Friday, May 25, 2012

How to use Punishment in Dog Training

Dog Training has a variety of methodologies and I sit firmly in the positive reinforcement camp. However there has been numerous newspaper articles and tv shows that tell people that position trainers do NOT use punishment and that our dogs are poorly trained, we don't get real results and that when push comes to shove our way just doesn't work. 

Well it's time to explain how positive reinforcement training works and how we use punishment safely and humanely. 

Positive reinforcement training is exactly that: we reinforce a behaviour that we want the dog to repeat. This does not mean that it is permissive training and the dog should get away with bad behaviour like jumping up on people. 

The important thing to know is that there are different types of punishment. Correction based trainers generally use something called Positive Punishment. Positive punishment means to do something to the dog that he/she doesn't like. An example would be using a choke chain and cutting off air to correct the dog for jumping up. 

The majority of positive trainers use something called Negative Punishment (confused yet?). Negative punishment means to take something away from the dog that he/she wants. So if my dog was excited to see a new person and went to jump up I would ask the person to walk away therefore taking away what my dog wants until he/she can stay sitting. This can sometimes take a bit longer but in my opinion is more effective in the long run as most people don't want to be applying corrections forever. 

Negative punishment is essentially the same idea as time outs for kids versus spanking. We know both work but the decision on which to use is based on ethics and beliefs. I believe in violence free training so I do not hit, scream, shock, throw things or cut off my dogs' airways. I don't advise my clients to do this either. 

Applying negative punishment means you have to use your brain to figure out the following:
1. What is my dog getting out of this? (ie. what is reinforcing this behaviour)
2. What do I want my dog to do instead? (ie. teach sit stay instead of jumping on people)
3. How do I train my dog to do what I want? (a trainer can be very helpful here). 

It's also important to know that dogs have a similar mental capacity to an 18 month old child only they don't speak ANY english, will react to physical corrections with a fight or flight response and have weapons. Why teach our dogs to bite, flee or shut down when we can teach them what we want in a humane manner? There are now professionals in ALL types of dog training that successfully train their dogs without force. I challenge you to do the same. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bulldogs for Bullies

Last night Where's Your Sit? was proud to be a part of the Bulldogs for Bullies fundraiser for Alberta Bulldog Rescue. 

Jade Robertson sits on the Board of Directors for the rescue as the Vice President and takes an active role in event planning, behaviour assessments and training for all of the bulldogs currently in care and after they have been adopted. 

The fundraiser came at a crucial time for the rescue because we have two very sick bulldogs in care currently. Goose, an English Bulldog needs a surgery to remove a tumour and Angel, a little Frenchie is suffering from issues with her pancreas. 

Rescue takes a lot of time and can be exceptionally difficult at times but it's well worth while. It's really important for dogs in rescue to be provided with training and a behaviour assessment. I strongly discourage families from adopting when this has not been provided. 

Behaviour assessments are important because they help fit the dog into the right foster home as well as the right adoptive home for him/her to improve and work on key issues. I check dogs for concerns with handling, strangers, collar grabs, resource guarding (food and toys) and meeting dogs. When a dog has a "red flag" or a concern we know that this particular dog needs to work on that before being adopted. Just like a vet should check whether the dog is healthy or not and medical concerns should be addressesd before being adopted. 

Alberta Bulldog Rescue also enrolls our foster dogs in training classes and when necessary private training. We work on an assortment of skills including:
  • Focus around distractions
  • Basic obedience skills including sit, down, stand, leave it, stay, walking on leash and recall
  • Confidence Boosting around strangers, dogs, new things
  • Socialization and playing appropriately with other dogs
  • House and crate training

These skills are crucial to an adoptive dog staying in his/her new home. 

Bulldogs for Bullies was a huge success and I strongly encourage everyone to check out Alberta Bulldog Rescue if they are considering a bulldog or would like to volunteer their time.