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I have recently been challanged on my classification of herding breeds as "soft". So now I am wondering how others define the term. What breeds do you consider soft?

Just to clarify, I am talking about temperment, not fur texture. :)
 

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A soft dog to me is a dog who remembers unpleasant experiences, they are more sensitive to corrections, they don't take an unfair correction well. Usually more handler dependent and easier to train and manage.

As opposed to a hard dog who will do the same thing over and over even if the result is negative, these dogs take an unfair correction well but often need more corrections to get the point. These dogs are usually very handler independent and can be harder to manage and train.

ETA I have one of each and they both bring good qualities to the table, softer dogs are easier as long as you know what you are doing, harder dogs are more fun to work with but they can challenge you at every step.
 

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White Shepherds are generally soft dogs. Soft, as in sensitive, gentle, not taking harsh words or corrections well, quite easily emotionally shaken if not managed well. I guess I'm a 'soft' person as well, so I like soft dogs. They suit me.
 

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I consider dogs soft as Avie has suggested - sensitive, shaken if not managed well. From my experience some herders are soft, and some absolutely are not. I've yet to own a soft Border Collie or Bordier Collie mix. I've owned many soft Rough Collies and Farm Collies. I consider Shelties soft, but have known one I'd consider hard.

Every Spaniel I've owned has been soft. The Terriers I've owned/known have absolutely not been. My Husky was also soft.

I tend to like dogs right in the middle between soft and hard but if they are to edge toward one way I don't want it to be toward hard. :)

ETA I have one of each and they both bring good qualities to the table, softer dogs are easier as long as you know what you are doing, harder dogs are more fun to work with but they can challenge you at every step.
I would say the same.

SOB
 

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What Avie said. Soft dogs are sensitive. They also tend to be people dependent. I think of the Aussies we've had and tend to class them as soft dogs. My mixed mutt stray was a soft dog. not a smart dog, but defiantly a soft dog.
 

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I'm not sure it's really so much of a breed thing as an individual thing. I've known very hard BC's and very soft BC's. Same for Aussies. Most goldens and labs I know aren't too hard. Those are probably the only breeds where I know enough individuals to make any generalizations.

A soft dog to me is a dog who remembers unpleasant experiences, they are more sensitive to corrections, they don't take an unfair correction well. Usually more handler dependent and easier to train and manage.

As opposed to a hard dog who will do the same thing over and over even if the result is negative, these dogs take an unfair correction well but often need more corrections to get the point. These dogs are usually very handler independent and can be harder to manage and train.
Very interesting. The unbolded parts I definitely agree with, but I'm not so sure about the bolded parts. Is a soft dog really easier to train than a hard dog? Are hard dogs really more independent? I'm curious to know what others think about this.

By this definition, I don't exactly know how to describe Kit. She's oozes confidence, and often doesn't even interpret corrections as such, which would make her hard. But independent she is not. She's extremely biddable, very focused on people, and clingy enough that off leash hiking is no problem, which would make her soft.
 

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Yeah, I sort of echo what GLM said.

All of my dogs are sensitive, take corrections of any kind to heart, and remember every negative experience. Yet they are independent and not easy to train because they are also stubborn. I find them tons of fun to train because I have to problem solve to find their motivators, and once I get them "on my side," they really LOVE to work for me. But they will challenge me, which I also find fun. I have to keep things interesting for them, and that, in turn, keeps it interesting for me.

I'm not sure how sensitive a dog is directly correlates to how easy they are to train/how handler-oriented they are. I think it's more the individual dog that determines that.
 

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A soft dog to me is a dog who remembers unpleasant experiences, they are more sensitive to corrections, they don't take an unfair correction well. Usually more handler dependent and easier to train and manage.

As opposed to a hard dog who will do the same thing over and over even if the result is negative, these dogs take an unfair correction well but often need more corrections to get the point. These dogs are usually very handler independent and can be harder to manage and train.

ETA I have one of each and they both bring good qualities to the table, softer dogs are easier as long as you know what you are doing, harder dogs are more fun to work with but they can challenge you at every step.
Agree to this statement.

I am glad that when I was looking to get an Anatolian I did not listen to a co-worker. She told me these dogs were hard headed and not trainable. I would classify mine as a softee. You can't be rough with her or she will shut down. Praise and more praise is what works for her. Totally a strick positive enforced training regiment with her. I am glad I did not listen or I would have missed out in one of the best dogs I have ever owned.
 

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I'm not sure how sensitive a dog is directly correlates to how easy they are to train/how handler-oriented they are. I think it's more the individual dog that determines that.
Funny, we both arrived at the same conclusion, even though our dogs are in opposite quadrants of the little table I've built in my mind.

I'm still thinking about this question. The dogs I know best are all sports dogs, so my perspective is probably a bit skewed. From what I've observed in that venue, the most confident, least sensitive dogs may be the easiest to train, rather than the hardest. A dog who remembers every bad experience (for example, teeter makes a loud bang) or who reacts to every little thing (for example, an onlooker holding a screaming child) or who doesn't recover well (for example, the handler makes a small handling mistake so the dog messes up every subsequent move) will be difficult to train. Some people may have that kind of patience, but I've known too many frustrated dog sports enthusiasts to wish that on anyone.

Certainly hard dogs come with their own challenges: I remember back when I was working on start-line stays, my instructor told me that if Kit started hopping forward in anticipation of the release, I should "take the space back" - in other words, get in her face and inch forwards, pushing her back (not physically, but by invading her space). I tried it and she barked bloody murder at me. I've also been known to use "time-outs" (lose your turn), even when doing sports, because weaker corrections often don't get through. Still, my preference for sports is a very confident dog, motivated by everything.
 

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IME, I would say sighthounds are VERY soft.

Jen
 

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Soft dogs can be confident, I have a soft dog and training in IPO right now, the dog has loads of confidence/nerve, you just have to keep in mind her softness when training her. If you are going to correct her you better have your timing right.. but if you do have it right it goes much quicker because she will remember the correction and avoid it at all costs.

My harder dog will try different things to get around the correction instead of just doing what he was taught, he is constantly trying to play mind games with me and sike me out lol..... he is more fun but more frustrating for sure. He is more of a character and more independent because he uses his own brain more to figure things out. the negative experiences don't phase him and he will test the bounderies often, I think these dogs are more difficult when training in a sport like mine especially for new people... but these are the types of dogs the people with lots of experience look for because the end result is more impressive with a dog like this, they just bring more power and natural aggression.

My experience with these traits comes from training in bite work sports, I hope that it makes sense?
 

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I sometimes waffle on soft/hard, but having said that...

Pip is about as soft as they come. An intimidating body posture or a harsh verbal correction can break his heart into a million tiny pieces. Generally he is very easy to train because he is very handler oriented and a natural orbiter, but on the other hand he is not always a confident dog (he mostly doesn't care for unfamiliar things), he easily gets worried by distractions, and he doesn't always recover from handler mistakes quickly. Once you've lost him, you need to make up and pump him up a little bit if you're going to continue to work. He's seven now, and over the years I've learned how to be soft and patient with him when I'm actually frustrated inside, but it's not always easy.

On the other hand, I would call Squash hard. He can sometimes be challenging because he is a total clown and he can be stubborn, but at the end of the day he really is incredibly easy to train and work with because he's easy to motivate, very smart, picks things up very quickly, he'll try anything, and he recovers almost instantly from handler mistakes or distractions. If he's goofing off or slacking off or pushing the boundaries*, it's annoying but it's not very hard to get him back and verbal or even leash corrections have no lasting effects on him. I enjoy working with him the most of all of my dogs, he's the most fun. (*Here's an example of pushing the boundaries: He's in a down-stay in class and not supposed to be visiting another nearby dog. Instead of breaking outright, he realllll slowly and sneaky "stretches" and... oh, look at that, when he's done stretching he's ended up at his full, substantial length and while still technically in a down-stay, he can now reach the other dog. Attack; counter-attack.)

Maisy is a weird amalgamation of a lot of different traits, I don't even know what to call her. She's extremely distractible especially around other dogs, but when you have her attention she is very smart and focused. She's generally very confident, but occasionally extremely insecure. She's incredibly sweet, but she's a tough cookie, too. Her reaction to corrections depends entirely on what she's doing at the time from not even noticing to wilting. She's the most challenging dog I've ever had as far as training goes, it's exhausting sometimes to get through a class with her mostly because of her distractibility around other dogs, but it's satisfying, too.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks everyone! Now I understand why I didn't quite understand the technical definition of soft, since it seems everyone has their own slight variation of the meaning. I also realize that I was considering the "really attentive to their handler's desires" aspect and overlooking the "very sensitive to correction" aspect of softness. I also considered it a breed specific, or even group specific, trait. I definitely think I have a better grasp of the concept now.

I was basing my definition off of my Sheltie, Valen. I swear, if I just thought hard enough about what I wanted him to do, he'd figure it out. I think he handled correction pretty well, but it's kind of hard for me to judge, since I really had no idea what I was doing when training him. I accepted a lot of undesirable stuff from him as "That's just the way he is" and didn't work nearly hard enough with him.

I came to my conclusion that Herding Breeds are soft because Valen was soft, and since he was a Herding Breed, they must all be soft. My Logic professor would be so disappointed in me!
 

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I think incredibly soft dogs are one of the hardest to train, and certainly NOT the easiest. Rose is very very very soft. Training her is much more difficult than it is training the others. You are constantly having to build her confidence up and you cannot (I mean absolutely can NOT) use anything other than a very happy happy voice. Any inclination that she has that she might not being doing the right thing, she wilts. That's really hard for me to train.

Some people thrive on training dogs like her though. I really think it's more of an individual thing (both the handler and the dog). I like a happy medium, personally.
 

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I consider Jubel a very hard dog but he is very biddable, smart, and handler oriented. Physical or verbal corrections don't phase him a bit emotionally, if he understands what it is I didn't want him to do AND the 'bad' thing isn't SuperFunAwesomeSauce in his opinion he'll quickly stop it. If it IS SuperFunAwesomeSauce I'll have to really work on it with him with lots of repetitions and high value rewards. He really WANTS to please me but he does take his own desires into account too if we have conflicting ideas, his hound stubbornness I guess.

He's very confident and happy, he can be easily startled but always quickly recovers and goes to check out the offending sound/sight/object.

Due to his extreme food motivation and bidability I'd say he's very easy to train but I also don't have another dog to compare him with. Just my experience of rarely having any significant issues teaching him anything and I'm a first time dog owner. Personally I think I'll always prefer hard dogs.
 

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I would say Biscuit is soft in that she is very sensitive and gentle. I could tell from the beginning that training her the way my parents trained their Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, or the way we trained the terrier mix I used to live with, would not work at all. This is a dog who came to us afraid to go to the bathroom on a leash when we could see her; it seemed obvious that her previous owners had done something to make a bad impression that stuck. My husband opened an umbrella near her suddenly once and startled her, and she was scared of anything resembling umbrellas for months (including, no joke, a large mushroom). I shudder to think what would happen if we put a pinch collar on her or tried to alpha roll her. Some dogs just can't handle harshness.

That said, she's always been very easy to train, almost as easy to train as my parents' bird dog, because like most retrievers she's eager to please and food motivated. She's a poster girl for positive reinforcement training. So I tend to think that biddability/ease of training are separate traits from softness/hardness of temperament, albeit closely related.
 

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I think incredibly soft dogs are one of the hardest to train, and certainly NOT the easiest. Rose is very very very soft. Training her is much more difficult than it is training the others. You are constantly having to build her confidence up and you cannot (I mean absolutely can NOT) use anything other than a very happy happy voice. Any inclination that she has that she might not being doing the right thing, she wilts. That's really hard for me to train.

Some people thrive on training dogs like her though. I really think it's more of an individual thing (both the handler and the dog). I like a happy medium, personally.
Softness is not connected with confidence, a soft dog can have or lack confidence and a dog who lacks confidence and nerve is incredibly hard to train and manage.
 

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The 1960s use of hard and soft was popularized by William Koehler in a number of his books, if I recall correctly. It was a rough description of sensitivity to harsh methods and punishment (P+). It was not related to trainability.

If you yell at some dogs or hit them, they will collapse and not respond to your 'anger.' They need a softer hand - in that philosophy. On the other hand, some dogs don't pay attention, are too distracted and you need to be more forceful to get a response - in that philosophy.

By that definition, I might call my dog a Hard dog, because if I hit him or yell at him, he thinks I'm playing (usually correct).

As a ridiculous example, if you slap a 120 lb Pitbull, he will look at you. If you then yell at him (if he doesn't eat you), he will duck his head, because you hurt his feelings. He will then go sulk. That's a soft dog. On the other hand, if you hit a Lab, he will look at you and then lick you so that you can't yell at him. If you yell at him, he may bow his head for a moment, then he will turn and beat you with his wagging tail.... that's not a soft dog.

I hope no one reading this topic believes that they need to use hard methods ....
 

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I consider Jubel a very hard dog but he is very biddable, smart, and handler oriented. Physical or verbal corrections don't phase him a bit emotionally, if he understands what it is I didn't want him to do AND the 'bad' thing isn't SuperFunAwesomeSauce in his opinion he'll quickly stop it. If it IS SuperFunAwesomeSauce I'll have to really work on it with him with lots of repetitions and high value rewards. He really WANTS to please me but he does take his own desires into account too if we have conflicting ideas, his hound stubbornness I guess.

He's very confident and happy, he can be easily startled but always quickly recovers and goes to check out the offending sound/sight/object.

Due to his extreme food motivation and bidability I'd say he's very easy to train but I also don't have another dog to compare him with. Just my experience of rarely having any significant issues teaching him anything and I'm a first time dog owner. Personally I think I'll always prefer hard dogs.
You just described my Zoey almost perfectly!! Except she still has that silly puppy bouncy happiness that makes her easier to persuade that my ideas are more fun...for now!

Luke on the other hand...very soft. A wrong look in his direction will send him hiding into a corner. I would say that he was easy to train because he is extremely biddable, tries so hard to do his best. But I do feel like I am constantly reassuring him that he is a good boy. It's proving to be slightly difficult to correct Zoey (hard) without hurting Luke's (soft) feelings. I correct the puppy with an ah-ah and Luke looks at me like the world just ended.

Where Luke is hard to train is his "lack of confidence." When he's scared of something, he's scared and it can be hard for him to get over that. Zoey might get startled by something, and then is running to check it out. But I know for sure that Luke will always have a better recall than Zoey. I'm finding it very interesting learning and training with these 2 totally different dogs.
 

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As opposed to a hard dog who will do the same thing over and over even if the result is negative, these dogs take an unfair correction well but often need more corrections to get the point. These dogs are usually very handler independent and can be harder to manage and train.

more fun to work with but they can challenge you at every step.
This describes my Giant Schnauzer to a "T".... however she is somewhat dependent on me and shadows me everywhere, easy off lead as she has to keep me in sight as she gets anxious if she cant see me....
 
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