[nagdu] training methods of schools

Raven Tolliver ravend729 at gmail.com
Sun Sep 15 15:27:50 UTC 2013

Nicole, does GDB use the martingale check collar on their dogs? In
case you don't know what that is, the martingale check collar is an
adjustable strip of nylon connected by a loop of chain. It can also be
connected by another loop of nylon, but when I attended Guiding Eyes,
the instructors issued the collars connected by the loop of chain.
They told us these were the collars to use when our dogs were not
working. Personally, I don't like any kind of slip collar or slip
lead, so I use the martingale check when I work my golden guy.
Danielle, there are still schools that do not use treat training, but
that does not mean they do not use positive methods. The GDF grads can
correct me if I'm wrong, but GDF is one of those schools that uses
verbal and physical praise, rather than food rewards. This is
perfectly fine. But I understand what you mean, because schools that
use reward-based, rather than correction-based, training methods are
likely to involve treat training.
Also, I'd like to clarify that clicker training does not necessarily
mean there is a clicker involved in a school's training practices.
Clicker training refers to the use of an event marker to signal that a
desired behavior or a sequence of desired behaviors has been
performed. For instance, whale and dolphin trainers are clicker
trainers, even though they use whistles for the water mammals rather
than clickers. Sometimes, when I am training dogs, or working with my
own guide, I don't use the clicker, but instead the words "yes!" and
"perfect!" It's still clicker training.
When I attended GEB, they only spent two days on the clicker. Not
enough, in my opinion. People leave guide dog schools believing that
the clicker is only some kind of targeting tool, and that could not be
further from the truth. I have just noticed that guide dog school
grads gravitate toward the leash correction as a problem solver,
rather than the clicker. The clicker can be used to teach anything
from basic obedience and house manners, to advanced behaviors, to
guide work. The clicker signals to the dog or animal that they have
done something right, and the reward, whether it's a treat, toy,
marking, or digging, serves as positive reinforcement for the
behavior, increasing the likelihood that the behavior will occur
I understand that guide dog schools only have so much time to cover so
many things, but they really don't do the clicker justice. I'm sure
they use it frequently during formal guide training, but they don't
incorporate it enough into the training of future guide dog handlers.
Nothing wrong with asking grads how the different schools train the
dogs, but if you're looking for a program that uses reward-based
methods during puppy-raising and formal guide training, email
different schools' training departments and ask some open-ended
questions. Ask how puppy-raisers are taught to teach pups house
manners. How do they minimize inappropriate behaviors? How do they
reinforce good behaviors? How are the guide dogs trained to stop at
curbs? How are the guide dogs trained to stop at stairs? These are
just a few of the questions that would help you gain insight into the
training methods of a guide dog program.
And just for the record, I am not a person who rejects the use of a
leash correction. I prefer to use verbal corrections and body language
over a leash correction. But in those rare instances when my dog is
not paying attention to me or his work after I've signaled to him,
then I have no problem dulling out a wake-up call.


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