: Steps to Success: StepsToSuccess)
Thanks! I'll look into that!
 

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My 13 year old son titled his 14 MONTH old Shetland Sheepdog in Rally Novice with scores of 98.5, 99, and a perfect 100 and trained solely with positive reinforcement techniques. Ruby has never been corrected with a chain or prong. The judge who gave her the perfect 100 score actually told my son that he had never seen such a perfect demonstration of what teamwork between dog and handler should look like. It is ABSOLUTELY POSSIBLE (and in many eyes PREFERRED) to train without the use of harsh corrections and prong collars. Any trainer who tells you she can't train a dog without these tools is someone I would walk away from. Anyone who puts a prong collar on a 4 month old puppy and makes him yelp from the resulting corrections is also someone I would walk (RUN) away from.
 

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All those Shelties are overachievers. ;) Seriously, though, when I see a Sheltie in my Rally class, I figure it will place, and place ahead of me.
 

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It depends on the dog. Some dogs do not need much in the way of corrections, but some need more in order to be clear about the expectations. It's really not about a method that works across the board. Training should be individualized.

But no I wouldn't expect anything reliable from an 8 month old puppy.
 

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I am teaching an AKC STAR puppy class right now, and I have to say, my students amaze me. They walk calmly on leash, do sit/stays and downs, and we are starting recalls.

These "pet" dogs are actually teaching me a lot, and I advocate positive methods in class. I am learning that I can expect more from my working line puppy, and she is giving it to me, with nothing more than an "ack" as a negative.
 

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Yes, Arwen in obedience, took first place all three legs, Babs has a leg -- also took first place, we only entered one show, waiting for the classic to get the other two legs, and nine in Rally.

Babsy's RA was a first and two third places at the classic last year. That last third place was a three way tie for first -- time got us, cause I am slow.

Babsy has never been struck, never had a choke or prong or ecollar on, has never needed it. A minor change in tone is all she ever needs as a correction.

Arwen likewise, never needed any type of correction collar or rough corrections. After giving me a red ribbon at a show, I drove her to the APL and told her that I expected BLUE ribbons! My brother's mouth hung open. (I went there to drop off the Dads samples we got at the show.) But after that, Arwen gave me three first place performances. We always said she was half human and understood English.
 

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Ron Harris says he trained VA Lars Wilhendorf SchH 3 in a totally positive manner (but I heard his trials weren't real pretty, or the numbers real big).
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks for all the comments and links!

These dogs are trained using positive methods (treats, toys, play) and extremely accomplished agility dogs. She doesn't compete in obedience but I love her dogs heelwork. I don't think anyone could argue that she'd get better results with correction based training:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtkTJ6ZvlH0

And for fun, a video of the trainer's trick class:
http://www.youtube.com/user/yolle555#p/u/8/tUPQ8EnQiCI
And wow! I need to get remy to do what those dogs do!
 
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