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Oddly, I cannot stand doing Rally. It gives me sort of a dog training PTSD.

This comes from a very bad experience with a positive only trainer and a dog that had zero pack drive (and I was way too new at any of this to find a way to develop it). In the class I was not allowed to alter my voice tone and any time the leash was at all taught I was yelled at.. and threatened with being tossed out of the class.

My dog (realizing she could literally do anything) would pick up the rally signs and toss them (this was funny but man it pissed off my R+ only instructor). Of course, tossing the signs around was self rewarding behavior and the more she did it the more she did it. If she was sure I had food she would do things.. at which point she would first offer every trick in her rolodex at lightning speed looking for the click.. THEN do what I asked.. or try to. It was the worst 8 week class of my life.

Straight obedience is challenging IF you want to work a dog in drive. Keeping a dog up and in drive requires a lot of training effort and, often, stepping outside the box. This is where I sometimes revisit the psychology just to see if I can discover something better for the dog. The issue is some judges are punitive when your dog shows drive (but I notice at high levels like Nationals and Crufts the dogs DO show drive).

I have titled in AKC obedience, but after moving up to Schutzhund and IPO (now IGP) and American Schutzhund (which includes nose work which replaces tracking) I have stuck with that. It is VERY demanding and, as you note, judges can interpret anything as a "double command (even looking at your dog). The weakness in this sport is finding a good training helper for protection phase. Finding a good training decoy is so difficult and so expensive (travel, hotels, fees for training and so forth adding up to thousands of dollars a year) that I may walk away from the sport altogether. This crosses my mind more and more. This year will be the tipping point. IF my dog titles and IF someone wants to breed to him and IF I like the female I might take a puppy.. but even in that I am unsure at this point. I love doing the sport. I hate hate hate the financial output. I may just go back to horses.. they are actually less expensive!
 

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Oddly, I cannot stand doing Rally. It gives me sort of a dog training PTSD.

This comes from a very bad experience with a positive only trainer and a dog that had zero pack drive (and I was way too new at any of this to find a way to develop it). In the class I was not allowed to alter my voice tone and any time the leash was at all taught I was yelled at.. and threatened with being tossed out of the class.

My dog (realizing she could literally do anything) would pick up the rally signs and toss them (this was funny but man it pissed off my R+ only instructor). Of course, tossing the signs around was self rewarding behavior and the more she did it the more she did it. If she was sure I had food she would do things.. at which point she would first offer every trick in her rolodex at lightning speed looking for the click.. THEN do what I asked.. or try to. It was the worst 8 week class of my life.

Straight obedience is challenging IF you want to work a dog in drive. Keeping a dog up and in drive requires a lot of training effort and, often, stepping outside the box. This is where I sometimes revisit the psychology just to see if I can discover something better for the dog. The issue is some judges are punitive when your dog shows drive (but I notice at high levels like Nationals and Crufts the dogs DO show drive).

I have titled in AKC obedience, but after moving up to Schutzhund and IPO (now IGP) and American Schutzhund (which includes nose work which replaces tracking) I have stuck with that. It is VERY demanding and, as you note, judges can interpret anything as a "double command (even looking at your dog). The weakness in this sport is finding a good training helper for protection phase. Finding a good training decoy is so difficult and so expensive (travel, hotels, fees for training and so forth adding up to thousands of dollars a year) that I may walk away from the sport altogether. This crosses my mind more and more. This year will be the tipping point. IF my dog titles and IF someone wants to breed to him and IF I like the female I might take a puppy.. but even in that I am unsure at this point. I love doing the sport. I hate hate hate the financial output. I may just go back to horses.. they are actually less expensive!
There's a reason there are so many different kinds of dog competitions. I understand and admire how much training goes into Schutzhund, but in truth I don't even want to see it, at least not the bite work part. And I look at things like Fast Cat and think, "Why?"

It's too bad about that Rally class you took. I walked out of a class once when the instructor tried to do something in spite of my saying several times, "No, don't, she's (my dog) not ready for that." The woman was insisting on trying to blow the dog up by setting one of those battery run moving toys in front of her. I'm ashamed to say I lost my temper and picked that thing up and threw it across the room, but I'm not ashamed of taking my dog out of that class. I don't care if the instructor is certified by God. My dog is my dog, and I'm the one who says what's too much for her.

From the research I'm doing into all positive, I think some people starting off with it don't understand how long it takes, how many layers there are to the process, and how much controlling the environment matters. I think it's in When Pigs Fly where the author admits some of her dogs may never get to competition, but she's happy to be able to train them at all. I've never trialed a dog before 3 anyway, so the time factor wouldn't bother me so long as I was seeing progress.
 

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The irony of a "purely positive" trainer who yells and threatens their human students is real. It'd be funny if it weren't so sad - clearly not someone who really took the whole philosophy of reward-based training to heart, or even understood it to begin with. The issues you describe your dog having - not listening unless they were aware you had treats, cycling through behaviors at random to get a treat instead of listening to the cue - are super common and absolutely something a trainer worth their salt should've been able to very quickly help you improve or eliminate entirely. I'm sorry your experience with Rally and reward-based training there was so awful - there's definitely "professional trainers" of every stripe who have no business taking people's money for the services they provide.
 

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Discussion Starter #24
The irony of a "purely positive" trainer who yells and threatens their human students is real. It'd be funny if it weren't so sad - clearly not someone who really took the whole philosophy of reward-based training to heart, or even understood it to begin with. The issues you describe your dog having - not listening unless they were aware you had treats, cycling through behaviors at random to get a treat instead of listening to the cue - are super common and absolutely something a trainer worth their salt should've been able to very quickly help you improve or eliminate entirely. I'm sorry your experience with Rally and reward-based training there was so awful - there's definitely "professional trainers" of every stripe who have no business taking people's money for the services they provide.
Oh it was OK. It was quite a long time ago and today I know how to do things better. I just won't touch Rally Ob.

I DO use reward based training to teach and when teaching, creating muscle memory and so forth.. building drive.. it works splendidly. In fact, in spite of those who probably think otherwise (because I use aversive tools such as e collar and prong collar and make no excuses for doing so), the great majority of my training IS reward based. I would venture to say it runs 98-100% on any dog that wears either of the aversive tools mentioned above.

Dogs are good associative learners and these two go a little happy dance wiggle butt nutty when I bring those aversive tools out. THEY associate them with "Going to go DO something Fun!" They would not act like that if the training was punishment based. Most training sessions there are no aversive corrections at all.

Reward based training does get results. In teaching using markers and food the dog learns quickly. When I switch from teaching "how to do <something>" to building power and speed I go from food to engagement toy.

In building duration I add a "bridge" to help the dog know "you are doing good, keep it up, marker and reward is coming." The bridge can build drive through anticipation.

The other thing I use are "trial markers" where I routinely reward because they always happen in a trial.

At the start line waiting.. I get focus and will reward. After the second gun shot. After an about turn. After the figure 8 or group when you or the judge says "thank you group/posts" etc.

In an actual trial you can't actually say a bridge word OR mark and deliver rewards. However, if the dog anticipates a reward after trial markers it can help to build anticipation and prevent flat behavior. Again.. all of this is built off of reward based training.

In here I described the use of a "bridge" in training a dog and I find it very useful. I use a word (good) and a facial expression (smile.. though as observant as dogs are I bet a single raised eyebrow would work). Does anyone or everyone use a "bridge?"

I have heard of "bridge" in training young children. Is the term the same psychological tool for dogs and children? I don't know?? I never had children and have as little as possible to do with children... but maybe some of you have.

Does anyone else use anything like trial markers??


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Oh yeah, I didn't mean it as a comment on your current skills, just how poorly the class was run if the teacher was allowing such common issues to happen in the first place, and then go unaddressed to the point where the human students were getting frustrated and not enjoying the class.

I know 'bridging' is used in education to talk about assessing students' weaknesses and tailoring a learning program to, well, 'bridge' those knowledge gaps, but I also wouldn't be surprised if there's a similar concept to a 'bridge' in pedagogy that's about supporting and encouraging kids who are on the right track. Learning theory really is cross-species, we have a communication advantage when it comes to other humans, but the core ideas and concepts we use with dogs can often transfer to other humans, horses, parrots, gorillas, bumblebees... obviously taking into account the behavior differences between species and individuals ('rewarding' primates with eye contact and a smile isn't going to end well), but the bones are all the same.
 
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