Shaping, Permissiveness, Training, and Later -- Harper B

Elizabethanne -- The Queen of Shaping -- how about posting some links to your YouTube videos of shaped behavior?

I agree, as usual, with what Elizabethanne said -- most of the time we are expecting chunks of behavior and not slices -- remember my favorite term -- Least Trainable Unit! When I shaped Harper to go down, I broke it into small pieces and clicked for those -- starting with her looking at the ground.

The perception that positive training (or training without the use of uncomfortable corrections)  is somehow overly permissive is dead wrong. I still want my dog to respond accurately and promptly to my cues -- for example, when I call Harper I expect her to come. The difference is that I will create "come" as a strongly ingrained habit through the use of positive, pain-free techniques -- and not through compulsion.

For example, I call Harper when I know she will come, and I reward her with great treats. If she doesn't come, I know I asked for too much too soon -- but I do not let it go -- I walk over to her and then call her in a happy voice -- and give her a cookie when she comes. In other words, I make sure I get her to come, even if it is only one step or even a look my direction.

Let's say I am one of those who thinks, "I can't let this puppy get away with this" and so I attach a leash, yell come, and then jerk her in when she continues to munch on twigs. What have I accomplished? Well, my puppy is confused and now knows I am prone to random acts of meanness, and I have a smug -- but misguided -- sense that I have somehow proven something to a puppy -- really?!

I do not just train puppies in this positive pain-free way. Remember that I took Montana Mac -- not even my own dog - from no working titles to two open level titles in two different events (and his Versatility Dog Excellent) in a matter of months -- with NO corrections. Halo got a UD in five tries -- no corrections. Maize took seven or so tries for her UD - no corrections. Zoey -- her awesome year of awards and titles - not a correction in sight. You get the idea -- if the proof is in the pudding -- well, make mine chocolate.

Harper B



by Lisa K on Fri, 01/27/2012 - 07:18

Yes, the more links/videos, the better for those of us learning. I learn better by watching/observing, it seems. I just want to make sure I am doing this correctly and setting my pups up for as much success as I can. I worry that I am doing things wrong.
Another question, all dogs learn differently, just like us, yes? Some may pick it up faster than others? Is that a fair assumption? And thanks, this is all really great info ladies! Woot!

by Jennifer G. on Fri, 01/27/2012 - 08:20

Yes, please post many...I understand the information that I read, but seeing it REALLY helps me. And I think it would be a great help to Alex. I am not only trying to do things right with my own dogs but also set good examples and help Alex with Mesa.

by Kim T on Fri, 01/27/2012 - 07:28

Thanks for reminding everyone that training goals, whether they are having a nicely behaved dog or having a competition dog, can be accomplished without the use of compulsion. I remember how appalled I was when someone suggested that I force fetch a retrieve because my dog did not have much natural retrieve drive. Guess what? I completely shaped a retrieve and now my dog has a wonderful dummbell fetch and a happy attitude :) I couldn't imagine pinching those sweet ears just for the sake of getting a retrieve. I couldn't imagine doing anything to hurt my dog just to get a certain behaviour. Yet, it seems to be the norm among many people that you set your dog up to fail in order to correct them and make them do it right. Sad. Is it not better to just set our dogs up to succeed from the start? I guess people can train the way they want but at the end of the day when I look in my dogs' eyes I don't want to have any regrets about the way I have treated them, especially for the sake of a few ribbons.

by Kim T on Fri, 01/27/2012 - 09:54

Perhaps you could lend your insight into dealing with the pressures that others place on us to use corrections. I am lucky that I am surrounded by lots of good training friends that use only positive methods but there is always that "outside" advice that I get at trials, fun matches and seminars. This advice is usually from well accomplished competitors with dogs that win all the time. It is often hard to ignore advice from those that seem to "have all the answers" when it comes to training, especially for people who may just be starting out with their first puppy or competition dog.

by Maddie's Mommy on Fri, 01/27/2012 - 15:40

Could I ask you to go on a bit about what "is" a correction? For example, as you may remember from Camp Kaibab, Maddie's original tracking style was both wild and wide--her preferred pace was a brisk trot and she preferred to 'fringe' four or five feet to one side or the other of the track. This rather sloppy exuberance was OK for us to pass the TD test, but it wasn't good enough to pass the TDX. In fact, it was this too wide habit that got us lost on the last corner of an otherwise outstanding TDX track last year. The trainer I'm working with now is adamant that a dog should never, ever be corrected while tracking (it's demotivating), and I agree--you can take an unmotivated dog out in the field but you won't ever get them to track! So how to get her to work close to the track? We started with tracks on which I knew exactly where the centerline was. When Maddie started to move off the track I said "Phoey" and just stood fast, refusing to let her move forward. When she was on the track I said "good such" and let the line run loose as I followed her, where she often found a treat. She's now working spot on the track, unfazed by turns, terrain, cross-tracks or length. (We still have a wall with tracks over 1:45 old, but that's another story.) So my question for the blog is, in the context of behavioral science, etc., what constitutes a 'correction', and thus a training technique to be avoided? Saying "phoey' in a neutral tone seems to me to be only telling the dog that this isn't what I wanted so try it again. Do you think that holding fast on the line constitutes a correction, or is it likewise a neutral?

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