RRSF Training Addendum

RRSF on The Travel Channel


Seven Training Samurai ©
(Beginning of Communication Building Blocks)

These seven exercies are where I start most dogs in their training. Although I list only the beginning stages here, these exercises grow and expand over time in their behavior requirements for longer durations, faster frequencies, greater intensities, fading helper cues. I also teach more advanced behaviors, but these are my usual, fundamental basics I like to establish first.

  1. Positive Marker
  2. Name Response
  3. Voluntary Eye Contact
  4. Follow Hand Signals
  5. Following Closely
  6. Useful Touching
  7. Talk to Head not Tail

1. Positive Marker (also known as your praise word, bridge, or secondary reinforcer).

Your positive marker is so important, which is why I list it first. A positive marker can be a word, a clicker, a whistle, a wink, a facial gesture. Through repetitions, your marker followed by food, petting, or another meaningful reinforcer for you dog, the marker gains power and becomes “loaded” with meaning. Your positive marker is the ONLY way of letting your dog know that he has just performed a correct behavior. It’s your dog’s gold star. That’s right!

Training exercise: Stuff-a-Dog. Count out 100 treats. Set your count-down timer to 5 minutes. Try to get 1 positive marker-food pairing per every 3 seconds. In 5 minutes, you can get a maximum of 100 repetitions.

“STUFF-A-DOG” is an exercise in which you build the power of your positive marker and make it truly meaningful to your dog. In “Stuff-A-Dog” you present your positive marker first and within a ½ second (0.5 sec.), food is then delivered to your dog’s mouth. The food can be delivered from your hand or (better) thrown on the floor with the dog facing or (even better) not facing you. You can “buck shot” several pieces of food on the ground at once. The key then is to announce that food is coming by using your positive marker shortly before your dog eats each piece of food, “buck shot” or single shot: marker—food eaten, marker—food eaten, marker—food eaten, marker—food eaten.

By throwing the food on the ground, your dog has to stretch his neck to the ground which is a chiropractic-type movement that can help your dog to relax by stretching his neck downwards. By delivering food in Stuff-a-Dog on the ground while the dog is standing about 4 or more feet away from you, and by delivering it by tossing it on the ground next to the dog’s hindquarters so that the dog must turn away from you in order to eat it, you also minimize the dog’s tendency to jump up on people to try to get food from you or from strangers. Animals gravitate towards place of reinforcement and if the food is coming from the ground… your dog will tend to stay on the ground.

Teaching the dog to catch food thrown in the air can be especially counter-productive for a dog with any aggressive behavior issue. You want to rehearse this dog to relax his jaws, not to get snappier and quicker with his jaws. Throw the food, but deliver it to the dog on the ground, not floating in mid-air. Or be very careful to have a clear cue for the “food catching game.”

The food you use for “Stuff-a-Dog” should be varied and interesting to the dog rather than S.O.K. & C. (same old kibble and cookie). However, you can use kibble if your dog is really hungry! By the way, when reinforcing the dog with food held in your hand, you do not need to actually feed the dog the food. Sometimes, just giving the dog a chance to sniff or lick briefly at the food can be enough of a reinforcing event for some dogs at least some of the time.

How do you know if your dog’s positive marker is working correctly? Test it! When your dog is not looking at you and doing something that is not undesirable, say your dog’s positive marker in a whisper or low, neutral tone (no “happy voice” in this test, please!). If your dog’s posture and orientation remain unchanged by your positive marker—that is, there is no brightening of your dog’s posture, appearance, no tail wags, no ear twitches, no turns toward you—if there is nothing, then your dog’s positive marker is meaningless to him. So get to work and Stuff-a-Dog!

Your dog’s name is not his positive marker. Your dog’s name is a cue to get your dog’s attention, and as a cue, it must occur before a behavior. As a reinforcer, a positive marker must occur after a behavior to let the dog know he just did something right! Positive Markers should be clean, short, distinct, not drawn out. “Good,” “That’s Right,” “Yes,” are typical, verbal, positive markers.

If you talk to your dog too much outside training sessions, you might use a distinct, neutral sound such as a clicker, a tongue cluck, or “silent” dog training whistle, as your positive marker.

If your dog breaks attention from the treats in your hand or the treats on the floor to focus on something else, wait at most 30 seconds for his attention to return voluntarily to you.

If the dog does not look back to you or your treats within 30 seconds, then end the exercise. If the dog does return his attention before 30 seconds, then wait for an additional 5 seconds of voluntary eye contact from him before beginning the exercise again. You can still move your body alluringly if necessary in early training to help attract your dog’s visual attention.

As a variation to Stuff-a-Dog, you can also do “Pet-a-dog” or “Massage-a-dog” exercises in which you use your marker and then touch the dog just however he likes it within a ½ second of the marker. These variations are particularly useful for the dog who could care less about food but enjoys petting or massage. These touching alternatives work miserably on dogs who are touch-phobic. You can also use “Pet-a-dog” for other exercises, such as the voluntary eye contact exercise. The touch in “Pet-a-dog” and “Massage-a-dog” should be gentle, but varied and interesting, to the dog, and the dog should be looking at you, look in your direction, or orient his body towards you and continue his orientation towards you without moving away while you touch the dog. If the dog turns his head away or turns to look at or lick at your hand that is touching him, stop your petting immediately and do not start again until the dog is looking fully at you. You can move your body alluringly if necessary in early training to help attract your dog’s visual attention. The more you move, the more interesting you may be to your dog, which can be important if your dog has a tendency to track other, fast moving objects instead of you.

 

2. Name Response.

When you say your dog’s name (even in a whisper), your dog should “alert” towards you.

Training Exercise: Name-Response. You should be able to get anywhere from 60 to 100 repetitions of name-response in any 5 minute training session.

As an extremely important variation on the “Stuff-a-dog” theme, when your dog voluntarily makes steady (not glancing) eye contact with you (without any previous prompting from you) for about 1 or 2, good seconds, say your dog’s name and provide him with food from your hand within the next ½ second.

We are trying to load up the value of your dog’s name word in this training exercise. Your dog’s name should be a cue that occurs only before a behavior.

This is a critical training juncture because we are asking the dog to perform a behavior unrelated to the food (look at your eyes where there is no food) in order to get the food from your hand which is not held near your eyes! If your dog constantly looks at your hand (because that is where the food comes from!) instead of your eyes, put your hands down by your side or behind your back and wait for him to look up to your face, which most dogs eventually do.

If your dog still insists on looking at your hands and you are becoming impatient, as an intermediate step, draw your hands up to your eyes and release the food from your hand next to your eyes. First show the dog a few times that the food is held in your hand, held next to your eye. Then hide the food in the fist of your hand while pointing to your eye. After sufficient repetitions, pretend you have food in the hand that is pointing at your eyes but deliver the food from your hand without the food (which has been lurking down by your waist).

Another thing you can do is put the food in your mouth and if your dog continues to look at you as you say his name, spit out the food to your dog. Just be sure not to accidentally inhale—could be bad for your diet or your sense of well-being (if you choke on the food!). After repeating these intermediate steps several times, then try retesting your dog’s ability to make brief eye contact with you when your hands are down by your side or behind your back. When your dog looks up to your face, say your dog’s name and reinforce your dog with food given from either hand.

Remember, your dog’s name ultimately will become a cue to get your dog’s attention BEFORE he performs a behavior. Cues elicit behavior from a dog. Your dog’s name is not a positive marker. We want your dog to be looking at you when you say his name now because ultimately we want the dog to pay attention immediately when he hears his name called.

 

3. Voluntary Eye Contact.

Your dog should have a strong habit of giving you voluntary eye contact.

Training exercise: Eye Contact. The sequence is: five seconds of voluntary eye contact from your dog, then positive marker, then food. In 5 minutes you can get a maximum number of 60 repetitions in.

When your dog voluntarily makes eye contact with you (without any prompting from you) and maintains unwavering eye contact with you for at least 5 seconds, use your positive marker and then provide your dog with food reinforcement.

This is another instance of a critical training juncture because we are asking the dog to perform a behavior unrelated to the food (look at your face where there is no food) in order to get the food from your hand! If your dog constantly looks at your hand (because that is where the food comes from!) instead of your eyes, keep your hands down by your side or behind your back and wait for him to look up to your face, which most dogs eventually do.

If your dog still insists on looking at your hands and you are becoming impatient, as an intermediate step, draw your hands up to your eyes and release the food next to your eyes. Another thing you can do is put the food in your mouth and spit it out to your dog when he looks at your face. After repeating these intermediate steps several times, then try retesting your dog’s ability to make eye contact with you when your hands are down by your side or behind your back. Reinforce with food from either hand when your dog looks up to your face for 5 continuous seconds.

 

4. Following Closely. (or beginning healing, heeling behavior).

Your dog should be able to follow you closely, on or off leash, for at least 1 minute.

Training exercise: Moving Back-ups.

This is the first step for teaching the dog to pay attention to you when you are both moving. It simplifies the basic dilemma of choice for the dog when heeling next to a human, of having to choose to look ahead (that’s natural) as he walks or look at you walking by his side (that’s not so natural). Because in Moving Back-ups you are in front of the dog, your dog can look ahead AND directly at you both at the same time, eliminating his dilemma of choosing where to look while developing a habit of looking at you when walking! In Moving Back-ups, we hope your dog discovers he can push you into motion with his calm, unwavering attention and focus rather than pull you forward by straining away from you on his leash. Try to work up to 5 minutes of moving back-ups with reinforcement for every 5 seconds of correct position. Maximum reinforcements would be 60.

Wait for your dog to volunteer attention: wait passively for it or take a few steps backwards. If your dog walks towards you and catches up to you, continue moving backwards.

If your dog’s head and nose is not stretched forward awkwardly and is positioned comfortably near your knees, and if your dog maintains straight and close position to your body’s front and eye contact with either your hand(s) (which are held near your waist or thighs at the center of your body) or your eyes for 5 seconds, then use your positive marker and follow that with a food reinforcer delivered by hand. Continue to move backwards and mark and feed when your dog gives you at least 5 seconds of correct positioning and eye contact on either your hands or eyes.

When feeding your dog during the moving back-ups, feed your dog from your hands held in front of the center line of your body. Try to feed at your dog’s nose level. This may mean you have to bend over or use a “feeding extender” such as a wooden spoon or stick with something yummy and sticky on the end like peanut butter or squeeze cheese from a can. Or, for very short dogs, drop the food on the ground between your feet.

If your dog is jumping up at you as you do this exercise, be sure to wait for the dog’s 4 feet all to be solidly on the ground for at least 5 seconds before you feed. Your delivery of reinforcement may be causing this problem. Feed your dog more quickly and lower to the ground, or deliver the food by dropping it between your feet.

Go just a short distance in a straight line. At the end of the moving back-up, give your dog a release command such as “Free” and ignore him.

If your dog looks away either:

1) Continue to move backwards and only praise and feed after he comes back into position right in front of your body.

2) Stop moving. Stand passively while you wait for him to return. As soon as he returns, move backwards explosively and feed if he follows you.

3) If your dog is really totally blowing you off, run away and hide for a few minutes until he is eagerly looking for you!

4) Wait a total of 30 seconds, tops—if your dog is not re-engaging you, then put your dog away.

5) If your dog comes back, wait for a total of at least 5 seconds before marking and feeding.

By the second training session, your dog should be eagerly moving towards you, giving you eye contact on your face or hands, eagerly bumping his nose on your hands.

The goal of moving back-ups is to gradually increase the dog’s unwavering time of attention on you while you both are moving. We want your dog to feel that he moves you by riveting his attention on you. If you use hard, crunchy food to reinforce your animal, he will have to drop his head and his attention on you while he chews and swallows. Using slippery small bits of food are best here. If your dog looks away, do not call his name and do not move the food into a more enticing position. Rather, wait until he reestablishes eye contact and movement towards you and feed your dog only from the center line running down the front of your body.

If your dog has trouble approaching you during the moving back ups, throw the food on the ground either slightly in front of your feet or between your feet. Another tactic that may help is pushing your dog away with your hand. By so doing, you are activating his opposition reflex to your advantage, to cause your dog to move towards you and the pressure caused by your hand. Then use your positive marker if your dog approaches you.

Common problem encountered in eye contact or moving back up training exercise and suggested Rx: If 3 times in a row, your dog fails because the following happens: Your dog looks down or away immediately after you give him the food reinforcer (and the food is soft and slippery so that, theoretically, your dog does not have to drop his head to swallow the food), and your dog acts as if he thinks he must first look away and then give 5 seconds of continuous eye contact in order to receive reinforcement, then the next time, after your dog gives 5 seconds of eye contact, give your dog 5, separate pieces of food reinforcement (each piece preceded by your positive marker), alternating your food delivery hand, as smoothly and as rapidly as possible, before your dog drops his head. Do this at least 5 times. Then wait for the normal 5 second, eye contact interval and reinforce with a single, positive marker followed by a single, food reinforcement.

 

5. Useful Touching (Food Bumping)

Food Bumping is an excellent way to start desensitizing a dog to touch. However, do not stay stuck in food bumping your dog as a training habit for long—too long, and you may actually be reinforcing counter-productive, non-attentive behavior from your dog!

Training exercise-- FOOD BUMPING If you have a dog who will not even look at you initially or if you have a dog who responds aversively to touch, you can start by tossing the food at your dog’s rear end when the dog is not looking, gently bumping your tosses off your dog’s hindquarters. When your dog then turns to eat the food off the ground by his hind legs, then say “good.” If your dog does not eat the food off the ground, wait a few moments but then pick it up and try again.

“Food bumping” is a good strategy to pursue to start desensitizing a dog who is too touch sensitive so that he can eventually tolerate and enjoy being touched by anything. The dog feels the bump of the food on his body, and he turns around. The dog then immediately sees food on the ground, which hopefully he wants—his attention does not remain focused on his body, and he bites for food at that someplace on the ground, not at his body. Eventually you should see the dog start to look quickly at the food on the ground (Using food that makes an audible sound when it falls is advantageous to this process.), not at the place on his body where the food hit. The food landing on the ground also allows the dog to stretch his neck to the ground and thereby to naturally relieve some tension. You will know the food bumps are beginning to desensitize your dog to touch if the dog does not flinch when hit by the food and if the dog looks immediately on the ground for food without focusing his gaze first on his body where the food hit him.

 

6. Follow Hand Signals (THE BABE RUTH “Single Pump” or "Double Pump")

The BABE RUTH Single Pump is something anyone can do.

To do the Babe Ruth Double Pump, you must have excellent timing and a good and accurate throwing arm. The Babe Ruth Single or Double Pump can be practiced as you walk your dog, to increase your dog’s attention on you rather than allowing your dog to looking for and find his predatory fun elsewhere without your involvement. Your dog’s idea of predatory fun might include chasing bunny rabbits, deer, kids, trucks, bicycles, etc., which he rarely, if ever, catches. However, if you are providing predatory interest via the BABE RUTH Single or Double Pump, you can become more interesting to your dog than any of those other things because if your dog pays attention to you and your signals, he will be able to get a desirable object.

Eventually you can use hand directional signals to move your dog away and towards anything, communication that you will find extremely practical, such as when you want to move the dog off the furniture, away from the furniture, away from the dinner table, out of the kitchen, away from the guest, away from the cat litter box, towards the dog’s sleeping mat, etc. Both you and the dog will find these hand directional signals fun as well!

If you are athletic, the Double Pump method may work quickly for you. If you are unathletic, you can at least manage to do the Babe Ruth Single Pump, and keep practicing and you will get good at doing the Double Pump, too! [Named after Babe Ruth's famous moment where he is said to have indicated with his bat the direction in which he was going to hit a home run ball for dying little "Jimmy" a child whom he had visited in the hospital the day before. After indicating with his bat where the ball was going to go, Babe swatted a home run in that very direction. If you love baseball lore, you know this story.]

Training Exercise-- SINGLE PUMP Start by luring your dog into the correct direction, “the single pump.” When your dog is looking at you for X seconds (Start by requiring just a brief look but then wait for longer and longer, focused behavior from the dog before tossing), toss food or a favorite toy and praise the dog with your positive marker as he goes to eat/retrieve it, just before he gets to the food/toy.

Your tossing motion of your hand and arm should look like a hand directional signal indicating the eventual direction of the food/toy toss both at the beginning and at the end of the toss. You can use one hand to signal and to toss food. OR YOU CAN SIGNAL WITH ONE HAND but toss food with the other hand—just be sure to toss the food in the same direction that the signal hand is pointing towards!

Training exercise-- DOUBLE PUMP After a few training session repetitions of the Single Pump, then try to "double pump" – signal and act as if you are about to throw food without actually having any food in your signal hand. Don’t actually throw food until your dog is heading out in the correct direction and not looking at you. Quickly follow the fake throw with a real throw over the head of your dog (he is facing away from you) so that the food/toy lands ahead of your dog, in the correct direction, before your dog has a chance to look back to you. Your timing is critical here. Increase the interval of time between pumps so that your dog has to go further and commit to the correct direction for a longer period of time. As your training progresses, you hand signal may cause your dog to look like a frozen statue standing away from you at his accustomed distance, pointing away from you, waiting for the food to land in the direction you have indicated. If your dog does go/stand in the correct direction and at a desirable distance away from you, then throw the object over his head so that it lands in front of him, in the direction he is heading. In early training, praise just before the object hits the ground-- if the dog is still heading in the correct direction and can see the object as it lands.

You can use the single pump and /or the double pump hand signal (the activity is also known as the “human meatball launcher”) to increase your dog’s focus on you as you walk your dog on or off leash. Wait for X amount of calm attention from your dog on you as you walk. Use the throws to reinforce your dog’s VOLUNTARY attention to you. That is, if your dog looks at you and moves with you for x seconds (you determine how long “x” is) as you walk, give a hand signal/toss of food in a single or double pump motion.

Then, throw the food in a direction that you indicate. Make your signal quickly—if the dog is not watching, he doesn’t get the food—you go pick it up, even if he is snuffling close to it, or you leave it behind. If you are single or double pumping with the dog on leash, be sure to be fair to your dog and toss the food so that the dog can get the food without pulling on his leash.

If you single or double pump often enough with enough interesting variation in your tossing directions, wait for increasingly longer amounts of X seconds of undivided attention from your dog before signaling a direction and then tossing the food after your dog has headed in that direction, and use meaningful reinforcers (toss food, for example, only when your dog is hungry for that particular food), you should find that your dog’s predatory interest in his environment will lessen and his interest in paying attention while walking with you, who is now a much more reliable indicator of where the fun, predatory action is, will increase.

Single/double pump hand signals, when food is used as the reinforcement for correct behavior, if the game is played often enough, and if food reinforcement occurs variably enough, and if the dog really enjoys the food reinforcer you are using, will actually decrease your dog’s tendency to dine off the ground! The food you toss should be used as a reinforcer for attention to you before the dog chases or eats yechy stuff off the ground. Don’t use the food as a continual lure to get the dog away from yechy stuff on the ground and don’t use the food tossing to stop the dog after he has begun chasing cars or joggers.

If your dog drops his attention and can’t find the food because your dog wasn’t watching, either you go pick it up or just leave the food where it is as you continue walking—your dog is not named “Hoover,” “Electrolux,” or “Oreck,” is not a vacuum cleaner, and does not have to pick up every piece of food you throw on the ground! Don’t wait a long time for your dog to find the food. If you can see where the food landed but your dog can’t and your dog seems to take a long time sniffing for the lost morsel, (and only if the dog does not have food guarding issues) go get the food before the dog finds it. We want the dog to visually or aurally track the food, not use his “sniffer” (nose) primarily to find it! We want the dog to focus his visual and hearing equipment on you and your reinforceer, not on other stuff, like cars, squirrels, etc. Your dog should only look for and pick up food when you VISUALLY signal that it is coming, not when he smells it.

If your dog misses the food or takes too long to find the food, too bad! You retrieve the food with a laugh. The food is reusable. Try throwing it again. If your dog goes in the correct direction but your piece of food is invisible to the dog or you toss the food in the wrong direction, as quickly as you can, toss another piece of food in the correct direction. Be careful not to toss the food too far, especially if your dog is on leash. To be fair to your dog, the toss must be within the leash’s “arc of influence.”

 

7. Talk to Head not Tail.

When your dog is looking at you, it is paying attention to you. This is behavior is desirable in most conditions and should be reinforced. If you talk to your dog's head (when he looking at you), you reinforce his paying attention to you. Contrarily, if you talk to it's butt, then you are reinforcing his looking away from you.

Training exercise: There is no specific exercise for this. However, if you find yourself talking to your dogs tail more than to its face, then you should focus on this so that you talk to its head four times for every time you talk to its tail.

 

Positive Reinforcement Dog Training
(excerpt from Doggy Zen and the Art of Postive Behavioralism, Carolyn Wilki 2006)

Despite the desirability of using positive reinforcement training, in my experience, even the very nicest of people who view themselves as positive forces in their personal or professional lives have surprising trouble mastering and successfully executing positive reinforcement training techniques with their dogs, as simple as the positive reinforcement techniques are.

Why is this?

I believe using the techniques of positive reinforcement training feel awkward because we all swim in the same societal sea, awash in negativity. We really are unused to sending or receiving vast numbers of meaningful, positive messages ourselves. I believe learning to use positive reinforcement techniques is difficult because there is little societal support, practice, or example for using them.

Even parents and teachers, those responsible for creating the most nurturing, learning environments for children, send out overwhelming numbers of negative messages. Starting with children as young as 2 years of age, the “national average of parent-to-child criticisms is 12 to 1— that is, 12 criticisms to 1 compliment. Within the average secondary school classroom, the ratio of criticism to compliments is 18 to 1 between teacher and student.”Drs. Jordan & Margaret Paul, From Conflict to Caring, p.19, CompCare Publishers, Minneapolis, MN, 1989.

The negativity begins with parents and teachers, but what about bosses, other authority figures, clergy, the media, co workers, employees, classmates, customers, spouses, shopkeepers, friends, and anybody else? They are certainly no more positive. Critics of all stripes would agree that being negative is a societal norm. Our internal, perceptual maps that inform our intuition about what is “right” are formed by these negative norms.

Yet what is normal might not be healthy. Two hundred years ago, “normal” personal hygiene practices contributed to high infant mortality rates, dysentery, and cholera deaths. Likewise, today’s normal behavioral norms, that is, the norm of harping on the negative, might not only be the least effective means of gaining desirable behavioral response we want from our dogs, but also might be contributing to unnecessary psychological and physiological harm to our animals and ourselves.

There is a big difference between pure, positive reinforcement training and traditional-method, correction-reward dog training. Regarding traditional, correction-reward dog training, empirical results from the psychology lab show that using training techniques of negative reinforcement, “correction,” and punishment to control behavior (Note: I will lump these together and frequently call them all “punishment” from here on out.) which are important in traditional dog training, are the least effective training options for creating desirable behavior. Yes, punishments and corrections can work and seem to work short term with the greatest of speed, but, as you will see, they cause many unpredictable, unnecessary long-term consequences and undesirable side effects.

Further, trying to take the middle road and combining positive reinforcement with negative reinforcement, corrections, and punishments can only serve to confuse and stress the dog. The middle road may actually be the least effective of all possible training options for your dog. This is why: When you combine all reinforcement techniques, positive and negative, in a mish mash of a training stew, the dog now has to be on guard and judge whether that person who looks like you is really his kindly owner. Or is that kindly person who looks like you liable to morph into a screaming, strong-armed, evil space alien, that only looks like you, the formerly, kindly owner? Is that piece of steak really as wonderful as it looks and smells? Or will the steak additionally give the dog a jolt of electricity (from a shock collar the dog is wearing) as he approaches it? Let me again emphasize that clearly it is reliance on purely positive reinforcement training techniques that gets the best training results with the least amount of unwanted behavioral and physiological side effects. The dog trained with positive behaviorism suffers no extra arousal created by the confusing mix of punishment and rewards. Yes, you can use punishment in dog training—it is done all the time—and with luck and timing achieve specific, immediate training results. The use of punishment can actually create some clarity for a dog. But you cannot use punishment without future consequences, usually unwanted, in both the dog’s behavior in other contexts and his physiology.

Sometimes in the past, I admit I have rolled my eyeballs in my head, weakened, and caved-in to a student’s desire to punish a dog, but usually I have learned a lesson each time. As a result, nowadays as long as I am in my right and sound mind, I never weaken to the “let’s try it” plea from students when it comes to administering punishment. I am tired of witnessing the consequences.

I say this so often, that if it were shorter, it could be my mantra: “An animal that is punished will predictably react with escape, avoidance, or aggressive behaviors. If the animal aggresses, it is usually towards something it perceives as being smaller and more vulnerable than itself, frequently in a different context. Avoidance behaviors in other contexts can also appear as a consequence of punishment. In any case, if you use punishment on your dog, you have just lit a fuse on a physiological/behavioral bomb. I can’t tell you exactly where or when it will go off, but that it will go off is a scientific certainty.” And have a nice day.

When punishment is administered and then a student, who still retains a faulty training framework, sees an unwanted consequence of that punishment, somehow the punishment as a faulty concept itself gets off scot-free of blame. What gets blamed instead is: poor timing, insufficient harshness, over-harshness, infrequency of punishment, too high frequency of punishment, the dog’s inherently bad nature (stupid, stubborn, aggressive, defiant, un-trainable, etc.), or the dog’s inherently soft nature. Sometimes inexplicably even I get blamed for the punishment’s ineffectiveness because I was so unwilling to let the student try it in the first place. Or I was just standing there. Or the sun and moon were not in proper alignment with Venus and Mars. I don’t know. Besides, there is already so much scientific data about the consequences of using punishment that it shouldn’t be necessary for someone to try it nowadays “to see what happens.” Ten thousand science experiments can’t be wrong. Yes, I have science and many, many hours of solid laboratory numbers and results on my side to buttress my point of view about punishment and its effects.

If the combination of rewards and punishment produces the poorest dog training results, why is it so widespread? Well, we use rewards because most of us who own dogs really do like them and like to be nice to them at least sometimes. And so, we give them cookies, pat their heads, rub their sides and bellies, and tell them they are good dogs.

On the other hand, we use punishment because of the clarity punishment provides. Punishment can seem to produce desirable training results in dogs especially in the short term. But by the same token, the world which is really round seems to look flat to any innocent looking out his window at the horizon; but we wiser, more scientifically inclined folks know the world is really not flat. So why is it we more scientifically inclined folks don’t recognize the scientific truth that punishment in animal training produces longer term toxic behavioral and psychological side effects, not only in our animals but in ourselves?


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