Saturday, February 27, 2010

You're Not an ABUSIVE Trainer, Are You?

Have you noticed that the "instant experts" have decided that every kind of dog collar is the wrong one?

A flat collar, after all, does not stop the dog from pulling, while a slip collar can choke!

Surely no one would greenlight either one!

A pinch collar pinches, while an e-collar shocks.

Surely no one would greenlight either one!

What about a constriction harness or a head halter?

Good lord NO!

The former squeezes the dogs insides and does nothing to stop the dog from pulling, while the later can scrape against the eye and cause corneal damage and neck injury.

After hearing this, if you are terrified that you might "do it wrong," with your new dog, then the message has worked.

You see, so much of this nonsense comes from "click and treat" dog trainers who are intent on selling their services, their books, and their CD-roms.

Their main message is that you are probably incapable of training your own dog without their input.

If you go it alone with a book from the library, you might injure your dog!

Never mind that hundreds of millions of dogs have been trained for thousands of years on six continents without the advice of click-and-treat dog trainers.

The click-and-treat folks want you to know they are here to Save the Day ... provided, of course, you have a credit card.

Part of their pitch is fear.

You aren't an ABUSIVE owner are you? Because they want you to know they do not believe in ABUSIVE dog training.

You don't believe in OUTDATED training methods do you? Because they want you to know they believe in only the LATEST, MODERN methods.

Surely you want to be modern and non abusive?

All right then -- sign up with any of the trainers to be found in the directory!

Now there is nothing wrong with going to a dog trainer (all for it), and there is nothing wrong with click and treat dog training (all for it)

But do me a favor eh? Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining!

Example one is the simple slip collar. It's been used for a thousand years and it works.

I am past 50 years old and I have never seen a dog injured by one, and I bet you haven't either.

I have seen dogs injured by cars, fences, broken glass, hot tar, and nails, but never by a slip collar.

Now take a look at this pamphlet put out by an outfit in the U.K. called the "Association of Pet Dog Trainers".

The take-away message this outfit is promoting is that we are supposed to "lead them not choke them.'

That sounds brilliant, but take a close look at the picture in the middle.

How can you lead a dog if the point of tether on the harness is at the midpoint, and facing backwards?

You can't!

In fact a harness of the kind shown is what you might put on a sled dog or a horse hitched to a plow or wagon!

Harnesses of this type are designed to pull a weight from behind, not allow an animal to be lead from the front. In short, the harness shown does the opposite of what is needed!

What about the text on the side that says "Studies"? That sounds substantive, but guess what? No studies are actually cited.

What you get instead is text from an unknown canine opthamologist who warns that "91% of dogs with cervical anomalies experienced harsh jerks on lead or had a long history of pulling on the lead."

That sounds ominous until you think about it for 15 seconds.

Did you notice the lack of a numerator? Did you notice the lack of source? Who did this study? Over what time span? Did you notice there was no mention of how these "injuries" were defined? Was this a longitudinal study?

We have no idea. This could be 11 dogs over 50 years out of a population of 60 million dogs for all we know.

What we DO know is that in 2,000 years of dog training, no one else seems to have seen widespread neck injures in dogs from proper use of a slip collar.

William Koehler did not see it, nor Barbara Woodhouse. You and I have not seen it. And neither has your veterinarian, I will bet. Have you noticed that your vet puts a plastic slip lead on all the dogs before leading them to the waiting room?

But, of course, there's more. Did you notice that the text talks about dog injuries occurring when a dog has "a long history of pulling on the lead"?


A choke chain is designed to prevent pulling on the lead. It is not a tie-out collar; it's a training collar!

This is basic.

Also basic is how to put on a choke collar.

Look at the picture below, on the same pamphlet. The big choke chain at left is backwards!

And these folks want to instruct the rest of us on how to train a dog?

Who are these folks? Who or what is the "Association of Pet Dog Trainers"?

It sounds fancy, but in fact this outfit is nothing more than an umbrella click-and-treat dog training referral service which markets it members by demonizing other dog training methods.

Cesar Millan? Shoot him! His methods do not work (and never mind that you can see them working fine every night on your television).

Chain slip collars? Inhumane and out of date (and never mind they have worked for 2,000 years).

E-collars? Ban them! (and never mind they work fine provided you read the instructions).

To support their authority, this dog trainer referral service parades their logo. Apparently a bit worried that their logo alone might not be enough, they also toss on a dog food logo for added measure.

Surely a few logos are authority enough to criticise and demonize Barbara Woodhouse, William Koehler, and 2,000 years of successful dog training by experienced men and women on six continents?!

Now to be clear, I am not saying these folks cannot train a dog.

Of course they can.

But you will pardon me if I hold on to my wallet with one hand and my slip collars and leashes with the other.

You see, I am pretty sure about one thing ....

If someone comes along and tells you that everything that everyone else has been doing for 2,000 years in the world of dogs is entirely wrong, you should RUN (not walk!) in the opposite direction.

Nothing good starts with a lie.



SPA said...

"If someone comes along and tells you that everything that everyone else has been doing for 2,000 years in the world of dogs is entirely wrong, you should RUN (not walk!) in the opposite direction"

It's also my idea for petfood ;-)

Vincent pfeiffer

Viatecio said...

Absolutely brilliant!

And it all comes down to the Litmus Test that gets you labeled Abusive or Humane: "So how would you stop a dog from pulling on a leash?" And the next time I'm asked that question, I WILL call the asker out on their intentions and give them a piece of my mind.

On a similar note, what amuses me about the Humane trainers is how everything is "Gentle," as in dog's head will be "gently" pulled around with headcollars or harnesses that "gently" guide the dog to the side, or designer nail grinders "gently" dremel down your dog's nails, etc and so on. For, you know, dogs can tough little hombres that can bite us back, but we must treat them with kid gloves because they are made of the most fragile bone china or the lightest balsa wood. We don't want to fracture their fragile self-esteem either, because that will cause them to hate us forever or shut down and blow away like dust in the wind.

Excuse me while I burst out laughing...

HTTrainer said...

I have heard some PosRein folks get so hung up on their positive reinforcement methods that they try to click and treat every step the dog makes. What is the benefit of that?

Lisa said...

As a multi terrier owner who usually agrees with your point of view, in this case, you're barking up the wrong tree. I have no financial interest in clicker training. I can only tell you from my own experience training performance dogs, hard headed terriers at that, that positive reinforcement operant conditioning (aka clicker training) has worked wonders. This is from somebody who started off with the old school jerk and pull, choke collar, pinch collar method since that's the trainer I went to for puppy class. What's different is that clicker training creates a thinking dog. I've seen this "old school (Cesar) vs. new school (clicker)" argument umpteen times on many dog lists. All I can say is -- don't knock it until you see it in action, try it and REALLY understand how it works. (I can tell you don't really understand it because the "click" of the clicker isn't the positive reinforcement. It's the marker to tell the dog "yes, that's what I want". Also, it's not purely positive. There is negative reinforcement involved -- that's how the dog learns. But it's from witholding the positive reinforcement vs. a leash pop, etc.) The problem with clicker training is that it doesn't convey well in books. And it's not easy to learn. It takes time and a lot of consistency. There is no "immediate" reaction, like one would get with a leash pop. In our "I want it NOW" society, it takes more dedication than the average pet owner has time for.

I truly wish you'd work with it before you knock it. The light bulb truly doesn't come on until you've done it yourself and realized how much your dog is capable of learning. And then you slap yourself upside the head and see the light. Why leash pop a dog when you don't need to?

Kali said...

My other favorite is calling it "Totally Dog Friendly" training.

I just love the balls it takes to suggest that a well balanced training program that includes corrections and results in happy, relaxed, off-leash reliable dogs, is somehow UNFRIENDLY to dogs.

PBurns said...

Lisa, TRY READING STUFF all the way to the end, and try not to jump conclusions. It makes you look silly.

I have clicker trained, I own clickers, I have been on clicker training list-servs (including when Bob Bailey Himself weighed in to say he was not a clicker trainer), and I salute clicker training (and I SAY SO in this post). Nowhere in this post (or any other) do I say a click is the reward -- it is proxy for the reward. A clicker is just a device -- it has no magic. It could be a cluck, a whistle, a gong, or anything else that is consistent and neutral. The magic is in the timing and the consistency. I sure hope you are a better dog trainer than you are a reader!

As for Cesar Millan, you clearly have NO IDEA what he does or why, nor do you have a fundamental understanding of the three (there are only three) parts of operant conditioning. We can talk about different ways of achieving those three, the relative mix of the three, etc. but until you understand that Millan is doing the same thing (albeit in a different way) as every other dog trainer in the world, you do not understand the fundamentals.


Viatecio said...

Another thought:

When it comes down to the letters after any trainer's name, it is mostly supposed to reflect how much money they have ponied up to aqcuire them. Few, if any, professional training organizations require that you have any qualifications, or even follow their chosen philosophies (although hours and experience are a plus, like with NADOI and CCPDT). While the APDT advocates it's method, I could choose to be one of the rarities who arrives at a client's house with a choker and Koehler's text. The IACP doens't even require you be a trainer, just a "canine professional," and thus one doens't have to share their opinion on what they recommend and endorse. A (former?) vice-chair of the CAPDT was a well-known balanced trainer who evoked gasps at a conference when he talked about using e-collars. And then there are the behaviorist societies, which don't necessarily mean anything short of "I took a few courses, an exam and now I can work with your dog."

I liken them to diploma mills: they do not speak as to the quality of any trainer. Yes, a trainer from one organization can probably train a dog, but a trainer from another org might garner more consistent, reliable and quicker results. Is this a reflection of the organization or the trainer? The important thing is to research any trainer, watch HOW they work, speak to former clients about their experiences, and don't go based off a fancy pamphlet/ad or buzzwords like "non-violent" or "cutting edge of behavioral science." I would rather go with some no-name who demonstrates competence and the ability to work with various dogs (Cesar comes to mind, although he is no longer a Best Kept Secret) than someone with a million letters and abbreviations after their names who can't train worth anything.

Stacey said...

Reading here is so entertaining because you advocate balance in the most scathing, radical tones!

I agree with Lisa's general point, which is that her dogs have responded in a more thoughtful manner to clicker training than to traditional deterrent methods alone.

The key, as you say, is a balance in operant conditioning methods.

I really like clicker training, and it has helped my dog's confidence because she understands exactly when she has done something right--but hot damn if my dog doesn't get the point better if I use some sort of negative stimulus for what I don't want.

The result is that she tries her little heart out for me, and we enjoy the process of trying just as much as the successes.

Jacob said...

When someone chalenges me with questions like that I prefer to turn it around on them, ie

"So how would you stop a dog from pulling on a leash?"
"By training it not to."
"How do you do that?"

And so on, if they persist offer them a spot in your class, full rates of course:)

I also love the irony I see in the pure positive side ostraciseing (negatige reenforcement) people for using any sort of negative stimulus.


Mina said...

Trying to train my JRT x with a half check to 'check' him when lunging or pulling on the lead just resulted in him biting me in frustration and needing a muzzle. Using the clicker works for simple tasks, but anything complicated just has him... yes, biting in frustration - although he choses to bite a toy now, rather than me.

This is probably down to my appallling technique and/or timing, but clearly neither are working for myself and Fred. Now I just make sure he knows I've got a squeaky toy and we get zero biting - although more excitable barking 'throwitthrowitthrowitthrowit'

TheDoubtfulGuest said...

I really like clicker training, and it has helped my dog's confidence because she understands exactly when she has done something right--but hot damn if my dog doesn't get the point better if I use some sort of negative stimulus for what I don't want.

BINGO! There is nothing wrong with using positive reinforcement liberally. It works great! And how you can train dogs to do behaviors you want without it, I'll never know. (The "positive-only" crowd likes to talk about "punishment-based" trainers. What the hell is that?)

ALL dog training uses positive reinforcement! But the best training for most dogs uses corrections for the wrong behaviors, too.

Clicker training only gives the dog one part of the information needed. Some dogs get very stressed by having to guess. My JRT mix HATES playing "guess what I want you to do" and will shut down. Guidance in the form of hands-on, placement, and corrections for the wrong response have helped her IMMENSELY to get it right.

Set the dog up to succeed, reward success, and correct mistakes with clear communication. No anger needed.

Some of the pushiest, most obnoxious dogs I have met were "trained" with "positive reinforcement only" training (I put it in quotes because it actually doesn't exist--you can't have R+ without P-). No one ever made them do what they didn't want to do.

You cannot tell me that gentle guidance to the right behavior, i.e., helping a dog be correct, is inhumane or abusive.

Clicker training is great--for some dogs. Guidance and corrections are NOT abusive when used correctly.

Why shouldn't we give the dog the information it needs to succeed?

Viatecio said...

I've always been wary of someone who says they have "bad timing" who magically found out that positive-reinforcement only worked for them. I think it's because they have a sound marker, and that the clicker helps them perfect their timing, to mark good behavior. After all, it's easier to fix a dog trained with poorly-timed praise than with poorly-timed and ill-executed corrections.

And then come the accolades that "My timing was awful for corrections, but when I went to positive-reinforcement, it was like magic," which then leads to thoughts that anything involving correcti--er, 'scuse me, PUNISHMENT, is automatically bad, because it wasn't magic, when it could have been if they'd worked on their timing with both concepts (praise + correction) instead of just the one. Or perhaps that was just the mindset to begin with, which is why it didn't work, because since it was bound to fail anyway, one might as well not put all effort and consistency into it.

I can understand the timing argument, but I can't see how it justifies the exclusive use of "positive-reinforcement only" training. Once a case of bad timing is corrected (ha ha), then one can start applying it to all aspects of training. If you can properly time praise, you can most certainly understand when is the appropriate time to issue a fair correction.

Mina, I'm glad you've found what works for you and your dog, and I say this subjectively, without knowing you or your dog: but any dogs of mine (or those of anyone who might come to me for help with their dog) which turns around and lays teeth on a handler like what you described, especially the "needing a muzzle" part, for issuing a fair correction probably has issues other than, but not excluding, frustration.

Mongoose said...

I got the whole thing solved... I walk my dog off leash and don't teach her anything. She's house trained and comes when called, that's all the training she needs as far as I'm concerned.


Tc27 said...

Mongoose, it is illegal to walk a dog off-lead along a public highway in the UK. And certain parks have bylaws. But I agree in an ideal world that would be fine.

Regarding the blogg, I agree harnesses can reinforce pulling but the latest harnesses have a link at the front, just under the dogs neck. It provides full support for the dog and if he does pull he stops and automatically looks around. But hey, when you are using choke chains you may not be aware of new equipment.

There needs to be a full study carried out of the harm that choke chains cause. I have seen dogs returned from walking on a choke chain with bloodshot eyes and other dogs clearly damaged by the out-dated equipment. Many of the dogs at my local rescue kennel are effected by them. Rub their necks and they sink to the stomach like you are rubbing better a huge irritant.

But to carry out a study properly you need to include people that use choke chains and people that jerk choke chains. Fortunately, certainly in the UK, they are a dying breed!

Mina said...

Viatecio, yes Fred does have other issues, although I've seen other terriers react in similar ways, none to his extent. My point was really that I was happy to try as many different methods as possible to find the one that worked with my dog and I. Bribery, mixed with a bit of clicking and sound aversives seems to be work for us. :)

When I changed from checking to '

KMCCORT said...

As someone in the profession of training animals for over 30 years and who has worked with 19 species, including a lot of dogs, I use a collar just to stop a dog from leaving and limiting the number of behaviors it can offer. I consider anything more a collar/restraint does to be unacceptable for me, and I seriously question the trainers abilities. If the collar does cause pain, I won't use it. Getting the animal to know what is being reinforced (like walking at my side or just not pulling) is done with a lure or a target. It is quick and easy in most cases. If the trainer does not know how to fade the lure/target, they are still an amateur and should keep learning.

Although I often work some really "intelligent" animals, they have yet to do better than my brain, which is my primary training too.

funchy said...

While I understand your point collars being tools and such, would you allow me to post a comment which doesn't necessarily agree with all you sad?

You CAN train a dog to walk on a lead without a choke collar or pulling. The collar doesn't have to be constantly restraining and correcting. You reward for the dog leading beside you, staying at the correct spot alongside your leg, and walking straight. If you had a new dog, you could in theory teach him the behavior without a collar at all (assuming of course this is a safe area). Look at the amazing results in Obedience of Agility -- all without any collars!

Is Punishment "bad"? That's up to you to decide. I'd argue that even if it's not "bad", is it so necessary? The trainers I've personally seen clinging hardest to it are also the most in denial about the existence of other ways to do things.

Lisa wrote: "There is negative reinforcement involved -- that's how the dog learns. But it's from witholding the positive reinforcement vs. a leash pop, etc.)"

Lisa: you must misunderstand how clicker training works. 'Withholding the positive reinforcement' is taking away something desired, which is the 4th quadrant of Operant conditioning. Most people feel that 4th Q has little or no place with dogs. Either way, it's not the reinforcer. The reinforcer is what increases the chances he will do the desired behavior again, and at least in my own experience it's giving him what he wants that makes him desire to work more (not taking it away).

I guess the bigger picture is whether people believe animals can be motivated without any sort of punishment? If you believe some sort of Punishment is necessary, than nothing anyone can say will reach you & things like clickertraining will make no sense. But if +R didn't work at all, we wouldn't have the dogs, horses, & zoo animals responding to cues WITHOUT a leash/whip correction. I am working with horses now, and you'd be amazed what you can do with a 1100 lb animal WITHOUT any +P or -P!

Please give the reward quadrant of training an open-minded chance.

TeamDog said...

"Let's lead them, not choke them."
Bah humbug! I'd rather choke my dog til it passed out than be dragged down the street. Especially someone who dreams of training dogs like Presa Canarios, (they scare me a little but I like them, they're so striking in appearance, IMO:)) pit bulls, Dobermans, & Rottweilers. Sorry, you can't use physical strength alone to control those types of dogs!
Sorry, but being dragged down the street by a dog that weighs half what you do &, by the way, is on a NO-PULL HARNESS & IS HAVING NO TROUBLE PULLING just doesn't appeal to me. I have not personally used choke chains & I probably never will (I'd prefer to use a prong collar or Dominant Dog collar), so I can't say if they're bad or not, but I think every person should train the dog the way they want to train their dog & use the training tool they want to use, even if it's a choke chain, prong collar, or Dominant Dog collar. That's just my two cents

Dogcom said...

What an excellent piece to clarify the different training methods - the so called "Totally Dog Friendly" training and "Old School Choker Methods". I totally agree with you.

Let me state that I do use Clicker Training for Puppies. I've Clicker trained my pet African Grey parrot some 20 odd year ago. At that time I haven't heard of Karen Pryor. I also use the Slip Collar and Prong Collar in my training.

I think Clicker Training is excellent in the early stage of training - Learning Stage. The Slip Collars has worked wonders for me when I encounter the delinquents. Overall I'd say all tools and methods are useful if one would have an open mind.

People who criticizes Slip Collar training should know that in a typical training session positive reinforcement are use extensively with a few correction here and there. It's not as if the dog gets choke continually and no Praise, a Pat, a Treat or a game is given! That is certainly far from the truth. The ability to be firmer when necessary have produced good results. I have yet to see a live demo of Clicker trainer dealing with aggressive, vicious dogs like those in Cesar Milan's show.

I love it that I am able to apply whichever method works well for a specific dog cos we know not all dogs are the same.

"If someone comes along and tells you that everything that everyone else has been doing for 2,000 years in the world of dogs is entirely wrong, you should RUN (not walk!) in the opposite direction."

I wouldn't run even of I don't totally agree with the others' point of view. I'll simple take what's good and add to "training toolbox"

TeamDog said...

I had a question I thought I'd ask you. It's about slip collars. If you position a slip collar up high on the dog's neck (I found a way to do this), is there a higher risk of causing damage to the dog's neck or throat, or is it about the same?

PBurns said...

Slip collars, chain collars or "choke" collars are supposed to be positioned up high on the dog's neck right behind the ears and they chain should go on so that it forms a "P" as you face the dog and slip it over the dog's head. I do not like too long a chain -- it should go over the head but not be so long as to easily slip off or dangle.

Slip collars are normally used to teach a dog to walk at heal, and the collar is kep pretty tight ahd high. When you walk, igniore the do. Change direction, step in front of the dog when turning so it runs into your leg, do figure eight and dramatically change the speed. Tell the dog when it is doing well, but do not be to effusive. What you want is for the dog to learn to watch your legs and to stay close. Once the dog is doing this (after a week), you can change to a slacker leash, and the chain loose and lower, but again, yoy are going to change directions, do figure 8s, change speed, etc. You may want to reward with a few piece of kibble. Practice stay and comes with 8 or 10 foot leash. After this, the dog should walk at heal fairly well, and if it strays, you snap the leash quickly and release -- the dog is never allowed to pull on the collar. If it pulls, you go back to the basics with the chain high on the neck and tight enough to keep it up but just loose tension. Cesar Millan's wife created the "Illusion" collar so the chain is always high where it should be. I have not used it, but I understand that some people have a hard time training with a chain collar.

TeamDog said...

Thanks Patrick for the taking the time out your day to help us less experienced trainers! It means a lot.