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Is it a "sensitive dog"? One you have to be careful in basic training with so they don't get scared or defensive and "shut down". Or, is it a dog that does not respond well to the use of a chain or whip?

I see the term used here and in a less than positive manner sometimes or "one that takes special handling". I guess I've never met a "soft dog" in the GSD line that hadn't been abused in some way by a previous handler. If it's a genetic issue - I would assume that's another flaw on the current lines.
 

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I don't know, I may not be using the term correctly. I have described Newlie that way before, but he is not really nervy, skittish, fearful or anything like that. I wouldn't say he was really sensitive, either, he doesn't go hide in a corner if he is scolded or corrected for something. His past is unknown, but he doesn't strike me as a dog that has been mistreated. He doesn't cringe, he has no fear of my hands or of me taking hold of his collar, just in general he seems to expect good things when he comes toward me. I have said Newlie is soft because he is not aloof or suspicious, he likes people and interacts well with them..
 

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I would describe Nitro as soft. He's confident, happy, brave, has a high pain tolerance (e.g. when kicking his ball he ignores accidental hard kicks to the head), and he isn't scared of anything. When my son, (Nitro's favourite person), caught him in the act of chewing the playstation control, and verbally chastised him with passion, (but not scary), Nitro was emotionally devastated. A dog that is sensitive to your displeasure, or your perceived displeasure, is how I would describe a soft dog.
 

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generally speaking, the terms shouldn't vary in different ways or for different situations...
this is the best article I could find on short time, just to clear up that being "soft" isn't necessarily a negative or a fault. Leerburg | Buying a Leerburg Puppy Q&A

...it has more to do with your training approach, experience level and technique more so than the viability of the dog. granted I train guide dogs... but for many reasons, middle of the road is preferred. getting them from point A to point B is one thing.... pairing them with a suitable handler and in the right environment is another.
 

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I don't think the word matters so much as understanding our dogs. I thought my puppy was "soft" because he doesn't tolerate pain well. He's a working line dog from good lines, so it didn't make sense. I'd met the parents who are very solid, sound dogs with excellent temperaments. I worked my way through a few classes and trainers that weren't right for my dog. Finally found a trainer with IPO and WL experience and found that my dog is the opposite of "soft." I started using different training methods and he responded much better. So, for me, knowing what term fits isn't nearly as important as knowing how to get the results I want.

Regarding this site, I had the same confusion about "redirect." I think the best way to use this board is if we aren't sure someone means what we think they do when using a term, just ask.
 

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A soft dog is simply one that doesn't handle corrections/pressure well. This doesn't always mean the dog has bad nerve.
How does this differ from handler sensitive? Can a dog be hard and handler sensitive? Or be mistaken for soft because they are handler sensitive?
 

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How does this differ from handler sensitive? Can a dog be hard and handler sensitive? Or be mistaken for soft because they are handler sensitive?
I think that means a dog responds to a handler it connects with who is using a milder correction, where it might need a much harsher correction from a different handler. My dog responds best when he understands very clearly what the handler wants, so he needs very little correction. But that doesn't make him soft, it makes him responsive.
 

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I know what handler sensitive is. I want to know what mycobraracr thinks on how it differs from being soft.
 

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How does this differ from handler sensitive? Can a dog be hard and handler sensitive? Or be mistaken for soft because they are handler sensitive?

I'm going to try and describe it the best I can. Handler sensitivity is more on an emotional level. One line of dogs I can think of, I would consider good hard dogs that are handler sensitive. Here is an example of why I say that. Say the dog does something wrong that it knows, and the handler gives it a hard correction on a pinch or e-collar and the dog doesn't really react or respond. The type of dogs we joke that could get smacked across the head with a 2x4 and still think it was a game. I know you work dogs, so I'm sure you've seen one. However that same dog would shut down if the handler got truly upset with the dog. Say handler gets frustrated or loses it's temper. The handler may not even need to be physical with the dog at that point. Think of the stern mom look haha. Does this make sense?
 

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I totally understand what handler sensitive is. I have one :) I have to be very careful about how I correct him. "I", not my TD or my helper...it's all about me :)

What I want to know is the difference between handler sensitive and soft. For instance, if I correct my dog with a higher stim or with emotion, he is going to dramatically react. He reacts dramatically when my helper grabbed his ear the first time. But the more pressure you put on him in protection, the better he gets. So IMO, that would not be a soft dog but he is handler sensitive (and that is in his lines). I would say he is a dog that needs to gain confidence when learning and doing something new.

However, his half brother you can hit with the highest stim and he just tilts his head like a gnat is bothering him. So is my dog softer than his brother? Yes! So, also just my opinion, there are varying levels of soft that mesh with handler sensitivity which then become subjective to an opinion thus blurring the lines between the two.

At what point, in your opinion, is a dog soft? and I ask that because of your statement of "A soft dog is simply one that doesn't handle corrections/pressure well"
 

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I think something that happens is folks look at these terms as all inclusive and they aren't. it's a package deal. if I had to describe one of my boys I'd say he's very handler sensitive but not soft... he's confident, resilient, assertive at times but not hard. he can handle a hard correction but does not require them. are there times that he needs supportive handling? sure! but would he be okay with someone who didn't recognize the need at the time... sure. overall I'd say he's middle of the road - but when singling out a specific term I can see where it can be confusing or misleading for some.

as someone said earlier, it's more about knowing your dog and what type of handling is going to be most effective in their training. outside of working, service, sport, breeding, etc - I don't see much importance of terminology for pet parents.
 

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As I see it a soft dog doesn't necessarily handle physical correction badly, it just takes way less intensity to effectively correct the dog. Dogs do not feel pain in a uniform manner. It is highly genetic especially when a dog goes into drive.
I essentially agree with mycobrarcar's idea of handler sensitivity.
 

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As I see it a soft dog doesn't necessarily handle physical correction badly, it just takes way less intensity to effectively correct the dog. Dogs do not feel pain in a uniform manner. It is highly genetic especially when a dog goes into drive.
I essentially agree with mycobrarcar's idea of handler sensitivity.
Let's take "pain" out of the equation because you can correct without having "pain" and the reaction I see when the remote is in my hand vs in the hand of my TD is not even comparable. When he knows the correction is coming from me, it is a different level of reaction from him.

How do you feel "soft" correlates to pressure? (maybe that's the word that stuck out in mycobraracr's post for me?)

For instance, in tracking, my dog was worried about line pressure. Not because he had been overly corrected but because he is hander sensitive. So I had to start introducing line pressure with a light touch. Now I can give pops as we get to food and it doesn't affect him. Again, one pressure is introduced and he understands it, it's a non issue.

so there are three components here

Soft
Handler sensitivity
Confidence in the task (not general confidence in temperament and life but directly in the task)
 

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I totally understand what handler sensitive is. I have one :) I have to be very careful about how I correct him. "I", not my TD or my helper...it's all about me :)

What I want to know is the difference between handler sensitive and soft. For instance, if I correct my dog with a higher stim or with emotion, he is going to dramatically react. He reacts dramatically when my helper grabbed his ear the first time. But the more pressure you put on him in protection, the better he gets. So IMO, that would not be a soft dog but he is handler sensitive (and that is in his lines). I would say he is a dog that needs to gain confidence when learning and doing something new.

However, his half brother you can hit with the highest stim and he just tilts his head like a gnat is bothering him. So is my dog softer than his brother? Yes! So, also just my opinion, there are varying levels of soft that mesh with handler sensitivity which then become subjective to an opinion thus blurring the lines between the two.

At what point, in your opinion, is a dog soft? and I ask that because of your statement of "A soft dog is simply one that doesn't handle corrections/pressure well"


I agree with you on the varying levels and blurred lines. We see all sorts of things that can cross over from one thing to another. When discussing things like softness, drive levels, sensitivity, we are always going to see things differently. You and I both work dogs on a regular basis, but the number of dogs worked, the types of dogs worked and how the dogs are worked are how we are getting our information. It's our sample size if you will. So a dog you think is soft, I may think was the hardest dog to ever have walked the planet. Or a mid drive dog to you may be an over the top monster to me. It's why it's so hard to have discussions on here sometimes. Unless we are all talking about the same dog that we've seen first hand in the same session it can be rather difficult.

To me a soft dog is one that doesn't handle corrections or pressure from more than just the handler. Now exposure can have an affect on this as well IMO. So take what you said about your dog for example. You said he needs to see things first then he's fine. Like the ear pinch. At first he may have reacted, but once he's seen it now it just makes him angry. That could be some softness and uncertainty, but one that was easily worked through with exposure. So would I consider him soft? I can't answer that without working/seeing him first hand.

One dog that's coming to mind I wouldn't call handler sensitive, but correction soft. Now I think this dog is soft more to raising than genetics. I've known this dog it's whole life. I worked both it's parents and some of it's siblings. Now this dog is babied and treated like a princess. Never in trouble or physically corrected. When working the dog on an e-collar, the dog on 6 (dogtra 1900) freaks out and acts like it's life is over. My wife corrected it on a flat collar and you would think the dog was being beat. To me that's a soft dog.
 

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Let's take "pain" out of the equation because you can correct without having "pain" and the reaction I see when the remote is in my hand vs in the hand of my TD is not even comparable. When he knows the correction is coming from me, it is a different level of reaction from him.

How do you feel "soft" correlates to pressure? (maybe that's the word that stuck out in mycobraracr's post for me?)

For instance, in tracking, my dog was worried about line pressure. Not because he had been overly corrected but because he is hander sensitive. So I had to start introducing line pressure with a light touch. Now I can give pops as we get to food and it doesn't affect him. Again, one pressure is introduced and he understands it, it's a non issue.

so there are three components here

Soft
Handler sensitivity
Confidence in the task (not general confidence in temperament and life but directly in the task)

When I used the word pressure, I'm not talking about physical pressure or even pressure from a decoy/helper. I'm referring to things like pressure of the unknown, new things and situations. Pressure in obedience (or any phase) to not screw up and get a correction. Or pressure from the correction. All these things can tell us a lot about a dog. Why when I'm evaluating a dog or am looking into it, what I see on a sport field (any sport) is only part of the equation.
 

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You have to evaluate hardness and softness in the absence of obedience. It has to be measured in response to aversive stimuli when they don't know or think they know how to avoid or turn it off otherwise you begin to blur the line between hardness and softness (general sensitivity to aversive stimuli) with handler sensitivity. Line pressure or prong pop response on a dog that understands loose leash behavior isn't a good baseline. You can't look at response in terms of did they comply or not by itself. I'd look more toward do they suppress? Do they become alarmed? Do they shrug it off?

When looking for a working level with a dog that hasn't seen ecollar yet is a good time to see it objectively. A general idea is seen when training, period, but the more OB and understanding a dog has of to aversive the more the line blurs between obedience handler sensitivity and hardness or insensitivity level of the dog.
 

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When I used the word pressure, I'm not talking about physical pressure or even pressure from a decoy/helper. I'm referring to things like pressure of the unknown, new things and situations. Pressure in obedience (or any phase) to not screw up and get a correction. Or pressure from the correction. All these things can tell us a lot about a dog. Why when I'm evaluating a dog or am looking into it, what I see on a sport field (any sport) is only part of the equation.
Yup def this.
 

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To me a soft dog is one that doesn't handle corrections or pressure from more than just the handler. Now exposure can have an affect on this as well IMO. ....

One dog that's coming to mind I wouldn't call handler sensitive, but correction soft. Now I think this dog is soft more to raising than genetics. I've known this dog it's whole life. I worked both it's parents and some of it's siblings. Now this dog is babied and treated like a princess. Never in trouble or physically corrected
Which leads to the subject of letting your dog work thru stress!

I've watched one dog that all but hid behind the handler. This dog is not genetically soft. In fact, these are dogs you could beat with that 2x4. But because the dog had been babied and had never been allowed to work thru stress in any situation, when pressure was put on him he fell apart.

I think that also goes for trainer and helpers. I see my dog make much more progress when he has to work thru the stress and he has to learn to do it on his own. The more stress you put on him, the better he gets.

People create learned helplessness, i.e. soft, by never pressuring the dogs and letting them work thru the stress of a situation.

(and as a note...the helper I'm working with now may have told me to stop babying mine :surprise:)
 
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