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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I thought it would be cool to have a place for people to explain which training methods they like best and why. My idea is that this would be a great way for people to see where others are coming from and what their thought process is.

(If any moderator thinks this idea sucks, or is against the rules please feel free to take this thread down)
 

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I agree it would be a good idea to see where people are coming from and what methods they use - but not commenting on others' opinions? For starters, that would be for the moderators to decide, and secondly, in my opinion, it would be less of a discussion and more of a wall of statements. Where's the opportunity for learning and growth?
 

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The nature of an Internet forum is that people can express their opinions about dog stuff (not moderator stuff, politics, etc.) and others, in turn can express their opinions about those opinions. As long as opinions are not presented as fact and nobody gets abusive or insulting, we are never going to suppress those opinions. In fact, a member who tries to do that would be guilty of backseat moderating and invited to enjoy a time-out to think about that.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
but not commenting on others' opinions? For starters, that would be for the moderators to decide, and secondly, in my opinion, it would be less of a discussion and more of a wall of statements. Where's the opportunity for learning and growth?
True, I didn't think about it that way, I was just worried about it getting messy. Fixed 😁
 
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I use more of a balanced approch I guess, I stopped using tools recently to try and understand my dogs better. I still use other forms of "punishment" though, such as telling my dog no, or using touch as a correction (I've been bending down and tapping my dog lightly on the shoulder as a way of saying no thanks at behaviors). 90% of our training is purely positive, and its always been that way. I've started really toning it down though. I can't say I'll stop using a prong or a E-collar if I feel like its something I need to use, but for the most part I really do try and keep it super positive.
 

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I try to work by the LIMA principle - Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive. Try to, because I'm still learning to be an effective trainer and how to read the dog I'm working with so I can do what works best for them. And because I still resort to verbal, non-instructive corrections outside of training (like "no!" or "hey!") way more than I'd like.

In practice, what it means is that my toolbox is primarily reinforcement-based methods, and that I adapt to the dog and try to understand what they find reinforcing and aversive. I try to understand the source of behavior issues and look for solutions that address why they're happening by giving my dogs more appropriate alternatives or finding ways to improve their emotional state whenever possible. I do use pressure and harder tones at time, which I can get away with with my current two dogs, but I also believe that these things aren't inherently necessary to training and hope to reduce their use as I become a better handler. There are theoretical situations where I would use physical corrections, but have not yet been put in a scenario where that's been necessary. To me, such a situation would have to involve the immediate health and safety of the dog, or other people/animals around the dog, and management options aren't feasible.

I'm not too fussed with how people choose to train their own dogs, but I am going to speak up when someone's advising something outright dangerous or claiming that you can't train without physical or harsh corrections.
 

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I think much will depend on where people live and how far their country intervenes on training.
Here the prong collar has been banned by law in any shape or form since 2018 and ecollars along with invisible fencing since jan 2020.

Negative training methods and punishment is frowned apon and in Germany they refused to allow Ceasar Milan to even do a show there because of his methods and then banned him from training because he did not meet the language requirement.

So what might be acceptable one place might not be in another .

Its the same with dog runs and kennels. In most of western Europe its frowned on to keep a pet dog outside. In a lots of places its normal
Its difficult to agree about training methods when culture and law enforcement play a big part in our opinions and expierence.
 

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I will start with a couple disclaimers - I train for 'pet/companion dog' purposes only. I do not trial or compete with my dogs and have no desire to ever do so.
I have owned & worked with personal dogs for over 30 years, and way back in those dark ages, punishment based training was pretty much all there was. I've used choke chains, prong collars and even e-collars (shock collars) because that was what was available & "known to be effective". In the last 10 years I have learned better, more effective ways.
I am not a professional trainer, but I have extensive experience (thousands of hours) working with shelter dogs as a volunteer who, for several years, headed up a volunteer run training program (that I created) for some of our more 'at risk' dogs (ones with behavioral issues that were creating roadblocks to adoption) I worked directly with the dogs as well as trained the volunteers how to work with & train the dogs. I constantly read & learn modern training methods and about dog behavior via self-study, webinars, etc... (really excited about the CU virtual conference coming up at the end of this month!!)

So, what is my current 'training method'? I guess, simply put, teach the dog what you DO want them to do and make it very worth their while. Make the sound of your voice create the same feelings in your dog that the sound of the ice cream truck creates in children. Form a relationship with the dog that makes being with you & doing things with you the absolute best thing on the planet.
Remember that relationship is a two way street - if I expect my dogs to listen to me, I have to listen to them. If I ask my dogs to do something, and they don't comply, it's my responsibility to figure out 'why', not immediately jump all over them & demand/force compliance. I'm not perfect, and yet they cut me a lot of slack - shouldn't I be as understanding with them? Somehow, the more slack I cut them, the less I need to. Does this mean I never tell my dogs "No"? Of course not, I'm human & that pops out of my mouth occasionally. But is it a 'training method'? No - it trains/teaches the dog nothing, so I follow it up with "let's do this instead". Then resolve to do better next time.
Always keep in mind that dogs (every living thing, really) are constantly learning. Every single solitary waking moment that you spend with them is teaching them something. It is in everyone's best interest to make sure it's something you want them to be learning. "Formal" training sessions are fine for fun or specific skills I might want to instill, but honestly? I very, very rarely have them with my own dogs. (In working with the shelter dogs it's different, because I'm only there for a specific, limited amount of time, so things have to be 'scheduled') We just live together & I'm constantly reinforcing what I want to see & preventing or redirecting what I don't want to see. It's like having toddlers - you're always in "Mom mode", at least at first. After a while it just flows like a dance - we move through life together knowing pretty much exactly what the other one is going to do & respond in sync.
I guess someone should ask my dogs what THEIR training methods are - they seem to have me wrapped around their paws.... ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I started out as a supporter of Cesar Millan type training and was in denial of any other training methods, but it was mostly out of ignorance. I shouldn't have been against something I knew nothing about, and once I did slowly begin to understand what positive reinforcement meant I veered towards the relationship based method instead. I now know that the positive reinforcement method of training has been already been proven by educated scientists and have more proof then biased trainers who can lead you to no evidence that their training works except for pointing you towards "success stories". If you look at the studies done by Skinner you can see that not only can animals learn by using positive reinforcement, but that it works better than negative reinforcement, he also concluded that negative reinforcement can be counter productive since the animal can learn to do the bad behavior when your not around. The training method I now use is what is called relationship based dog training. This method is meant for you to set the dog up to succeed and if the dog won't do something you figure out the reason they aren't listening whether its because the dog doesn't know the command, they don't know how to work through distractions yet, they're too stressed, they're in physical pain, etc. and you figure out how to work through that using positive training. The goal is to keep your dog stress free throughout the process of training them anything (even if it's for behavioral problems such as aggression, the dog should not have to be put into a situation where it feels the need to lash out).
 

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Interested in hearing all the training methods? can somebody list them? I only know force free, balanced, and R+ (positive only) since they seem the most popular.
 

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Interested in hearing all the training methods? can somebody list them? I only know force free, balanced, and R+ (positive only) since they seem the most popular.
There are many methods, and many different shades of grey. For one, there's compulsion. Simply speaking, that's where dogs are 'compelled' to perform behaviours in order to avoid certain punishment. Virtually no positive reinforcement is ever used. Think - military dogs of days gone by. Or ear-pinch retrieves. Surprisingly, and sadly, this method is still seen quite often in pet dog training circles even in present times. A lot of people continue to believe that the use of food treats and toys tends to show weakness, and that a dog should comply just because "I'm the superior human and you're the subservient dog". If you look around you'll find an abundance of literature, websites, videos etc that all follow the mantra of 'train your dog without the use of treats'.

While I'm here, and for the record. I suppose I'm 110% positive-only. Well, I'm about as positive-only as one could possibly be. I'm the person at the farthest end of that spectrum. My personal dog breed of choice is colloquially known as an N.O.B. (traditionally a 'non-obedience' breed). And not to boast but I've done extremely well with keeping them over the course of nearly 40 years now, and we've excelled competitively over the course of about 20 years. In my earlier days I used a balanced approach to training, but saw the light and joined the revolution around the turn of the century. I highly suspect that the accolades we've received, the awards we've won, and the titles we've achieved would not have been possible if I didn't make the switch.
 

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I can list a few:
  • Science Based: Uses the learning theory to work with dogs
  • Operant Conditioning: Uses the four quadrants (Positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative reinforcement, negative punishment) to either reduce a behavior or increase it.
  • Classical Conditioning: Uses a technique discovered by Ivan Pavlov to condition a dog to respond to one thing like it will to another. For example if you just ring a bell the dog will have no response but if you have the dog associate the bell with food coming the dog will salivate when hearing the bell even without seeing the food. (A great training technique to use for fearful dogs in my opinion).
  • Traditional/Dominance: Traditional training was very much centered around forcing the dog to comply to commands using punishment and it was based on the old theory of dominance in wolf packs.
  • Negative reinforcement: You take away the bad thing when the dog complies. For example, you push the dog to sit and when it does sit you let go.
  • Positive reinforcement: You add good things if the dog complies. For example, If the dog sits you reward. Clicker training goes under positive reinforcement.
  • Relationship Based: You set the dog up to succeed and if something isn't working you figure out why (so you therefore need to constantly focus on the dogs body language, health, and motivation level).
If I got something wrong please say something
 
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In my opinion (and this is getting nitpicky, I know), you have as many training methods as you do people training dogs. I guess I'd call things like balanced, force-free, LIMA, dominance, etc. more philosophies? And of course multiple philosophies can be described as science-based (but not all, looking at you, dominance theory). But each trainer is going to have their own way of implementing techniques and communicating with the individual dog they're working with, and good trainers will change a lot based on the needs of the individual dog and skill they're working on. I could say that BAT 2.0 (Behavior Adjustment Therapy) is a method, for example, but it's specifically only for working with fear, confidence, and/or overarousal/stress problems, so it's not going to be a method you use to teach basic obedience or house manners. I assure you, even if you put a group of trainers all certified through the same program in a room, you'll have arguments about the best approach to teach... just about anything.

I will say that the quadrants (positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative reinforcement, negative punishment) aren't really either methods or philosophies, but descriptors to explain how a technique causes a dog to increase or decrease a particular behavior. It gets muddy, though, because 'positive reinforcement' specifically is used by some people to explain that they focus heavily on increasing desired behaviors through rewards as a general philosophy, but in practice virtually every trainer employs all four quadrants when they're working with an animal. I've tried to stop using the quadrants except when I'm talking like, crazy nerdy science-of-learning-theory things because they just get confusing when you try to use them to talk about practical training, imo.
 

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DaySleepers nailed it. There are as many training methods as there are trainers. There are also a myriad of training philosophies, ranging from extremely dog driven to extremely handler driven. Talking about employing "the four quadrants" also over-simplifies what is actually a very nuanced process, even with someone who trains with heavy-handed compulsion.

I tend to say that I train with as much positive reinforcement as I can, and try to avoid compulsion whenever possible.
 

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I try to work by the LIMA principle - Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive. Try to, because I'm still learning to be an effective trainer and how to read the dog I'm working with so I can do what works best for them. And because I still resort to verbal, non-instructive corrections outside of training (like "no!" or "hey!") way more than I'd like.
Same here, I think.

It was actually with horses that I made the switch to that attitude. I was trained to train using quite a bit of P+ and R-. (I think pretty much everyone was back then.) I wasn't abusive but horses are prey animals and we're predators and that dynamic is easily exploited in training. Eventually I was set the task of breaking a beautiful, amiable Percheron to driving and/or saddle. He was headed for a meat buyer because he was totally useless. The problem was that he simply would not be intimidated. If he didn't want to do something no amount of pressure would make him, and if he did want something, no amount of punishment would stop him (short of being injurious). I'd never worked with a horse like this before nor have I since. So I had to completely change up my approach - luckily, this was around the time when the idea of "natural horsemanship" had started gaining traction. There are plenty of issues with natural horsemanship, but it did at least provide a different way of thinking about horse-human interaction, and that was the key for me - how can I make obeying me into something rewarding and enjoyable for THE HORSE? And not to be twee, but the first time I mounted up - the Percheron's first time under saddle with a rider - I realized that I wasn't anxious or wary the way I'd ordinarily be on a green horse. He wasn't going to do anything to hurt me, because he had no reason to hurt me, because HE wasn't afraid or stressed.

Anyway, he ended up a hacking/trail horse for a rider who was getting back into the sport after a disabling accident, a good outcome all around.

Because apparently I'm slow I didn't right away also apply this new way of thinking to working with my dogs. Which was stupid, because when I finally did get a new dog and train him using an as-positive-as-possible approach from the start, he ended up being the best-trained, most reliable dog I'd ever had. So, I'm sold. I have a lot to learn about effective dog handling and training, but I feel like at least now I'm building on a solid foundation.
 

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Coming back here to say something,

I don't think I have a training method? I follow aspects of ALL (besides dominace wtf) of the methods/theries listed. What would that be? Blended training? Lol.

I throw together a cocktail of methods based on the dog I'm training

When I was like 10, before I knew anything about dog training I made up a mesh of training just from my own instincts- I can't really describe it. My training is much more effective now after lots of research, but I've always been a type of person who just throws stuff together as problems arise and it works for me and my dogs

I know people follow strict methods or whatever you want to call them for my dogs, maybe I'm reckless lmfao but I get results, no doubt about that. (well maybe some of you doubt that eye roll)
 

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Coming back here to say something,

I don't think I have a training method? I follow aspects of ALL (besides dominace wtf) of the methods/theries listed. What would that be? Blended training? Lol.

I throw together a cocktail of methods based on the dog I'm training

When I was like 10, before I knew anything about dog training I made up a mesh of training just from my own instincts- I can't really describe it. My training is much more effective now after lots of research, but I've always been a type of person who just throws stuff together as problems arise and it works for me and my dogs

I know people follow strict methods or whatever you want to call them for my dogs, maybe I'm reckless lmfao but I get results, no doubt about that. (well maybe some of you doubt that eye roll)
There is no doubt that a 'blended' or 'balanced' type of training that incorporates both positive reinforcement and positive punishment, as well as negative punishment and negative reinforcement can be considered "effective" (gets results). No one ever claimed that utilizing harsher methods didn't "work" to change behavior - the question remains as to what is the most humane and ethical training programs/methods to utilize.

If all you care about is that you 'get results' and it doesn't bother you to utilize methods or tools that incorporate pain/discomfort and/or fear in order to change behavior... well, that's your choice. But it is a choice - there are ways to change behavior by utilizing positive reinforcement methods.

I do not have a PHD in dog behavior, so I choose to read, follow & learn from modern trainers who do have such extensive education & degrees. Going by 'gut instinct', well... it might be effective (at times, in some manner) but there is a science to dog training, as well as an art. To ignore that aspect of it, particularly in these modern times when information is so readily available, is to choose to remain ignorant. It's one thing to not know any better (Heaven knows, we've all been there at some point!!) but to willfully decide not to be open to change, well... that's a whole different thing.
 

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Are you accusing me of being ignorant?

Might have read/understood wrong, but if so, Did you miss the bit about research? I read, follow, look at, and watch literally everything. Has the word dog training in the title? yep, im gonna read it. I take all of the information I collect and i apply it. I'm not saying my only goal is to "get results". My goal is to built a stronger bond with my dog, form ways of communication, AND have a reliable dog (get results...). What I was trying to say was, despite my "methods" or what not that people here seem to dislike, my dog is still very reliable? I know people swear by things because ohh my dog was so reliable on this method, or whatever. I'm just stating, it works. My dog and I's relationship is very strong, we understand eachother SO well, my dog is glued to my back 100% of the time, and he'd choose me every day. He's the sweetest, most loving, most loyal dog i think I'll ever own. In my opinion, he isn't affected by the training at all. He's still peppy, he's improving daily, he shows no signs of fear (yawning, backing away, yelping, tail tucking). He's wagging his tail and waiting for a new command 100% of the time.

When a Problem arises, I google, open up 5 or 6 articals regardless of what methods whoever wrote it follows, and I mesh it all together in method I know my dog will understand/respond to based off my vast knowlage of what works for my dog
 

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I meant no offense. But I will say that I caution you to think long & hard about the fact that you don't care about what methods whoever wrote your information follows & recommends. Using punitive tools & techniques, and defending them because "they work" is a cop out. Yes - they work. Perhaps they don't obviously effect your dog in any way - but I can guarantee you that on SOME level they are effecting him. You can't see his cortisol levels rise, but it has been scientifically proven that these methods do, in fact, cause that.

Again, if you don't care about such things, fine - you do you. Just remember that inflicting punishment is easy and doesn't take a whole lot of thought to implement. It's also very reinforcing for the punisher. Yeah, you're getting rewarded for punishing your dog. His behavior change is your 'cookie'. Hmmm....

Finally (and after this I will gracefully bow out of this discussion since I've said pretty much all I can say on the matter) as long as you happily leave punitive tools in your toolbox as just something to use when necessary -- it will continue to become increasingly easier to find reasons of that necessity. Is that really, I mean really where you want to go with this (or any future) dog? There are other ways & you alone make the choice.
 
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