Article: Dog training and food – Good combination or recipe for disaster?: Dog training

 
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Image Dog training and food – Good combination or recipe for disaster?
By Lance Gardner on April 28, 2010

Over the years (more than I care to realize), I have trained and helped to train many dogs. And the only time I can ever remember using food is once when I was in high school, and I trained the neighbor’s dog (that often visited on its own) to sit instead of push for attention.

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Imagevalleylynn
Apr 28, 2010 5:39 AM CST
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR zone 8
I find what you wrote interesting and thought provoking. I have used both methods and the clicker training. As you probably already know dogs are like people, in that each is an individual. What works for one may not work for another. Our body language and attitude at time of training makes a big difference, and yes even our thoughts (thoughts can affect body language and outward attitude). I have worked with many unadoptable dogs (because they had severe behavioral problems). Physical force is never the way, and I found that food in these cases also was not the way. Reward for me was to quietly lay my hand on them, a soft, kind praise and acknowledgement of the good behavour. Again each is different, so it would go accordingly. The most important part is learning to read the dog before starting on training, and be quick to recognize when what you are doing is not working. Training while tired or stressed is not a good idea. : )
ImageCapeCodGardener
Apr 28, 2010 7:51 PM CST
Name: Emily
Mid-Cape Cod, MA. zone 7a
Valleylyn, your response was helpful to me, because after reading Lance's thoughtful article, I did wonder what to use in training if NOT food treats! You mentioned soft kind praise and a pat. My husband and I have rescued several dogs from puppy mills and shelters, and your idea about learning to read the dog before starting on training is very important. Having said that, so many of them do seem focused on food-rewards above all.
Probably your last words were the most important: don't attempt to train while tired or stressed. The animals pick this up (and reflect it back) immediately.
Imagevalleylynn
Apr 29, 2010 4:57 AM CST
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR zone 8
Not just that Emily, your ability to read the dog and surroundings are impaired. You just can't be at your best while tired or stressed. : ) At least I find that in my case.
ImageCapeCodGardener
Apr 29, 2010 7:43 AM CST
Name: Emily
Mid-Cape Cod, MA. zone 7a
Thanks for the clarification, Lynn. My biggest problem when attempting to train dogs is that I am tend to be impatient and want "results" too quickly--which is probably a result of training when tired and stressed! ;-) Patience is a virtue.
I'm going to be more aware of this when I train my dogs.
ImageLance
Apr 29, 2010 8:19 AM CST
Name: Lance Gardner
coastal plain Virginia
Question authority, guide in wisdom
I just wrote a reply, only to have it wiped out, so I will try again and hope I get it all.
Thank you both for reading and taking the time to provide thoughtful responses. If you know of anyone else that would like to provide some thoughts, please encourage them to do so. The more feedback I get, the more informative this forum can be.
In my initial article http://cubits.org/Dogs/articles/view/292/, I mentioned positive and negative reinforcement suitable to the temperament of the dog and the situation. Positive reinforcement can be an upbeat tone of voice, petting, belly rub, fun games and running around, a dog's favorite activity, and similar. Negative reinforcement, to limit unwanted behavior, can be as simple as a cold stare and firm NO. I do not recommend hitting and other harsh physical methods, as wolves are typically very subtle critters. They maintain their pack peace through licking, staring, muzzle holding, and an occasional low growl, and that is about it most of the time. With an abused dog, even a gentle no may cause them to roll over and submissive urination, so you will need to work up to almost any correction at all.
And ensuring that the people have a clear and focused mind is also very important, as mentioned. Dogs are very good body language readers, as well tone of voice, and will recognize when something is not quite there. Patience is of course required, and often slower is actually faster in the end. Ensure you have the time to do what you want, even if it is setting aside 1/2 an hour to teach sit or down.
If you are dealing with dogs that very timid and not used to people being nice, agility is a good way to boost their confidence. You don't need official agility course materials, as I have used picnic tables, playground equipment (when little ones are not present), logs, or whatever else is around. In this instance, hiding some food to provide some motivation may work best, and as they overcome more difficult challenges, they will build confidence in their abilities. Praise them as they reach their goal, and they will also learn that people can be good instead of harsh. Eventually, you should be able to provide praise and petting as they learn not to shy away from you, and even look forward to being handled and petted.
At some time, as I get the chance, I will write an article to expand a bit more on the positive and negative reinforcement, and basic dog training tools that I have used. Perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind is to never give a command you can't enforce, as that teaches them they do not need to listen.
If either of you would like to write up your experiences, please consider doing so and submit it to us to publish. The more stories and articles we get, the better this section can be for everyone that visits. I may provide some edits, but tend to be very light in that regard as long as I don't see any obvious concerns.
Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the future Nation. The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations.
Dogs; Family Fun Unplugged; Perennials, Annuals, Veggies; Happy Birthday Wishes
Imagevalleylynn
Apr 29, 2010 8:34 AM CST
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR zone 8
All good points to think about Lance. BTW Lance, I really like your signature quote. It was my grandmothers philosophy in life. We never have to much knowledge and working with animals is a continual learning process.
I will be back home next week and will visit your Cubit at that time. My computer time is limited away from home. : )
ImageLance
Apr 29, 2010 11:22 AM CST
Name: Lance Gardner
coastal plain Virginia
Question authority, guide in wisdom
Enjoy your time away from home, certainly no need to be hooked to a computer when you are supposed to be (hopefully) enjoying other activities. Thanks for the compliment.
Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the future Nation. The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations.
Dogs; Family Fun Unplugged; Perennials, Annuals, Veggies; Happy Birthday Wishes
Imagevalleylynn
Apr 29, 2010 11:31 AM CST
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR zone 8
Helping DIL that just had surgery. She is doing great this week. What a blessing she is to me. I had the joy of planting both of the large pots on the front steps today and teaching the grandchildren about growing things and how to make friends with a dog. They don't have pets. Both GC learn very fast and are wonderful observers. : )
ImageLance
Apr 29, 2010 11:45 AM CST
Name: Lance Gardner
coastal plain Virginia
Question authority, guide in wisdom
Notice who is in a lot my photos, and please visit my children's cubit. http://cubits.org/children/
Sounds like we have lots to share. I also have a garden tips and tricks cubit started, but neither of these has gone very far yet.
Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the future Nation. The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations.
Dogs; Family Fun Unplugged; Perennials, Annuals, Veggies; Happy Birthday Wishes
Imagevalleylynn
Apr 29, 2010 11:49 AM CST
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR zone 8
I just noticed you are in VA. : ) That is where I am right now. Alexandria, VA. I will check out the other cubits also. Thanks Lance.
Imageadinamiti
May 1, 2010 10:56 AM CST
Name: Adina Dosan
Balotesti, Romania
Lance,thanks for such an informative article about dog training! It shows how much you love dogs and want them to be treated well.
I had a German Shepherd, Boss, who used to "catch" very well everything me or my kids and DH were training him. At first we used treats, but later I learned more about training and tried different methods which worked very well. He was so happy to do whatever I was teaching him and a pat or a "Good dog" was enough! You are so right about the voice tone, I figured out they all know when they did something wrong if you raise the voice.
I also took care of many stray dogs and some of them were really very shy, but I managed to win their confidence, yet not only with my gentle voice, but also with food. I have 4 stray dogs now and they were really wild...at least 2 of them , the momma and papa dog. The other one are pups and they were easier to train, as much as I could do that.
One of the best things I succeded in training them is that they pay attention when I raise my voice at any of them(they all have names) if any conflict occurs between them, especially when feeding them. Momma dog usually likes to go and eat from the others' bowls, but she knows when I say "go to your bowl" and executes.
Lynn, great advice from you too! I agree, they have to be read, each dog is different. My DH always says I have something which attracts the doggies towards me and I know what it is : I love them all!
Adina
Please visit us at Carpe diem cubit!
http://cubits.org/cjr/
ImageCapeCodGardener
May 1, 2010 3:08 PM CST
Name: Emily
Mid-Cape Cod, MA. zone 7a
Adina, I do think that certain folks have something that helps doggies--or animals--to trust them and be more ready to learn from them. I'm not sure what it is; a certain calmness of spirit maybe? Patience, and gentleness? Work especially with animals who have been traumatized in some way, or not socialized at the optimum time in their development.
Imagevalleylynn
May 1, 2010 3:54 PM CST
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR zone 8
It is sad that most do not teach their children from a very young age how to be patient and soft in spirit around domestic and wild animals. I was fortunate that my grandmother taught me that from my first memories. Not just with dogs, cats and other domestic animals, but down to even the gopher in the yard. I could sit for hours beside a hole and eventually have the gopher climb in my lap and let me pet it. and make soft sounds talking to it. I found as I started my own family and becaming very busy I seem to loose that ability. Here I am later in life and it is all coming back, life is slowing down.
ImageCapeCodGardener
May 2, 2010 7:34 PM CST
Name: Emily
Mid-Cape Cod, MA. zone 7a
Lynn, anyone who can persuade a gopher to climb in her lap has to be magic! I love the mental image of you doing that!!
Perhaps it's more typical of us human beings to have this characteristic when we're young and presumably not so rushed by life's demands. My young grand-daughter has "tamed" a nervous little rescue terrier we have. I find her just sitting beside the dog in a sunny patch of sunlight, softly stroking her.
You must have had a lovely grandmother.
Imagevalleylynn
May 3, 2010 4:59 AM CST
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR zone 8
I believe you may be right Emily, that is why as adults we tend to loose the gift to some extent. However none of my siblings ever showed the desire or tendancy for this ability, though they love animals. I believe it is also why I can work with agressive, difficult dogs when others can't seem to figure the dog out. I can teach the dog behaviourest to do the exact things I am doing for a particular dog, but they can't seem to get the desired results. The dog immediately starts regressing in behaviour. I do believe that as the leader you have to be the alfa, even in packs of wolves there is an alfa, otherwise things would fall apart and there would be no leader to look to. But just what kind of leader are you? There are good and bad leaders, even in wolves. Some lead by strength and aggression, using mostly fear as their tool. I do not believe this is the way for us as humans But we also can not show fear or weakness, these both can lead to aggression and/or fear in a dog that already has problems to begin with. It is all such a fine line and balance. That is why it's so important to be able to really read the dog. In my heart I believe a dog can read our thoughts, maybe it is because we transmit the thoughts through out body language. I know I can turn around and find my dog sitting on the other side of the room and find her just staring at me. It is obvious she is trying to communicate. If I take the time to quietly watch and look into her eyes, most of the time I can get the message. But it takes patience and time (because I am no longer a child I am not as good at this), but I am rewarded the instant I get it. I wish you could see her reaction, it is as if she is so filled with joy and pride that her human leader understood. She has been teaching our little rescue handicap dog Petrie to work with me in this way. He is doing things even the veterinarians thought he would never do. What a joy it is to see him grow in spirit.
Imageadinamiti
May 3, 2010 7:08 AM CST
Name: Adina Dosan
Balotesti, Romania
Lynn and Emily, what wonderful words! Did you ever trained a basset hound? They are so smart, but so stubborn! Hilarious!
I had a good time training a 6 months old puppy, only the basic, but it was hard!
Adina
Please visit us at Carpe diem cubit!
http://cubits.org/cjr/
Imagevalleylynn
May 3, 2010 7:13 AM CST
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR zone 8
Adina, my next door neighbors have two Basset Hounds. They are wonderful. The sent hounds can take a little bit to understand what motivates them. Play with finding what motivates your Basset and use that in small pieces of time, pretty soon it becomes a game they are very interested in and will give you their undivided attentions. Do you still have that dog Adina? They are such sweet lovable dogs, very good natured.
ImageLance
May 3, 2010 12:25 PM CST
Name: Lance Gardner
coastal plain Virginia
Question authority, guide in wisdom
What a wonderful conversation going on.
Thank you, Adina, for the compliment. I have conversations with some people about rescuing too many animals, with their thinking that all animals deserve a chance at life. I respond that all animals deserve a chance at a good life, and if you as a person take on too much, you may all be alive, but not sharing a good life. A tough choice to make sometimes, but we can't save them all. So, take on what you can, and feel good about caring for that animal as well as you can. I know my limit is 2 dogs at a time for me to take care of, more than that I tend to get a bit overwhelmed.
Hounds can be tough to train, as they are bred to be persistent in their goal, which is often chasing and tracking down various other critters. This also seems to make them a bit more independent. And of course, each dog is different. To keep most any specific breed happy and feeling productive, make sure to give them the opportunity to follow through on what their breeding is for. After that, you do indeed need to read each dog differently.
My son is very good with animals, and says that many of them are his friends. I have had to make sure that even though they are his friends, he should not try and pet a copperhead or similar. We go out and say hi to many animals, and have bird feeders set up so we can sit right next to them, and have lunch with the birds. We also have many outdoor adventures, which has the benefit of getting him away from his video stuff, keeps us both active, and we are outside. I hope this will serve him well as he gets older, which I am sure it will. He is not quite 7, and has been able to walk through the woods better than most adults for a few years now.
We all feel the need for a good leader, one that is confident and correct, and able to lead justly. Dogs also respond to this. Show you are a confident, consistent, and kind leader, and they should follow. I think this is one reason so many different dog training 'methods' work - as long as the person doing the training is able to convey they are in charge, the dogs will often follow. And regardless of what named method you may use, if you do not convey some semblance of authority, it will not work.
As I get the chance, I may do a bit more reading on the more 'modern' dog training methods, and try to synthesize what is common. So far, it seems they are mostly various ways to get the dog's attention and convey leadership and authority - you the dog need to do what is expected regardless of distractions and other desires. This may be another interesting article. Anyone care to write it?
Keep up the conversation, this is proving very productive.
Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the future Nation. The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations.
Dogs; Family Fun Unplugged; Perennials, Annuals, Veggies; Happy Birthday Wishes
ImageCapeCodGardener
May 3, 2010 7:40 PM CST
Name: Emily
Mid-Cape Cod, MA. zone 7a
Lance, I think that you have put your finger right on a very salient point, namely that different dog training methods have a good chance of working well when the person doing the training conveys calm authority and patience. (True for all sorts of training, even human beings!!)

I also like your advice to tailor the training to the breed characteristics. We presently have two terrier mixes, and they are much more persistent than I am used to after having several chihuahuas. "Lacy" is half Jack Russell, half Border-Terrier, and talk about focus and energy! I'm working to re-direct that drive to more acceptable behavior (like NOT jumping up and grabbing food from the table when we're not looking!) but it's not easy. She doesn't do it when we're paying attention, but will still snatch something if she can. I'd like to blame it on the fact that she roamed the streets for a while before she went to the shelter from which we adopted her. . . but I suspect that's just an excuse on my part.

Lynn, tell us more about your little rescue, Petrie! We have a rescued chihuahua that was badly burned and has some health issues. On the subject of dogs "reading" us: I knew a woman named Beatrice Klein Lydecker, who wrote a book (What Animals Tell Us) and who firmly believed that we could read their minds (and they, ours) if we paid attention. A bit kooky, but I did have a personal experience of her communicating directly with a dog I knew. . .
Imagevalleylynn
May 5, 2010 10:42 AM CST
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR zone 8
This is Petrie. He is such a joy to everyone that meets him. He went from being very ill and weak, with absolutely now a developed muscle below his neck, to the strong, vibrant, physically active dog he is today. He no longer will use the wheels now that he has learned how to use is back legs, he walks upright now. He has passed all the obedience testing (heal, sit, down, stay and come) and temperament tests and is now a Certified Therapy Dog. He works with special needs children.

Thumbnail by valleylynn

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