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Discussion Starter #1
Considering the discussion on my last thread I thought I would bring this up.

At one time in dog training I became heavily involved in R+, P+, R- and P- terms and training and what they meant along with Premack principal and all the rest. At the time I was doing AKC Obedience and working with some trainers who also used these terms and trained and discussed them. So, I went along and learned because it made it easier to communicate with my instructors.

I did not enjoy this psychology. In fact, I took psychology in College and all was well until I saw what they did to animal models to "learn." From rats to kittens to dogs.. psychology has quite a history of real abuse to learn what we know today. Pavlov actually created seizures in dogs proving and reproving his theories (I found that in the dusty shelves of the library and card catalog).

At the time (45 years ago), even though the experiments had proven repeatability and were published in text books, they were still being repeated in the name of "learning."

The experiment that turned me off of psychology was where they had a room where 1/2 of the floor could be electrified and the other half not and they separated the room with a fence.. then put dogs in the Hot side and rang a bell and then turned the juice on until all the dogs jumped over the fence.. then repeated and found the dogs would jump the fence when the bell rang hundreds of times even when no electric was applied did me in. And colleges (at the time) actually repeated this experiment proving repeatability. I stood up in class in a huge lecture hall and let the professor have it with both barrels.. inviting her to come on out and hang on to the electric fence around the farm I worked on and then tell me about avoidance and if she would want to grab it again!! I was told I had a "bad attitude.."

Eventually I stepped away from AKC Ob. and got involved in Schutzhund where the rules and judging is quite different. In that venue I kept discussing these terms.. until a day came and the person I was training with told me to STOP.. JUST TRAIN THE DOG in front of you. Since that day, that is what I have done.

This does not mean I don't use training quadrants or psychology to train. It means I don't think about it. I think about the results I am looking for and the least invasive and most positive/exciting way (for the dog) to get those results with reliability and consistency. This in no way means I do not make mistakes and by no means does it mean I always get it right. Training is not "only this" or "only that." It is (or should be) an ever evolving gain of knowledge and technique.

Fortunately dogs are dogs and my first focus is the relationship so we figure it out. That process can be a bit messy or even funny as we work through it. It is training.. and communication between two species one of which is non verbal.

This does not mean I am against learning the psychology or the quadrants for dog training. I think everyone who trains animals should be encouraged to learn about these quadrants and be able (at some point) to discuss them and understand them. I just don't think this academia should overshadow the task at hand which is to train the dog and keep it interesting and exciting for the dog and (most importantly) ENJOY the dog/time spent with the dog. It all counts.

I think we need to remember the dog in front of us and how we interact with that dog and the relationship we have with that dog which can go beyond psychology.
 

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I really appreciate the point you're making here. This is very true, and I guess that I can be guilty of this sometimes. That is valuable advice, and honestly, that's going to be the one best way to actually accomplish things in training- to stop with all the terms and just train

That's quite honestly disgusting, the way they did psychology experiments. I have a family member in college majoring in psychology, and thankfully, they do not do that anymore- that's absolutely horrific.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
The Psychology dpt. was doing some graduate advanced work where they cut the ears of of cats. No idea what THAT was about but about two years after I graduated from that college they were cited for substandard care of their animals. All the animals were removed and their animal psychology area was shut down. I believe the animals were euthanized...
 

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The Psychology dpt. was doing some graduate advanced work where they cut the ears of of cats. No idea what THAT was about but about two years after I graduated from that college they were cited for substandard care of their animals. All the animals were removed and their animal psychology area was shut down. I believe the animals were euthanized...
That is awful
 

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One of the worst parts of any science - psychology included - is realizing how much of our modern tools and understanding were built upon suffering - human and animals. We can't throw it out - so much of it is foundational or groundbreaking that we'd be only be causing more suffering by setting science back by centuries - but we definitely shouldn't ignore it either. I feel like it's our duty to acknowledge when research doesn't meet modern ethical standards, even if it's important foundational research, even if it was due to scientific ignorance rather than not caring about the welfare of subjects. I also feel like the scientific community has a responsibility to keep the standards of ethics committees as high as possible and push for improvements when we discover new ways to increase welfare and decrease suffering, even in small ways. And for violations to be reported and dealt with soundly, as they were at your university 3GSD4IPO. I'm thankful for that, at least.

But more generally, there's definitely some concepts that are important in research and understanding of animal behavior, cognition, and learning that are absolutely RUBBISH in 90% of real life training scenarios. The quadrants are one of them. It's becoming more of a pet peeve of mine the longer I've been into dog behavior and training, even though I - like many of us - started out with so much learning and discussion of training techniques and philosophy revolving around them. It's extremely reductive, assuming that real-world learning events are so precise and sterile that they can ONLY fall into one of the four quadrants, when you could reasonably make an argument for why almost every training technique is in a different quadrant than commonly accepted, and therefore 'bad' or 'wrong' in some way. Which is a great way to confuse the heck out of new dog owners who are just trying to find the most dog-friendly approach to dealing with normal dog training issues.

Useful for a broad, theoretical discussion of how stimulus affects behaviors in animals between people who all have a solid foundation in behavior concepts? Sure. A model that, in certain instances, can be part of interpreting research data and make some reasonable assumptions for how a test group of animal subjects are experiencing a specific stimulus? Yeah, okay. A way to attach some kind of moral or ethical value to dog training techniques in the real world, especially in complex scenarios or when not taking the individual dog into account? Nope. It's past time to drop quadrants from all practical dog training discourse.

That definitely doesn't mean all psychology, ethology, or learning theory should be ignored, of course. It can be incredibly important in making effective and humane choices in how and why we train the way we do. It can open doors for new approaches to training and communication with our dogs. It can overturn deeply ingrained ideas that lead us to make ineffective or unethical husbandry choices - look at how long many people believed animals don't have any capacity for emotions, let alone can experience emotional or mental distress (not to mention how many people still believe it). But understanding what concepts are practical for understanding our personal dogs and how we interact with them and what concepts are so conceptual, reductive, or removed from real-world scenarios that they have no place outside of theory and research is really important.

I feel like there's been a movement to keep practical training and behavior dialogue more in the realm of plain, clear language and avoid buzzwords and tribespeak in recent years, and that's something I can wholly get behind, because when you break concepts down to clear and digestible language it often becomes more obvious what's actually useful and informative and what's a lot of noise.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Day Sleepers thank you for such thoughtful input/discussion.

All I could do is "like" when I want to "love" it.
 

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I pretty much wholeheartedly agree with what DaySleepers stated above. My own, person take on all the 'quadrant crap' :)sneaky:) is this - There is a vast, and I mean - VAST - difference between what we do as 'trainers' during formal, scheduled, on the clock, training sessions & what we do while generally living with our dogs. And, please know, that for all intents & purposes I consider every single waking interaction that we have with our dogs to be 'training'. After all, they learn something from each of those moments - it's in everyone's best interest to make sure it's something we want the dog to be learning!
That being said, I realize that someone can get so caught up in the 'quadrants' that when faced with a spontaneous "training" moment they freeze & do nothing, rather than make a 'mistake' by applying something that might be in the 'wrong' quadrant. My response to this - Stop overthinking things! Living life isn't a formal training session. Sometimes our dogs do something we'd like to stop - right then & there - so we (I) might holler out "Knock-it-the-heck-off" and then go happily about our day.

Did I just use "punishment"? OMG, "Positive Punishment"? Well, yeah! If I did something & it reduced a behavior, I most certainly did. Am I going to lose sleep over this? Most definitely NO. But, what I am going to take away from this is that if I am repeatedly having to tell my dogs to "knock it off", then I need to change something in the environment & work on what is not a once off, but an actual training problem. In that case I will set up an actual systematic plan that positively reinforces the behavior that I want instead of the undesired behavior. Say, counter surfing was what caused my initial outburst. If this problem continues, I'll work directly on reinforcing the dog(s) for going to & staying in/on their 'place' when I'm in the kitchen, rather than continuing to holler at them for being in there when I'm working with food.

But - and in my mind, this is a HUGE 'but' - when I am purposely setting up a formal training session for MY goals (be it household manners or some level of dog sport/game) I will absolutely & carefully consider the quadrants I use in accomplishing MY goals. I will not set the dog up to fail so I can punish them for making the wrong choice. I will not use an aversive stimulus to achieve some goal that only I care about (dogs don't give one hoot about ribbons, points, titles or letters behind their names) In that aspect, I care very much about what 'quadrant' my training falls into.

This is my moral & ethical training choice. Others might or might not agree with me, but I will never again (this is coming from the point of view of a crossover trainer) endorse pain inflicting tools or devices in the pursuit of some training goal. Just because in decades gone by, the processes used by others in furthering scientific evidence might not have been the best (and, very often, were the worst!) doesn't mean we can continue to utilize lower levels of painful punishment in the name of training & call it OK. When you know better, you DO better.

End of rant.
 

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In near complete agreement. Really like what you said here.
Living life isn't a formal training session. Sometimes our dogs do something we'd like to stop - right then & there - so we (I) might holler out "Knock-it-the-heck-off" and then go happily about our day.

Did I just use "punishment"? OMG, "Positive Punishment"? Well, yeah! If I did something & it reduced a behavior, I most certainly did. Am I going to lose sleep over this? Most definitely NO. But, what I am going to take away from this is that if I am repeatedly having to tell my dogs to "knock it off", then I need to change something in the environment & work on what is not a once off, but an actual training problem. In that case I will set up an actual systematic plan that positively reinforces the behavior that I want instead of the undesired behavior. Say, counter surfing was what caused my initial outburst. If this problem continues, I'll work directly on reinforcing the dog(s) for going to & staying in/on their 'place' when I'm in the kitchen, rather than continuing to holler at them for being in there when I'm working with food.
However, some tool might be helpful for certain training goals, if and only if they can not be achieved otherwise. I truly believe that my dog does like the goals I push her to (though I don't use tools/punishment)- because she loves the act of working for me. (and she loves it if she can impress a crowd lol) So while someone may not go into a training session, if it seems to be important for the dog's training- I believe they do like winning and competing- I would not say it is wrong or even unwise to use the tool.
Or, say your dog cannot be trusted with his recall, so you need to resort to a (properly implemented) e-collar. That is better than relegating the dog to a life of only ever going outside if he's on a leash
 

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In near complete agreement. Really like what you said here.

However, some tool might be helpful for certain training goals, if and only if they can not be achieved otherwise. I truly believe that my dog does like the goals I push her to (though I don't use tools/punishment)- because she loves the act of working for me. (and she loves it if she can impress a crowd lol) So while someone may not go into a training session, if it seems to be important for the dog's training- I believe they do like winning and competing- I would not say it is wrong or even unwise to use the tool.
Or, say your dog cannot be trusted with his recall, so you need to resort to a (properly implemented) e-collar. That is better than relegating the dog to a life of only ever going outside if he's on a leash
Dogs might like the act or environment of competing, but if they don't perform up to the human judge's standards & therefore don't win a ribbon or title, I dare say that the DOG doesn't give one darn fig. The human on the other hand... So - who is that application of an aversive tool for, really. If you think about it - it's definitely not the dog. Play the game. Have fun. Whether we win or lose, the importance of that is firmly in the conscious mind of the human, not the dog, participating.

As far as extending this concept to 'real life' application, which an off leash recall is definitely in that category, well... WHY do you feel your dog's life is any 'better' for being off leash, but subjected to the potential of an e-collar punishment, rather than having to remain on leash/long line or in a safely fenced area?

If a dog recalls reliably ONLY because of the potential/threat for painful correction in the 'off leash freedom', is he really feeling "free" during those off leash times? Or is that little nagging threat of "what if" always hanging over his head, and therefore dampening the enjoyment of the entire experience? Until they can communicate verbally with us & express their feelings about the entire thing, then I'll continue to err on the side of caution & not use painful stimulus to insure compliance with my desires whenever I can actively set up the situation to utilize management & positive reinforcement in an effective manner.
 

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Dogs might like the act or environment of competing, but if they don't perform up to the human judge's standards & therefore don't win a ribbon or title, I dare say that the DOG doesn't give one darn fig. The human on the other hand...
My dogs show signs of being pretty pleased with themselves when they do well in competition. I think this is because they are perceptive enough to tell I'm extra happy with them, and they get happy attention from other people who fuss over them and tell them how clever they are, etc. Not all dogs would love that kind of attention from strangers and casual acquaintances maybe, but mine do.

As far as extending this concept to 'real life' application, which an off leash recall is definitely in that category, well... WHY do you feel your dog's life is any 'better' for being off leash, but subjected to the potential of an e-collar punishment, rather than having to remain on leash/long line or in a safely fenced area?
I do think that in an ideal world all dogs would get to be off leash in open space a lot of the time, but like everything in life there are pros and cons. Years ago - decades ago - when I had Akitas, they went everywhere with me and were rarely on leash, but those were different times and back then very few people recognized an Akita for what it was and loose dogs were accepted in this part of the country so long as they didn't make trouble.

Now I have Rotties, and there's breed prejudice, and the area around me is more residential, and people nowadays are a lot less tolerant of anything they don't agree with. Until this last year and the Covid lockdowns that are keeping us from usual training classes and trials, none of my Rottweilers has ever been off leash except in my fenced yard, which fortunately is about an acre in size. Even now, the only outside-the-fenced-yard off-leash walking is on my own property but around the horse pasture, which only has 3-strand wire on two sides.

I don't think either dog would trade her life as is for more off leash time outside the yard with an e-collar, but of course they can't say. They are stuck with my opinion, and mine is that keeping them safe is more important than letting them loose.
 

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The thing I find both liberating and restricting about the 'formal stuff' is all owners and trainers will use their understanding of it to justify whatever means they want to use. For example, if my dog is not reliable with recall, my options are not 'life of ever only going outside if he's on leash' or 'implement an e-collar'. A person who is not well versed and experienced in the broad realm of positive reinforcement training (used as a general category here, not as the quadrant) may feel like those are their only options, or they may slide very quickly to aversives on the LIMA scale because they've tried everything, right? They've tried everything.... that they know to try. It is self limiting, self selecting, whatever you want to call it.

So here's the thing. I wish people in general would stop using the conversation of psychology, quadrants, etc. as explanations or excuses for their own behaviors. And simply admit to knowing to do what they know to do... Or be open to learning to do differently. Or heck, just say "I'm fine with using punishment/aversives/correction because that moment of fear is worth it for me to reduce that unwanted behavior. I accept the risks." But the dialogue where we make pretend we are doing it for the sake of the dog or because 'R+ failed' is self righteous and only speaks to the person's depth of knowledge more so than the efficacy of techniques themselves.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I don't think my dogs have ever cared about competition (which we do quite rarely actually). The photo with judge and title certificates/trophy etc. my dog is usually under some direction (fuss, sitz.. whatever).

They DO like to win (as they perceive winning).

When they get the bite and the helper slips the sleeve.. and they circle back to me their whole demeanor exudes pride and cockiness. When they take a helper down either by accident or the helper goes down on purpose the dog is pretty pleased. Getting the ball slammed on the ground for good heeling (or other ob.work) is a win too. In these scenarios the dog comes back to me and pushes sleeve or toy into me if I don't ask for a platz and an "out." That is all in training, not competition.

Competition is used as a test of the Training, so it is pretty infrequent (or is in the sport I do).

The training needs to make the dog successful and so reward is delivered. The psychology behind that training can be academically interesting, but only as a discussion point over a little Bourbon on ice!!

As to "formal training sessions" very little done of that here. Easier and more effective to train using bits of the day doing all the weird stuff we do....
 

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So here's the thing. I wish people in general would stop using the conversation of psychology, quadrants, etc. as explanations or excuses for their own behaviors. And simply admit to knowing to do what they know to do... Or be open to learning to do differently. Or heck, just say "I'm fine with using punishment/aversives/correction because that moment of fear is worth it for me to reduce that unwanted behavior. I accept the risks."
Some of the discussions here would be more civil if those of us for whom it's true admitted, "I do what I do because it's what I've learned and it works for me." However, on the other side, some people need to admit, "I do what I do because I've read up on it a lot, like the theory, and therefore am determined to pursue these methods."

I say that because I suspect at least some of those arguing for certain methods have never used them to reach high levels of training. I use a clicker to teach a sit. It's easier than the push their rump or back legs methods. A stay? Not so much. IMO if you can't get a reliable recall on your dog in your backyard, the method you're using isn't working, so don't tell me that's how I should do it when I need and have always had a joyful zoom to me in competition, which means in an echoing structure full of other dogs and other distractions.

Maybe the weaknesses of all of our arguments for our own methods is striking me particularly now because I'm holding puppy fever at bay by studying up on all-positive methods as taught by trainers who have had outstanding success with them at high levels of competition. One thing I notice about those trainers is that they say, "I decided I didn't want to train by doing xxx, and found this way, and it's worked for me." Or maybe like the When Pigs Fly author they say the methods they'd used in the past didn't work on certain dogs and led them to another way.

One thing the positive trainers I've studied so far don't do is bad mouth others. They say their way works and they believe it's better for them and their dogs. They don't say anyone doing something different is a monster from the depths of hell. No exploding with hyperbole at the mention of a prong collar.

Maybe that's because the trainers I've been studying have all proved their methods by success in competition, whether agility or obedience. People who are really good at something don't usually spend time running others down. They have the confidence to count on their own success and achievement to speak for them.

Anyway, after that digression: I'm willing to own it. I train the way I do because it's what I learned and it's worked pretty well. The negatives of some of those methods haven't cropped up the way they would with more sensitive dogs. However, I'm probably only going to have one more competitive dog in my lifetime. I'm investigating different ways in hopes of doing even better with the dog and me both enjoying it even more. But it's dog training, not religion. Anything that doesn't work or doesn't work well enough gets abandoned for what does work.
 

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Stuff like the four quadrants are a theoretical framework. They're not...factual. They're often a useful way of thinking about what shapes behavior, and how to shape behavior, but there's no reason to apply them where they're not useful; they're descriptive, not dogmatic.

I think when many people hear "psychology" they think of the very dated, very superficial contents of a psych 101 textbook, rather than more deep and nuanced explorations of cognition and emotion, or about modern approaches that integrate neurology, biochemistry, etc. There's also quite a gulf in academia between research psychology and applied psychology.

Anything that doesn't work or doesn't work well enough gets abandoned for what does work.
A highly effective, consistent way for any person - even one who has little intuition or personal likability - to secure the obedience and loyalty of another person is to mix three factors: regularly cause fear and/or pain, intermittently dole out small kindnesses, and establish practical dependence (e.g. by controlling financial resources and restricting access to other people). This is the basis of typical abusive romantic partnerships, abusive parent-child relationships, and taken to extremes, we see it in abductions and hostage situations where the victim is made complicit in their own captivity.

Now, obviously, dogs aren't people. They are dependent on us even as fully functional adults. And we're obliged do what we need to do to stop them from getting hit by cars or biting toddlers. But I can't help but see parallels to the way we generally handle dogs, and I don't much like it. It's efficient and effective to make kindness and resources dependent on compliance, and it's efficient and effective to use fear and discomfort/pain, up to a point. But when it comes to how we deal with feeling and thinking beings that we have absolute power over, efficiency and effectiveness aren't good touchstones. "What works" is an insufficient, amoral metric. ESPECIALLY when it comes to something as superfluous as, say, agility competition.
 

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I probably spend altogether too much time thinking about this stuff, honestly, haha.

I get you, @BKaymuttleycrew, and I'm absolutely not going to tell people to stop using quadrants for themselves if that's what works for them. I just have found that there's a lot of other language that's been more useful and less confusing - at least for me - that I can use to reach the same conclusion about whether a training method falls into my ethical comfort zone. I definitely look at what a training technique is trying to accomplish, how its proponents claim it works, whether that claim aligns with my understanding of dog behavior and learning theory, and how the technique takes the dog's emotional or mental state into account. I rarely find that trying to fit a technique into quadrants adds new information or changes my perspective on how it aligns with my training goals and philosophy.

Where quadrants really fell apart for me was behavior modification - specifically counter-conditioning. I want to change my dog's emotional response to something he already dislikes. I'll use the nail dremel with my noise-sensitive adolescent as an example. I turn on the dremel, which he finds unpleasant, but no matter what his response he gets a treat, so the unpleasant noise starts to predict a reward. The result is that negative responses to the noise reduce. I have added something, so it's positive, to reduce a behavior, so it's... punishment? Clearly that's not right. I could argue that I'm adding something to increase calm or neutral behavior (so R+), but that seems inaccurate too, since I care very little what response replaces the stressed/fearful/overaroused behavior I'm targeting so long as the stress/fear/overarousal decreases. The quadrants are just very bad at taking internal emotional states into account, and it's not what they were designed for.

Another example is Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT), which was criticized in its original form for relying on R- (removing something to increase a behavior) by bringing a dog towards its trigger and then giving it relief from that stress by allowing it distance again. Despite all this being done below threshold and being in general a technique trying to reduce the need for harsh punishments or corrective management tools, the fact that it could be lumped into a 'bad' quadrant drew criticism. Now BAT 2.0 focuses much more on letting the dog self-direct and eliminates the handler leading the dog deliberately towards the trigger, which does go farther to reduce stress and make it a more dog-friendly approach than its predecessor, but just because the technique could be (and was) improved doesn't mean it belongs in the same category as that classic R- example, the ear-pinch force fetch.

I also feel like quadrants make it easier to fall into the already very treacherous trap of getting so caught up in the idea that something is 'supposed' to be rewarding, or 'supposed' to not be stressful that we completely lose sight of how the dog in front of us is responding. It puts training techniques into very black and white boxes of "X is always good, Y is always bad" when there really should be more focus on listening to what the dog is telling us works for them. This is a universal issue with dog training, not something caused by quadrants, but it feels like a very technique-first approach instead of dog-first.

Edit: mixed up P- and R- clearly I need more caffeine today.
 

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So here's the thing. I wish people in general would stop using the conversation of psychology, quadrants, etc. as explanations or excuses for their own behaviors. And simply admit to knowing to do what they know to do... Or be open to learning to do differently. Or heck, just say "I'm fine with using punishment/aversives/correction because that moment of fear is worth it for me to reduce that unwanted behavior. I accept the risks." But the dialogue where we make pretend we are doing it for the sake of the dog or because 'R+ failed' is self righteous and only speaks to the person's depth of knowledge more so than the efficacy of techniques themselves.
THIS! Right here. I've said it before & I'll say it again - If you're going to use painful or aversive equipment/techniques to train, then own it. Don't pretend it's anything other than what it is, by claiming prong or e-collars "don't hurt, they only... (insert feel-good sensation of your choice here)" And my primary problem with the false claims is that they suck in novice trainers and inexperienced dog owners, who then use those tools/techniques in the most of inappropriate manners, which leads to an even higher rate of behavioral fall-out on the part of the poor dog (rather than try to figure out where the communication breakdown is occurring and work to improve their own techniques)

@storyist - As far as a dog enjoying 'winning' at shows or trials - I'm 100% certain that they are acting happier because of the positive attention received. I'd bet my last dollar that if the humans made just as big a fuss over the dog in the event of a poor performance that didn't lead to any sort of 'win', they'd enjoy that just as much. One of the reasons I have zero interest in actually participating in performance activities with my dogs is because I get stressed in the face of competition, and I know for certain I would push that stress off onto the dog & I don't think that's fair to them. So, we stay home and play, or occasionally go to a class for fun, and just enjoy being with each other, no stress or pressure to perform a certain way involved. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I am truly appreciating this discussion and I thank you all for it (and welcome its continuance!).

I do what I do and make no excuses for it (in spite of being maligned here for some of what I do). It has worked well (and has resulted in trial success which is secondary). I will defend my trianing. I think most dog trainers WILL defend their methods and will argue about what is "best" in their POV which says they are passionate. This is a good thing as long as open mindedness is retained.

What is more important to me than trial success is that it has led to more and more refined and accurate training results while retaining a happy, extremely eager to "work" dog.

This in no way means my training does not evolve and in no way means I do not individualize what I do based on the dog in front of me. I have found refinement of a behavior in one dog does not mean the same thing will work in another dog. In fact, the two I currently have here are very very different and both are well trained and happy.

If my own methods were terribly damaging the relationship would be damaged and the whole thing would go down a rat hole (no rats were harmed!).
 

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Oh, and I should add that one could argue that the quadrants don't work with counter-conditioning because it's really more classical conditioning than operant conditioning. But then we're dealing with the fact that operant and classical conditioning are also very fuzzy, high-concept terms that rarely happen in a vacuum (eg almost all learning events are a combination of the two), and that knowing whether a technique is more classical or more operant provides little to no practical information that will impact how we train. I would also put the operant/classical conditioning question in the category of "fundamental psych concepts that are important in theory and some controlled research, but virtually useless in real-world dog training applications".

I will say some of this stuff may come into play if you're actually working out a brand new, revolutionary approach to training or communicating with dogs, but that's not how most of us are ever going to experience dog training.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I want to add a little something about competitions and trialing. These venues vary widely depending on the work and organization as well as the handler motivations.

As an example, In AKC ob. you must get a qualifying score in three trials under at least two different judges to get a title. To move up the ladder to something like an OTCH you have to trial a LOT and score high. I think venues requiring a lot of repetitive work are the hardest on the dog. I think the repetition is why so many AKC ob. dogs appear flat and almost as if they are gritting their teeth doing this "yet again." Due to the venue repetition and the fact that dogs have a limited life span coupled with an even shorter number of years they can work I think it is very hard to keep some breeds and dogs enjoying the work and even harder to have them enjoy the work in a trial where there are no rewards delivered. I also think this is why certain breeds dominate the higher ranks (temperamentally more tolerant?).

In the sport I do, typically trialing is very infrequent for the dog. The trial is used as a test to see where your training is. A Passing score at a single trial gains a title. Again.. three tested phases, long routines and no rewards.. and judged on the dog's look which absolutely cannot show pressure.. it must show drive, power and a joy to work along with compliance and partnership. In this sport if you do well at club level, you can choose to move up to regional level (you can also start at Regional level which us not recommended by many) where the judging is tougher.. and to National level where judging is even tougher (and some national level events requiring a certain score to even enter). For some handlers it is about moving up to higher levels and attaining a spot on the world team and competing internationally.

In both of these demanding sports there seem to be two types of entrants:
There are those who enter because they think the team is ready to trial and the trial is a test of their training.
There are those who enter with trophies and attaining high levels as the goal.

The first entrant may be more about the dog and Training centric.

The second may be more human ego centric.

EITHER reason should not occur at the expense of the dog, who cares nothing about ribbons and bling!

Personally I use the trial as a test to see where my training is, what areas have holes and what I need to work on. The areas of work can include my own trial nerves and how I can work through that without confusing my dog!! So, all that psychology is there too!

An aside (and a consideration) in the breed I have is that trialing and attaining a title is also a breeding worthiness test and, in the Breed's home Country the puppies cannot be registered if the parents have not attained titles AND health tests.

I also think that trialing and competing with a dog is a personal choice.
 

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I read about the 4 quadrants with interest but because of the contradictions? confusion? pointed out in some previous posts stopped spending time over it pretty quickly. What is and isn't positive also seems very individual. For instance, one of the all-positive trainers I've been following is an advocate of head halters, but I believe if the one dog I tried a head halter on could have talked, she would have shouted that she'd rather wear anything else. I'm making that assessment by her attitude and reaction. She had all the recommended conditioning, didn't avoid it or fight it, but produced massive amounts of drool every time.

As to competition, my guess is if you went around the grounds at any trial and polled all participants, you'd get some very different answers. Breeders do it to show temperament and ability of their lines. Trainers do it to demonstrate they have the expertise to advise and teach others. Club members do it to support their club. People like me do it as a hobby, and hobbyists come to it from many different beginnings, but we enjoy getting out and about among other dog people for a day as much as the few minutes in the ring.

My own start was in carting, and I admit I did it for no reason other than I was absolutely besotted with my dog and thought she would look irresistibly fitting with a cart. Rottweilers were historically used as draft animals. What I found was the training and competing produced a bond deeper than I'd ever had with a dog, and that was what hooked me. I don't see myself getting out and training almost every day and training beyond sit, down, come, wait if I didn't do competitive stuff.

As to abuse in the hunt for glory, I saw enough of it to repel me in the horse world. You have to figure that people are willing to take dangerous drugs like steroids themselves to enhance performance, so of course some are equally willing to do ugly things to animals, and I don't know how you eliminate that downside. Education when it's from ignorance. Peer pressure against it. Banishment by organizations when they're caught.

As to particular sports, I agree with 3GSD4IPO - when the only dog competition I was aware of was Obedience, it held no appeal for me. The rigidity put me off. Can't smile at my dog because it would be a second command? Pft. Agility? I started too late in life, and my knees were already too shaky.

However, when I first saw Rally, I thought, "Aha! Something for me." And it was and remains so. A good Rally run is like dancing with the perfect partner. Disappointing runs? There's always something good or funny, and it's always my fault one way or another. As it turns out, once you do enough Rally an Obedience CD isn't much of a step, and then you have an old dog who shouldn't jump and gets gimpy when moving faster than a walk but is upset if she doesn't get her turn at training, and you think, "Hmm. Maybe Nosework." And so it goes, horizons expanding.

For me, if I can't train and handle myself, and if I don't enjoy it and think my dog enjoys it, I'm not doing it, but I also admit if I'm doing it, I want to do it well, and winning is evidence that I've done it well, but it's not like I think the whole world is like me or should be. And it doesn't mean when I say if it doesn't work I'm not continuing to do it I'm running out and buying a cattle prod.

This picture is from my first dog competition ever - carting with my darling dog girl Schara, gone 5 years now. Rottie carting is like Rally with a cart. I was so nervous my hands shook during the hitch and load, but as usual Schara's confident attitude settled me by the time this was taken between required maneuvers:

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