Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Negative Training

I was surprised to talk to a few people here at the National that still use aversive training techniques. One lady, who has been in whippets forever, was trying to get her dog to do a down for the first time. She told him DOWN and when he did not, she violently pulled his leash down to force him into a down. I yelled a her to "Get some treats" but she kept this up for a while. When your dog has no idea what you want, how can you possibly punish him for not knowing what to do? It was hard to watch.

Another handler, who is actually very good and has fantastic heeling feels that ear pinches are necessary just to they know they have to retrieve. She also thumps her dog on the chest when she "makes a mistake." She wanted to demonstrate this to me so she put her dog into a sit, paid no attention to the dog, and thumped the dog on the chest after a few minutes when the dog went into a down. They are a very impressive team. I guess her dog is not 100% reliable on sits and down and she also uses rewards. So I guess a mixed system or even an all aversive system can work but I believe that an all positive training is the best way to train your dog.

In the first case, the trainer did not even know how to use aversives correctly (if there is such a thing). You must be absolutely sure your dog understands the behavior. I think that is very difficult. How many times have I thought Wyatt understood a behavior only to discover that he was cueing off an unintended body language, was confused by my inconsistent signals or, most commonly, too nervous to attend to me fully because I had not proofed him sufficiently?

I can just imagine how quickly I would ruin Wyatt, who is super sensitive to pain, and super aversive to pain, if I used some of the methods I saw this week. I remember when he would not tug with me for over a year when I accidently stepped on his foot one time when tugging.

I guess people do what they know and have been taught. Luckily, most new people are being trained in 100% positive systems these days and those are the super happy, super attentive teams I saw in obedience yesterday.

7 comments:

Diana said...

Wow, thats upsetting. Diana

Stephanie and the Dogs, Zoie & Quiz! said...

Did you happen to see Marilee and Skylar, a red brindle parti?

Stephanie and the Dogs, Zoie & Quiz! said...

Oh - meant to add - they'd likely be showing in Open. Sally and Boo might also have been in Open.

Stephanie and the Dogs, Zoie & Quiz! said...

To comment further... Actually, scientifically-speaking, 100 percent positive training would be usinging all pos. reinfircement AND pos. punishment. "Positive" means to add. I think it's important to remember that what's considered an aversive is really the dog's opinion and not the handlers. Not that I condone jerking dogs to the ground as a way of teaching the down...

I think the best trainers aim to use the four quadrants in the following order, from most to least:

Positive Reincorcment - Add a goodie.

Negative Punishment - Remove a goodie.

Negative Reincorcement - Add aversive that stops the instant unwanted behavior stops. (As in the ear pinch - pinch stops the instant dog's mouth is on dumbbell. At least when people do the ear pinch correctly. Unfortunately, some use it as an outlet for their own frustration and then it becomes punishment.)

Positive Punishment - Add aversive in an effort to prevent unwanted behavior in future.

John Heffernan said...

Was that Marilee Brown? She also showed in Utility and Rally? If so, they were a great team and I got a chance to talk to her after the trial.

I did see everyone since I stewarded all obedience and rally classes...

Stephanie and the Dogs, Zoie & Quiz! said...

I know that Marilee's dog has his CDX, but I thought she was just going to show in Open. Maybe she did end up entering Utility. He's had his CDX for a while now... over a year, I think. She's a neat person. Used to live in the LA area before moving to Oregon. They are a great team to watch.

John Heffernan said...

Yes, that must have been them. I did enjoy talking to her and watching them work. Not too people are training their whippets in open and utility...