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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I enrolled in the local dog club competition obedience class for 'attention.' The instructor is correction based, and she uses collar corrections to get the dog to return her attention to the handler. While she does not preclude positive reinforcement from her class, she obviously is "against" using this tool. This particular instructor has the handler pop the dog's collar if the dog looks away.

Her competition obedience Golden Retriever that she uses as an example is absolutely focused and appears to be "happy" (tho I question his expression.. ). It seems he is more afraid to look away as he is heeling than happy.. he is a bit wall eyed.. and he absolutely does not take his eyes off his handler no matter what!) It seems artificial.. tho outwardly to the untrained eye you might be very inclined to say, "Look at that happy, fcoused, dog." He seems more robotic than happy.. tho I will say his tail is not down or between his legs. I may be wrong. He may be happy.. but there is something there that seems unnatural.

She describes this as a "game" where the dog looks away and the handler pops the dog and makes a big fuss when the dog looks back.. sort of an "Oooh.. you looked away.. GOTCHA!" She says that dogs shut down because we allow it. If your dog looks submissive because it has been popped, her thinking is that the owner is allowing the dog to take that stance and that stance should not be played into or allowed. Dogs quickly determine that taking such a stance "ends work." I don't know about THAT.. and those are her words, not mine.

I mentioned the clicker to her and she said you can shape behavior w/o a clicker.. and while I think you can, it would seem to me the clicker makes it ever so much faster and easier once the dog gets the idea (and the handler does too).

I understand we are always competing with the environment for our dog's attention. We cannot always be more interesting than the "stuff" out there. For competition the dog is supposed to look at the handler's face during heel work.

Realizing the limitations of both correction based training and positive reinforcement based training, what is suggested for training attention retention through an entire competition obedience Trial test/class? I have been using Pos. Reinf. and a clicker.. increasing duration etc. and I have it in most situations with intermittant reinforcement and jackpots. If the environment really calls, my dog answers and loses focus and attention by watching and the clicker and I can be hanged LOL.

In another class I am taking, we are training moves (recalls, remote stays, heel position etc. etc.). One of the owners has a lovely GSD dog (W. German lines). In a long remote sit/stay the other night, her dog decided to lay down. The dog's handler said "uh uh" not very loudly and her dog immediately took a very submissive stance.. ears down.. sad submissive look etc. This says to me this dog has been over corrected and under rewarded. It also says to me the dog has no idea why it was corrected or what it has done.. just that "uh uh" is followed by something unpleasant from the handler. This is exactly what the instructor in the other class said you shoud not "allow..."

Ultimately, some of this I find confusing. I try not to pass any confusion on to my dog. Even with her lack of attention, she is a happy soul who believes in flinging herself thru exercises (people laugh at her when I ask for a lie down.. she throws herself on the ground and looks at me truly happy to have done this).

Sooo.. here is the question:
What in the heck does the one instructor mean by "not allowing a dog to shut down?" Anyone here heard of this? (I am going to ask so I will be making a report in a week).

Do you think it is possible that a dog can view leash pops as a "gotcha" game?

If I want to use Pos. Reinf. to train a dog in competiton obedience and to train for attention in all distractions, how do I use this methodology to better compete with the environment for that face watching attention? I have been spitting food at my dog.. and that has helped a lot.. especially with the food being grilled steak, chicken etc.

BTW my dog has awesome attention in most places.. but competition obedience attention is very very intense. I have taught her an attention word ("attention" is the word) and she does understand that cue and she does it in most situations. Now I want it in ALL situations....

Book suggestions, DVD's etc. are welcome. I cannot watch U-tube (blocked at work and dial up at home).
 

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Oh, jeez...you hit my hot button!
Let me start by saying you've got a really good grasp of the situation. My instructors
(me included) have used the "look away from me and I'll hurt you approach"....old school Koehler method. The long term results are not pretty. The dogs become robotic and 'burn out' early in their 'careers'. These same dogs often will not look at other people or dogs and only interact with a few special others.

Here's the kicker....it works. I'm fortunate to personally know and watch some of the USA World Team members and some of the highest scoring handlers in the country....they all use heavy correction. One of those handlers once asked me to be a post while she heeled her dog around me. The second the dog looked at me she grabbed the dog by the scruff of the neck with two hands and hoisted him in the air, screaming like he was about to die.

After decades of competing I understand the choices and the reality of the alternatives. Heavy correction will produce more consistent show results. Positive usually produces a mixed bag...most days spot on and often sharing a placement with a World Team member and other days falling flat on your face.

For me, the scores and the placements are not that big a deal. Sure, I want our training to be solid/good and validated at trial but, far more important to me is our relationship and how I want to personally handle my dog. I do use light leash pops...that's as severe as I get. I'm a firm believer in instantly letting my dog know he made a mistake...whether that's a pop, an UTTT or a try again.

Regarding shutting down....the instructor probably means the dog has to learn how work thorough the stress/continue to work even in the face of overwhelming distractions...shutting down is not an option. BTW, this is a common trap for those who use positive...helping the dog too much/handler becomes a 'crutch' and the dog becomes afraid to make a mistake...hasn't really learned how to cope.

Here's a tip...when the dog seems confused about the exercise don't make him muddle through it....sloppy/guessing. The confusion (and resulting stress) should always be relieved by asking the dog to do something simple like a sit or come to heel and then try to figure out why the dog is having a problem with that exercise. That eliminates one of the shut downs....dog being afraid to make a mistake.

I learned too late in my training that I should have let my dog make more mistakes...so he brought back the wrong glove...he went out and back with huge enthusiasm...why did I ruin it by yelling, WRONG! or UTTT. Right corrections at the right time....hard lessons to absorb.

Traditional attention training often starts with doodling...the stationary exercises...then the moving exercises.....proofing every step of the way. Slow motion heeling with total eye contact. The leash is taut.....the dog has no choice but to look at you....can't lag, can't forge, can't go wide....they never learn how to heel any other way.
 

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What in the heck does the one instructor mean by "not allowing a dog to shut down?" Anyone here heard of this?
Remember when I had scolded Jaia for howling in the morning and he then went around the corner and wouldn't come up to me? You said you wouldn't allow him to do that. You would give him something to do instead. That was great advice and I did that. That's how I interpreted "not allowing a dog to shut down". I could be wrong, but when I read it in your post, that's immediately what came to my mind. Not allowing the dog to be afraid or keep distance or sulk, but instead, giving him something to do that he would have to focus on. Not allowing him to "be" in his fear.

Do you think it is possible that a dog can view leash pops as a "gotcha" game?
I think it's possible, but it doesn't sound like a technique I'd be interested in without seeing some really good results that convinced me more than what you've explained. I think a dog views leash pops as an aversive correction.

If I want to use Pos. Reinf. to train a dog in competiton obedience and to train for attention in all distractions, how do I use this methodology to better compete with the environment for that face watching attention?
Work up to it. If your dog isn't giving attention even though he knows the word, then either you're too close to the distraction or the reward value isn't high enough. I'd try raw chicken livers, cut into pieces. You wouldn't want to spit them out of your mouth though. :p I'd also move outside of the venue and approach it more slowly, getting attention in steps along the way.

One more thing. On +R vs +P, I use both. There's nothing that says it has to be one or the other. I use a lot more +R than +P, but it comes in really handy in some situations.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Tooney.. yes... I got it. I do not like that robotic thing but you have answered the one question everyone dances around.. can you get consistant results with Pos. Reinf. and the answer seems to be "some of the time...." If you 100% of the time you need to use correction based training but then the dog is operating for you from a different place.

For both 4IC and Tooney.. she seems to think that if the dog is acting like that the handler is doing nothing wrong UNLESS they back off. Oh I think the thing to do is NOT get to a place where the dog is shutting down. Back off b4 it happens. Prevention is still 9/10ths of the cure.

BTW I doodle my dog all the time. I do a lot of stuff. She is perfect attention about 98% of the time in stationary exrecises. And that is proofed anywhere.

The training tool box is large. I don't discuss correction based training on the DF due to the real problems with abuse in bad hands.. NO result is worth abusing the dog IMO.

I have been using COOKED liver.. the raw is nasty to handle.. LOL and really nasty to spit.. :eek:

I am thinking shorter sessions and a very hungry dog in high distraction to build the behavior.... (I can feed her after training.. which is what I do now but I can skip her morning food too).
 

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I don't discuss correction based training on the DF due to the real problems with abuse in bad hands..
I don't either, not any more. Not on the public board. But it's not because of the fear of abuse. It's because I got tired of being ganged up on. :) It's too bad, too. Because now the people who would use corrections don't discuss it - They'll just use them and perhaps improperly and perhaps when a reinforcement could have been used.
 

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Do you think it is possible that a dog can view leash pops as a "gotcha" game?
Absolutely not. By definition in order for +P to be effective it has be intense enough to decrease the behavior. Game = +R = increased frequency of behavior. Your trainer has demonstrated deficient understanding of operant conditioning.

If I want to use Pos. Reinf. to train a dog in competiton obedience and to train for attention in all distractions, how do I use this methodology to better compete with the environment for that face watching attention? I have been spitting food at my dog.. and that has helped a lot.. especially with the food being grilled steak, chicken etc.
Spitting food rewards at a variable rate of reward is excellent. Stinky cheese has great power. High-value toys stuffed into the shirt can also be very effective for toy-motivated dogs, but tend to encourage a ringsport-style heel.

If your dog is breaking focus to respond to a distraction, then you are working too close to the distraction. Back off to the edge of the reaction radius, desensitize and counter-condition to reduce the reaction radius.

If as a last resort you decide to to hit the other axis, then -R to regain attention would be preferred to +P for distraction.
 

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Ah, this should be interesting... it's always fun when the non competing people try to figure out why the competing people do what they do. ;-)

Too bad you can't watch the vids, but if you go to youtube and type in 'rally judge' you will find some truly excellent attention training videos.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Ah, this should be interesting... it's always fun when the non competing people try to figure out why the competing people do what they do. ;-)

Too bad you can't watch the vids, but if you go to youtube and type in 'rally judge' you will find some truly excellent attention training videos.
FWIW I always had dogs that were pets. My last dog worked on the farm and now I want to compete mostly because the dog has given me every indication SHE wants to do it.

She actually sits and stares at me and and has dilated pupils (she dilates when she is excited) when I start to work her. I want to get the precision down and she seems to strive for it. She also gets the shakes in anticipation (not the scared shakes) when she sees agility equipment.

No farm anymore.. time to up the ante on the trainer (me) and compete.

No.. I cannot get to U tube. Not unless I go to the "libarry" in town and then lots of luck getting on a puter. Besides.. when I am home I have so much to do here. Tonight I tried to get her to push the lawn mower.. and she would do it but not in any straght lines. She prefers something sort of like the flight of the bumble bee....

So, here I am working to get a competition dog going. I want to be efficient and consistant and I am trying to understand IF this trainer has merit in her ways and IF I can use any part of her methods to train formal obedience and whether or not her methods will put me at a disadvantage in Agility.

I am not looking to lick the world.. I am looking to get a solid performance on this dog and learn from her so I can do a better job with the next dog...

W/O the farm, I don't have a real job for my dog so competition is going to have to be the job. Formal obedience requires a lot of precision.. and since I used to train dressage I think it is a good fit. My dog acts like it is fun and seems to love it.

Agility is fast paced and also requires accuracy and the dog LOVES it.. it is like a Grand Prix jump course at the higher levels.. so I think I can get into that too.

The Attention class is my first class leading up to competition level work. I would like to get it.. but I dont want a robotic dog either.. Dressage horses are highly trained and are anything BUT robotic.. and so that is what I am shooting for. Fluidity and precision in the obedience ring.

Does any of this make any sort of sense?????
 

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For competition the dog is supposed to look at the handler's face during heel work.
Actually, if I'm incorrect, someone correct me, but I do not believe the dog needs to look at you when heeling. Yes, it looks great (my Chloe looks up at me while heeling, but Nell looks forward) and I love watching dogs that are really focused on the handler like that, but I don't think it is a requirement. My trainers Border Collie is going for her Utility now, but in the Obedience and Rally when she's heeling, she's looking at her handler some of the time and sometimes not. But she knows where she is and heels perfectly. Looks up just go be sure she's in the correct position and then sometimes looks forward as they are heeling. Dogs do have a wider angle of view than we humans do, so she still knows where she is in heeling when she's looking forward or making quick glances at my trainer.
 

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Just a question for you training wizards from a rank amateur: why in this case is it a choice between positive and negative methods and not a combination of both ?
GOOD question. I use both on my dogs. IMO, a balanced training approach is the best.


When mine look away during heeling, they get a 'gotcha tag' on the shoulder or butt, or a light bump with my knee, or motivational collar pop, the list is endless and it's all FUN TO THE DOG. They don't view a correction as bad, it drives the harder to work. :)
 

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When mine look away during heeling, they get a 'gotcha tag' on the shoulder or butt, or a light bump with my knee, or motivational collar pop, the list is endless and it's all FUN TO THE DOG. They don't view a correction as bad, it drives the harder to work. :)
You know... I can see this working. As was mentioned in the first post. I thought it would be possible, but I'd love to see this in action. I can see how it could work if the dog was motivated to do a great job and "slipped up" by looking away. Very interesting.
 

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re: head up heeling - if your dog offers it, GREAT! Train it and use it. If not, teach an easier focal point. They do NOT have to heel looking at your face.

4iC - look at Rally Judge's utube and you can see a video on motivational collar pops and tagging during heeling.
 

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Lloyd has excellent attention during heel, and any time we are doing obedience. I mean excellent. He stares a hole into my head. I started with 100% positive and stayed with it until we were fairly far into training. Then I used corrections. When heeling if he looked away I gave a quick sharp pop on the leash and reminded him to heel. That seemed to get him that extra little farther that I couldn't seem to do with positive only. If you give a correction correctly you should only need to do it once or twice in that situation. I also do lots of random crap too so he wants to watch me to see whats going to happen next. I will randomly pull a tug or ball out of a pocket or throw a ton of treats into the air, or say "ok" and then run away from like a crazy person or tackle him (play). With all that though we still were not quite there, and thats where the corrections came in.

Lloyd loves obedience, he is happy to do it, infact he chatters and can barely contain himself he gets so excited when we start. I used corrections on him (and lots of positive reinforcement) and he still loves it. A lot of times my corrections are simply saying "nope" now.

He has time to be a dog and look around and watch things, but when I ask for his attention he has to give it to me. I work to earn my living, this is how he earns his, its his job and he needs to do it. We haven't been able to compete yet due to there being few if no mixed breed trials in the area, but the trainer I work with is very critical on us now. He has competed many times with several dogs and says we would have no problem going far.
 

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I'll preface my statements by saying I don't do competitive obedience, but I feel comfortable enough with the subject to offer some feedback.
Realizing the limitations of both correction based training and positive reinforcement based training, what is suggested for training attention retention through an entire competition obedience Trial test/class?
What is suggested for training attention in competition obedience is crystal clear communication. That means breaking down a chain of behaviors bit by bit to communicate what is and what is not wanted with each bit. This kind of communication is difficult to achieve if 'yes' and 'no' can't be communicated in such a way to avoid conflict and be informative. Easy to write, but much more difficult to practice off of a word description.

The dog's handler said "uh uh" not very loudly and her dog immediately took a very submissive stance.. ears down.. sad submissive look etc. This says to me this dog has been over corrected and under rewarded. It also says to me the dog has no idea why it was corrected or what it has done.. just that "uh uh" is followed by something unpleasant from the handler.
I believe in the obedience world this is called "conflict". The dog is, really, not sure what is expected, and yes, a strong reliance on compulsion will cause the dog to hazard avoid when in conflict.

What in the heck does the one instructor mean by "not allowing a dog to shut down?" Anyone here heard of this? (I am going to ask so I will be making a report in a week).
I believe this means never allowing the dog to rehearse an incorrect response. If the dog downs upon a cued sit he is immediately corrected to perform sit. Neither here nor there at face value since a down can be corrected with a lure or by force. But since you said this was a "correction based" trainer I would assume by force.

Do you think it is possible that a dog can view leash pops as a "gotcha" game?
It's possible but unnecessary IMO. I suppose the leash pop can be conditioned as a cue for attention and, assuming the holy grail of behavior, the dog could find interaction with his handler reinforcing. But this, again, would need great communication without conflict and a long history of reinforcement for this to be possible. Possible, yes. Practical...it depends.
If I want to use Pos. Reinf. to train a dog in competiton obedience and to train for attention in all distractions, how do I use this methodology to better compete with the environment for that face watching attention?
Condition a verbal NRM and secondary reinforcer, and break the behavior down bit by bit using the NRM and SR to communicate the desired behavior, and Premack the living heck out of the behavior.

IMO the challenge in moving from basic obedience to competitive obedience is seeing behavior as bits and not lumping behavior such that your criteria exceeds the bits.

Book suggestions, DVD's etc. are welcome. I cannot watch U-tube (blocked at work and dial up at home).
IMO this is precisely what you're looking for, expensive, but possibly invaluable...
http://www.caninetrainingsystems.com/cgi-bin/shopper.cgi?preadd=action&key=V-SCH-BAL-1

Ivan is likely the most successful and progressive obedience, Shutzhund, and ring sport handler.
 

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Shutting down at the worst level is the dog literally freezing in place...not doing anything..extremely reluctant to do even the the simplest command...really stressed/really confused.

A lower level of shutting down is moving at a snails pace (afraid to make a mistake...waiting for the handler to 'help' with the exercise) or, it might be stress...might be confusion...might be lack of confidence... or a lack of proofing/training the exercise properly. That's why obedience is so much fun....trying to figure out the why.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Shutting Down:
I know what it is, but the trainer in this class was referring to the dog taking a submissive stance (ears down, tail tucked, head down etc.) immediately after being corrected. It sounds like she was really talking about playing into the submissive stance and reinforcing it as a behavior which preceeds quitting work. Like I said.. a question I will ask. I will also say that this trainer has trained more than one dog to Utility and gotten all the legs.

However, in looking at it I am thinking she is misrepresenting a dog shutting down. Maybe not.. but in my experience a shut down dog will not respond to cues. It is also my opinion that the best way to not have this happen is to act in such a way that it does not (prevention). The dogs I have observed usually give signals they are going to shut down b4 they do it unless the trigger is sudden trauma (causing sudden fear).

As far as exhibiting an incorrect response, there is no guideline in this class so far. If the dog does the wrong thing you do it over until you get it right. Meanwhile I try to set the dog up for success so I am nto asking for too much.

Moving further from the distraction:
Iis not possible in a training room with dogs, people etc. around to always move further away. IOW's I agree with the advice, but if I am training indoors and the door is open and an agility class is going on outdoors and my dog refocuses her attention from me to the agility class during a heel at a walk past the door.... there is no moving further away (we do eventually.. but I need to work thru that distraction). What I am thinking of doing instead (because there is class room for this) is speeding up my pace for a few strides. In stationary exercise, I am thinking of doodling.. if I can... so that her back is to whatever she is looking at.

A sort of funny thing that happens.. we do mirror work where I watch her in the mirror. Well this dog sees the mirror and first admires herself and then meets my eyes IN THE MIRROR... I have a hard time doing anything about this. She IS giving attention but doing it in a unique way that, IMO, shows a very good power of observation and (perhaps) intelligence. Correcting her for giving attention by looking at my face in the mirror is something I am loathe to do, so I do not.

Thanks for the link CP. That site has some other things that are very good too (I think) albeit pricey.
 

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Ah, this should be interesting... it's always fun when the non competing people try to figure out why the competing people do what they do. ;-)

Too bad you can't watch the vids, but if you go to youtube and type in 'rally judge' you will find some truly excellent attention training videos.
I try to stay out of this stuff because as an X handler who in no way would discuss methods used to finish a field champion do agree it is interesting indeed.

re: head up heeling - if your dog offers it, GREAT! Train it and use it. If not, teach an easier focal point. They do NOT have to heel looking at your face.
Now doing just the training of simple commands for the average owner, heel, sit, down, stay, come and not in obedience competition mind set. I do have something interesting to add, since I am in the sit means sit business some dogs when finished will heel and sit and do all the work and never take eyes off me and have an extreme focus on me. The type of dog taken into obedience competition would look great. When owners ask why the dogs do this I just tell them it's the individual style of that dog, not really anything that I did. I will say maybe one out of every 10 dogs trained ends up like this and it's not something I strive for, as in 30 days so much to do, so little time to fool with niceties. I have only one obedience title in my resume so I just dabbled in it. I think that people that are interested in this type of work got to dive in and feel the pressures in competition for dogs and handlers and then trying to work as a team. In bird dog trials I saw some marvelous (great) dogs that never attained a title because of bad handlers and inferior dogs that did get titled by great handling. Just throwing this out here to confuse the issue.
 

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GOOD question. I use both on my dogs. IMO, a balanced training approach is the best.


When mine look away during heeling, they get a 'gotcha tag' on the shoulder or butt, or a light bump with my knee, or motivational collar pop, the list is endless and it's all FUN TO THE DOG. They don't view a correction as bad, it drives the harder to work. :)
Another vote for a balanced approach, positive in the training phase but the use of appropriate corrections in the proofing stage.
 

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4iC - look at Rally Judge's utube and you can see a video on motivational collar pops and tagging during heeling.
I looked but there are so many results. Do you have a particular video in mind and could you post a link? I'm VERY interested in Rally for the pup I'm getting next year and would love to see this technique.
 

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You can sometimes get away with this technique, especially with a dog like a Golden Retriever. But, I don't suggest it- and it's a great way to ruin a more sensitive and intuitive dog (like a Whippet, or even some Goldens).
 
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