National Train Your Dog Month
January 11, 2011 at 9:28 am
I have been doing some research on important doggie-related dates for my next Boogie calendar and January 2011 is National Train Your Dog Month!
“Dog Training” is such a loaded and contested topic, and as the parent of a reactive/aggressive Boston terrier I probably spend more time reading and thinking about this subject than the average human being. I am also blogging about it, creating drawings about it, and biting my tongue (to avoid opening up a can of worms) whenever someone quotes Cesar-isms at me…
If only I had a dollar for every time someone told me Boogie needs Cesar Millan or sees himself as my pack leader… (when I tell them that “Boogie is in training”)
Most people don’t realize that there is HUGE WORLD of dog training information out there and that The Dog Whisperer approach even though it has taken on a national cult following, is actually very old-school and limited.
Two interesting articles:
1. Slate.com – Good Dog, Bad Dog.
Read the comments too. The general gist of this article is that regardless of whether we use “Dog Whispering” (corrections, Dominance Theory) or “Click & Treat” (Positive Reinforcement), all methods work to get rid of bad behavior and lead to good behavior. According to this author, training philosophies are like trends, everchanging, and there is no one right or wrong method. This pic is from the article:
Then there is THIS article that I am more inclined to agree with –
2. K9 In Focus: A Consideration of Training Methods
The most interesting part – the danger of using a Balanced Approach (mixing corrections with positive reinforcement) which only confuses the dog because one method is teaching the dog not to do anything unless given a command to do so (so the dog remains “calm submissive”, to use Dog Whisperer lingo). The other method teaches a dog to try new behaviors to earn rewards (so you get a more active, thinking dog that is always testing you and talking to you).
” One thing I have learned is that it is very important to carefully consider your training methods and techniques. In addition to being effective, will they strengthen the relationship between you and your dog? Are they consistent with your ethics and ideals? Are they clear and fair? It is our responsibility, as trainers and owners, to do what is best for our pets. I encourage you to think very carefully about how you train.”
My personal view: Corrections Training vs. Clicker Training
I have experienced both methods – the traditional corrections-based method, and also the positive reinforcement click-n-treat method.
A year ago I was taught to use traditional punishment-based techniques on Boogie. My blog entries around May 2010 went into a lot of detail and included video clips and cartoon illustrations showing the use of a prong collar. At the time I didn’t realize that there existed other non aversive training techniques. This was all I knew and like most people, I watched The Dog Whisperer show religiously and tried to be dominant, calm and assertive. I was even contacted by the Dog Whisperer show to submit a video which I am glad I didn’t do. (see YouTube: Setting up the dog for anxiety and aggression on The Dog Whisperer Show)
Several months later, when Boogie’s behavioral problems persisted, I made the switch over to Positive Reinforcement techniques and Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) and stopped using corrections. Lots of blog entries here on these training sessions.
For me personally, the most interesting major difference between the two training approaches is not whether one approach works better than the other, but how they have impacted on Boogie’s overall PERSONALITY and MOOD.
Back when I was using collar corrections (to stop him pulling on the leash or lunging at people/dogs) Boogie responded by stopping whatever he was doing and staying by my side. He learned very quickly that he would be choked if he “misbehaved”. When the collar-corrections didn’t make him cry out or cower, I saw a slower, more compliant and subdued Boogie (with a very red scabby neck). Friends noticed that he was less likely to greet people and seemed depressed. When I took the prong collar off, he would spring back to life and play with his toys and pull on the leash again which led me to realize that he was being “good” only to avoid punishment. He was still aggressively lunging at strange people and dogs on the street.
When I stopped using the prong collar and switched over to using a clicker and treats, I noticed a totally different Boogie who was attentive, full of life, enthusiastic, and responsive. I saw a dog that kept checking in with me, and came to me when called. Sure enough, the food in my pocket was more interesting than ME, but using rewards made training so much easier and fun. Boogie was the same dog with the same behavioral issues and his hairs still stood up whenever he saw a stranger on our street (and he still thought about lunging at them) but after repeated training sessions, Boogie was able to IGNORE the trigger on his own or when I called him. He is still nervous around certain people and dogs but we know how to avoid stressful situations.
The amazing change in Boogie’s personality and mood is what made me a Clicker training/Positive Reinforcement convert. I wouldn’t say that Boogie’s issues are 100% fixed but we now have a much stronger relationship. I know how to read him, and he listens to me. There really is no need at all for corrections or punishment and it makes me sad when I see other people using the choke method or yelling at and kicking their dogs. The wonders of Clicker Training is hard to explain to someone who subscribes to the Dominance approach…
Heck, I don’t want a calm-submissive Boogie. I’d rather have a happy Boogie with good social skills.
There’s a new dog training book coming out soon – BATting 1000 by Grisha Stewart which I am very excited about and not only because I will have the pleasure of providing illustrations, but because Boogie and I have been using her techniques (with our trainer Sarah) and they WORK! * Read our success stories on Boogie’s Walk Log.
Click on “Training > BAT Sessions” in my Categories list to see my blog posts related to BAT. Also check out Grisha Stewart’s Organic Socialization DVD on BAT.
More important dates for the January —
Did you know that January 14th is National Dress Up Your Pet Day?
And January 21st is National Squirrel Appreciation Day. I think Boogie will like this one.
Entry filed under: Articles, links, Books & DVDs, Reads, Training.