Obedience School, Night #2
Cause I know y’all are on the edge of your seats. (But really, why do y’all follow me? Lol)
- Boots heels on his leash like a champ. Bam, DONE.
- He learned to sit every time I stop moving tonight. We’ll keep working on that.
- We worked on recall tonight, which has been my biggest challenge with Boots the entire 2 years that I’ve owned him. The trainer asked who in particular has trouble with that command, so I raised my hand high. She used him as the example, and he was hardheaded, but he was getting it. We’ll keep working on it.
- Everyone loved him. Everyone in the class thought he was so cute!
- There’s one lady in class that is gonna slowly make everyone crazy. You can tell she makes the trainer crazy with all her “this won’t work for my dog, my dog is stressed, blah blah blah.” She has a problem with not being able to assert dominance over her dog, but I don’t think she realizes it. The trainer obviously realizes it. I doubt she’ll get anything out of the hundred dollars she paid for this training course, cause if you can’t assert dominance, not even your dog will listen to you.
- After reading “Pack of Two” by Caroline Knapp, I’ve started to really watch the way that people and their dogs interact, I find it so interesting!
- I need a skinnier leash for Boots.
- I’m dying to ask the trainer for a job but I’m too big of a chicken to do it.
- Something in or outside of obedience class gave me exactly 2 hives. Which is odd.
But seriously, why do y’all follow me? Anyway, Boots and I send our love!
Actually, the “crazy lady” in your class has a very valid point. When an animal is stressed or nervous, they struggle to concentrate. It’s because the stress hormone, cortisol, causes activation in the sympathetic nervous system which causes the animal to become hypervigilant. (That is, stressed animals feel a stronger urge than calm animals to focus on their environment, which makes learning difficult.) Use of force or intimidation on a nervous animal will exacerbate the problem; they’ll feel more stressed and become even less capable of learning.
I read in your profile that you’re interested in animal science, so I’m going to very briefly discuss modern animal behaviour science. It sounds like your trainer’s methodology and beliefs are extremely outdated, and I think they’re really doing you and your dog a huge disservice. Dominance theory has been entirely disproved; neither dogs nor wolves have a strict social hierarchy where all the dogs obey a central leader. (Not to mention that dogs behave much differently towards humans than other dogs, indicating that they know humans are not dogs.) Modern training methods are instead based on learning theory which is applicable to all known animals including dogs and humans. The basic two basic principles of modern learning theory are: 1. Behaviours with a favourable outcome are more likely to be repeated, and 2. Behaviours with an unfavourable outcome are less likely to be repeated.
These two principles can be broken down into four quadrants or contexts that are easy to observe and manipulate in training: 1. Positive reinforcement, 2. Negative Reinforcement, 3. Positive punishment, and 4. Negative punishment. In this context, “positive” means something is added, “negative” means something is taken away, “reinforcement” means that the behaviour being reinforced is more likely to occur in the future, and “punishment” means the behaviour is less likely to occur in the future.
Learning theory explains why leash jerking works: The dog makes a motion undesired by their handler, the handler jerks the leash which causes the dog discomfort, so to avoid that discomfort in the future the dog avoids making that particular motion again. This is an example of positive punishment (“positive” because something (discomfort) is being added, and “punishment” because it causes a behaviour to decrease (the undesired motion)).
It also explains why clicker training works: The dog makes a motion desired by the handler; the handler marks the behaviour and offers a cookie, toy, or whatever else the dog enjoys; and the dog becomes more likely to make that motion again to earn another reward. This is an example of positive reinforcement (“positive” because a reward is added, and “reinforcement” because the dog is more likely to perform the desired behaviour).
That’s the very bare bones of learning theory, but there are many, many studies that demonstrate that positive reinforcement creates more reliable obedience in dogs than traditional training (traditional training is based on negative reinforcement (removing something aversive as the reward) and positive punishment). Dogs taught with positive reinforcement are also less likely to become aggressive, and positive reinforcement is more effective than traditional training methods at rehabilitating fearful or aggressive dogs. It also works especially well on “stubborn” dogs that don’t care very much about being punished, so you might find it an especially good fit for your guy. :P
If you’re interested in learning more, I’d love to discuss dog training and learning theory with you! If you’d rather read about it, I highly recommend Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor and pretty much anything ever written by Patricia McConnell (but maybe start with For the Love of a Dog and The Other End of the Leash).
Also, if you’re looking for a great trainer to apprentice with, try to find an APDT certified trainer in your area. All APDT certified trainers are required to pass a fairly rigorous exam every few years to ensure they’re up-to-date with current learning theory.
And because this is getting book-like, I’m going to stop here. But I’d also be happy to pass on some techniques for teaching a super speedy, enthusiastic recall even if you’re not interested in discussing learning theory. Please just let me know if you’re interested!