Dogs: the Art of Intelligent Punishment

A rational look at punishment in dog training
By Laure-Anne Visele, written Nov 2012
.

The issue of punishment is one of the stickiest issues in the dog world today.

There are two extremes, and a flurry in the middle:

Team right: extremely traditional trainers: You get bonus points for hanging your dog up when he does not sit on command.
Team left: extremely positive trainers: You get kicked out for raising your voice to your dog.

My position is this:

  • In practice, I am pretty left.
  • In  theory, I am OK with punishment if done rationally –which it never is.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour published this position statement on punishment.

So, let’s look under the scientific bonnet of punishment, shall we?

Skinner: On punishment and reward

B F Skinner (1904 – 1990) was an American experimental psychologist who bore the flag of ‘Operant Conditioning’. He believed you could get any animal to perform any (physically possible) behaviour by manipulating what follows it, by punishing or rewarding the animal for the preceding behaviour.

Operant Conditioning forms the pillar of dog training today, be it reward-based (clicker training is fundamentally about OC) or traditional.

So, consequences can be:

  • Reinforcers: Increase how likely it is the behaviour happens again; or
  • Punishers: Decrease how likely it is the behaviour happens again.

And consequences can be:

  • Positive: Adding or starting something like petting or a hitting; or
  • Negative: Withdrawing or interrupting something like petting or hitting.

And there you have your Operant Conditioning Quadrant:

  • Positive Reinforcement (R+): Good behaviour -> Pleasant consequence (e.g. dog gets a treat).
  • Negative Reinforcement (R-): Good behaviour -> Unpleasant stimulus stops (e.g. removing hand from dog’s back when it finally sits)
  • Positive Punishment (P+): Bad behaviour -> Unpleasant stimulus starts (e.g. shouting, startling the dog, jerking the leash)
  • Negative Punishment (P-): Bad behaviour -> Pleasant stimulus stops (e.g. stop walking when dog pulls on the leash).
Let me show you graphically:

R+ Grant privilege as soon as we see behaviour we want

R- Stop intimidation as soon as we see behaviour we want

P+ Intimidate as soon as we see behaviour we don't want

P- withdraw privilege as soon as we see behaviour we don't want

Altogether now

Here’s a little riddle suggested to me by the author of the Koda Diaries:

Dog sits -> Dog gets a biscuit -> Dog sits less and less.

Question: What is the biscuit in this situation: R+, R-, P+, or P-?

……….. (drum roll)

Answer: P+. The dog in this example finds receiving a biscuit unpleasant, so the biscuit is a positive punishment in this case!

Right, that’s the theory bit out of the way. Now back onto my soapbox:

  • I am definitely not against punishment (in OC terms): of course you want to decrease the frequency of some behaviours.
  • What I am less in favour of is aversive (something the dog would avoid given a choice) or painful methods. Don’t get me wrong, I use aversives, but I do this with great caution (and reluctance).

Now that the theory is over, let’s look at practice.

1. Timing: The art of quick delivery

If you’re going to shout at your dog, make sure you are shouting for the right behaviour. There is no point in telling off your dog for chewing your furniture hours after the fact. Why is that?

Here’s what Poochie has done after committing the “crime”:

  • chewed furniture
  • scratched its ear
  • had a bit of a sniff in the kitchen
  • barked at the neighbour’s cat
  • had a nap
  • sprung to the door at the sound of your keys
  • greeted your return
  • got told off

Which behaviour do you think he thinks you’re shouting about? What’s worse, he might link your return with shouting. Suddenly your arrival will be a bit of a mixed blessing.

But my dog knows it did wrong. He has this guilty look.”  I hate to bust anyone’s bubble, but isn’t it more likely that he is trying to appease you because, well, you’ve sometimes been shouting at him when you got home for reasons he cannot fathom?

Dogs do not have moral sense, and definitely don’t know the difference between your Prada shoes as your old slippers. They think it terms of chewiliciousness, not dollars.

So what can you do?

  • (if you find the mess too late) Nothing much, really. The damage is done. Make sure you don’t leave these things lying around when the dog is unsupervised
  • Catch him in the act and then use a positive interrupter (see video below) to stop it

It’s disheartening, I know: instead of Lassie saving the orphans, you have to spell out to your canine genius that chewing shoes = not OK.

But the sooner you adjust your expectations, the more effective you will be.

2. Bad boy, good boy: how to keep them apart

This is a mistake I make again and again, so you’re not on your own.

If you reprimand your dog (Sometimes I’ll say ‘Hey!’ if I catch him doing something naughty) , try not to praise him seconds afterwards (for stopping the unwanted behaviour). Depending on the intensity of the telling-off (in my case, decidedly half-baked), he might come to see it as the predictor of praise. Perverse, isn’t it?

So, even if the dog complied quickly and willingly after being chastised, you would need to leave it a few seconds before starting the cooing fest again. To avoid that pitfall, how about interrupting unwanted behaviour with a positive interrupter (video above).

3. Root causes: Useful fellows

In some circumstances, you can take a good guess at the cause of a behaviour. Take barking:

  • Is the dog guarding?
  • attention-seeking?
  • demanding something?
  • excited?
  • lunging towards another dog?
  • scared?
  • etc.

Often, knowing the root cause can help you find the appropriate response.

  • Guarding:
    • Teach the dog to bark on demand, and then teach him to be quiet on demand. Then you can teach him to be quite after, say, three barks. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and you can’t expect him to get what ‘hush’ means without being taught first.
    • Acknowledge the ‘threat’ the dog has spotted, so the dog’s mission is accomplished.
    • If he is obsessing about something outside, try to distract him.
  • Barking for attention or demanding something: Ignore him until a few seconds after he stops. If you shout at him, you will reinforce the behaviour: he got the attention he wanted.
  • Aggressive barking: Please contact a behaviour therapist if this is frequent, or against a human.
  • Excited barking:
    • Wait until he has stopped barking before giving the goods (e.g. opening the door to go for a walk). If not, he may create a superstitious link between his barking and going for a walk.
    • You may want to desensitise him to what is over-exciting him. You could repeatedly ring the doorbell for example. Without it being systematically followed by guests, or postmen, the doorbell will loose some of its predictive value that something out-of-this-world exciting is about to happen.
  • Fear barking:
    • Acknowledge the source of the ‘threat’
    • Make sure the dog has the opportunity to move at a distance with which he feels comfortable
    • Expose him to the source gradually. Do not push him beyond his limits.
    • If the fear is a downright phobia, contact a behaviour therapist as do-it-yourself therapy can make matters worse.
  • Lunging and barking at another dog: If you shouting, they might interpret that as you barking along. There are specific protocols to deal with dog-dog aggression, check them out.

I’ve used the example of barking here but my point is: think before you shout.

4. Proportionality: Are we overreacting?

The ‘alpha-roll’… That epitome of disproportional punishments. It involves forcibly rolling the dog over onto its back and pinning him down.

So why is it disproportional?

  • If you really must look at (gray) wolves as models (see this article if you are interested in the wolf-dog fallacy), the closest thing to the  ‘alpha-roll’, is the winner preparing to ritually tear out the throat of the looser (‘ritually’, it would not normally result in actual injury). Hefty stuff, though, you’ll agree. Kind of like the equivalent of pointing a gun to your face for spilling some milk.
  • The “alpha-roll” is not observed in dogs. They do body slams, neck grabs, you name it, but not alpha-roll. What does happen is that some very submissive dogs roll over off their own accord. This is of course an entirely different thing.

The leash jerks are another infamous aversive method. I cringe when I see someone do this. I have no doubt that they love their dog, but it’s just plain misguided and barbaric.

The thing is, leash jerking does not seem all that effective. Read on…

  • Leash pulling: Try Ian Dunbar’s green light – red light method instead. Stop walking when the leash is taut, and start again when it’s slack. It is a lot more effective (see how many people are still leash jerking after months of ‘training’?), and you won’t look like, well, an animal abuser.
  • Lunging: Leash jerks can worsen lunging. It exacerbates the dog’s aversion for whatever made him lunge in the first place. Read this article if you are having issues with dog-dog aggression.

So before you get the H-bomb out, why not try to find a more targeted approach?

5. Generalisation: Yes, they really can be THAT stupid

Dogs are appalling generalisers. Seriously, appalling! They can conceivably understand ‘sit’ in the kitchen and have no clue in the garden. Skills need to be brushed up in different environments, they need to be “generalised”.

So, if your dog is performing poorly in a different location, don’t automatically assume that he’s being rebellious.

Just go back to basics and teach him the behaviour again, but in the new place. It won’t take nearly as long as the first time, and the dog will show a way more reliable response.

I am not suggesting that you teach your dog to sit on sand, gravel, grass and earth; in your kitchen, at your mom’s and at the training school. Teaching the behaviour in a couple of settings should be enough for the dog to ‘get it’ so he can apply it pretty much anywhere.

6. Fluency: How well does he really grasp it?

Dogs can grasp skills at varying levels of fluency. If your dog is not responding that reliably to something, it could be that he’s simply not that fluent in it yet.

 

How to test your dog’s fluency:

  • Stretch several training sessions across a few days during.
  • In each session, ask the dog to do the same thing about 10 times.

If he complies 8 times out of 10 consistently across a few days, it looks like he gets it. If not, revisit the previous training step. Sounds fairer than chastising him for performing badly on a skill that he does not quite master, doesn’t it?

This is the Lassie syndrome all over again: we would all love a dog who “gets it” immediately. But the majority of dogs are simply not that bright (especially mine… sorry Roger, Bacchus, Oli, etc.).

7. Extenuating circumstances: motivational state

I've had my fair share of non-Lassies

If your dog is feeling stressed, distracted, or tired, it will affect his performance. Stressed, distracted and tired pretty much sums up the mood of most dogs in evening group training lessons.

So if your dog is facing more challenging circumstances, please cut him some slack and lower your criteria a bit. He is not challenging you. He is just not coping that well in more tricky settings.

If you really want him to perform 100% in these circumstances, then teach the fundamentals of the skill again, but in these settings.

8. Crime scene: Was there even a crime?

We are taught to vilify some of our dog’s behaviours when, really, the behaviours may be quite innocent.

Take growling, for example. As DogWilling’s Leah Roberts puts it: “Is it ok for you to say, “I’m afraid?” Then it’s ok for your dog to growl.”

Fair enough, growling is not always motivated by fear, but if it is, chastising your dog will make matters worse. Same for aggressive growling. If your dog growls frequently and you’re at a loss as to why, it might be time to contact a behaviour therapist, rather than attempting to correct the issue yourself.

Many other behaviours are seen as sinister when, really they are quite innocent. This is great parts due to the popularity of the fallacious pack theory. Couple of examples:

  • Going through a door before us
  • Nudging for attention
  • Sleeping in an elevated place like the couch
  • etc.

Punishing a dog for doing this is akin to “bleeding out your humours” to cure a cold. It is so outdated and unfounded, and has no place in our society.

9. Gradation: Let’s go with a bang

If you’re going to use an aversive, go out with a bang.

Gradually shifting the intensity from a near-whisper to a full-blown shout does not make much sense. If the dog is being naughty (am thinking eating horse poo), it’s fine to start with one soft ‘no’, but don’t then gradually escalate if he doesn’t listen. Instead, go straight up to way higher volumes.

Seems counter-intuitive, as we are all striving for dogs who will stop with a whisper of a no, but you have to work on that. It won’t happen in a day. In the meantime, if he doesn’t listen that well on a particular occasion, avoid giving him fifty ineffective warnings.

“Going gradual” would result in the dog:

  • Ignoring the gazillion warnings until it gets unpleasantly loud (learned irrelevance for us geeks). That ends up with you going: “no, No, Noooooo, Nooooo!, NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”. Instead of: “No!”
  • If you are into physical punishment, consider this: you stand a real chance of having to use harsher and harsher punishment as the dog gradually gets used to increasingly rough treatment (habituation for us geeks). I say don’t put your finger in that vicious circle and just don’t get physical in the first place.

10. Violence: A touchy subject

Call me a New Age hippy if you will, but I cannot stomach violence.

Here’s what falls in that category as far as I am concerned:

  • Leash jerks
  • Electric collars
  • Strangling collars
  • Prong collars
  • Electric fences
  • etc.

Don’t be fooled by benign-sounding products: if it uses pain to manage a behaviour, it’s painful.

A little side point on electric collars: they go off even when your dog is not barking. A loud truck or the door bell are enough to set it off most times. When it comes to excellent timing, I can think of better mechanisms…

Regardless of my personal views, here is a list of disadvantages of using aversive-based methods in training:

  • Frequent violence leads many dogs to become fearful of their owners. A little study of their body language will clearly attest to that.  Some dogs become “hand-shy” as a result of violence: they shrink away from approaching hands.
  • Violent punishments exacerbate behaviour problems with most phobic, anxious, nervous or aggressive dogs.
  • A dog will stop an unwanted behaviour quicker in response to aversive methods than through reward-based techniques, granted. But in the long-term, a behaviour taught through rewards is more resistant to extinction.
  • Many dogs who are frequently trained with aversive methods will ‘shut’ down. They won’t be showing bad behaviours, but they will be the shadow of themselves, showing less curiosity, lust for life, or initiative.  Do you want a robot, or a dog?

Before you worry about spoiling the dog, note that there is a flurry of positive-only training methods which are producing armies of good canine citizens.

But what it boils down to, for me, is this: If there is an alternative method with equally acceptable results, why would I choose the unpleasant one?

11. Be sneaky

But you said 10 points!!?? Sorry guys, I lied. I was reminded of this point by the author of the Koda Diaries, and it’s just too important to pass.

When it comes to punishing your dog, he could come to associate you with the deed. Try to booby trap the bin with something loud, or put plastic bags on your couch when you’re away.

So why sneaky?

  • Best for your relationship: you don’t get so much of the “owner = sometimes nasty” thing going on, and
  • The dog is less likely to indulge only in your absence, as many do.
The problem with this strategy is that it often backfires and gives a dog a superstitious aversion to most anything around when he was booby-trapped. Your dog may even refuse to go in the kitchen as he got startled so badly.

References

For reviews on some of these books, go to Canis bonus dog book reviews.

  • Linda Case – “the Dog, Its Behavior, Nutrition and Health”
  • Ian Dunbar – “How to Teach a new Dog old Tricks”
  • Steven R Lindsay – “Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training”
  • Patricia McConnell – “The Other End of the Leash”
  • Pamela Reid – “Excel-erated Learning – Explaining How Dogs Learn and How Best to Teach them “

Comments

As ever, I value your comments. I would particularly like to hear your view if you:

  • Are you a dog professional having to frequently position yourself in that minefield of a subject?
  • Are you confused about, firmly against, or have reservations about gentle training methods?
  • Are you, like me, a dedicated advocate for gentle methods?

Further reading

D-Word: on Dogs and Dominance
Dog book reviews
Dog-Dog aggression, a self-help guide
From veterinary nurse to ground-breaking behaviour specialist
Have your say on hotly debated dog-related issues

This entry was posted in Dog behaviour, Dog training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

7 Comments

  1. Posted 19 November 2010 at 11:00 | Permalink

    Question 1:

    We have a lot of people who come into our facility who think they know how to train their dogs and who also think they know how to use pain-based training. Since I came from that route, I’ve gotten fairly good at talking them into trying our methods, especially since most of them come in having been nailed by the dog for pushing the poor furkid around.

    It is a very touchy subject, which is why I don’t understand how it is that most dog trainers take such an emotional attitude toward the whole situation. If you bring that into your consultations or group classes, don’t think your clients can’t see that on your face and in your body language.
    It’s unfair to make someone – especially when you have such an ample opportunity to make them hop to the positive side of the fence – feel rejected or judged.

    If someone comes to me and is immovable on the subject, I send them to one of my very good traditional trainer friends. This way, at least I know they are being trained how to do it right, by people who have firm lines drawn about how far you can push the dog. (As an example: Most of the traditional trainers I associate with believe that punishments should be few and far between. If your dog is pulling you on leash and you pop him with his slip collar seven times in a minute, you aren’t doing it right and you need to stop beating up the dog for your idiocy. Traditional training is considered to be very confrontational by some, but we maintain that punishment should be done with perfect timing and should never be connected with you.)

    Questions 2 & 3:

    Shortly after I became a legal adult, I was asked to join the armed forces to work with the K9 Corps. It sounds cooler than it was, considering the methods they use.
    Unfortunately, to be quite honest, I have no problem with pain-based training.
    I choose, however, to use operant conditioning because it works….and possibly because it’s more fun…. But, at the end of the day, I am a traditional trainer, and I am well versed on how to use everything from a slip collar to an e-collar.
    I have nothing against them; I have everything against the idiots who choose to use them.

    Here’s an example: When I was 12, I was training our dog not to get into the trash. Traditional training takes nothing short of perfect timing for the dog to make the connection, and the general rule is that if you have to punish more than four times in succession (five if you’re an abusive pushover,) you aren’t doing it right. (Fun note: It wasn’t until I was 19 that I even knew such a thing as positive training existed. I simply didn’t know.)
    I nailed the dog twice with the e-collar – which, by the way, never had to be turned up. Yes, it hurts; that’s the point. But there are levels of pain, and I always stuck with the lowest or second lowest settings.

    When we got my nervous dog, Kittie, I knew those methods were not going to be appropriate. (As an aside, did you know that a good portion of traditional trainers use OC methods for the first six months of the dogs life anyway? It’s after that that we start to “expect sophistication.”)

    So, we found a trainer/behaviorist who used different methods and did our studies. I am all for what the dog needs, and I’m glad I found this reward-based training. It’s more fun for me and for the dog, and it is my belief that it makes for a better lifelong relationship.

    You’ll have to forgive me, but what sold me on reward-based training was not the moral standpoint behind either method, but how it works.

    … Okay, so that’s my story. (Long-winded much? Who me?)
    I actually had a couple of questions in relation to the content of the article though! =]

    1.) I’ve found that one of the most hilarious things about teaching operant conditioning to people is that they find it near-impossible to see “positive” and “negative” not as emotional values but as mathematical values.
    Me: “What do you mean ‘I don’t get it?!’” o___o;;

    2.) I think you could have been more clear on the definitions of R+, R-, P+, & P-
    When reading through them, if I hadn’t already known what they were, I would have been hard-pressed to follow along and really understand what you meant.
    As an example, when you say R+ = dog does A, dog gets treat….
    Well, R+ is anything the dog likes. In Antecedent -> Behavior -> Consequence, that could be anything.
    I think specifying “treat” kinda muddies the issue and I don’t believe people have the mindset to make the mental leap from “treat” to “anything dog likes.” And yes, dog trainers are included in this category. You’re smarter than the average person, and I don’t think you always realize that when you try to explain things. People won’t always be on the page we think they’re on.

    3.) Why do you believe that punishment in OC does not imply something aversive? Do you instead mean anything “painful?” Because even in operant conditioning, pain is included, as are aversives. OC is just a model to observe behavior – it isn’t biased toward traditional or contemporary style training.
    Going with the more scientific definition of aversive, it simply implies anything the dog doesn’t like, from a collar correction to a crappy biscuit.

    A good example is this statement: Dog sits. Owner give dog a treat. Dog learns not to sit.
    Following operant conditioning, this is considered positive punishment. I use this one when I teach class all the time, because people refuse to let go of the “BUT THIS should have happened! The dog should sit more!”
    Quite simply, for whatever reason, the dog found the application of the treat aversive. It doesn’t matter why, but he found it punishing. Therefore, sitting decreases.
    In this case, treat=aversive. So, in that, saying R+ = dog gets treat is a little… Well, setting yourself up to be one of those people who can’t make the jump.

    4.) Favorite quote: “Everything the dog does makes perfect sense to the dog.”

    And

    5.) During the class that I help teach, I learned that most “professional” dog trainers don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to anything related to the field of dog training. Really. Know. Nothing.
    You have a better grasp on this than most people I know, including people certified through the CCPDT. Kudos to you, but kind of … disheartening also. lol

    Nice article. Sorry for nitpicking. I can be a pain in the ass. Feel free to tell me to shove it.

    • Posted 23 November 2010 at 21:41 | Permalink

      Ooooh, thanks so much for the super informative comment, Julie.

      Question 1:

      “I’ve gotten fairly good at talking them into trying our methods” Pleaaaaaaaaaaaase teach me not to be wound up about this so I can make a good case too. I find it so immensely frustrating to bridge the sometimes very large culture gap that I become ineffective as a ‘convincer’ … But I definitely never make anyone feel judged (unless I am verrrry tired, or the person is verrrrry obnoxious). Why? For all I know, I’ve got it all wrong and it’ll all turn around again in a few years.

      You have a traditional trainer friend whose methods you condone? What a luxury. I would love that. It is a great fall back and a super referral relationship to have. That sort of partnership can serve clients on the entire spectrum. The couple of traditional trainers around me whose classes I have attended I would not really recommend to anyone. I would love to find one through my local research. I’ll keep looking I guess.

      “Punishment should never be connected with you.” GREAT point. Totally forgot to make it (blush). I’ll integrate it I reckon.

      “I have no problem with pain-based training.” ” I choose to use operant conditioning because it works….and possibly because it’s more fun….” ” … e-collar and slip collar… I have nothing against them; I have everything against the idiots who choose to use them.” Such gems of moderation, honesty and realism. Thank you for showing people quite how complex dog training philosophies can be, when they are so often over-simplified beyond recognition.

      ” … the general rule is that if you have to punish more than four times in succession (five if you’re an abusive pushover,) you aren’t doing it right.” Very nice and tangible piece of advice. With your permission, I’ll integrate it to the article.

      ” It wasn’t until I was 19 that I even knew such a thing as positive training existed. I simply didn’t know…” You and me both. Which is why I find it super important not to be too judgemental about other opinions on the subject.

      ” I nailed the dog twice with the e-collar – which, by the way, never had to be turned up. Yes, it hurts; that’s the point. But there are levels of pain, and I always stuck with the lowest or second lowest settings.” Am still on the other side on this one. You’ll have to work up your magic I think ; )

      “a good portion of traditional trainers use OC methods for the first six months of the dogs life anyway? It’s after that that we start to “expect sophistication.” ” Very insightful, thanks!

      ” … glad I found this reward-based training. It’s more fun for me and for the dog, and it is my belief that it makes for a better lifelong relationship.” One of the most important points for me. Back in my traditional days, I kept thinking something wasn’t quite right. Being “cruel to be kind” just didn’t cut it for me because I felt it simply HAD to affect the dog’s trust in me. It simply had to. Of course, I wasn’t versed enough in the matter to be able to crystallise it clearly, but in hindsight, that was what that unease was about.

      ” what sold me on reward-based training was not the moral standpoint behind either method, but how it works.” And that is a fantastic statement: a lot more convincing too, as it doesn’t come from a judgemental “moral high ground” kind of point.

      ” … Okay, so that’s my story. (Long-winded much? Who me?)” never… ; )

      ” I’ve found that one of the most hilarious things about teaching operant conditioning to people is that they find it near-impossible to see “positive” and “negative” not as emotional values but as mathematical values.” LMAO. I absolutely recognise that. And the ‘punishment’ bit too. See below.

      “… you could have been more clear on the definitions of R+, R-, P+, & P-” Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll brush it over and make it clearer.

      3.) ” Why do you believe that punishment in OC does not imply something aversive?” That’s a really tough one. What I tried to explain was that “punishment” in OC does not equate ‘punishment’ in every day language. I address this very point a bit higher up in your comment, I believe.

      Oh absolutely pain is included in OC, totally agreed. And it absolutely isn’t biased toward traditional or contemporary training (just added that point of clarification in the article, thanks for pointing it out).

      ” scientific definition of aversive, it simply implies anything the dog doesn’t like, from a collar correction to a crappy biscuit.” Scientific definition of aversive in my book (wanna pedant contest, lol?) is something that the animal will avoid given the option.

      I don’t so much say treat = positive reward, but I use treat as an example of what is a positive reward for most dogs. Funny angle you give it with the treat = P+. With your permission, am adding it for fun!

      Everything the dog does makes perfect sense to the dog.” Very nice!

      And

      “… I learned that most “professional” dog trainers don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to anything related to the field of dog training. Really. Know. Nothing.” Depressing, isn’t it? This is why I am pushing for better certifications.

  2. Posted 26 November 2010 at 02:56 | Permalink

    1.) On the emotional side of punishment-based training:
    People have got to learn to take a step back from their emotions when it comes to dealing with anyone who sees from another perspective. This is not an easy task, considering that we’re programmed to think that we are right and they are wrong.
    Worse yet is when someone comes to you seeking help and you inform them that what they’ve learned is wrong. Doesn’t matter how nicely you break it to them, either – you’re essentially taking the ground right out from under their feet and no matter what they think or feel, it mostly presents as disbelief or worse – anger.

    I wrote a blog about it (http://kodadomination.blogspot.com/2010/10/motivation-like-star-drive.html) which you’ve read, but a lot of my information on the subject came from a book called Unless Your A Hermit, Success Means Working With People. (http://www.ccbpublishing.com/9781926585079.html)

    The whole deal, and most important point to recognize when dealing with people who use methods you don’t approve of is that telling them they’re wrong – no matter how you do it – is like telling them that God doesn’t exist. And them telling you that you’re wrong is like they’re telling you that God doesn’t exist.

    Training and training methods are held very close to our core belief system. And we aren’t malleable to change; we don’t want to be told we’re wrong or that we should change our methods.

    2.) The few traditional trainers I like around here… I searched them out, e-mailed back and forth, admitted my training style and my want to understand and better appreciate their methods. I explained how I’d been trained and how I chose to train (before I knew of positive methods) and that I really needed to see it done right, because I’d only seen it associated with abuse – which isn’t fair to good traditional trainers. It makes it look far worse than it is. And it makes it that much harder to work with them if you need to.
    The few trainers (I e-mailed hundreds) who didn’t tell me to stick it somewhere unpleasant invited me out to watch classes. We talked, had coffee, etc.
    Point is, I made a hell of a lot of effort for seemingly minimal results.
    And managed to gain the respect of the opposition.
    Wanna know my theory?
    I want to join up with the opposition, lead through example, and wow them. I want to turn their heads to my dog and I, make them see how great she and I are at what we do, and force them to admit to themselves that we do better, that we are more reliable, and that they should try our way.
    And I will do this without every saying any of that to them, subtly or not. They’ll just have to watch me go.
    It works, too. People – everyone knows I train elsewhere – beg to know where I trained and how I can get my dog to do so many things with no leash, no treats, and no corrections.

    3.) A quick aside to this point: Punishment should never be connected to you, but if you ask certain trainers – Ian Dunbar, for example – that task is not possible and the dog will always connect the punishment with you. Don’t know about this, but it’s food for thought. There’s too big a possibility that it would still be connected with you.

    4.) I am far less emotional about these types of issues because, like I said, I work with and for the opposition…where I think the most good can be done. Why the hell would I side with the positive trainers?! They ALREADY agree with me!!! There’s nothing I can do over here.
    And no, I don’t have a problem with any of those training devices, but I can get the job done better without them.
    But I can’t tell you how many people have all but sighed – and cried a few times – with relief when I said that to them. Oh, so I didn’t have a problem with what they were doing? I just wanted to change the methods because they didn’t seem to be working for this dog? …It’s easier for people that way.

    5.) On the E-Collar thing I just say LOL. No matter what I say, you won’t find that acceptable, and there’s no problem with that. Sad thing is, I’d still use one if I there ever came a point that I thought it would be useful in my training methods.
    Wait for it.
    …I haven’t found a use for it.

    6.) Be Cruel to be Kind????? Whuuuh? There are too many illusions in that statement. Emotionless correction would be a start.
    Eh. The only place punishment really works properly is in a laboratory anyway. And we don’t live in laboratories.

    7.) I am very pedant, sorry. Wanna know something really funny though? You said exactly what I said, just in different words. Aversive is something the dog will avoid…. because he doesn’t like it. Dogs don’t avoid things they like as a general rule. LOL. But I get why you’re saying that.
    I think it has a lot to do with peoples’ perceptions of the words “punish” and “aversive.” There’s automatically a negative connotation that comes along.
    It’s hard for me to *see* that connotation, so I’m left tilting my head in confusion. haha

    • Posted 26 November 2010 at 20:27 | Permalink

      1.) On the emotional side of punishment-based training:
      The whole deal, and most important point to recognize when dealing with people who use methods you don’t approve of is that telling them they’re wrong – no matter how you do it – is like telling them that God doesn’t exist. And them telling you that you’re wrong is like they’re telling you that God doesn’t exist.” Totally. Fundamentally, I am convinced about some stuff, and I hate it when people demand that I let go of it. I’d much rather be convinced gradually and at my own pace (if the argument is powerful enough to flip me) rather than brutally pushed one way or the other.

      2.) Finding fellow trainers: Sounds like you put lots of effort in it. Am letting this grow organically for me (unsuccessful so far).
      I want to join up with the opposition, lead through example, and wow them” I love this, and that is my method too. I cannot stand people who try to bully me into changing my mind, so I won’t do it to others either.
      3.) Punishment should never be connected to you… – that task is not possible There are ways (am thinking booby-trapping and webcams/remote controlled cars!) but I would use them for those behaviours that the dog would primarily conduct while home alone.

      4.) Training devices:
      And no, I don’t have a problem with any of those training devices, but I can get the job done better without them. But I can’t tell you how many people have all but sighed – and cried a few times – with relief when I said that to them. Oh, so I didn’t have a problem with what they were doing? I just wanted to change the methods because they didn’t seem to be working for this dog? …It’s easier for people that way.” Again, absolutely in agreement with this more respectful, tactful, diplomatic and realistic approach. I myself have a strong problem on these training devices, but I do not stress that whatsoever, and I just focus on the alternative method, without passing judgement.

      5.) “On the E-Collar thing I just say LOL. No matter what I say, you won’t find that acceptable, and there’s no problem with that. Sad thing is, I’d still use one if I there ever came a point that I thought it would be useful in my training methods.
      Wait for it.
      …I haven’t found a use for it.
      ” Lady, I love the way you think. Pragmatism, moderation, complexity, wit and intelligence.

      6/ and 7/ Not much I can add of any value, really.

      • Posted 2 December 2010 at 00:47 | Permalink

        Have I mentioned that you are truly one of the most fun people to talk to? It’s awesome to have people that disagree and who can still get along. Also, very hard to find those types of people.
        Thanks for being patient with me. I sometimes feel like I should keep my mouth shut about a lot of things. (Like when I recently went to a seminar by Dr. Dunbar and wanted so much to ask a few questions for clarification. I decided not to because I did not want to deal with the isolation and animosity that would come with it.)
        =]

        • Posted 2 December 2010 at 23:13 | Permalink

          Oh I so wanted to go see him (Ian Dunbar). I accidentally talked to his sister by mail (she organises some of his UK events I think). It was fun until I got totally star-struck when I realised ; ) But I couldn’t afford it in the end.

          You and me both (compulsive question askers during seminars/in class). Oh, and did I mention I love surprise tests and exams? Seriously, I AM Lisa Simpson. I just am.

  3. Posted 26 November 2010 at 02:57 | Permalink

    That was, by the way, meant to be Unless YOU’RE a Hermit… -_-;; Stupid grammatical errors.

9 Trackbacks

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>