DEBATE: Training tools

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Postby amalie79 » June 23rd, 2011, 10:33 am

These?

On a physical basis, the halter is probably the one piece of training equipment that appalls me most - the potential for injuring the dog is simply too high. I'm not talking about snapping the dog's neck or crushing his trachea - I'm talking about soft tissue damage and damage to the spine, particularly the cervicals. At numerous APDT conferences, I've had the opportunity to spend entire days watching trainers and their dogs. Many of these dogs wore head halters, not surprising since APDT attracts many trainers who are interested in humane and positive approaches to training; the head halter is seen as both. What horrified me was the number of people (remember, these are professional trainers and serious dog folks!) who would simply stop at a booth, allowing the dog to drift ahead until he reached the end of the lead and then had his head brought sharply to one side. Watching this repeated over and over again, I began to feel that I was watching people casually moving boats in water - as if the leverage and force made possible by the head halter had little more impact to the object on the end of the lead than a canoe might experience!

NOTHING in the dog's physical construction or his nervous system prepares him for the force of an unexpected, externally directed, sideways and upward movement of the head while his body is still moving forward (sometimes at considerable speed!). For the horse, the leverage is similar but with key differences: the force is directed sideways and downward, and the muscles of the horse's neck are among the most powerful in his body. There is also a considerable difference in force that can be applied to a 1000 lbs. of horse vs. 25-75 lbs. of dog. Interestingly, when working with young horses, ponies and miniature horses, care must be taken in the use of the halter with allowances made for the height difference - knowledgeable handlers do not apply force upwards and sideways, but turn the animal's head in the same plane as would happen with a larger horse.


That's one of the things that bothers me about them. If one of my guys saw a squirrel and bolted, that could be bad.

I tried one on Simon for a couple of walks. He was miserable. And for a dog who was already anxious when out of his element, sensitive, fear aggressive, adding to his stress was no bueno. No, I didn't introduce it as slowly or properly as I should have. I tried it on Robin, just to see how she'd do, and she was ok with it-- not overly upset, but not happy about it. But if I've got a dog that's already scared or sensitive, I'm not sure I want to add anything that might be uncomfortable or in any way aversive in a situation that I'm trying to convince him is the opposite if I have other tools at my disposal. Just my 2cents.
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Postby amalie79 » June 23rd, 2011, 10:35 am

Thanks Michelle! Clearly I had too many windows open in my browser...
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Postby DemoDick » June 24th, 2011, 1:36 am

mnp13 wrote:Erin - I have no idea on the spectrum thing... and quite frankly it's not something that I use on my dog and I don't particularly like the practice either. Does it work? Yes, it gives the desired result, I don't know the specific "why" behind it though.

How it's done? A back tied, or otherwise restrained, dog, is given rapid (usually light) corrections while it's doing something else - a bark and hold, etc - building frustration and drive to get whatever they are looking at.

It's the intentional version of correcting a dog for a bad behavior that ends up increasing the behavior (obviously not the desired outcome for the handler.) Like when we tell people not to correct Dog A for barking at Dog B because over time dog A thinks "every time I see Dog B, I get corrected, so now I'm even madder at Dog B, so I'll carry on even more the next time I see him." Over time, the mis-application of the corrections makes Dog A increasingly dog reactive, instead of the reverse. Or, of course, shuts down the warning - but that's a different discussion.

However, when you want to build the intensity of the bark and hold, you do the same thing (but coupled with praise instead of "stop doing that") so the dog loads from the correction and wants that decoy even more.

So... really it's the exact same thing with the same outcome, but one is the desired outcome and one is not.


What Michelle is describing teaches the dog to associate an environmental cue with a painful stimulus. That's one method of loading a dog into drive with the prong, but actually not the one that immediately popped (ha!) into my head when I was reading this thread.

I will describe it as best I can, but I don't advise anyone actually go out and try this, because it requires a lot of precision and finesse and if you screw it up it's not fair to the dog.

You start by putting the dog into a position of control that he already knows and is rock solid on (down, for example) and give a short burst of *very light*, rapid pops while having him maintain that position and amping him up verbally. It is *vitally* important that the dog NOT view these pops as corrections; he needs to be stimulated by them. If he thinks that he's being corrected for doing what you just told him to, you're just going to confuse him. You help to prevent this confusion by using the lightest possible pops that still load the dog, as well as using encouraging facial expressions and body language to build excitement for what's to come. But he must hold the down during all this. The combination of verbal encouragement cues, annoying corrections and the frustration of holding that down releases adrenaline and puts the dog into a very high level of drive .

I'm not sure where this would fit into the traditional "punishment-reward" framework, if it does at all.

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