Clicker training with some corrections?

Discussion in 'General Dog Training' started by welshherder, Jan 12, 2009.

  1. welshherder New Member

    I have trained my BC mostly using clicker training and positive training. She will be three years old in a few months. I taught her basic commands and obedience with the clicker so at Obed class she already knew all the commands she was to learn there. All new obed. rally and agility, tricks etc. are taught positively usually with a clicker and either treats or a verbal marker and a toy. However, there have been a few things that we have not been able to overcome. We recently started seeing a new trainer. She uses positive training for the agility aspects but will do corrections for basic manner issues. The corrections are only used after the dog has a clear understanding of what is wanted and they are making a conscious choice to do something else. She will correct for recalls, not staying with the owner and walking on leash without pulling, and biting. Well we don't need to worry about the biting thing, but what do you all think of the others. We are using a prong for walking and corrections to stay with me and walk nicely. When she doesn't come when called she gets a scruff shake a stern talking to and then I step away and give her another chance to make the correct choice and I call her again and she usually comes then. She is a border collie and I have had many stock dog people tell me that if I am ever going to put her on sheep she will need to learn how to take a correction as she will inevitably get one somewhere along the line while working sheep. I understand this and that does make sense, she does take a correction well. While I wanted to remain purely positive in my training with her, I have to admit we have seen leaps and bounds of progress in the last few weeks since trying these new methods. We have gotten over hurdles that have troubled us for the past three years. Has anyone else combined these kinds of things, or is it very confusing for the dog. I guess part of it is that through the corrections and making sure I keep things black and white for the dog I have become a better leader. Any thoughts on this would be great.

  2. snooks Experienced Member

    I have combined them since I started out as a traditional trainer but am now reward based. My perspective is a little different-not that there is a right or wrong for every dog and trainer. When I thought that my dog made decisions not to do what I asked, I talked with a positive trainer about it. With her help I was able to realize I'm in competition with the world. If the dog doesn't do as I ask it's because I'm not as rewarding or interesting as something else. When I can figure out how to be more interesting like introducing a toy instead of just food, stop and go aside for some mini fun obedience or focus, take a break for a massage etc I will get my dogs attention and she will choose me over the other things.

    In my experience it was confusing and esp since my 4yo is a shy dog it introduced fear or anxiety into and environment (training) where it is detrimental. Anxiety causes the avoiding, scratching, walking away, not listening and can all be interpreted as choosing not to do things. The dog may be really throwing very good appeasement signals or anxiety signals. Is there something else like a ball or toy or tugging you can do between times you are working to use her instincts to work with you? I suggest that over correction simply because it worked for me and it made sense. If there is a choice I would also rather try the non-punitive one first. BC's are pretty sensitive too so take that into account when making your decision. It sounds like you don't really like the punishment and that's why you're asking. Explore all the alternatives, and there probably are 20 or so you could try if you're inventive.

    Good luck. I hope that helps. :dogsmile:
  3. CollieMan Experienced Member

    Wow, a tough call. I shall start by saying that I am not singularly pro or anti any particular training method or regime. I think it is far better to construct training towards the individual dog, the handler, and the situation.

    In a perfect world, we would all use exclusively reward-based, so-called positive training. However, it's not a perfect world, we are not perfect people, dogs are not perfect creatures, and I have no right to infer that any method (ruling our physical cruelty) is more or less positive or negative than another.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the keeping things black and white, or consistent as I prefer to view it. I have learnt that many problems arise from us not being consistent in what we expect from the dog. A friend of mine is a security-dog trainer and they have a golden rule that is always applied to each instruction. They will ask the dog to do it the first time, if that fails, they will tell the dog to do it on the second time, and if that fails, then they physically make the dog do it. In that situation it works as the dog learns that it might as well avoid the physical manipulation and carry out the task on the first attempt. However, these dogs are imported from around the world precisely because they have the character to put up with such a regime.

    As snooks rightly points out, Border Collies (I own one too) can be notoriously weak in nerve. If I were to use a more robust training regime on my own BC, I would break her very quickly.

    I was most concerned about the description you apply to the stern talking to and the shake of the scruff when the dog doesn't come to you. I see this as potentially counter-productive to the relationship between you and your dog. For a start, I can't imgine a single reason or benefit to give a dog a stern talking to. It just makes no logical sense when you reason it out. The dog doesn't understand English and any malice in tone can only serve to make the dog less inclined to be around you. The prong collar is another dubious addition for me too, but I don't know your dog or your situation so it's really not my call. But I would be willing to bet that I could get your dog loose-leash walking without using a prong-collar. While other options are available to me, I prefer not to take choice away from the dog. I want it walking with me because it's learnt that it pays it to do so, not because it's learnt that it hurts it not to.

    That said, there was a time when my young puppy wouldn't leave the house and so I had no objection to pulling it along on the leash over the threshold. I needed to do this only twice to solve the issue. I also used the Winifred G. Strickland of getting her to sit when she seemed to forget (tapping her rear ever so slightly to remind her which body part she needed to be removing). So, as you can see, I'm not always click, click, click.

    The bottom line is that if it works for you and your dog, and it's not physical cruelty then give it a go. Just be aware of how easy it is to buckle some Border Collies to the point where they break down completely and irreversibly. I would hate to see that happen as it sounds as though you've already done some incredible things with your dog, and built up a lot of trust.

    I wonder, does your new trainer come from a sheep-dog background? They are often a little more robust in their training methods than trainers from other fields. I know of someone who had recently spent a great deal of money to take her dog for some sheepdog training for a few days in Scotland. When she got there and realised just how robust the training was, she left and wasted all that money. That's not to say I disagree with what they do, but I'm not sure the same level of discipline needs to be applied outside of the field.
  4. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    No no no no....lol, sorry. Being a good leader is fantastic, and it is indeed important that you know how to be one. It's good that you've learned this. But the problems you're running into can be solved other ways. The right trainer can teach you how to solve these problems with positive methods. Certain corrections are not all that "bad" in my view but I don't use them. Prong collars are one of my biggest pet peeves---I see it as the trainer being too lazy to train the dog(this is NOT an insult on you, please understand). There are many ways to leash train your dog and I have never once had a dog who "needed" a prong collar. Yes, your trainer will instruct you to put it on your arm and tug, proving it doesn't hurt. Forgive me, but bull crap. Put one on your neck and see how it feels. High on a dog's neck is even worse. It's painful.

    The biggest thing I look for is not improvement with corrections, but the dog's body language in response to the corrections. Just because the dog does what you want doesn't mean they are comfortable with it. It may be tiny signs--a slight muscle tension for a split second, the ears falling back, etc. As has been mentioned, Border Collies are sensitive dogs and can easily regress in rough hands. I have worked with many and own two, all using positive training methods even for a wide variety of behavior problems(herding, aggression, etc). I have never had to use corrections on a BC. I had several other trainers suggest them, but these dogs easily overcame their issues through positive training methods and they went home to extremely happy owners. If your dog is consistently having trouble in training sessions doing recalls, then perhaps there is something in that situation that she isn't comfortable with. (A certain dog, the correction trainer, or who knows what else.) I am a firm believer that if a dog is not doing a behavior they know to do, then either the trainer is doing something wrong or there is some kind of negative association with the behavior.

    I too believe that the type of training should revolve around the dog's personality, but still in my experience I have never needed to use corrections for any behavior problems. My rescued BC was neglected for the first three years of her life---this led to food aggression. Through positive training ONLY, she is perfect now and I could sit my teacup chihuahua in her food bowl and her tail will wag and she's fine with it. My Rottie mix has dog aggression issues, which we have only used positive training to fix. He's improved leaps and bounds and is doing wonderful. My BC/ACD has always been extremely timid and has had some fear aggression issues. Fixed with positive reinforcement. Granted, he still has room to improve, but timid dogs are difficult to work with and take lots of time to improve. I recently trained an 8-month-old BC who had a severe herding problem and a very short attention span. Her owners had brought in a variety of trainers who had tried corrections and many other things, to no avail. None of them understood that she needed positive training and that they had to be much more interesting than the outside world. When she left me, she knew all her basics, how to walk properly, and no herding issues---I never corrected her, ever.

    If your dog isn't listening the first time, be more interesting. BCs are also great at motion tricks---so if you've been working on come over and over and over again, your active little girl is probably quite bored with it. Work on spins or leg weaves or jumps or whatever. Then go back to the come. If she doesn't respond to the command, pretend she doesn't know it. Go back to the beginning. Dogs often need a reminder in distracting environments---this means going back to the beginning. Early in training(your dog is fairly early in training still) dogs may need reminders. If I take Mud to Petsmart on a really busy day and she starts to pull, I'll either stop and give my command for coming back to my left side, or I will turn around and walk away--just as she was originally trained. She always improves immediately. It's simply the excitement of the busy store with so many dogs and people. That's a fairly big distraction. I can't correct her for being distracted. That's like beating a kid for forgetting how to do multiplication when he hasn't known it all that long.

    Clickers will also work well for her. As CollieMan also mentioned, I have used the little rear tap for a dog not paying attention to the sit. Mud's done a small amount of sheep work(not TRIALS, but more like farm work) and I've used only positive training. She's great. If she did something she shouldn't when we were training off-leash(usually because she got overexcited), all I did was call her back to me and do some tricks or heelwork to chill her out, then send her back out again. Rusty, my Rottie mix, also has done some work with sheep and also was only taught with positive methods. He's almost as good as the BCs, lol!

    Corrections teach the dog to do the behavior "OR ELSE." Not because they want to please you or they want to please themselves, but rather just to avoid the correction. No matter how much they seem to be "improving," they're working out of fear of the correction. I want a dog who walks well because he respects me, or performs commands because he wants to and it's a positive experience---NOT because if he doesn't I'm going to jab some prongs in his neck or shake him.

    My apologies, I am NOT trying to razz you...but you did question your trainer's suggestions, and this is simply my reply to them. If you wanted to stay positive in the beginning and now you're feeling uncomfortable with these methods, then obviously there needs to be a change. In my opinion, the dog and trainer should always be completely comfortable in training. It's obvious you have second thoughts, and I guarantee you your dog isn't too fond of them either. BCs are sometimes excellent at hiding discomfort to either please the owner or get the job done. Keep that in mind.

    Good luck to you, and again please understand none of this is meant to offend you. :)
  5. welshherder New Member

    First, I want to say that I was not offended by anything you said tx cowgirl. I want to hear what everyone has to say and your input or I wouldn't be here. You all were right in that I am not completely comfortable with some of the corrections or I wouldn't be questioning it. This was our second lesson with this trainer and after the first I said we wouldn't go back but then when I actually gave a couple (read 2) good corrections with the prong I didn't need to do anymore on that walk. A few verbal reminders if she gets too far ahead. So I did learn that I was not using the prong at the right level for it to work. I was just nagging the poor girlie with it when we walked little pop, little pop, little bump. I am trying to transition her to her buckle as soon as I can. Keep in mind she has three years of pulling under her belt. Prior to this we tried harnesses the gentle leader which was a huge aversive for her even with time getting her used to it. I've used it with other dogs and they love it. Not my girlie she hated it would run and hide when I got it out for a walk, plus she still pulled like a banshee in it.

    She not only pulls but is a very high drive, motion sensitive dog. Will try to herd cars and lunged at them when they went by, so I had to do something. I decided a couple jerks with the prong would be less painful then under the wheels of the car. If you have any other suggestions I am open to them. Just want you to know the prong was used as a last resort and after many other techniques were tried. When she see's a car 1/2 mile away she will go into the b/c stalk crouch and I can't get her out of it until the car passes. I am trying to see the car first and catch the slightest hint from her that she is about to stalk, a flick of the ear or tail anything. She is getting better with the prong on and will ignore some of them and others she starts to get ready for but doesn't ever really make a motion for them. If you have other ideas I would love to hear them.

    The main problem with her recall is she thinks every dog out there was put on earth to play with her. I made the mistake of taking her to the dog park as a pup and adolescent to "socialize" as that was the buzz word around here. She seemed to have a good recall as when I called her she always came back. But then winter came and I stopped bringing her water bowl and she had no reason to come back. Apparently, she was not coming to me when I called but would come for her water. UGGG.

    Some nights she will get the zoomies and then won't come back, runs all over the arena and takes obstacles and jumps to her own delight (agility). The last lesson she tried to engage the trainers dog in play, repeatedly. Of course the trainers dog didn't take the bait.
    Any ideas for this? Do I just need to up the distractions more slowly and not expect so much as this trainers seems to be expecting.

    Here is the thing that jumped out at me with the trainers corrections during our last lesson. If they work so well why does the trainer still need to correct her dog when it is a seasoned titled dog. If her way works so well, shouldn't her dog behave based on what she says or asks as opposed to still testing the water to see if it will get a correction, and believe me it got a big correction. Her way may work when speed is an issue, but we've waited this long to trial a bit more time for a dog with dependable focus, recall and desire to please me is more important than one that works out of fear and yes that is what I worry about with corrections I knoe that is how they work. I just think there must be softer corrections that would let the dog know that you are still displeased and would get the message across. The other thing this person has said multiple times is that shaping takes to long. She will lure or use other positive methods for agility (although I haven't seen them yet as we are still working on manners). From what I have read and experienced with shaping the animal learns better and has better retention of what they have learned from figuring it out themselves i.e. shaping than with any kind of coersion method. Also, if it is done correctly they can learn very quickly with shaping. Provided you are good at it. I have been able to teach my bc almost all the behaviours for obedience and agility through shaping. We work with it everyday for trick training. As I get better at it, I have found my dog is learning faster.

    So the main things are I have high drive, she is motion sensitive and can be very pushy. Our main issues are recall especially in the presense of other dogs. She also can get very over stimulated from just watching other dogs run. Barking, jumping, lunging excitedly, just can't control herself unless we moved far away. We just went to a Rally class, no running dogs but new dogs there, and she was much better she looked at the other dogs but didn't really show any interest in them. Don't know if this was because of the recent corrections she has had or because of all the walking/bonding we have been doing and the trick training having fun and being silly together. Thoughts?

    Bottom line is I want it to be fun for her, I know she would love doing agility, if she could just leave the other dogs alone. So final question for Txcowgirl, you say I need to be more interesting. I have tried to be and do try to be, toys and treats don't interest her when other dogs are around or a passing car, once she gets fixated there is no getting her away from it until it is gone or she is physically removed. Yes, I have tried steak too:)) I have a hard time with the I need to be more interesting thing. I don't know how I can compete with another dog that can run and play chase games as fast as my dog. What would you do with some of these issues using positive methods. I would love to hear what may have worked for you with other dogs with these issues. Sorry so long, you can email me privately if you would like.

    Thanks all.
  6. welshherder New Member

    Okay after reading my post this morning and most importantly after the fun we had last night learning how to put slippers on two furry feet I have made a decision. We will continue to work through these issues on our own until a trainer that works our way can be found to help us. There are only a few positive trainers in the area and I don't know if they have dealt with pushy, high drive, crazy cute bc's. So we will keep working and looking for that trainer that feels right to both of us. I have spent so much time in the past year developing a stronger bond with my dog and I don't want to break that trust. Does that mean we won't have rules and boundaries, absolutely not. But I will do my best to make any training we do fun and comfortable for all involved. Perhaps it will be another year or two before we are ready to trial or perhaps we never do, we can still have fun learning at our pace. I truely believe in the saying "it's not the destination it is the journey". My life has never been about accomplishing goals on a set timetable, only to accomplish them when the time is right. Thanks all for listening and your input. This is a great site. Suggestions advice still welcome if you have dealt with any of our issues.

    S
  7. maven New Member

    Although I've had no input at all in this discussion I really hope it stays public. I'm learning a lot just stopping by and reading the threads here at DTA and this one is not only informative but also thought provoking.
  8. snooks Experienced Member

    The one thing that struck me very nicely is that when you punish you must then not only manage the perfect timing of your mark/reward but also then the correction. Twice the need for timining = twice the number of times you must be right on time. At least an extra click has no negative association. The ill-timed correction can either halt or really impede your progress.
  9. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I understand. ^^ The best advice I can give you is slow down. If you have a park with very little traffic(of the dog/people kind) then this is the best place to start. Start as far away from the others as you can, and get to work. Don't immediately start moving closer if she's doing well, unless you think she will handle it well. Move closer to the other dogs in teeny, tiny increments.

    For instance, here's how I started working with dog aggression with my Rottie mix.(I know aggression isn't your problem, just using this as an example.) He was uncomfortable(showing signs of aggression) at 6 feet. At 10 feet. At 15 feet.(These are rough estimates.) I had one friend holding their dog-friendly dog staying in one spot and I held Rusty. Once we got to his comfort zone(completely calm, submissive attitude, no aggression) then we ran through some tricks. If we moved in a little(anywhere from 6 inches to 2 feet) and he stayed calm, click and treat. More tricks to keep his focus on me, and move in a little closer. The other dog was walked back and forth so that he was in motion and Rusty was aware of him--a bit more of a challenge. If he started showing any signs of aggression at all(even tiny ones), back we went to a more comfortable distance. Work, work, work, work...it took forever, but now he can easily walk side by side(with dogs who will not get in his face). We still have work to do but he improves every day. I can't trust him completely yet off-leash, but we're getting there.

    I recently worked with a BC who had a dog herding issue. I used the same method. If she got into herd mode, I ran away with an annoying squeaker yelling in a very stupid cheery voice, "Misty, Misty, Misty!" She had a bit of a motion obsession, and me moving took her attention from the dog to me. To snap her out of herd mode once her recall was good, I shook a food bowl and called her to me. The sound was a distraction, and the food was the reward. I clicked for her coming and tried to stay incredibly interesting. At first she would run back like a relay, but she soon learned that being with me was soooo tasty...lol. I started clicking for staying with me, then asking for longer time staying with me. Improving the "watch me" and "leave it" command also helped a lot with this.


    In your case, find her comfort zone with the cars. If it's an option, find a field or a dirt road where there really isn't much traffic at all. Have a friend drive by very slowly. Here's where you come in---start veeeeerrrry far away so she doesn't get into herd mode. Ask for a watch me, click and reward. If she's too distracted by the car, move further away. This could be 10 feet, it could be a mile. That's what you have to find out. Work on her "leave it" command and you can apply it here. You can buy a long lead or make one as long as you want(dock rope works great). If she's barely aware that you're alive, run away and look like an idiot. Squeakers or stupid noises or anything that will get her attention. It doesn't necessarily have to be a toy but rather just the sound. The further away you are from the distracting object the better.

    Have you tried the "turnaround method" with her? This method is good for leash training and can also be applied to a dog who is easily distracted and pulls in these situations.

    Using distance will help with the dogs, the cars, anything. If you can't find a place to get that far away, then it's going to be much more difficult but still possible through positive methods. If you've tried these things, post back and I can give you some more tips. ^^ Hope this helps and good luck to you!!

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