Canine Charlie willingly sits on cue, but when clicks and treats don't come fast enough, he starts trying other dog behaviors in his repertoire - with rapid-fire offerings of shake, speak, down, and even a roll-over finding its way into the mix. He gets so excited about the dog training game that sometimes he doesn't even bother to sit first when asked, but drops right into the down - his favorite position. Charlie, an eager worker who loves positive reinforcement, has learned a lot of different behaviors and is anticipating his human's cues for all his favorite tricks. He clearly doesn't have his behaviors under stimulus control.
You presented (“Don’t Whisper,” December 2006) some of the same observations I have made in viewing “The Dog Whisperer,” but I believe that you failed to give him credit for two key points.
and who are appropriately reinforced for the ""right"" behavior
How to teach your dog to look to you (literally!) for direction. Look is a combination behavior. It is more than the “Leave it” or “Off.” It is more than the ever-popular “watch me.” It involves the dog breaking eye contact with the arousing object, person, or animal (whatever triggers the dog’s manic behavior); turning his head away from that trigger; making eye contact with you; and holding that eye contact until you give a release signal.
The chasm between those who abhor the electronic/shock collars as an abusive dog training tool and those who support and promote it as an exceptionally effective and humane training tool is so huge it will probably never be bridged. In more moderate positions in the middle of that chasm are those who believe that the collar can be an effective training tool for very limited circumstances in the hands of skilled professionals, and those who prefer not to use them but feel compelled to educate clients who insist on using them on how to use them properly.
What could be more convenient? Many trainers are recommending Skippy’s “Squeez’ It” as a convenient training tool because it can be used to dispense a peanut butter treat right into the mouth of a dog who deserves a reward. The dog loves it, and his handler’s hands stay clean and dry. No wonder this product is getting rave reviews from trainers.
By definition, punishment is something that will decrease the probability of the occurrence of a certain behavior. Generally, this punishment involves something that is sufficiently startling or aversive so as to thwart the “problem” behavior. If the dog has benefitted from the behavior in the past, it will take even more startling or aversive punishment to override his expectation of getting that reward again. Frequently, a punished dog stops attending to you; you become something to be avoided.
Regular readers of WDJ are aware that we advocate a positive approach to dog training, that is, using only dog-friendly methods to teach our canine companions how we want them to behave in our homes, our cars, our arms – our world. We eschew methods that hurt or frighten dogs, even in the name of the supposed “greater good.” We think there are plenty of dog-related examples to justify this stance, but occasionally, we also find it useful to look beyond the dog-training profession for reinforcement for our beliefs.
“Reactive” is a term gaining popularity in dog training circles – but what is it, exactly? In her book Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, Applied Animal Behaviorist Karen Overall, M.A., V.M.D., Ph.D., uses the term to describe animals who respond to normal stimuli with an abnormal (higher-than-normal) level of intensity. Take a deep breath and relax. We have positive training solutions for dogs who "go off" or "lose it" in certain circumstances.
or because she's not sure what you want her to do; either way
Switching to positive training? At first, it might be frustrating for you – and your dog. The benefits, however, will last a lifetime. In positive training, the goal is to help the dog do the right thing and then reward him for it, rather than punishing him for doing the wrong thing. If he makes a mistake, the behavior is ignored, or excused with an “Oops, try again!” to encourage the dog to do something else.
The dog training field is now producing a steady stream of books that offer instruction and guidance, and many of them appear to promote dog-friendly training methods. But you can’t always judge a book by its cover! It’s more than disappointing to order a promising volume with a “positive” title, only to discover that hidden within the pages are suggestions to jerk on collars, glare into your dog’s eyes, and worse.