Monday, April 24, 2017

Death Before Discomfort?

A repost from July 2012

Tyler Muto gets it right.

There is a silent killer in the dog training world. It is not a virus, not a piece of equipment, not a bacteria.

It is an idea.

It is the idea that all dogs, in all situations, should be trained with nothing other than rewards, and without ever the use of aversives. “Reward what you like and ignore what you don’t” is the mantra that is preached, and all will be well in the world. In the dog training community this philosophy goes by many names, some call it Pure Positive (which is not an accurate description), some call it Progressive Reinforcement, some call it Reward Only, but for the purposes of this article I will refer to it as Aversive Free or AF.

Aversive Free (AF) Training can be defined as training which involves only the R+ and P- quadrants of learning. When I refer to Aversive Free (AF) Trainers in this article, I am not referring to those who simply choose this approach for themselves, but I am referring to those who vehemently oppose the use of aversives for any dog in any situation.

Let me be clear, what I am referring to is not the idea that reward only techniques are good, and work in some cases. What I am referring to is the dogmatic belief that this is the ONLY way to train a dog, or deal with behavior problems. The aversive free philosophy is that any type of consequence other than simply removing the reward, is cruel, inhumane, and barbaric.

Read the whole thing.

As noted, it's not a question of being mean or excessive -- it's a question of simpy drawing a line and sticking to it, and when push comes to shove there may be measured but predictable and immediate consequences that may not include simply ignoring the bad behavior or rewarding some other kind of behavior.

In the real world, not all consequences are positive.


SecondThoughtsOptional said...

This ties in very well with the initial findings from VetCompass on the ages at which dogs die -- the first peak is at one year of age and then the second at fourteen.

That initial peak is all to do with owners who run out of patience -- and a society that can't tell the difference between firmness and cruelty.

You almost never see a dog at the shelter that

- learned to defer to people
- had appropriate boundaries
- knows how to walk on a loose lead
- comes reliably
- has good manners around people and animals

There's a limit to what people *will* put up with and without good advice from trainers, they just despair and give up on the dog.

Dogs are literally dying for the want of the word 'No'. Truthfully, calm consistent management does do a lot for many of the more frantic dogs and those just lacking in any basic manners, but it was still heartbreaking to see the number of dogs that got killed for lack of consistent correction. The staffies suffer inordinately, with 67% of them being put down, mostly on behaviourial grounds.

It's so annoying. Barbera Woodhouse made sense to me when I was 12 and her advice allowed me to walk dogs nearly my size without hassle in a leash and check chain. C.W. Meisterfeld made sense when I was 14 and our little pack of mutts, labs, GSDs and dobes were really wonderful dogs -- because they listened to us.
And right now, Cesar Millan makes sense to me because he addresses the basic relationship and respect that exists between man and dog.

BarefootDogTrainer said...

You stole my catch phrase!


PBurns said...

Heard it from you in the field or at coffee earlier this Spring...

Then Donald McCaig sent me Tyler's article this morning, and I blogged it presto-presto.

Words that work, powering a little truth forward. It takes only a small match to slay a lot of darkness. You struck a good one with this turn of the phrase.


seeker said...

I'm taking my 6 year old female Jack (aka Bridget the barking bundle of bounce) to an obedience class this Weds PM. We'll see how it goes. She's spoiled, I admit it, but does everything but come to call. I tried the hungry dog/good food thing and that lasted for a while. But she'd rather chase after squirrels at 04:30 AM then come to ground beef. No police have come to my house yet, but its a possibility from our new neighbors who don't want to hear a 60 year old woman hollering at a barking dog so early. We shall see, I don't want to long line her AM potty but its next. Wish me luck.

Debi and the TX JRTs.
squrrels, wonderful squirrels,
what we love to chase in the morning.
Mama's out in her robe
she must love to chase in the morning.

TeamDog said...

Tyler Mudo, I saw a video he did on teaching loose-leash walking. It was very interesting, something I never would've thought to do. Just when you think you know everything there is to know. . .

Federico said...

training without aversives comes from the fact people are poorly science literate. And have no brains apparently. If you train a dog/pigeon/whale/whatever in a lab or other confined and controlled environment, you need not use aversives, because there is no 'worst thing'. You are trying to teach an animal something in a safe and enclosed environment, so aversives are unnecessary. You are never in a situation where a behaviour need to be discouraged because it is dangerous. So, if one wants to train dogs without aversives and to replicate the lab approach to teaching *one needs to be in a lab*. Not understanding the distinction between lab conditions and real world conditions is a clear sign of poor scientific education. Let's also add that aversive are commonplace in nature (why the heck are wasps yellow? why the striped on a skunk? to make the damn aversive message even more memorable!), so there is ample evolutionary evidence that aversives do work.

Not wanting to use aversives to parrot lab approaches to training shows a cargo cult mentality, nothing more. The simple fact that plenty of organisms offer both potent aversives and a clear advertisement for them is enough of a counterpoint to that attitude.

PBurns said...


If you are training in a box, or a cage, or a tank, you are NOT in the real world.

Also, if you are training a predator, it's quite different from training a chicken.

A predator in an open-field situation with distractions and prey?

Right there you know why Skinner and the Brelands did very little (nothing) with real world dog training, even though that's where the money is.