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Discussion Starter #1
I use a prong collar, and I have no problems with that. When I tried to get my step-dad to use a prong collar on his Lab this weekend, he would have nothing of it stating: "No way in **** you are using that torture device on my dog!" I tried to explain my beliefs on it, my experience of studying wolf ethology- how canids correct through neck bites, how it doesn't dig in, how to properly size, etc, etc but he didn't want anything to do with it...

It made me start thinking about the collar. It made me wonder why people have such extreme opinions of it. What I discovered in researching this is that even my own professional trainer might not be using it "right."

But this thread is not about the prong collar. It's about knowledge. The prong collar is just a good topic to use to discuss training theory.
What I really want to know is:
Where does one go to get truly authoritative information on dog training theory?

I can read a couple thousand opinions on this forum, I can watch endless youtube videos, I can find countless books and movies, and I can find finite numbers of 'professional trainers.' But in the end, I have to take all that information (and mostly, if not all, opinions) and decide for myself what I believe.

I don't see any reason why I shouldn't have access to information from actual scientific research studies that have factual information (not just opinions) on best training practices and training theory, including the ethical/moral side of training techniques. I think this is a logical endeavor- such info must exist somewhere. Where do the 'pro' trainers get their information? Where do you get your information?
 

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I don't see any reason why I shouldn't have access to information from actual scientific research studies that have factual information (not just opinions) on best training practices and training theory, including the ethical/moral side of training techniques.
I don't think such papers exist. As someone who reads (and writes) scientific papers (although, not on behavior), I don't really think there exists such sources. While you can easily find several nice papers on animal psychology and behavior, and I've read a few cohort and one case review on the matter, usually it is VERY hard to put it into any relevant context. For one thing, the controls of both the animal and the trainer would vary so much, as to not make much in the way of meaningful conclusions.

Once you put several journal manuscripts into a review article, you get very close to forming an opinion, and by definition, bias.

IMO, in the end, you really have to look at the people who are the experts, and find the techniques that work for you and your dog. Now, if you want a JAVMA article that shows/exonerates X damage from Y type of training, then thats easy. But for results based on training, theory, methods; best bet is probably see the results and decide on ethics yourself.

my 2 cents.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I probably wasn't super clear in my initial post. I didn't mean that I wanted to read the actual worknotes directly from the researcher. Those would be rather dry and probably immensely hard to follow. I guess what I was getting at is that there are techinques such as:

-Operant Conditioning- perhaps best highlighted by the popular Clicker Training, or just Pure Positive Training, which I think is referred to as Foundation Style

-Aversive Conditioning- perhaps best highlighted by the opposite extremes in peoples' belief in using prong collars


I didn't study psychology in college (though I did enjoy it as a gen ed class) so I am sure there are even more types of conditioning. The point being that I assume there have been studies to show what kind of conditioning has worked best, and had the best overall outcome.

An example would be that the other day I asked my trainer why we needed positive reinforcement training. It seems that there are very few "positively reinforced" behaviors displayed in wild wolves. Most behaviors are either existent as genetically inherent positive (therefore untrained), or undesirable negatively reinforced through bite corrections (therefore eliminated via training). In this respect, it would make some sense that our dogs would react best to aversive conditioning such as prong collars. Why even have the positive, praise-based stuff if it isn't exhibited in the wild? Of course the answer is somewhat obvious:

--If we trained with pure negative reinforcement, we'd have a perfectly well behaved dog that didn't want to come to us or show any affection

--If we trained with pure positive reinforcement, we'd have a perfectly well behaved dog that wouldn't do anything without a food reward.

...it makes sense that we need a balance. But this is just an observation (admittedly a logical one) that is based in one guy's experience. Certainly it could be backed up with scientific research and study. So what I am looking for is to see if anyone has pinned one training method against another to weigh the results against quantifiable markers (whatever they may be) using the scientific method including a control.

I did, just tonight, find these books which I will likely be checking out and may offer what I am looking for:
Don't Shoot the Dog
Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition
Canine Ergonomics: The Science of Working Dogs
 

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I see, I am sorry for jumping to conclusions. I thought you were interested in using primary source literature to formulate a training scheme. I've heard a lot of good things about Don't Shoot the Dog. Thats about as much help as I can be on this; :confused:
 

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You'll find many people who say they are the authority in dog training. But as you found, everybody has their own opinion.

I have used all the methods, except e-collar. My first dog training class was Koehler method in the 70's. I've used prong, treats and clicker, oh, and Ivan Balabanov's wonderful DVD. By far, the easiest and fastest method I've tried is a tie between Ivan's "game" and using a clicker. My prong collars are collecting dust in the garage.

Even if you found a study of 50,000 dogs being trained by different methods, you really need to learn and understand the method. My neighbor has a prong collar, and she still barely has control of her poodle-retriever mix. But, when I take her dog for a walk with just a martingale (so I don't lose it), she's a happy obedient dog.

Yes, I know, I'm no help!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
and Ivan Balabanov's wonderful DVD. By far, the easiest and fastest method I've tried is a tie between Ivan's "game" and using a clicker.
I've never heard of Ivan Balabanov. I took a look at his website, and I'd say if there was ever an authority on dog training, he'd have to be high on that list. His accomplishments are outstanding, though his training DVD series is quite pricy. I suppose there is a cost for "authoritative" material though. Once the christmas seasons rolls through- I think I'll pick up his series and see what he has to say... Thanks for this!
 

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I don't think there is. You have to wade through all the stuff and just decide what works for you. There are probably thousands of different varients of dog training theories and a zillion different books, videos, online commentary, etc.

To say "go here" or "go there" isn't really possible because there is just too much out there and too many different opinions.

You have to wade through it all and decide what works for you, unfortunately.
 

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Patricia McConnell's book, "The Other End of the Leash" is a very interesting read. She has a PhD in animal behavior and explains a lot about dog behavior in the book.
 

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It's almost impossible to test one training theory against another because there are too many variables. Bad tempered handlers shouldn't use prongs, timid handlers don't do well with compulsion, inconsistent dog owners can't make any training method work.

You might want to look up Turid Rugaas, she's an interesting read if you're interested in how dogs communicate. I don't know how scientific her works are, but she's spent her life working with and studying dogs. Calming Signals for Dogs is one of the best resources I've seen for understanding what dogs are "saying".
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Thanks everyone for you suggestions; I really appreciate it! Last night my trainer decided in our advanced obedience class that we would work off-collar. Pimg did very well, as her foundation is strong and I've worked many, many hours with her in obedience. But, with any class of a large number of dogs (around 45-50 or so last night), you will always have some that aren't as good as others. Since they no longer had their prong collars on, the dogs obviously couldn't be corrected via the collar. As such, we were instructed to tug on their ears to "let them know we were still in charge."

Now, I don't have any issue with the responsible use of the prong collar- I feel that it very closely mimics what happens in the wild. But to drag a dog around by the ear is just simply beyond what I am willing to do. To me, it shows a pretty blatant disregard to the animal as a living creature, and therefore I didn't feel the need to issue such corrections on my dog.

Anyway- it seems the more I learn about dog training/behavior [EDIT- perhaps more correctly stated: the deeper I get into training my own dog], the more wary I get about other people's methods- thus this thread. Today I just picked up four new books on the topic, and I'm hoping to gain a lot more knowledge in this area. I picked up:

  • The Other End of the Leash: Patricia McConnell
  • The Cautious Canine: Patricia McConnell
  • The Rosetta Bone: Cheryl Smith
  • Don't Shoot the Dog: Karen Pryor

I am not convinced that purely positive-reward training is a worthwhile cause; it seems to be ignorant of the fact that the dog does sometimes perform undesired behavior that should be corrected. On the flip side, I am (gladly) discovering there are limits to how far I will go in physically correcting my dog. Hopefully I can learn a much better balance with some new reading material... Thanks again all!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Note: I do also plan on picking up Ivan Balabanov's DVD series once I can come up with the whopping $245 for it... Geez that's a lotta bread, but he is a 7 time world champion after all. There is certainly some worth in that.
 

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But, with any class of a large number of dogs (around 45-50 or so last night), you will always have some that aren't as good as others.
40-50 dogs in one class?! With one instructor?

That's a huge class... talk about distractions! Is this done inside or outside?
 

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I absolutely agree that dragging a dog around by her/his ear is cruel and a very old-fashioned, and not effective, way of training. If you poke around on the forum you'll see lots of discussions about purely positive v. compulsion training.

I personally have found my dogs much more interested in working with me when I'm not physically forcing them to do so. I no longer use treats as the main reward, although I did so initially, before Rafi and I had a strong bond. Now Rafi loves to work with me on anything and unless I'm giving him yukky medicine or asking him to do something he's not keen on doing (when he gets a treat as a reward) his reward is either me playing with him or lots of praise.

Check out the website dogwise.com There are lots of excellent books on training there.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
40-50 dogs in one class?! With one instructor?

That's a huge class... talk about distractions! Is this done inside or outside?
Classes are held outside in nice weather, but inside currently with Winter here. It's a very large room- generally plenty of space. Yes- one instructor for Advanced, and 2-4 instructors for Novice. You would perhaps find it interesting that there are actually two classes, so that's only half the dogs enrolled. This particular trainer is quite popular...
 

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40-50 dogs in one class?! With one instructor?

That's a huge class... talk about distractions! Is this done inside or outside?
Way too many dogs in the class, whether it's outside or inside. And not enough instructors to watch everyone and make sure they've done it right.

The best class I was ever in had 8 dogs on a "full" night and at least three trainers. One trainer for 40 to 50 dogs is ridiculous.
 

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I am not convinced that purely positive-reward training is a worthwhile cause; it seems to be ignorant of the fact that the dog does sometimes perform undesired behavior that should be corrected. On the flip side, I am (gladly) discovering there are limits to how far I will go in physically correcting my dog. Hopefully I can learn a much better balance with some new reading material... Thanks again all!
Actually, it's not ignorant of that at all. Most people who use primarily motivational training do use some sort of correction, at the least verbal corrections, as a way to impart information to the dog. When teaching the dog what TO do, a marker and reward for getting it right and no reward for getting it wrong, (perhaps with a negative/"no reward" marker, which I use) is crystal clear to the dog.

If you're talking about teaching the dog what NOT to do, you can ignore the behavior if that's appropriate, so it will extinguish due to not being reinforced (behavior that doesn't work to get the dog what he wants will eventually extinguish, such as barking for attention), or in the case of more serious behavior that cannot and should not be ignored, it's better and more efficient to manage the situation to prevent the dog from practicing bad behavior in the first place than to correct it after the fact, and/or to teach an alternate, incompatible behavior. I can correct my dog over and over and over again for getting into the garbage can, or I can put it out of reach in a cabinet. I can correct my dog over and over again for putting his paws on the kitchen counter, or I can boundary train him to stay on a mat or just outside the room. I can correct my dog over and over again for jumping on people, or I can teach him to sit before someone approaches and to remain sitting until released.

There may be times when the dog's desire to do something is going to override any perceived benefit for him to do what you want him to do (such as prey drive being triggered by the presence of a deer or squirrel on an off leash hike), and in that case you might consider adding an aversive to your training program. Aversives need to be associated by the dog with his behavior not with you, so should be used properly with assistance by an experienced trainer.

--If we trained with pure positive reinforcement, we'd have a perfectly well behaved dog that wouldn't do anything without a food reward.
Again, no. Food rewards used properly do not create a dependence on the presence of the reward for compliance, the food is just a training tool. And with many dogs, such as Ruth's Rafi, toy drive is stronger. You can (and should!) also use real life rewards, such as access to anything the dog values. For instance, if I want my dogs to sit and look at me every time they want to go outside or come inside, I do not need to give them a treat each time. I can acknowledge it with a cheerful "good dogs!" and then let them in or out. Same thing at mealtime, during play, when putting the leash on for a walk, waiting for a release out of the crate in the morning - none of these have to be constantly rewarded once the dog understands the rules. The food is simply a means to get to that point.
 

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Patricia McConnell's book, "The Other End of the Leash" is a very interesting read. She has a PhD in animal behavior and explains a lot about dog behavior in the book.
I really enjoyed this book as well. It made me think in ways I never had before, even if it was about something as simple as how (and why) we humans throw our arms around and over dogs.

I don't think there is any one, definitive source on training theory, though. What works for one person isn't going to work with another, necessarily. And absolutely what works for one dog might not work with another.
Sheilah
 

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I remember the instructor in our advanced obedience class saying that if you put 3 dog trainer in one room the only thing they would agree upon is that the other trainer is doing it wrong. His point was that there are many different ways to train and many theories but in the end you have to decide what is best for you and your dog. What does your dog respond best too.
 

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I encourage you to read all you can about training methods and theories. If you are able, going to seminars by successful trainers can be a lot of fun and really informative.

Tools in training are just that. It is the "tool user" that makes all the difference.
 

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Here's a video of beginning to teach a dog to give to leash pressure so that the prong can be used for steering in heelwork. The dog is learning how to give in to slight pressure so that the pressure has meaning to the dog and they know what direction to move. This does not involve a big corrective use of the collar but more for effective communication in helping the dog learn position. Using this tool does not always mean a harsh correction is the modality of use.


 
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