Think Dog Training with Positive Reinforcement Is All the Rage in Training Dogs and Dolphins?

Think Dog Training with Positive Reinforcement Is All the Rage in Training Dogs and Dolphins?

Dog Training with Positive Reinforcement: Reconsidering the Methods

The following letter was sent to me from Kaat (pictured above with her dogs, including Blooper) after we exchanged e-mails discussing dog training with positive reinforcement. The main focus of our discussions were some of the petitions to ban e-collars and a video clip I have on YouTube that demonstrates using a remote training collar to work with a dog that is having aggression issues.

I’m posting the e-mail in it’s entirety because every single word (including the links) should be read by those who sign petitions to ban a tool that is saving many dog’s lives. In fact, it is my opinion that every single word be read by all dog owners and trainers as well. Kaat is very matter of fact about the current state of affairs in much of the dog training industry. Too many trainers are selling dog owners short on what can be achieved. The idea of dog training with positive reinforcement ONLY is being touted as the be all, end all and too manydogs that can be saved are being given up, destroyed or owners and their dogs are forced to live less than full lives. All because they have only been supplied with half the story. Kaat’s story is a good reminder that people should seek out other opinions and points of view when they are not getting the results they seek.

Hi Robin,

That is just why I love that video. Healing fear and blind panic is the most difficult and thus greatest training achievement of all.

It is the highest drive a dog can get in. So there is no “reward” that can top or divert this state of mind.

Panic is a drive that can not be subdued by satisfaction!

It is exactly that kind of dog that got me to realize that e-collar saves lives.

All my dogs come from an animal shelter. Blooper was badly abused by his previous owner and had severe kennel syndrome. He wanted to attack everything. And I do mean everything! Garbage cans, umbrella’s, other dogs, vehicles (all kinds), humans (all kinds), etc…

He should have had a T-Shirt that says: “I hate everything and your next!”

But it was sad… because walking for him was a trip to Hell. The stress he was in continuously was beyond describing. Furthermore because he also hated dogs every walk could be his last. I kept him on leach but some dog owners feel the bizarre need to let their disobedient dogs run free. An encounter with Blooper could force the other dog into defense. Serious injury could be the consequence.

For two years I tried positive operant conditioning. Two f**ing years lost!

I went to 3 dog schools, 5 personal trainers… And all of them were so brainwashed by the new positive operant training, they all told the same story of which I knew it did not and will not work. Thanks to Karen Pryor and her observations on Dolphins (you know the animals that never get out of their aquarium which contains no diversions at all!!!!!).

Clearly complex problems often lead to simple, easy to understand wrong answers!

I could impose leadership with cookies all I wanted. Blooper did fine and obeyed me as long as he was not in a panic-state of mind. It seems logical now. Polite employees let their boss go trough the door first, unless the building is on fire!

When Blooper attacked a young Malinois pup who approached him I came to the end of my rope. Because dog-aggression is like throwing a stone into water. It traumatizes other dogs and can thus leads to aggression in the other dog, who then makes other victims and so on. It had to stop!

Two years of positive operant training was two years lost of an already short live. Dogs don’t live that long… It was two years of unnecessary fear for my dog. Two years of daily risks to be injured for my dog, for a human, for other dogs… It had to stop NOW!

So I Googled once more for another personal trainer… And this time I absolutely wanted someone who could get results, not just beautiful theories. I considered someone who was a three-time champion in NVBK and Belgian Ringsport, all with different dogs and the highest scores ever achieved, as a trainer that could get results! Indeed I’m one of these owners that wants only the very very best for his dog…Enters Bart Bellon.

And after 20 minutes the problem was solved!

Well It’s Bart, I’ll be honest… we all know him. It took 4 hours of explaining e-collar-training to me and 20 minutes of working with Blooper. Of course it took maintenance but Blooper healed. It all became clear to me. Panic stops once you know exactly what you have to do in a certain situation and this routine is repeated and drilled. This is why soldiers on a dangerous mission do not panic. They are focused on what they were learnt to do and on the accomplishment of their target.

Once he stopped attacking Blooper had a calmer more focused state of mind which allowed him to reassess the situations he was once so scared of. After only a couple of weeks the fear was all gone…

He now lives peacefully with two other shelter dogs. Gets compliment on walks for his outstanding and exemplary obedience. (Which only proves how exceptional an obedient dog has become since the hype of training only with positive operant conditioning, which is, in my modest opinion, not so positive at all).

Blooper is now a happy self-confident dog that really enjoys his life. Thanks to Bart Bellon, who will have my gratitude for ever and then some.

The fact that Blooper could have had all this two years earlier had it not been for the big dog training LIE… still pisses me off big time!

Had I listened to their advice Blooper would have been euthanized. 5 Times he got a death sentence by these “positive” people. Their fanatic attitude results into never reconsidering their methods, but in simply stating: “If the dog can not be trained my way the dog should be put to death. in other words: “the dog is wrong, not my system!”

I’m now wearing Bloopers little T-Shirt, with a little ad on. It says: “I hate all strictly fanatic positive operant trainers… and if you’re one of those liars, you’re next!”

In annex I leave you the survey removed by these liars in order to deny the obvious truth (Once again. Some habits apparently die hard!).

I also give you these very interesting links: The Truth About Training Dolphins,

The absolute proof that dolphins are trained and controlled with existential techniques, namely : hunger.

The relief of slightly unpleasant is thus what motivates them.

The Maslov-principle. It leaves no choice.

Interesting to note is that with this hunger/food-training/controlling system control stops around and about the same time that the hunger disappears.

Predictable and logical…. Except of course for animal rights terrorists!

They just don’t seem to understand there is a difference between a dog that knows the meaning of a command and a dog that will obey this command regardless the circumstances!!!!!

Contrary to the existential training with hunger, e-collar thus offers two major advantages:

1° The application of slightly unpleasant as a motivator is always applicable in the amount needed for a specific dog with a specific drive (at that moment). This is not the case with hunger because it diminishes slowly, and so does your control.

2° When the dog obeys there is an immediate and total relief of the slightly unpleasant feeling. This is not the case with hunger that keeps lingering in the body.

So NEPOPO brings the message to the dog clearer and in a more consequent manner.

Here are the links:

“Free the advanced biological weapon system, an interview with Richard O’Barry by Brent Hoff.”

And the link that shows that movie-producers were sick and tired of waiting for the dolphins to obey, so they used computer animations for the sequel:

Clearly Karen Pryor missed that one! Ach well: The mind is like a parachute. It only works when it’s open!

So Robin, you have all my support because, as George Orwell put it so well: In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.

And if you want to use this testimonial feel free

Greetings & have a Great Day.

Dog training with positive reinforcement is a good thing, please don’t misunderstand the intent of my posting this letter. But the use of one quadrant out of four, forsaking the value of the others, should not be shoved down the throats of unknowing pet owners with for the sake of one’s ideology.

**note: the authors reference to NEPOPO, is a term Mr. Bellon uses to help others understand the reinforcement sequence when using e-collar training. It is an acronym for; Negative, Positive, Positive.

Ne = e-collar stimulation, Po=removal of stimulation, Po=Addition of reward

 

 

 

Robin

24 thoughts on “Think Dog Training with Positive Reinforcement Is All the Rage in Training Dogs and Dolphins?

  1. Ann Franzblau MD says:

    Thank you. I was a Schutzhund competitor in the ’80’s at top level- twice on US team to world championship. (no longer compet). A few yrs ago I saw Cesar Millan on TV and was impressed, reading his backgd and studying tapes of his sessions. A natural. He understands negative and positive and can assess every situation.
    Then! I learned of the hate campaign against him by the positive only aficionados. Worse than Democrats v. Repubs! Sad because of the consequences you point our.
    How do you understand the pos only people? They seem to object to “cruelty” but not see the cruelty in leaving a dog in neurotic misery.

    • Robin says:

      Hi Ann,

      Thank you for your input. I personally don’t get all the “noise” either from the all positive group. I do think that it is a very small minority though that really adheres to the idea that there is no place for correction. Most trainers fall in the middle ground and understand that comparison is the fastest and most reliable way to learn. The challenge is helping the lay person understand that correction does not mean pain, fear or some form of “brutality” that the vocal minority makes it out to be. To correct should only mean to make right, to communicate to the dog that a mistake has been made. Much like a GPS unit tells a driver when he/she is off course. It is information, nothing more. I also believe there is a time and place in dog training (and the rest of life) for punishment as well. Punishment does not belong in the learning phase. However, appropriately timed and effective punishment is also part of life and learning what boundaries are…..being a top level competitor multiple times, I know you already know all this, but thanks for letting me revisit the message again!
      all the best,
      Robin

  2. Michael Burkey says:

    @Meghan, you’re correct Bart Bellon’s NePoPo does not adhere to learning theory terms but it is based on learning theory. It instead is intended for average dog trainer (pet owner) to understand.

    Instead of the science definition of what is positive (added) and what is taken away (negative), he is using his term to mean simply mean there is something aversive that happens (such as the e-stim at just the right level), then there is something good that happens (the e-stim stops) and then there is another good that happens (a reward such as food treats or ball reward). This makes his training system much more easily understood by the average owner. There is the science and then there is the application of that science.

  3. Michael Burkey says:

    Jonathan, I loved how you summed up your response. This is what I believe most of us would agree on:

    “despite all the positive techniques to increase reliability, the remote collar filled the gap. It also worked similarly as well for teaching. And to say it isn’t training, well, then i suggest you look back over your notes of what training is…consistency, repetition, operant and classical conditioning, etc…so how isn’t that training..especially if it reproduces results over and over, the dogs listen well, and can still do quite well when it is removed….

    The reality is the more we stop fighting over what is the best method is, we’ll discover that it is a mixture of all of them, and more so knowing when each is best applied. By being closed to all methods but one, we don’t only sell ourselves short, but also our clients and their dogs.”

  4. Jonathan Brinkley says:

    @ Meghan- I have always laughed about that, because according to learning theory, the acronym is incorrect, but by no means does it diminish that Bart Bellon is probably one of the most impressive trainers I’ve seen. It however does make it easy for the basic dog owner to understand. When explaining it I always offer the comparison in learning theory.

    @Everyone else- One thing i found interesting in the responses on this particular post, is the immediate attack on +R trainers. I originally learned to train using strong (for lack of better words) compulsion drive methods. For years I laughed at clicker trainers (being the ignorant fool I was), but then learned more about it from a very proficient trainer. It turned me on to a new perspective of training. It challenged me to forget dominance theory as I understood it, and replace it with a theory of Assertive Opportunism. I ,perhaps, learned more over the years in effective methods from such trainers. I am forever indebted. That being said, all methods have their flaws, and their limitations and all methods have at least some element that has a time and place. I can bite into an apple, but its best to peel an orange first. Some dogs are oranges. As I began my quest into marker training, I touted it as the most efficient form of dog “teaching” I had seen. However, no matter how well I understood it, or it seemed other professionals who understood it tried to tout it as the save all end all, I saw a general problem. It works great, but not all the time, with every dog, and every situation. So by saying “it doesn’t work” we are misleading. With some dogs, motivated highly by certain resources, it works GREAT! But, if the dogs aren’t highly motivated, this is where those fasting techniques come in. And sometimes that only goes so far. So yes, it does work…but not always, and not always as well.
    Later on, I learned these softer, lower-level uses of remote collar training. It seemed like it was the perfect balancing tool to marker training, specifically because the psychology was so similar. For the dogs that learned great with marking, but were not as reliable as they could be, or just not that reliable in general, despite all the positive techniques to increase reliability, the remote collar filled the gap. It also worked similarly as well for teaching. And to say it isn’t training, well, then i suggest you look back over your notes of what training is…consistency, repetition, operant and classical conditioning, etc…so how isn’t that training..especially if it reproduces results over and over, the dogs listen well, and can still do quite well when it is removed….
    The reality is the more we stop fighting over what is the best method is, we’ll discover that it is a mixture of all of them, and more so knowing when each is best applied. By being closed to all methods but one, we don’t only sell ourselves short, but also our clients and their dogs.

  5. Meghan says:

    I want to quickly make just one more comment re the previous post The acronym NEPOPO for negative positive positive does not adhere learning theory. Would be better for the conversation on both sides to at least define and use terms with consistency. If the first stimulus to the dog is to add then it is Positive if it decreases the behavior then It is punishment. Then if you remove the shock to get the desired behavior it is negative but reinforcing. And then if you give a treat it is positive and reinforcing. The acronym should be PONEPO. Anytime you add a stimulus it is positive, when you remove it is negative. the other part is what does the addition g or removing do, increase or decrease the behavior. E collars rely on positive punishment and negative reinforcement, and if you follow with a treat the. You have positive reinforcement. I work with autistic children using applied behavior analysis, not dogs. but I think it can only help the debate to have the terms clearly defined and understood by all. :).

  6. Meghan says:

    My problem with both sides of this discussion is actually that dog TRAINERS do not get that their skill level is way different than the average dog or pet owner. So what they can do, the average person may not be able to. We can all read and possibly understand cardiac surgery procedure but do not put the scalpel in just anyone’s hand for my surgery. I went for a first session with a trainer, who touted the amazement of the e collar, I was looking for help and found a person who was so degrading of all the work I had already done with my dog. She sat beautifully,followed each command I gave her, and had wonderful leash manners by people and other dogs. I had put lots of love time and patience into her training so to have this one fanatic say she was UNTRAINED because I had not used an e collar was insulting and aggravating. I watched his class though so I could learn, and what I saw was not so dis similar to some positive classes I watched or worked in. The average Joe pet owners were off in their timing of consequence, too busy chatting with the dog owner next to them to catch their dogs incorrect behavior ect ect ect. One woman held an entire conversation never once even looking at her dog all the while activating the remote collar. I am not saying e collars do not work, I am not saying positive only does not work. It is, as always up to the person to commit to the dog. I left that class with my well trained dog and kept searching for what I wanted and needed. I wish that all dog trainers would at least recognize, that their steadfast sometimes arrogant approach serves no one, not the humans and certainly not the dogs.

    • Robin says:

      Meghan, Thank you for writing this very honest commentary. I agree with you entirely. The arrogance in the profession is out of control and the infighting amongst “professionals” over methods does nothing to help the average pet owner. There are trainer on both sides of the battle who are guilty of what you have described and it is shameful. I’ve had some come to my class who have done considerable clicker or lure/reward training who’s dog’s worked brilliantly and I congratulate them on the effort they have put in.
      I have wondered about my own defensiveness here on this forum…do I expend too much effort defending and not enough educating? My goal is to educate, but part of that has been the need to show the other side of the coin because “we” (those who choose e-collars or prongs or slips) are under such attack. We are portrayed as nothing but monsters who sit around waiting for dogs to make mistakes that we can punish. Of the people I work with and know well nothing could be farther from the truth. We all strongly believe in teaching LONG before applying punishment. We understand that negative reinforcement can be used in a gentle way that does not harm and we utilize great quantities of positive reinforcement as well as other tools (head halters, anxiety wraps, holistic alternative health care, etc) considered only reserved for those who walk the hallowed halls of “all positive”
      IMO, trainers need to wake up and pay attention to their clients and their dogs and shut up about what everyone else is doing wrong and worrying about banning tools and methods…but until things really start to turn that way I feel a responsibility to defend this tool. Thank you again for writing. I appreciate it.
      all the best,
      Robin

  7. Robin says:

    Hi Jen,

    As far as “when to move to an e-collar” I think that really depends on the trainer themselves. In my case, it is my tool of choice and those who work with me do really well with it,whether fear, aggression issues or basic obedience and manners. If a person has great success with other training methods and the clients are happy with it there is obviously no need to change course. It is when we as trainers reach the end of our abilities and declare to the client *there is nothing else, or no other solution* and we refuse to consider alternatives that we are then selling our clients and their dogs short. For me personally, I started down this path when taking on cases of aggression that where being well controlled when on leash but the dog were seizing opportunity off leash. I knew I needed a more reliable way to give my clients at least a rock solid recall (rather than telling my clients to “be more careful about going off leash or never off leash etc.)…that was the beginning of it and the more experience I gained, the more applications I began.

    As for a trainer calling your use of the water bottle gimmicky, this is the type of thinking I don’t understand at all. Our goal and our business philosophy should be based on giving our clients results in realistic time frames. Our fee is in exchange for a service provided and that service should entitle an owner to some sort of defined outcome. If you are giving the client an outcome, a dog who will stop barking when told because you paired an interrupting stimulus with your voice command to gain reliability, why the heck is that a gimmick? There is too much ego in much of the dog training world about how and what tools. It is as if it is a competition amongst trainers that those more saintly and pure are *better*. I’m truly sick of it and the clients and dogs pay the price for the excuses of what tools are supposedly acceptable.
    Good on you for giving dog’s clarity and giving clients a result.

  8. Jen E. says:

    Robin,

    I took the time to read through your article as well as the comments regarding it and would love your opinion.

    I’m a big fan of positive reinforcement myself simply because I haven’t run into a scenario in which I had to deviate beyond the basic psychology of positive reinforcement in order to get the dog to behave politely according to the owner’s wishes. That being said, I also haven’t run into any scenario of true aggression or fear-related aggression yet. I add “yet” simply because that day will come. Hence, I pose this question:

    If you were in my shoes, as a trainer who prefers to use positive reinforcement over anything else (but is open-minded enough to consider going beyond the basics of such), in what scenario would you decide to move to using an e-collar? Would it be a case in which you see aggression that is “beyond help” with positive reinforcement or any aggression at all?

    Also, for anyone to comment on, is the use of a squirt of water from a water bottle combined with the positive reward of praise or a treat when the dog focuses on you considered “gimmicky”? I’ve had such good luck with it in the past, mostly for excitement barkers, and had a trainer call it that the other day. I was surprised myself, considering how much success I’ve had with it. Opinions?

  9. Heidi Zachow says:

    It’s funny to me that this “new” positive reinforcement (operant conditioning) is all the rage…it is not new, BF Skinner – 1930’s, first started his scientific work with rats and it has gone from there, yes Karen Pryor did bring it into the forefront with marine mammals. I do have to strongly disagree with the woman saying that these animals are hungry and basically being starved before they get food, I know this is a great misconception. If one can take blood from a 500lb Silverback Gorilla without restraint, without pain, without force (which I saw with my very own eyes), it does work. I will always feel that e-collars are a quick fix and not actual training, nothing more. I also feel she is ridiculous to say that postivie reinforcement trainers as liars she is a bit far fetched – it is a belief system, obviously one she cannot comprehend

    • Robin says:

      Hi Heidi,

      I agree with your assertion about Skinner’s work, it has been around for some time. I used the reference to “new” because it is part of the marketing campaign by some of the all positive people and I do take issue with it. Nothing is all that new, recycled and made better perhaps, but not new. The marketing of “new” and “better” in comparison to “old” and “abusive” methods is part of the rhetoric that causes much of the division amongst trainers…
      The real issue in question is; is the elimination of ANY negative reinforcement or positive punishment as part of a BALANCED training protocol (using all 4 quadrants) make it better, more humane and does it work in all cases?

      anyway, what I am truly curious about is your feeling on remote collar training being ” a quick fix and not actual training” I would appreciate if you would expand on that comment.
      My feeling is that iit takes training to understand the e-collars proper use. If it was JUST a quick fix and putting one on a dog magically cured all….well, who won’t want that? Seriously? it would be great if a certain magic collar cured all dog’s behavior problems and there was no learning or work that needed to be done on the part of the pet owner. Suddenly all dogs could easily stay in their homes and every dog and their owners where happy with one another. It is a tool and it takes training time and knowledge just as any other tool or methodology.

      IMO, it is often quicker than other methods however. And personally I don’t see that as a bad thing. IF we can fix issues faster for people they are less likely to get frustrated and give up on the dog.
      But I would appreciate your take on it.
      thanks!
      Robin

  10. Sam Chapman says:

    Having been a user and retailer of e-collars & hidden fence systems I know that these training tools give freedom and safety for both dog and owner. We have 3 dogs (2 are rescues and both arrived with a bag full of history – our boxer, then 18 months had been confined to a crate or shut in a tiny garden – he was never walked as the owners could not “manage” him and was destructive in the house (I wonder why). I freely admit that on the night he arrived I instructed my husband to return him the next day but he asked me to give him a week and here we are 3 years later with a very happy relaxed dog who recalls beautifully, who has 2 long off the lead walks everyday and is free to roam the garden thanks to our DogWatch hidden fence. We do have the work tops “wired” with an internal loop as well as one of the sad side affects of his poor beginning is that he is totally obessed with eating anything that may or may not be edible. Our other rescue is a terrier who was constantly being picked up by the local Dog Warden, very prey driven and a typical terrier. She also recalls (without the use of a training collar and has never left our garden since being trained to the fence). She would most certainly have been run over or shot if she had continued with her previous existence.

    It is purely peoples lack of knowledge & assumption that somehow you are hooking the dog or cat up to the mains. Modern e-collars and fence systems have very low starting levels, warning beeps or vibrations and safety cut outs. The argument that someone could buy one of these units to punish a dog does not wash as who in their right mind spends nearly £200.00 to abuse a pet when they can grab a stick or a chain? Responsible & loving pets owners buy TRAINING collars. Recent reports have disproved old objections and shown these to be an effective & humane method of pet training.

    Please also sign our petition to stop the ban on the use of containment fences in England (where ever you are in the world). You can copy & paste this link to your browser.
    http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/pets

  11. James Stull says:

    At the risk of preaching to the choir, I have to say it is very nice to see people standing up for this humane and effective training TOOL. I rely on my collars to extend my dogs’ boundaries and communicate in yet another way. My own method of training rests on the basic principle that I’m not making a request and I’m not giving a command. I’m predicting the future and when the future comes it will be good. It may sound odd to some, but that’s the way I look at it and ultimately the way my dogs see it too. I don’t accomplish this through any barbaric method, I simply always follow through. The collar gives me a way to communicate that the future is approaching and then that it has arrived. Almost no intensity is used on the collar because the dog already knows that what I said would happen IS GOING TO HAPPEN. I am by no means a professional trainer but I’m the Son and step son of two very talented trainers. I saw my father and see my step mother use the collar and their own methods to yield amazing results.
    As for “Positive Only” training, let me pose this question:
    If your car is running off the road do you strangle it’s freedom by correcting it’s course with the steering wheel or do you toss a gas can out the window in the direction you want it to go. If everyone drove the way they train, a lot of dogs would end up living happier lives. (I’m not wishing death on anyone, just making a good point / joke)

  12. Kaat says:

    @ J. Priest.
    I’m not the only one that is telling you it does not work for every dog.
    Many dog owners have noticed it to.
    So have dolphins apparently, and some (honest) dolphin trainers as well.

    And then of course there is also the recent study of comparison in learning methods of the Hannover University. And guess what… you probably where the lucky one who got the 7 % of dogs on which positive reinforcement did work!

    Full study link here: http://elib.tiho-hannover.de/dissertations/salgirliy_ws08.pdf
    Have a look at page 73 section 4.1.1
    Summary: http://www.ecma.eu.com/Comparison%20of%20stress%20and%20learning%20effects%20of%20three%20different%20training%20methods%20in%20dogs.pdf
    Have a look at page 22. Comparison in training results
    E-collar trained learning effect = 92,9 obedience
    Vs.
    Positive reinforcement & negative correction (not giving the cookie for not complying to the command) = 7,1 % obedience

    Yep… Sully said it: “the truth is out there” and it will set our dogs free!
    Hope I didn’t upset you because, with your luck, I would like to ask you to buy me a lottery ticket in my name 🙂

    • Matt says:

      Wow, way to misinterpret the data. And might I say probably one of the poorest studies I have ever read. 2 “experienced” police dog trainer, who probably only know how to use corrective methods. No reinforcer of any kind is listed in the training aids. The “conditioned” quitting signal was accomplished by:
      Conditioning the quitting signal
      • The training was completed when the
      dog withdrew itself from its favourite toy
      immediately after the signal

      So they say a command and simply wait for the dog to stop. How about conditioning an out or release on a continuous reinforcement schedule and then progress to a intermittent schedule while adding secondary reinforcers

      I mean really Kaat? Did you even read the study or just skip to the results.

  13. Julia Priest says:

    Rabid adherence to any “method” belies a lack of experience and understanding. All these things are just tools, and their effectiveness depends on the operator. Not sure what”positive operant conditioning” means. The truth is operant conditioning contains four quadrants, one of which is punishment, called positive punishment, not because it is happy and upbeat but because it means that punishment is *added* to achieve an effect. Yes e-collars can be great tools in the right hands and so is positive reinforcement in the right hands. Most people do not understand how to use it so they blame the technique. Much like complaining that a gas lawnmower does a poor job on the grass when one has failed to pull the starter. The complaints of failure I see come from people who do not understand the difference between luring and reinforcing, and cheerleading as opposed to praise after the performance. That said, simple compulsion and punishment are probably best for most pet handlers because its relatively simple minded and can get the job done. And understanding how to use positive reinforcement well does not preclude the occasional correction, which tends to be very minimal if the correct foundation was done. Its not a zero sum game. But don’t tell me +R does “not work” because I have used it very successfully over the years.

    • Greg says:

      Soooo….apparently all of us who don’t agree, and who utilize methods other than “cookie” lure and bribery training are, let’s see, how did you put that…Simple Minded?!?

      • Katie says:

        Well, not everyone who disagrees with someone might be simple minded but to categorize +R/-P as “cookie lure and bribery training” is rather simple-minded. So in this case, I’d say YES you appear to be rather simple-minded. Not that I expect much more about of people who think that training with pain is a good idea. And not only a good idea, but a GREAT one that is far better than dog-friendly, kinder training methods.

    • Viatecio says:

      In the words of a “positive-only” clicker trainer who decided to remain anonymous on the comment thread:

      “…clicker training requires empathy, sensitivity, patience, excellent observational and mechanical skills, self-awareness, planning, appropriate utilization of canine ethology/canine body language and signals, and a knowledge of nutritional factors”.

      No wonder we folk are simple-minded…few average pet owners can do all that at once!

      Although it might also explain why the exclusive use of R+ is also a failure: because maybe the trainers who preach such a thing cannot do all of it either?

      Because seriously, as explained by someone better with words than I, the best trainer is a machine. No emotion, no sympathy, infinite patience, etc etc. Dogs themselves are even better than machines, since they can give the full range of positive and negative feedback. We as humans can strive to be better than machines, and still not live up to the lessons from the masters themselves.

      Maybe Skinner boxes are the new cruelty?

  14. Kaat says:

    @ Jay…
    You felt the same way… Well I wish you luck recovering from the deceit they pulled on us. Maybe we should start a self help group to learn to deal with the feelings of disgust we now have for the obstinate liars. 😉
    They can and will not recognize the truth even if it bites them in the ass, and with disobedient dogs you can take that remark literally!

    @ Viatecio
    It was indeed a privilege to work with Bart Bellon. Magnificent experience!
    He became a good friend of mine and I became a fervent defender of e-collar.
    Nevertheless drooling on Blooper or any other dog of mine is not appreciated! 😉

    @ Cynthia Eliason
    I can not help you with the book. I really wish someone can, because I would love to have that as an argument too.
    What I can give you are the references of a National Geografic Wild documentary about a comparison between human and animal emotions. It is registered by door Carol L. Fleisher and produced by Mark S. Hoover & David Grabias. Title: “Why Dogs smile & Chimpanzees Cry”.
    In this documentary you can see a dolphin mother correcting her child because it was playing wit the propeller of a motorboat. Mom knew this could be very very dangerous. To protect her child and to make the lesson never ever to do this again very clear, she gave it a severe correction.
    She pushed and bumped her kid to the bottom of the ocean, turned it on its back and pinned it to the ground. So the kid could no longer get up to breathe. On top of that mom produced a sharp sonar sound pushing here nose to the belly of her child, to make it feel the unpleasant vibration.
    Quite a severe correction all in all, but in proportion with the risky behaviour of the young dolphin.
    This life-lesson had to be learnt quickly and effectively, no time here to take risks luring the kid away from the boat with sardines! And it worked like a charm. The little one was not seen again in the neighbourhood of propellers.
    This fragment was shown as an example of motherly love and concern. Not as a psychopathic dolphin who is an abusive parent!
    I conclude that the dolphin mom is a lot smarter than me… She did not waste 2 years during which she exposed her little one to all sorts of risks.

  15. Cynthia Eliason says:

    I seem to recall that in one of Pryor’s books, “Lads Before The Wind” she describes a dolphin that kept nipping at her. It stopped when she whacked it over the head with a handy poolside chair. Apparently dolphins DO respond to physical correction. Does anyone else remember this? I can’t find my copy of the book.

  16. Viatecio says:

    Although it has more to do with the whale in question, the documentary about Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium (I believe one was made in 2008, but the version I have looks older, about mid-90s) has an interview with the same Richard O’Barry mentioned in Kaat’s email. He’s highly critical of not only the idea of keeping wide-randing animals in sensory-depriving bathtubs, but also the whole “positive reward” training that starves them.

    It was definitely not the first time I was aware of the practice, but hearing it from him just made the practice sound that much more barbaric.

    Too bad the “positive only” folks don’t latch onto the whole starvation thing as much as they tout the idea that you can’t put a collar and leash on a killer whale. Because seriously, if they started advising owners to starve their dogs like they do the whales, you bet the jig would be up!

    By the way, it must have been a privilege for Kaat to work with Bellon. I’ve watched some of his videos and drooled over his dogs…it would be AWESOME to watch him work, even moreso to work with him!

  17. Jay says:

    I love this post since I felt the same way. I tried the positive only training for 4 months knowing it would take far far longer to get her to listen to me around other dogs and this was assuming there was steady progress, which is EXTREMELY difficult if you live in the city and dogs are often in close proximity. There goes the narrowing the distance idea of training. My dog was already two years old when I got her and I didn’t want her to lose two more years of her life without any freedom. She’s also a pit bull so I knew that if she bit anyone or anything she’d be automatically blamed. Training and control is essential.

    Without the e-collar we had years of work before I could trust her to be off leash and have fun. Now though two months later we’re regulars at the parks and she always comes when called regardless of the distraction, such as two other dogs fighting. Too often a little dog shows up attacking every other dog and now I can call her back to me to protect her. The e-collar has really changed her life and every time I pull it out she gets excited to get it on and out to a park. Since I use food along with the e-collar I’d say she likes the e-collar more than my clickers since she now gets freedom and food.

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