My Training Philosophy

I realize that I haven’t really talked much about my training philosophy on this blog. Training my dog is a hobby and a passion for me. It’s both a way for us to bond, and a way to give Brèagha something to do with her brain, so she doesn’t get bored and pester me all day long. I also teach her not to be a nuisance around people and other dogs. While I understand that the things she may do that are annoying to me and others are part of her natural behavior, I also realize the importance of teaching her how to behave in a way that we humans would consider to be appropriate in all different situations; a well behaved dog gets to be part of their human guardian’s life, and in going places with them, gets to explore the world and have a fuller life than a badly behaved dog that has to stay at home all the time because their behavior is annoying or dangerous to others.   But any time we manipulate an animal’s behavior to suite our own preferences, even if it’s for their own good, we raise some important moral questions. How far are we willing to go to get the desired behavior? What methods will we use? Where do we draw the line between humane and inhumane?

There are as many different opinions floating around out there about dog training as there are people in the world I think. There are people who have no problem with using yank-and-crank, strike-and-shock methods to hurt and scare their dogs into robotic obedience, and there are people so far on the opposite extreme that to them, even a little body pressure, (moving into the dog’s space until they back up, or moving into their space to block them from going in a certain direction, for example,) is nothing less than abuse. And there are people in between.

Some people like to get all technical and talk about operant and classical conditioning, some glorifying positive reinforcement and vilifying positive punishment, others arguing that we need all four consequences, (R+, P+, R-, and P-,) to be “balanced” in our training. The discussions get very lengthy and often very heated, and usually people have no idea what they’re talking about, and terminology gets misused and thrown around in confusing ways. For awhile I liked getting technical about it too, but I have come to the conclusion that while all the technical stuff is very interesting, and necessary to know if you are going to be a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist, in general, it’s not terribly helpful to the majority of your typical average dog owners who are just trying to figure out how to get Spot to stop jumping on people. They just need to know what to do, and what not to do. And to be honest, though I rely mostly on R+, with some P-, I don’t think that P+ is necessarily always cruel, since it can vary greatly in intensity, and I have used it before.

I don’t really fit into either extreme, nor would I call myself a “balanced” trainer, since the term is usually synonymous with doing whatever works, regardless of the effect on the dog’s psychological state. I simply draw the line at hurting my dog or causing her distress. If I have to cause my dog pain or distress to get her to do/not do something, then it’s not worth it to me. It’s more important that my dog feel safe with me and see me as someone she can trust than that she be “perfect.” I am the one with the bigger and more sophisticated brain, so surely I can figure out a way to manage or change my dog’s behavior without hurting or scaring her. I don’t think it’s abuse to use body pressure to get a dog to move, or put a little pressure on the leash to guide them away from something that you don’t want them going towards. I do consider it abuse to use shock, choke, and prong collars, or any tool that works by causing pain, or striking/kicking a dog to get the desired behavior. I don’t think there is any situation where it’s necessary to do such things to a dog, nor do I think it’s fair to punish an animal so severely for their lack of understanding of our confusing human rules. I know that I do not learn well or think well when I am stressed or in pain, and I can only assume that it’s the same for my dog. If you put the time, energy, and patience into teaching a dog, in a way that they understand, then I don’t see why you would have to resort to such extreme measures. This doesn’t mean you have to be permissive. Neither pain nor intimidation were employed by my parents to teach me how to behave, and I seem to have ended up knowing right from wrong, what is appropriate and what is not. I don’t generally swear, (if I do, it’s certainly not in public or in front of anybody I don’t know, and it’s usually because I A. stubbed my toe or B. dropped and broke something,) I don’t participate in underage drinking, I consider using drugs to be about the same thing as throwing your brain into dumpster, (I dunnow about you, but I like my brain too much for that stuff,) and I think that most people would describe me as being polite, and probably remark on how “quiet” I am. People are always telling me I’m quiet. I never know how to respond to that. I would say “maybe that’s because you’re loud,” but the good manners instilled in me (in a non-forceful way) by my parents prohibit that.

I heard this abbreviation once, “LIMA,” which stands for “Least Invasive Minimally Aversive,” and I think that pretty much sums up my training philosophy. I try to take the path of least resistance and am overall more concerned with having a good relationship with my dog than having her be robotic in her obedience to me. I’ve been able to teach her how to behave appropriately without using extreme forms of punishment in order to do so, and I never want her to be afraid of me. So I will keep on training the way that I do, and always, always stay open to learning more about dogs, their behavior, and the way they think, (which is super important,) in the hopes that our relationship will never stop growing.

 

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8 thoughts on “My Training Philosophy

  1. “I dunnow about you, but I like my brain too much for that stuff.” Same here, girl! This was an interesting post to read 🙂 I don’t think training animals painfully makes any sense. Wouldn’t that then teach them to fear you instead of respect/obey you…? I don’t know.

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    1. Using pain and/or fear to motivate a dog to obey you can work. After all, if you are in pain or afraid, you are highly motivated to do whatever makes it stop. But it comes with side effects. Eileen and Dogs wrote an extensive post about these side effects, so here is a link if you are the type of person who’s interested in psychology and such. It fascinates me. 😉
      https://eileenanddogs.com/fallout-aversives-punishment-negative-reinforcement/
      It’s not necessary to use pain or intimidation to train a dog, so why would anyone? I’m not sure.
      And yeah, you know how I got my aversion to drugs and addiction? Not because it was beaten or scared into me, but because my parents patiently and thoroughly taught me the effects of these things and all the reasons why I should never go down that path. Kind and patient teaching works on kids and dogs. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True. But yeah, I’m sure it does. Oh that looks like a great article! I love psychology 🙂
        I agree, and I have a similar story – growing up, I saw how drugs negatively affected others, so I easily decided for myself that the cons far outweigh the pros. Definitely!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I like psychology too. I am taking an intro to psych class this semester, and enjoying it a lot.
        I too have personally seen the effects drugs have on people, from a family member unfortunately. The good news is, they are clean now, and I know I will definitely not go down the drugs route knowing what it does to a person.

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  2. Hey Great Article,Thanks. About 4 months ago I bought a dog for the first time in my life (pitbull). But I have some problems with dog training and thinking about hiring a dog trainer online. These dog trainer, my uncle introduced me who had the same problem with his dog and now everything is fine. Do you think it’s a good move to hire a dog trainer? I keep reading good reviews about her but I am unsure if it will still work on me. At this time I can hire this trainer at a very low price,so if possible can you leave me feedback on wether I should do it or not. It would mean a lot coming from an expert in this field.

    The Dog Trainer that my uncle used –
    http://bit.ly/2NH74TZ

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    1. Hey there,
      I am not an expert in dog training, just a pet owner who is passionate about training my dog and learning about dog behavior. I think it’s a good idea to hire a trainer if you’re having problems.
      The trainer you mentioned looks like she may be a good one. She is certified by the CCPDT, which doesn’t endorse or support forceful methods of training dogs. If you’ve done your research, read reviews and such, then I’d say go for it.
      I think this article about dog trainers and transparency is good to read before hiring a trainer.
      https://eileenanddogs.com/2014/10/13/world-dog-training-motivation-transparency-challenge/

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  3. “I don’t really fit into either extreme, nor would I call myself a “balanced” trainer, since the term is usually synonymous with doing whatever works, regardless of the effect on the dog’s psychological state. I simply draw the line at hurting my dog or causing her distress” 🙂 🙂 🙂

    See this is why I like you. There are very few people in the world with that level of basic common sense, logic and reasoning so I’m always so pleased to meet a like-minded sort in that “neither side of the fence but sat in that huge middle bit where all the good stuff comes together” 😀

    I’ve been called out more times than I can remember both with dog and horse people because the one thing I use most and only ever need use is my voice. Granted it can be loud, carries far and wide and when I up the tone and volume it sounds serious no matter what I’m saying – usually “Oi!! Hey hey hey hey!! I’ve never seen a naughtier black and white dog / horse in my entire human life!! Will ring the police if that happens again I’VE NEVER SEEN!!! Give over you big pillock”

    Some people remain adamant it’s harsh and aversive and I shouldn’t “yell” despite trying to explain the difference between yelling and using voice to direct and instruct them.

    The worst my “yell” sounds like is similar to Nicki Oliver in the video where Jilly goes off momentarily just before the 1 min mark and is brought back with a loud “Oi oi oi oi oi!!!”

    Actually first time my daughter saw this she went “My God she has exactly the same “Oi” as you. Not all dogs need this sort loud voice – I have one that MUST be brought back on track using a loud voice and one that must NOT but each on its merit and there’s no right or wrong way regardless.

    Just wish more people exercised common sense and understood that when we start hitting, forcing or keeping animals in a state of fear we’re not training them – just flat out abusing them. There’s no skill whatsoever in that so it’s down to us to find ways of properly training and communicating what we want, expect and need our dogs to know. You get what you give and that applies to most things in life but especially with animals.

    That’s why Bree is a diamond 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I kind of wish Brèagha responded to yelling, then I wouldn’t just be shouting to no effect when she finds something to eat up ahead and I’m getting het up because I don’t know what it is. I need to actually teach her to “leave it,” lazy me I’ve never gotten around to that. Kind of humorous I imagine to see me running to catch up to her going “drop it leave it drop it leave it drop it leave it aaaahhh Brèaghaaaaa!”

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