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corvus

Why Is Balance So Good?

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corvus   

I should probably explain that part of my doubt about balanced approaches (meaning using both rewards and punishments to train behaviour - let's simplify it to R+ and P+) came from reading Gray Stafford's book. He made a wishy washy statement that you couldn't be looking for things to reward and looking for things to punish at the same time, and then went on with the usual arguments about relationships and animals scared to offer any behaviour at all.

It was an unsatisfactory argument to me, and no matter how much I wanted to believe it, at the time I wasn't convinced that this could be right for dogs. For wild animals, yes, but even there, you can punish a wild animal every now and then and get away with it. Most animals are a little forgiving if you have a strong relationship based on trust and rewards. But dogs are different. They have been selectively bred by us for thousands of years and they bounce back after we punish them like no other animal does. It's one of the few times I've said, ah, but this is where dogs are different from every other animal.

Anyway, I'm still not convinced that you can't reward and punish without causing your moral integrity to implode, nor that punishing a dog is as dire as punishing, say, a killer whale. However, then I got Erik and cut out a few more punishments I had been leaning on and gave up on negative interruptors, even, and I've been experimenting with keeping the punishments as few and far between as I can whilst remaining sane and protecting the sanity of everyone else in the house (including the rabbit and the hare and Kivi). I found that with all this concentrating on rewarding, I quite forgot about punishing and I didn't even have to consciously remind myself to try something else. So perhaps there's a grain of truth in the first part, although I don't know that it's particularly important in training dogs.

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Aidan   
A 'balanced' approach, though? It seems that every time I've heard that term it's come from a trainer that approaches dogs with a "Bad dog, stop doing that.... oh, good dog, you're doing the right thing now" kind of method.

Same here, it's obviously used quite differently on DOL.

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corvus   
A 'balanced' approach, though? It seems that every time I've heard that term it's come from a trainer that approaches dogs with a "Bad dog, stop doing that.... oh, good dog, you're doing the right thing now" kind of method.

Perhaps I am a balanced trainer then, because I take that approach quite often! I think it can be kind and effective. I just sometimes feel that telling my girl what she's not allowed to do, then letting her do anything else and tell her she's good, is kinder than telling her what to do (reinforcing an incompatible behaviour), since it gives her more freedom.

I think I understand, because what you describe is pretty much exactly the path I chose with Kivi. He is a sweet and happy dog and I think he trusts me a lot. He has fun free shaping, although I think he prefers luring, but that's his personality. When I tell him not to do something with my conditioned punisher, he stops doing it. We get on very well and I don't by any means sit here every day thinking "I've let him down" like I did with Penny (well, not everyday, but on a regular basis).

I couldn't say whether a balanced trainer like I've described above really does communicate better with their dog. I think it depends on the trainer. However, I can say I'm much happier without the conditioned punisher. And I think I personally communicate better with my dog when I concentrate on just one thing rather than trying to give feedback on everything. I'm not a great trainer, but I can usually stack up pretty well against the average person in the street with a dog that is tolerably well behaved. So at the moment I'm like, why do I need to tell my dog what not to do when I can tell him what to do? I always used the conditioned punisher before as a "you can do anything but that" signal, and I wondered how I was going to cope without it. With Erik I've been using positive interruptors. I'm liking it better purely because I'm less lazy about maintaining it. I don't think a conditioned punisher in itself is a bad thing.

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Kelpie-i   
A 'balanced' approach, though? It seems that every time I've heard that term it's come from a trainer that approaches dogs with a "Bad dog, stop doing that.... oh, good dog, you're doing the right thing now" kind of method.

Same here, it's obviously used quite differently on DOL.

Interesting the perceptions of what a "balanced" trainer is.

I think most of the trainers on this board, whatever term they wish to use to describe their methods, will always use, and prefer to use, reward based methods with all the dogs they work with. No one goes up to a dog and thinks "hey what sort of punishment/aversive" will I use on this dog. I think I speak for many when I say, the first thought most trainers think is "what motivates and drives this dog...what rewards will he work for?".

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I couldn't say whether a balanced trainer like I've described above really does communicate better with their dog. I think it depends on the trainer. However, I can say I'm much happier without the conditioned punisher. And I think I personally communicate better with my dog when I concentrate on just one thing rather than trying to give feedback on everything. I'm not a great trainer, but I can usually stack up pretty well against the average person in the street with a dog that is tolerably well behaved. So at the moment I'm like, why do I need to tell my dog what not to do when I can tell him what to do? I always used the conditioned punisher before as a "you can do anything but that" signal, and I wondered how I was going to cope without it. With Erik I've been using positive interruptors. I'm liking it better purely because I'm less lazy about maintaining it. I don't think a conditioned punisher in itself is a bad thing.

Well to me, it sounds kind of like you've answered your own question - for you, and for your dog, right now, balanced is not better. :rolleyes:

My girl is a sweet girl too, but has a lot (as in a lot lot lot, a working line malligator lot) of energy. If I used a positive interrupter, I swear I would continuously be telling her what to do and reinforcing her for doing it whenever she wasn't crated. I'm too lazy for that! And I'm not sure it would be much fun for her.

Plus, I actually quite like being able to tell her clearly that I don't like some things. Constantly interrupting her and asking her to do something else gets the same idea across eventually perhaps, in a much more indirect way. But with some things I think I'd rather be direct (kind, but direct), so there's no question in her mind that they're not approved behaviours in this house.

So for me, and for my dog, right now, "balanced" suits us best. :laugh:

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Aidan   
No one goes up to a dog and thinks "hey what sort of punishment/aversive" will I use on this dog

No, because some of them don't have that sort of imagination. They already know their weapon of choice, they don't need to think about it.

My face to face experience with other trainers is fairly narrow, and being from a small place I won't go into too much detail, but needless to say trainers who rely mostly on force do exist. Speaking more broadly, my experiences with other trainers on-line suggest that this is not isolated to my locale.

The tide has definitely turned though.

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Erny   
Implying that people who are critical of the word have a negative self-image as a trainer is not particularly helpful.

No - that's not what I meant. I told you I wasn't writing well today. Sorry.

What I meant was that if one isn't "balanced" (in the sense that aversives will also be used along with R+) then perhaps some think that means they fall into the "imbalanced" (or is that "unbalanced") category, and don't like the sound of that. I wasn't talking about how they perceive themselves but perhaps how they would not like to be perceived.

Anyway .... it still probably isn't very helpful. :rolleyes:

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Erny   
No one goes up to a dog and thinks "hey what sort of punishment/aversive" will I use on this dog

No, because some of them don't have that sort of imagination. They already know their weapon of choice, they don't need to think about it.

I can't answer for how many of them (some, or many) do this - at least not on an individual basis. Some obedience schools do though (perhaps 'many'). I'm often enough asked what method/s and what training tool I use for training. My answer is always that this depends on the dog, the owner and the circumstances. And I go on to explain that I am versed in many differing methods, that I will use positive where that works, but that I will recommend the use of an aversive if the situation and moment deserves.

The tide has definitely turned though.

You've said this on more than one occasion, Aidan. Do you mean the "tide is turning" to the more positive side of things, or do you mean the "tide is turning" to the more balanced side of things.

There was a time when it felt rife that everyone was into the "we mustn't punish our dogs" mode (and that anyone who did was cruel). IMO people have gone from that to realising that punishment does have its place, so in that respect yes, I believe the tide is turning and I've mentioned that to numerous over the past 12 months or so.

If you're suggesting the tide is turning from too much punishment to reward, that IMO has already been in place for quite a long period of time.

Edited by Erny

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Aidan   
The tide has definitely turned though.

You've said this on more than one occasion, Aidan. Do you mean the "tide is turning" to the more positive side of things, or do you mean the "tide is turning" to the more balanced side of things.

Turned, past tense. It doesn't really matter where to, but it has turned from the days where it was more normal to use force as your first or only option.

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huski   
I think that 'balanced' should mean about 50:50 rewards and punishment.

Only because you chose to in the face of all the explanations here.

Balance :

"Harmony in the parts of a whole".

"To compose or arrange so as to create a state of harmony".

Strike a balance : "To make a compromise".

Balanced :

(of a discussion) "Presenting opposing points of view fairly and without bias" :rolleyes:

So "balance" doesn't have to mean 50/50. But unless you can accept and see the explanations given, you'll not ever understand that perhaps?

I totally agree with this, Erny. To me balanced just means you look at a range of different training methods, not that you apply them all evenly, all the time to each dog. Looking at the definitions above, I can't understand why being balanced could be a bad thing.

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Cosmolo   

Can i also just add a word of caution to where people get their information on particular trainers from- particularly when it comes from one person, an unknown or online source. I have heard descriptions of things that i found terrible for one reason or another and then upon speaking to others who were involved, discoverd that the recount of events was perhaps untrue or at least the initial view i was presented was very one sided or misconstrued.

I am honest with people when they ask and happy to say i would use aversives when appropriate in combination with plenty of rewards. :rolleyes: Everyone i have spoken to has been very happy and somewhat relieved to hear it is not a one size fits all approach.

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corvus   

Well, I am frustrated that there are still only two clicker classes in the whole of Sydney that I've been able to find out about and they are both over an hour's drive from me.

I am relieved that not all trainers I meet automatically put a check chain on dogs and start yanking them around, but disturbed that there are still trainers like this out there teaching people how to train dogs using collar pops. I was talking to a local today about our shire's dog training club and how we were both scared of taking our dogs there due to stories we had heard of their crank and yank style training methods. I also find it sad that even when you think you've found a trainer that uses methods you are comfortable with, two weeks into training you discover they had a different idea of what "positive" means than you do. Somehow.

Can I just point out that I haven't said even my idea of balanced training is bad. I was just under the impression folks thought it was important and I was feeling like I was doing better being UNbalanced.

Incidentally, I don't care at all if people think I'm an unbalanced trainer. I think by my definition of the word I am. :rofl: And I'm comfortable with that.

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Erny   
I was talking to a local today about our shire's dog training club and how we were both scared of taking our dogs there due to stories we had heard of their crank and yank style training methods.

Rather than listening to stories, why don't you go and look yourself. That way you can make an educated and more informed opinion of the school, rather than being scared of it due to what could potentially be chinese whispers or someone else's misinterpretation. Or is it referred to as "crank and yank" simply because it utilises check chains/martingales/collar corrections? I know of some people who oppose collar corrections and refer to any school which adopts them in use, with this derogative term.

I also find it sad that even when you think you've found a trainer that uses methods you are comfortable with, two weeks into training you discover they had a different idea of what "positive" means than you do.

Another good reason to check things out for yourself, beforehand. Listen to what the instructors are teaching, and how they describe and show the use of their methodology.

Then form a decision.

Can I just point out that I haven't said even my idea of balanced training is bad. I was just under the impression folks thought it was important and I was feeling like I was doing better being UNbalanced.

That's good. If it works for you and your dogs, stick with it. Whatever that might be.

Edited by Erny

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AusDog   

To me "Balanced Dog Training" is about maintaining a well balanced dog, not the methods used. A dog that is not overly assertive, nor overly submissive. But a dog that lives in a well structured, consistent and well managed pack. A well balanced dog is one that knows exactly where it fits into it's pack, and doesn't become anxious, insecure or stressed by not understanding its position, or not being able to perdict the consequences of its (or its owners/trainers) actions within the pack due to owner/trainer inconsistencies It's not about balanced training methods per se. "What's a balanced training system?" Is like asking "how long is a piece of string?"

Edited by AusDog

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Tonymc   

As usual, a question has been asked.People reply and the poster replies in a totally unbalanced manner. Tony

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Well, I am frustrated that there are still only two clicker classes in the whole of Sydney that I've been able to find out about and they are both over an hour's drive from me.

I am relieved that not all trainers I meet automatically put a check chain on dogs and start yanking them around, but disturbed that there are still trainers like this out there teaching people how to train dogs using collar pops.

That's so funny, Corvus (not laughing at you, just the situation). When I had my last dog, I was so frustrated that there were no classes locally that would let me keep a pinch collar on my boy, or let me give any sort of collar pop on a check chain or martingale, and kept trying to stuff him into a headcollar (which he hated).

The only class I could find that would let me use a pinch collar would not let me use toys or treats! They were very traditional and only used physical punishment and praise, which was even more unsuitable for my dog than the hands-off-dog-food-only class...

I would love to have found a truly balanced class to attend with him. As it was, we did most of our training at home, and just went back to club to compete.

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Since I am not a trainer so probably qualify as Joe public, from my point of view, the outcome I want is a happy "balanced dog", I don't care if he wins titles, heels perfectly, I want him to live a good, happy life - that is my goal and I suspect the goal of many people who would be classed as Joe public.

The way to achieve that is clearly not the one size fits all method as every individual dog is different (albeit there are obviously some areas of communality), so I would want a trainer who is prepared to use the method that is suitable for me and my dog not someone with an entrenched belief that only one way is the right way.

Also not having years and years of training, I want that achieved in the most efficacious, safe (for me and the dog) way. I don't mean I want it all I want it now, but equally I don't want my dog to continue to live in an unbalanced state if there is a quicker method to resolve the problem safely and without harming my dog.

To give an example, my own dog was an entrenched "chaser", started off with cars, moved to skateboards. I got him at 10 months or so and I am pretty sure the behaviour was hard wired by that stage. I can only describe him as an addict, he can spot or hear a skateboard a mile off and was always in an uncomfortable state of semi-arousal looking for the next trigger. Even though he was on leash the vocalising, lunging etc not only made it unpleasant to walk him and I feared for something to happen.

A year or so on, by a mixture of corrections (not punishment in my eyes) and positive redirection of his prey drive into more acceptable "goals", he is a different dog. The addiction to skateboards has not gone away (I don't think it will) but he knows through the use of corrections, that there will be a consequence if he tries to chase them, so he doesn't he sort of looks as if to say, yeah I am not allowed and moves quickly on. Does he walk around with his tail between his legs, dreading the next correction, no. He strolls along, tension relieved and I truly believe he is a more balanced individual. I also dont believe with my level of skill I could have achieved this on a reward basis only. I could have waived a roasted chicken in his face and he would have chosen the skateboard.

I think my relationship with my dog is better and he is leading a much more stress free life, we don't live our own lives without boundaries, we know that if we drive too fast we will receive a correction (from the police), if we bang our heads against a wall it will hurt (its how we learn) why should dogs be any different - I don't view a correction as punishment, I view it as guidance.

Anyway I guess what I am trying to say, is I care less about arguments about what a trainer calls themselves, I want someone with an open mind, who clearly loves animals, and who gets the best out of my dog using the methods that work best for him.

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corvus   
Well, I am frustrated that there are still only two clicker classes in the whole of Sydney that I've been able to find out about and they are both over an hour's drive from me.

I am relieved that not all trainers I meet automatically put a check chain on dogs and start yanking them around, but disturbed that there are still trainers like this out there teaching people how to train dogs using collar pops.

That's so funny, Corvus (not laughing at you, just the situation). When I had my last dog, I was so frustrated that there were no classes locally that would let me keep a pinch collar on my boy, or let me give any sort of collar pop on a check chain or martingale, and kept trying to stuff him into a headcollar (which he hated).

I guess the problem is inflexible trainers across the board, no matter what methods they use. I think that a lot of people are very committed to their method of choice and genuinely believe it is working even when it is not. My experience with trainers so far has been that they are all like this (although I believe that they are not all like this). Not only are they married to their method of choice, but they don't understand it very well, so they apply it like a sledgehammer and it will usually work after a fashion at least and it will reinforce their commitment to their method. Meanwhile, you have a dog that has been essentially brutalised because it doesn't understand what it is expected to do, whether because it is overly intimidated or because the rewards aren't right or the communication just isn't clear enough.

Having said all that, I honestly believe that trainers that don't understand their own methods very well are at the root of all the bad feelings that make people want to slander each other and and slam methods using emotive language.

I am happy to admit that I'm in love with my methods of choice. I'm finding every time I try something new it works pretty brilliantly and it's very exciting and makes training much more fun for me than it's ever been before. But you have to be able to tell when something is awry and admit it. Normally it's just a matter of fine tuning, but at times I realise I was misinterpreting what was driving a behaviour in the first place, and then it pays to stop and try a whole new approach. I don't call that balanced, either. I just call it flexibility. An open mind is all well and good, but I have my favourite ways to tackle something and I have my limits to what I will do. I don't think that ignoring your own nature makes you a better trainer, but I do think embracing it does.

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Guest rhapsodical78   
Guest rhapsodical78

Greater reliability.

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