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Obedience school/training expereince...?

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Joined: 02 Jul 2004
Posts: 25
Location: Melbourne, Australia

PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2004 3:45 am    Post subject: Obedience school/training expereince...? Reply with quote

For all of you dog owners out there, any experience/stories to share?

For us, I really think it was as much for the owner as it was for the dog Shocked Laughing !

I have a Malamute/Husky (big, smiley gray wolf!), and they are really not known to be the easiest dogs to train. They are stubborn, as they were developed to be trusted in the extreme elements (where THEY know better) to assist humans (who are NOT always right, in their minds).

So while he was a smart, well-socialised adolescent, he absolutely hated the 'bootcamp' approach. What made it worse, was that we were training in the winter evenings, on wet grass. Jordan simply refused to sit down (let along drop/roll over) Shocked !!!!!!

He just looked at me as if to say: "You are kidding, right? If you want me to sit there'd better be a damn good reason."

*he's a very clean dog, never liked to get himself messed up, if he could help it*

Needless to say, we failed Sad .........but when we re-sit the test, it was a sunny afternoon & Jodan passed with flying colours Cool .

Anyone else?
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Genesius Redux

Joined: 28 Jun 2004
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2004 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


It's funny how particular dogs can be sometimes--and when they have no compunction at all about sloshing through the mud when they're chasing a squirrel, they balk at parking themselves on damp grass!

But many of the breeds who have a reputation for being "difficult" to train are only hard when you use old-fashioned methods of force and coercion.

Golden retrievers, labs, border collies, shelties, are all considered to be very "trainable" dogs, mostly because you can make lots of mistakes and still have a trained dog--because they want to work with you. Other dogs, like the sled dogs, the terriers, the hounds have been bred to be far more independent. So while your typical Golden practically teaches himself to heel on his own, or while your Border Collie fawns around your feet begging to be given a task, terriers or beagles or sled dogs go out and explore the world on their own.

So for these smarter, more independent dogs, you need to adopt a way of training that works by reward.

Even as recently as 14 or 15 years ago, the idea of training with food, in the dog world, was regarded as disreputable. You were "bribing" your dog rather than training him. Those of us who had breeds like beagles kept very quiet about our use of food--it was furtive and hidden. And we would be winning our obedience classes with these brilliant performances but we felt like we were cheating.

Of course at the same time, trainers who worked professionally--in film and television, or with big, dangerous animals like killer whales--were using food all the time and had been for years. And eventually it dawned on a number of dog owners that if the trainer at Sea World, who was in a potentially life-threatening situation, didn't have to "correct" his two-ton killer whale, you really didn't have to "correct" your ten-pound pomeranian.

Today, food training is much more wide-spread. It's the currency in the agility world, for instance, where coercion leads absolutely nowhere. And when you train with food, when you make the dogs interested in working because they'regetting something out of it, the more difficult breeds work way better. (Incidentally, far from being a form of mere bribery that some how hurts the dog's nobility, food training has been seen for many years in behavioral science as the most natural form of learning in the animal kingdom--it is scientifically attested throughout the work of B.F. Skinner and other pioneers in this field. Force training or training by coercion, quite by contrast, has very little scientific evidence for its success, and is mostly supported through anecdote and ideology).

So outside of the question of whether your dog will be happy sitting on wet grass--take it from someone who likes working with so-called difficult breeds: Train with food (operant conditioning is the scientific term) if you want reliable behavior and if you want to win. I've always loved walking into the agility ring with my Airedale Terrier while people roll their eyes waiting to see confirmation of their prejudice that terriers are untrainable, and then watch their faces turn to surprise and in some cases envy and irritation as Becket's performance knocks their goldens, their labs, and their shepherds right out of first place.

The border collies, of course, are another matter--and it's always sweet to beat them on occasion too!


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Joined: 02 Jul 2004
Posts: 25
Location: Melbourne, Australia

PostPosted: Sat Jul 10, 2004 4:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agreed, GR!

Jordan was brought up in the relatively new method of training/socialising by food at his puppy pre-school & playgroup.

When he got past the cute puppy stage, I felt that I had to at least try one term (dog schools work on school terms too Wink ) of basic obedience in one of the better schools. It wasn't quite as forced as some of the others, but they didn't use food either.

Jordan hated the fact that interaction with other dogs was not part of it. Food, or the absent of it, didn't seem to bother him quite as much as the lack of free play time.

We were still part of the playgroup (one of the pioneering ones in my area, believing in off-leash social interaction in a designated area) at the time. I think most of our dogs there learnt to behave by forming a pack. It was facinating to watch Cool .

I thought of involving Jordan in agility, sled club, or film/TV work, but thought that I also needed a life (raising Jordan was my life until I met my non-dancing ex). So I went back to dancing for a while.

In hindsight, I would have loved to become more involved in the training side of things. While Jordan didn't become a super star or anything, he is a simple, loving companion. Who could ask for more?!
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