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Are positive training methods enough on their own? I don't think so. I believe in using a combination of both. Although I think a lot depends on the dog.

This article sums up a lot of the problems I have with positive only training methods. Granted, her approach is a little harsh/extreme but I think she makes some great points.

Here's the link to the full text article ("When Did Balance Become a Dirty Word"):

http://karmaperformance.weebly.com/when-did-balance-become-a-dirty-word.html

A few passages that resonate with me...

"Children play a game called “Hot and Cold”. The person who is “It” has to find a particular object. If the child steps closer to the object, the crowd yells, “Hot!” If the child steps away from the object the crowd yells, “Cold!” The difference between this game and the PO method is that the PO operator doesn’t yell “Cold” that’s a negative marker. That’s punishment. So the dog wanders around the room only being told “Hot” for every behavior, every command he’s taught.

Next time you are around a PO trained dog, watch him. He’s always on edge. He may be pacing, whining, pushing, panting or dancing. If he is ordered into a Down, he’ll still be jittering and wired…because he can’t be still. He has been taught to constantly SEEK. He has been taught that whatever he wants is the only thing that matters.

The issue of “no consequences” comes to the heart of the problem with PO. Every living organism on this planet has to learn there are boundaries…and that there are consequences for crossing those boundaries. Even an amoeba learns to not cross hot/cold boundaries, because the consequence is death.

We people live in a world of boundaries and consequences. Ignore the crossing light and possibly get hit by a car. Exceed the speed limit and you risk a ticket. Be mean too many times to a friend and you risk losing them.

But in the PO universe there are no consequences for canine bad behavior. You are supposed to either ignore or distract bad behavior. Don’t correct the dog for chewing your shoes; pick them up. Don’t correct the dog for chewing on the couch; give him a toy. Don’t correct the puppy for jumping on you; step back. Don’t correct the puppy for biting your hand; move it higher or ignore it…he’ll quit eventually. (Then give him a cookie for ceasing to bite!) Ignoring bad behavior will extinguish it, because they get no positive reinforcement from it. (Really? The dogs I see get a heck of a lot of positive reinforcement from jumping and chewing and biting what’s around them.)

Here’s a story that I tell most all my students. There’s a little girl maybe three or four years old. Her mom walks into the living room and finds her painting big purple flowers on the wall with her crayon. “Go play with your dolly.” The little girl looks at her, drops the crayon, and goes and plays with her dolly. After a bit she gets tired of playing with her dolly…and goes back to her crayon and drawing. Why? Because she was never told NOT to write on the wall. She was simply given another task that she successfully accomplished. Once that was done, she went back to her previous task. "
 

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I've always used a mixture of training methods with the dogs.
With puppies its positive training methods for the most part. As the pups mature their ability to focus increases, and they have a small training base of knowledge to work with. While I love a dog that works for praise, there does come a time when they decide praise is not enough for them to follow direction. We start a more formal style of training. I look at it as a Cause and Effect. You are praised for a job well done, and either corrected, or said nothing to for the wrong behavior. It all depends on what we are working on.
While I may have had a treat at my side to keep a young puppy at heel, that changes to a sideways tug, and a change of direction if the pup starts to pull.
Later after my dogs are ecollar trained, I carry transmitter in the same hand as the lead. Pressure on the lead from the dog to my hand, is a automatic nick from the collar. There are plenty of steps in-between, but you get the idea. And just because we have moved to a more formal style of training, it in no way means the dogs do not get plenty of praise.

Sometimes when working with younger dogs around birds, I say nothing when the dog tries to bust the bird instead of holding point. The bird fling away, and the dog getting walked away is the only correction needed at that time. It will be later before I start doing any corrections for taking out birds.
 

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I used a lot of positive only clicker training for Scout's foundational skills and I think it's really well suited for initially learning behaviors. Until the dog has really learned the command there's no point to having a consequence anyway nor would it be fair to them. It's also really good mental exercise to have them try out different things until they find the magic criteria. You see their eyes light up when they get it.

Once you're sure they've really learned a command however and you've generalized it so that they will do it no matter the location, then I feel a consequence is appropriate, particularly in matters of safety. Of course the timing is important.

I don't personally like the traditional way of teaching force fetch, but in reading about it I came across a compelling argument that building in pressure during training helps them overcome real pressure in the field when it's important. If your dog fails to retrieve a crippled bird then you're a poor sportsman and are a doing a disservice to that bird. I think a little bit of adversity and well defined boundaries, the hot and cold, can create a better balanced more confident dog IF done right. I don't know that positive only people are saying that dogs are too fragile to handle negative reinforcement or if they just believe that it's an inefficient way to train, but a lot of the language I've read makes it sounds like they've never seen a real dog.

Here's an article I read a couple weeks ago by Gary Wilkes, one of the pioneers of clicker training. http://clickandtreat.com/wordpress/?p=884

The author has a pretty clear bias, so keep that in mind, but I thought his observations about the Skinner-Breland studies were really interesting. Basically their theories have been thoroughly tested on prey/herd animals and work great on them, but a dog is a predator and operates differently, so there are bound to be errors while trying to apply scientific theory that holds true for rats to dogs. It's not good science to ignore the differences.

This passage in particular explains what has been my experience, even with a soft dog like a wirehaired vizsla:
In the case of dogs, Breland and a host of others have failed to integrate a dog’s ability to “take the hit” and continue to perform happily. The universal assumption that science-based operant conditioning should never include aversive control is as mindless as Skinner’s decision to ignore instinct as it applied to positive reinforcement. Additionally, Breland failed to realize that unless you use aversive control to compel or inhibit a dog’s behavior, reliability is practically impossible. It is the nature of dogs to be autonomous in many things, but especially in hunting mode. The mesmerized African Hunting Dogs are not an exception, they are the rule. When your Jack Russell sees a running squirrel, no hot-dog in the world is going to dissuade him from making a bee-line for his prey. The only thing that can create reliable control over that dog in that situation is some form of powerful aversive control – we all know that, even if the multitude tries to evade the reality.

I think you can do amazing things with positive only training, but I agree it is only one piece of the puzzle.

One question I have for everyone is what does a consequence look like to you. If Scout gets up from a stay, I correct her by saying no, take her back to the spot, and reiterate the command. I think there are limitations to modeling dog to dog behavior, but I've always found the way dogs correct each other to be a valuable example of how to train. It's immediate, only as forceful as necessary, and it ends quickly. They don't hold grudges and there isn't lasting emotional friction between them.
 

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POSITIVE about this !! the safest place in the world is at my SIDE - NO corrections - I work Very hard that the pups tail is held HIGH - they FEAR nothing - respect everything else - that includes ME !!!! your post we learn nothing from experiance scares ME - Lets burn the History BOOKs - LOL
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
einspänner said:
When your Jack Russell sees a running squirrel, no hot-dog in the world is going to dissuade him from making a bee-line for his prey. The only thing that can create reliable control over that dog in that situation is some form of powerful aversive control – we all know that, even if the multitude tries to evade the reality.

I think you can do amazing things with positive only training, but I agree it is only one piece of the puzzle.

One question I have for everyone is what does a consequence look like to you.
Completely agree. For me, it's all about the balance (the hot/cold). The positive is part of that, but so is the negative. And that balance is different for every dog in my opinion. For example, Birch is very sensitive and compliant whereas Dexter is not. For Birch, I use about 80% positive methods because she rarely needs a correction more than once. Dexter is more like 50/50 because he's likely to keep testing me.

And corrections are different for both dogs, at least in intensity. For example, Birch gets a "vibe" on her e-collar if she doesn't come when called and Dexter gets a high nick (his level is 2/3's up the range of the collar). This goes for non e-collar corrections as well. She usually takes a softer approach, which would be lost on him.

I should add that it varies what we're working on, too. For example, Dexter is wonderful at loose leash walking, and the slightest correction there would be enough for him. So, I might just stop walking for a minute and he'd get the hint. Birch is very stubborn on lead and oblivious to a lot, so it would take a sideways tug on her leash to get my point across whereas that would be overkill for Dex. (And yes, also lots of positive reinforcement to go along with that when they are walking nicely).
 

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One question I have for everyone is what does a consequence look like to you. If Scout gets up from a stay, I correct her by saying no, take her back to the spot, and reiterate the command.
Lucy would be pretty much handled the same as Scout.
The only difference with June is I can tell her No, and to go back without having to place her.
Cash because we duck hunt with him, I say nothing.
I can either give a light nick from the collar, or just point to the spot.
I will normally point to the spot, unless he tests me a couple of times.
It is something I have to refresh with him every season. Its hard for a dog to stay when ducks are falling from the sky.

I have noticed I don't use the word No very much with puppies.
I only start using it if a dog gives me a different response to a known command.
 

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TR -do not get LAZY !wHOA board !!!!! fact of LIFE - it WORKS !!!!!!! command & a real part of their life !!!!!it works !!!!!!!!! SHOOT ME LATER = LOL !!!!!!!!!!
 

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REM If I time it right, I get to work Cash with other dogs. Get 3-4 dogs, each with a handler. Ducks are thrown and blanks are fired. Only a dog that has stayed steady will be sent for the retrieve. Move, and the dogs punishment is watching another dog get to pick up the bird.
 
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