[nagdu] Fwd: Starting with clicker training?

Raven Tolliver ravend729 at gmail.com
Wed Jul 9 08:32:19 UTC 2014

I understand where the naysayers are coming from. Before I signed that
contract to start training dogs, I thought all of the same things. I
thought the leash correction was necessary. I thought it was necessary
to punish bad behavior. I thought you couldn't teach a dog how to do
right if you didn't show them that they were doing something wrong. I
unlearned all of these beliefs on my first day. It was either that, or
pass up the perfect opportunity to enter the dog training field.
the key with positive reinforcement training is to minimize
undesirable behaviors by ignoring them, and increase desirable
behaviors by rewarding them. In this way
the dog will choose to perform those behaviors that yield rewards. If
you focus on unrewarding behaviors, it doesn't show your dog what you
want it to do. It only communicates that the dog is wrong, but it
doesn't tell him what's right. At the same time, the dog is being
rewarded with attention for the inappropriate behavior, so you could
have a problem on your hands. This is why I feel it is a complete
waste of time to concentrate on or make a big deal of undesirable
behavior. Okay, you were excited and did something inappropriate.
Let's focus on what you should do instead. Forget about the previous
behavior, and let's make this new one more exciting or rewarding than
what you were doing before. This is why I have removed the word "no"
from my vocabulary during training sessions; that word is pretty much
useless. Half the dogs don't know what it means, some others aren't
really even listening, and the remaining are excited and need
something to do, and the word "no" doesn't tell them to do anything,
or anything rewarding, so screw that!
Another myth with positive reinforcement training is that treats are
always necessary. absolutely not! First, all dogs don't find treats
rewarding or as rewarding as other things. As I've said, I've worked
with dogs who found play or verbal/physical praise more rewarding.
Every dog and partnership is different. And second, the treats are
always phased out once the dog has learned which behaviors are most
desirable, and performs those behaviors reliably. A treat might come
their way every once in a while, but they learn not to expect it
through a very gradual process.
I think many people believe the leash correction is necessary because
that is what we are taught to believe. We are not familiarized with or
exposed to other options or methods, and so we are stuck in a bubble.
Personally, I believe that positive reinforcement training is best
because it recognizes that each party has desires
and turns out a well-trained student and in tune teacher by focusing
on those desires. It also involves communicating with an animal or
person in a way that promotes positive feelings and positive behavior.
I use this kind of training with a variety of breeds from malamutes,
to German shepherds, to labradors, to corgies, to dachshunds, to
chihuahuas. It works with every dog. Given, there are different
methods within positive reinforcement training. I don't use a clicker
with every dog. I don't use treats with every dog. You can still
tailor a training session to personality without getting physical.
Leash corrections are not even used universally in guide dog training.
I have written to a guide dog instructor who has trained guide dogs at
schools in different Scandinavian countries, and they definitely don't
use leash corrections ever for any reason during any part of their
training, even for traffic training. It just isn't necessary. Positive
reinforcement promotes understanding within a partnership, and it
creates far less frustration for both dog and handler.
"if God didn't make it, don't eat it." - John B. Symes, D.V.M.

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