More on Training -- AGAIN! Pictures, Update, & Video Later

I might have to change Harper's Day as Fridays are my busy teaching day so that is why poor Harper got two pictures and that was it! I hope to make up for that with a video this weekend of her tracking progress and also a shaping demo.

Two things I wanted to respond to this morning...

First, there is a bit of drama about the Specialty obedience rings being outside this year. I find it very interesting to watch drama! I agree that outside is not optimal for several reasons -- some of which I didn't even consider (i.e., weather). But the truth is that out west, outdoors is pretty normal for obedience and I typically train outdoors so not a huge issue for me -- but I do not think it is optimal and I think Specialty obedience "deserves" indoor rings.

But what is fascinating to me is how some people simply cannot tolerate the respectfully expressed opinion of others! WOW. I am glad to live in a country where we can -- and do - think differently, and have the right to express those opinions. Essentially telling other people to "sit down and shut up" is an unfortunate display of disrespect, rudeness, and intolerance.

Second, Barb asked great questions about corrections -- what is a correction? Well, telling people to sit down and shut up sure is :) And are corrections always bad? And Kim brings up the interesting point about how hard it is to resist pressure from others to correct dogs.

I want to start by making the distinction between house manners training and training for performance events -- when I talk about training, I am talking about training for performance events. My house manners (or lack thereof) training follows similar lines but I absolutely am willing to tell the plus-size model that she needs to BE QUIET!!! And that is a correction -- and no, it usually doesn't work ;)

I think of a correction as something that is an attempt to change the course, but in the context of dog training I think of a correction as something more like an added in consequence or punishment that a dog would prefer to avoid. So to me, it is -- from the dog's perspective -- something negative.

Some will point out that a dog responds happily after an uncomfortable correction and therefore it is not a problem. Please consider that abused children still love their parents and do not want to leave them. Causing pain to another typically does not break the bonds of the relationship -- even when it should.

And so the fact that dogs are forgiving should not justify hurting them, and second -- it is kind of wrong and creepy when we think it is okay to cause pain/discomfort to another -- just saying.

This does not mean that I do not like and respect people who train in different ways -- good and wonderful people I know and like have different points of view on this topic. I do not require people to agree with me -- that is not my place. I admire honest and ethical people, regardless of whether we agree on methods of how to train dogs or raise kids or whatever. However, I despise cheaters and liars (usually they are one and the same) -- and yes, we have them among us -- but that is another post :)

Anyway, a word that tells a dog she was wrong can be called a "no reward marker" or I like to call it an "error message". I am not sure what I think about error messages -- part of me thinks it simply marks something that I want to stop, so why would I mark it? Another part says that it is just a try again message if done nicely so why not? But I guess I am not a fan since I do not use them in training -- probably because I want to pay attention to what is going well and not what is "wrong".

That said, if a dog is tracking and she is way off and the handler stops and refuses to move forward until she is correct, we have given a non-verbal error message, haven't we? Or I suppose we could see it as just facilitating success but not following failure... At any rate, adding a word when the non-verbal message is there seems unnecessary -- dogs are non-verbal communicators anyway so it seems better to just stop offering the chance for reinforcement rather than marking things with words.

What do others think about that? I don't talk when I track -- shocking that I can be quiet, I suppose, but true :) So I do not offer any verbal cues except praise at the end and along the way when desired things are found.

I just think that if we take the time to establish what we want in all kinds of situations, a dog will respond appropriately. If the dog isn't, then that means she wasn't trained well enough -- so a correction is not fair. I guess I assume good intentions on the part of the dog -- that she will absolutely do what I ask if I have prepared her for the job. So if she doesn't, it is me who needs correcting -- not the dog.

And the other thing -- nothing is really so important that I am compelled to hurt my dog, even for a second. I like the challenge of training this way, and I have been able to achieve every goal I have set with a variety of dogs. Again, I do not (usually ;) think people who disagree are wrong or bad -- I just prefer how I do things, and that is why I do it that way.

Unfortunately it is rare to get hooked up with a trainer who does not use what I call corrections, and who has the skill to effectively teach how to use positive reinforcement to get results. That is why I talk about this so much -- to help people understand a different way, and to create understanding that this different way is not crazy -- it is effective.

Will my dogs make mistakes? Of course -- and so will dogs that are "corrected" -- so what? None of us are always perfect. But my dogs will be joyful in the ring and even more importantly -- I will be able to look at myself with respect at the way I treated my dogs.

Kaibab Pictures!

I got two fun pictures I want to share -- here is cute Elliott from Bend, Oregon. He is Maize's son and like her, has many working titles and is a superb Therapy Dog....

And here is Maddie from the F Litter enjoying some snow in the Pacific Northwest -- note the water behind her :)

Thanks for these pictures!


Okay, here is my make-up update from yesterday -- a short video of Harper training today...

Mesa Update!

I am not sure when the Graffunder family is but they sent their update just now from the car! And Alex had to report via Jennifer -- hopefully, she was not emailing while driving -- but I hope Alex wasn't driving either -- oh dear! Here is their report:

"The picture of Mesa in the pillows is supposed to count for both her and Alex.  If you look closely you can see his hand.  He got very upset when I suggested that we send one with his bed head in it!

Alex says he is happy to report that Mesa loves him very much but she shows that by landsharking him more than anyone.  She gets SO excited to see him that she can hardly stand it!

Alex and Mesa are doing really well with working together.  He is teaching her a very short puppy "wait" which helps her calm down a bit....and let go of his leg so he can insert a toy or chewy. She is very attentive to him and focused on him and I am really enjoying watching them together!"

Thank you to Jennifer and Alex for that interesting report -- we all now want to see Alex with his bed head!




by Ellen in Missoula on Sat, 01/28/2012 - 08:36

You know, I admit I wondered about Friday for you...

by Lois on Sat, 01/28/2012 - 09:12

Happy to change dates with you for Harper and Auggie if Wednesday will help you.
I continue to appreciate all I learn from you and others on this blog.
Elliot and Harper are just beautiful and Elliot is the reason I met you so special thanks to Elliot and his human parents. I met Elliot practicing for a draft meet just as I had learned that we would be losing Bernie and the rest, as they say, is history......

by Greg R Peirce on Sat, 01/28/2012 - 17:50

We are so happy you met Mary-Ann. We are sure by now you are convinced she is as wonderful as we told you she was.
Enjoy your bundle of joy as much as we enjoy Elliott.

by Lisa K on Sat, 01/28/2012 - 18:09

Thanks for that M-A! Luv videos! And look at how much fun she is having! YAY!

by Lisa K on Sat, 01/28/2012 - 18:34

Ok, that was the best report! And yes, we need to see bed head. Looking perfect for each picture you are in is totally over-rated! ;-)

by cindy heintzberger on Sat, 01/28/2012 - 18:50

That little Mrsa face just cracks me up!!! you can just see that little mind working - good thing Alex is young and energetic!!!:)

Loved watching Harper track - sure wish we had snow. She looks a lot like Lainey in body shape. Now will you get her to pick up the glove or just indicate it?

by Elizabethanne on Sat, 01/28/2012 - 19:44

Lisa mentioned that she is working on shaping her dog to stand on 4 pods. This is a fun behavior to train, and quite challenging. It is one that we talk about in the online Microshaping class. It is a complex behavior and requires the dogs to have certain skills in place in order for the shaping to proceed smoothly.

First, I would want the dog to have the skill of being able to stand squarely on all four feet without offering other behaviors. I would spend some shaping sessions on marking and rewarding this position and nothing else. You could use a platform or a thick mat -- something that makes it obvious to the dog when he is on it and when he is not.

Second, I would want to shape individual foot awareness. Although I have not taught the pod behavior, I did shape rear foot awareness with Chase. First, I c/t'd placing his front feet on a target. Then, I added in a rear foot target. I placed the reinforcer in a way that would encourage the rear foot movement. I use the cued touch behavior to anchor the base position of standing with his front feet on the target and to keep the rate of reinforcement high.

From there, I was able to do various rear foot exercises.

Here's the video of us starting on rear foot awareness.

Back to the pods. I would want to think carefully about how I would like the dog to approach the pods. I think that makes a difference in terms of the training progression. Because the pods add a balance requirement, I would want to work on the foot targeting, and get that solid, before I added the pods into the equation. Charley (not the dog in the video) is physically incapable of the pod behavior, but he knows paw targeting and I used standing on two tuna cans as a nice rehab activity.

Good luck with the pods!

by Elizabethanne on Sat, 01/28/2012 - 23:01

by Terri Zimmerman on Sun, 01/29/2012 - 13:00

Harper is so cute and so smart. Reminds me of her daddy except all the pups have more leg than he did which is good I think. She is darling and I am very impressed with her training. Maddee is just so her photos. Enjoyed it all very much.

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