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Mark's Dog Blog

Punishment, the evil word in dog training

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I am becoming very bored with the statement, " we don't need to use violence to train a dog " The positive-only and force-free (PO/FF) groups say that their training follows the principles of canine behaviour, and that all dogs are instinctively looking to please us, so there is no need to use 'violence'. The term 'violence' in dog training and behaviour modification has become the PO/FF training catch phrase. According to these groups, anyone that uses any type of force or an applied aversive, in otherwords physical punishment, are relying on violence to train a dog. If this statement wasn't so serious, it would honestly be laughable. How did the term punishment become synonymous with violence? Appropriate punishment when carried out correctly is not a voilent act. Let me run through each of the points raised in the above image: It inhibits learning - If this was indeed a true statement, then how have animal...
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We all want to avoid discomfort

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Consistency is the biggest hurdle for most dog owners when it comes to being successful at training their dog or modifying its behaviour. It's not a question of "how long will it take for my dog to learn?" It's how many repetitions will it take. The more repetitions a method takes, the less likely we will maintain consistency for the extended period required, especially if the dogs behaviour is causing us discomfort, whether that be physical, mental or emotional discomfort. Humans by nature in most cases are not that patient. Therefore a method can be the determining factor on the number of repetitions, and therefore the probability of its overall success. In this article I am discussing a dog that is assertively demanding attention, not a dog that has learnt to 'ask' for attention by gingerly jumping up. Understanding the dogs intent behind its actions is very important, when determining...
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The good dog bad dog that isn't, and what the future holds

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KISS I am one that believes in keeping things simple, and easy to understand. Dog training and behaviour, due to so much scientific research has become so complicated due to so many scientific terms for every single action and reaction. KISS ( k eep i t s imple s tupid), and explaining it in terms that everyone understands and can picture in their own mind, and relate to in normal life, is the best way to help dog owners understand and quickly take in information. Carrying on with terms like 'conditional reinforces' only tends to complicate matters, and has many dog owners switching off due to training becoming to technical. So lets have a simple explanation of good dog, bad dog, that is easy to relate to and understand, and what the future may possibly hold for dog ownership if we don't understand and adhere to these principles.   Good...
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Dog trainers selling snake oil - part 2

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My previous article titled " Dog trainers selling snake oil " had me thinking a lot about other areas I feel unsuspecting dog owners are being sold the dreaded snake oil. I also know that that article didn't go down well with a lot of dog trainers, so I am sure this one will have the same effect. So be it. I have been around long enough to know what is and is not possible, and when unsuspecting dog owners are being sold a lie. One of the biggest cons these days are the dog trainers advertising that they have the magic method that will solve all of a dog's behaviour problems with just one visit, they will 'fix' your dog in 3 hours, and guarantee it! I find this a lot with many of the franchise businesses now operating, offering a lifetime guarantee with a 2 to 3 hour...
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Dog trainers selling snake oil

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Your dog is not a robot! Reliable does not mean guaranteed!   No matter what you are training your dog to do, and no matter what training methodology or tool you subscribe to, there is no such thing as a 100% fully trained dog.   For example, any trainer that informs you that once he or she has trained your dog that they can guarantee your dog will recall off lead every time in any given situation, or under any distraction, or instantly respond to a command every single time, is selling you a lie for no other reason than to take your money. They are selling snake oil to dog owners in desperate need of help.   You can guarantee one day when you least expect it, the training will fail you and your dog, and it doesn't matter what methodology or tools your dog was trained with. There...
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Road rage, not just a human condition

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Anxiety paired with frustration are the major triggers for leash aggressive dogs. If you have a reactive dog, then it is more than likely he is a lead puller, that is intensely focused on everything else but YOU. Walking the anxious dog Anxiety------> held back on leash------> triggers opposition reflex response------> triggers frustration = AGGRESSION Let's look at this issue from a human perspective. You have an important meeting to attend. You are running late because you have misplaced some important documentation that you must take. You are rushing around the house checking all the places you feel you may have left it. You are running more and more late... You are becoming more and more anxious, feeling you are not going to make your important appointment on time. Finally, you find the documentation, you look at your watch... running 15 mins late... You rush out to the car overly...
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Dealing with aggression

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Dog owners need to stop listening to all the rubbish. Behaviours need consequences, and especially for aggression. All this rubbish that using counter-conditioning techniques, redirecting on to a treat, or keeping the dog below threshold , will stop extreme cases of aggression, is lunacy. Keeping a dog below threshold so that the aggressive response is not triggered is nothing more than avoiding the trigger, which is almost impossible to do in society unless we lock the dog away and give it no quality of life. By avoiding a behaviour being triggered, we have no way to extinguish it. First rule: A dog cannot learn what behaviour to avoid unless it is actually in the process of displaying the unwanted behaviour. We catch the dog at threshold (and not allow it to go too far over) and then punish the aggressive response. If we allow the dog to become overly aroused...
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Enforced Discipline

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If you don't subscribe to the theory that behaviours should have predictable consequences (especially unacceptable behaviours), then how can you be sure your dog will make the right choices that ensure a harmonious and well-balanced relationship, or indeed one that is even safe? You can't! A dog left to itself will always choose behaviours that are 'self-serving' in that moment, and not what's best for the family unit or the current social environment it finds itself in. Your dog could care less if its behaviour affects you negatively if the behaviour itself is self-rewarding for the dog. This is why enforced discipline is so important. It's guiding the dog to make the correct choices that benefit the social group as a whole. Ignoring a behaviour or trying to only teach an alternative behaviour is not enforced discipline. By relying on this methodology all we can hope is that no motivator...
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To truly help a dog, don't become attached to a tool or method

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Whenever I go into a client's home, I never go in with a preconceived notion that I am going to use a particular method or tool.  My number one focus is to first understand the underlying cause for the behavioural issue, and what the triggers are. Important in this observation is what type of relationship the owner has with their dog and then I work from there. I realise I do express myself strongly about positive-only and force free methods. However, these feelings are directed at those that are not willing to step outside their box and open their eyes to other methods, or that continually accuse trainers that have a more open and balanced approach as being abusive. Or if their 'method of choice' is not successful, they tend to blame the dog or owner, instead of accepting that other methods may be more appropriate for this particular case....
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The lie about science-based training methods, and pushing half the science

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When a dog trainer advertises them self as a rewards based trainer, what they are indicating is that they use positive reinforcement to mark appropriate behaviours. There is not one training method that is not rewards based, whether you are a positive-only trainer, a force-free trainer, or have a more balanced philosophy about training. It doesn't matter if you use food, toy, play or praise as your reinforcer, they are all used in training to reinforce a behaviour in that moment. Reinforcers' have different value level to a dog. Some dogs love to work for their owner's approval and attention. Other dogs work better for a stronger motivator such as food.The fact is, that no matter what your preferred method, you cannot successfully train a dog without using positive reinforcement.   Many positive-only and force-free trainers will falsely advertise that balanced trainers are punishment-based trainers and that they are reward-based...
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Latest Blogs

01 October 2017
Training & Behaviour
I am becoming very bored with the statement, "we don't need to use violence to train a dog" The positive-only and force-free (PO/FF) groups say that their training follows the principles of canine behaviour, and that all dogs are instinctive...
13 August 2017
Training & Behaviour
Consistency is the biggest hurdle for most dog owners when it comes to being successful at training their dog or modifying its behaviour. It's not a question of "how long will it take for my dog to learn?" It's how many repetitions will it take. Th...
02 August 2017
Training & Behaviour
KISS I am one that believes in keeping things simple, and easy to understand. Dog training and behaviour, due to so much scientific research has become so complicated due to so many scientific terms for every single action and reaction. KISS (ke...
31 July 2017
Training & Behaviour
My previous article titled "Dog trainers selling snake oil" had me thinking a lot about other areas I feel unsuspecting dog owners are being sold the dreaded snake oil. I also know that that article didn't go down well with a lot of dog trainers, so ...
30 July 2017
Training & Behaviour
Your dog is not a robot! Reliable does not mean guaranteed!   No matter what you are training your dog to do, and no matter what training methodology or tool you subscribe to, there is no such thing as a 100% fully trained dog.   ...