Friday, September 22, 2006

Positive Dog Training Techniques - Heel, click. Sit, click. Good dog.

Heel, click. Sit, click. Good dog.
The Roanoke Valley SPCA held clicker training classes to help dogs be more adoptable.
By Beverly Amsler
Special to The Roanoke Times

Lilly, a 10-month-old yellow Labrador retriever, is standing at attention, her body alert. In front of her is her trainer, and Lilly knows she has a treat.

The two remain motionless, eyes locked, until Lilly suddenly sits down. Just as her rump touches the floor, there's a "click" and the trainer gives Lilly the treat.

It's called clicker training. The clicker is a piece of plastic, about an inch long, with a button that you can depress to make a clicking sound.

The trainer is Merope (pronounced my-ROPE-pee) Pavlides, who spends summers at her home on Smith Mountain Lake and the rest of the year in Baltimore. She dropped by the Roanoke Valley SPCA recently to teach a two-day class on clicker training for the shelter staff and volunteers.

"We're exploring all aspects of training; trying to be open-minded to all methods," said Faye Hicks, Lilly's owner and the animal behaviorist at the SPCA. She adopted Lilly from the shelter.

Hicks first met Pavlides two years ago, shortly after Hicks started working at the SPCA. Pavlides -- a certified pet dog trainer who has a dog training company, Compliant Canines LLC, in Maryland -- started volunteering for the Roanoke shelter in the summer, teaching clicker training classes and evaluating dogs for adoption.

Hicks said the SPCA is interested in clicker training because it teaches the shelter animals consistent behavior in a stressful environment.

Pavlides and her students walk through the runs and click and treat each animal that's quiet. If a dog is barking, they click and treat its neighbor, who's quiet. Then when the barking dog is silent, they click and treat it. Pavlides says it not only gives the dogs positive reinforcement of the desired behavior, but it also keeps the stress level down, which helps make the animals more adoptable.

Pavlides has been training shelter dogs for nearly 20 years. She says that in 1988, most trainers used choke chains and other adverse types of training. She found the results disappointing -- most of the learning wasn't long term and it created fear in some dogs. - more info

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Electric Shock Collar Ban Supported By The APDT

Electric Shock Collar Ban Supported By The APDT

"Are electric shock collars cruel?"

The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), the UK’s largest professional pet dog training body, is joining the fight to have the use of electric shock collars banned under the new Animal Welfare Bill.

The APDT has a very strict code of conduct for its members, ensuring that dogs are trained only in a positive and humane way. The APDT believes that electric shock collars are totally at odds with this code as that these devices train dogs punitively using pain and fear.

The Kennel Club has been heading the anti-shock collar campaign in the UK, and the APDT is proud to support them in their goal – along with an ever-growing number of professionals and members of the dog-owning public who agree that there is no place in a humane society for such aversive and painful methods of training.

Modern dog training methods have thankfully progressed far from the days when punishment was the most common method of teaching dogs – in the same way as education has progressed from caning children in schools. The APDT acknowledges that there is no behaviour or training problem in dogs that is best dealt with by delivering an electric shock into a dog’s neck.

The APDT firmly believes all problems should be overcome using up-to-date reward-based training methods and responsible dog ownership – following the APDT’s motto of “kind, fair and effective”. The APDT further recognises that not only are these collars inhumane, but their use can give rise to far more serious problems than the ones originally being treated – often causing serious aggression or debilitatingly fearful behaviours, as they tap directly into a dog’s natural ‘flight or fight’ response.

A spokesperson for the APDT said “We are totally committed to having these barbaric pieces of equipment consigned to dog training history. It is our professional opinion that it is totally unacceptable to train dogs using such inhumane devices, and a complete ban should be implemented as soon as possible. Dogs are meant to be man’s best friend – and you don’t cause your best friend pain and fear in the name of training.”

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Positive Training Dog-lovers call for ban on zappers

LIFE STYLE EXTRA (UK) - Dog-lovers are demanding a ban on "control" collars which zap disobedient pets with an electric shock.

They say the collars, which are being bought over the Internet from America for £100 each, are "cruel and dangerous".

The influential Kennel Club is calling on the Government to outlaw the electronic collars.

Club secretary Caroline Kisko said: "People seem to think these collars can be used to train puppies. People who have just bought new pets are phoning up asking whether they should use them.

"We say they should not be used at all because they have a bad psychological effect on the dog. They destroy the bond of trust between owner and dog.

"The dog receives a sharp shock to its throat. It does not understand where it has come from or why.

"In cases where the collar has malfunctioned, dogs have received bad burns, which underlines how cruel and dangerous they can be.

"Even where the dog has not been harmed by burning, the effects are still very long lasting and leave psychological scars which make it difficult to train a dog properly.

"We have made it clear that positive dog training rather then punishment is the only way to train a dog correctly."

The club is calling for the Department for the Environment, Food and rural Affairs to ban the collars.

Ms Kisko said: "We are urging the Government to go for a complete ban and make it illegal to use these collars at any time."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Clicker training with aggressive dogs

'Clicker training' shows promise with aggressive dogs

When Massachusetts dog trainer Emma Parsons taught a not-so-old dog a new trick, she learned a big lesson herself.
It eventually led to a training method that teaches aggressive dogs how to calm down, a book on the subject, and workshops such as one she will lead this weekend in Oakmont.

The workshop is Parsons' first appearance in this area and is one of a growing number of workshops she has been doing since her book, "Click to Calm," came out in December.

"I just wanted to reinforce the absence of behavior," Parsons says about the twist she put on the well-known process known as "clicker training."

"The best thing about her system is that there is really a solution for the aggressive dog," says Barb Levenson, owner of the Barb Levenson Dog Training Center in Oakmont, where the workshop will be held. "And you can see it's more effective than the old method of just beating it out of them."

Parsons will deliver a workshop Saturday and Sunday in which dog owners will be shown how to use a metallic clicker and an immediate treat to have dogs develop calm behavior.

That click is used to indicate to the dog any time calm behavior is necessary, Parsons says. It is used to sidestep aggressive reactions that emerge for any number of reasons.

"It's a mechanical skill," Levenson says of clicker training, "but it is an art and a science."

Clicker training for dogs was popularized in the mid-'80s through the writings of fellow Massachusetts trainer Karen Pryor. She was a disciple of English behaviorist Ian Dunbar.

By Bob Karlovits
Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Dogs quickly decide that they have hit upon a way to train their owner

Dogs quickly decide that they have hit upon a way to train their owner and get more attention if the owner stops and focuses on a misbehavior. Never stop, pet, talk to or even push away the dog that bowls you over every time you enter the door. Turn your body to the side (to avoid the impact of being lunged upon) and leave the room. Give the dog no attention, not even to speak to him, until he stops jumping and pawing.

Have a dog that barks at you when you are on the phone, or when you have company? Stand up and leave the room. Close a door in the dog's face. When the dog is quiet, open the door and return. Praise his quiet good behavior.

What's a dad to do when he climbs onto his side of the bed with mom and the dog on the bed growls? Demote the dog from getting onto the bed. This dog may have to have a tough-love period of exclusion from the bedroom, or family cave. Negative reinforcements, such as yelling, hitting or pushing the dog away, are not required.

Withdraw your companionship from your dog each time he attempts to use growling to get his way. Let him learn that pushy behavior results in no attention from the human he loves. If your dog did not learn as a pup the basic principle that he must follow your lead and go where you go, it is never too late to begin a remedial, "You follow; I lead" dog-training regimen.

Modern dog-obedience classes use voice praise, gentle petting, delicious food rewards and the positive reinforcement sound of the clicker to mark correct, repeatable dog behavior. Days of choke collar jerking and owners shouting, " No!" and "Bad dog!" are gone.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Dog Choke collars not always effective tool

I was asked by a local dog trainer to write about injuries to dogs caused by choke collars. In a recent column I promoted the use of head halter-type collars and buckle collars as preferable ways to control your dog but didn't go into the types of injuries from choke collars. After watching a woman jerking her little dog's front feet off the floor in an attempt to make him sit, I decided to do a little research.

For many years, choke collars were called "training" collars or "correction" collars. In the 1960s and 70s world-famous dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse popularized the "yank and stomp" method of training. Some trainers still consider it a harmless training tool and use it in their classes. The problem with this is that the choke collars are sold everywhere, and new dog owners (having seen them used for years) assume it is what they need to teach their new dog some manners. They proceed to use it without the benefit of professional dog training and, in most cases, use it incorrectly.

For some odd reason, people seem to think that dogs are somehow immune to the pain of being jerked violently. Gee, can I put a chain around your neck, stand on a high wall, and yank hard enough to lift your feet off the ground? No? Think it might cause discomfort, bruising or an injury?

The whiplash effect of the choke chain can set the stage for serious problems, including disc and spinal cord disease, neuropathy or problems with the nervous system. The damage caused can be cumulative - the strangling effect can cause bruising and damage to the skin or neck tissue which results in scar tissue. As scar tissue has no feeling, the dog will no longer respond to light tugs and will then be jerked even harder to get a response.

The relentless and violent use of choke chains can cause dogs to be fearful of hands, resentful and aggressive; the opposite effect of what owners hope to accomplish with training.

Besides the injuries caused by owners yanking the chain, a choke collar can be deadly when the owner is not around. Leaving one on your dog all the time can have lethal results. Dogs can choke to death when the O-ring of the choke collar is snagged on a fence, a heater grate in the house, or another dog's tooth in play. In other cases, owners who tried to rescue their dogs from hanging when snagged have been bitten by their terrified dogs.

Although they appear simple, choke collars are often used incorrectly. There are just two ways to put it on your dog; with the moving end over the dog's neck (correct) or under his neck (incorrect). That would give most people a 50/50 chance of using them correctly. But putting it on your dog incorrectly means that the chain doesn't release easily and the collar stays tight, giving the dog a constant choking sensation. This can make dogs anxious, rebellious and not inclined to pay attention to you. So you yank again.

Getting rid of the choke collar means you will help your dog avoid pain, and injuries such as sprained necks, tracheal and esophageal damage, injured ocular vessels, paralysis of limbs due to spinal cord injuries and even a crushed trachea. It will also mean that your relationship with your dog will be more humane, more trusting and he will respond to you for positive reinforcement (praise or treats) not out of pain or fear. For all the joy and unconditional love he gives you, isn't it a fair trade?

Head-halters such as the Gentle Leader and Halti are great tools, especially if you have a large dog that strains against his buckle collar and constantly pulls and chokes himself. Traditional chest halters are also effective. Choosing the right leash is important, too. Most trainers recommend a 6-foot standard leash for maximum control while training. The retractable leashes are popular, but more difficult to use while training as they don't offer as much control.

In the end, a training tool is only as good as the person using it. Technique is everything, and misuse of any tool can be dangerous. Consulting a dog trainer, watching a video or reading a book on training can help you understand dogs, their motivation and behavior, and pick up tips for success with your pooch.

Diane L. Jarvis is education director of Second Chance Center for Animals.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Positive Dog Training Techniques

Dogs learn much more quickly and reliably, and retain more of what they learn, when they are rewarded for their work. Reward-based training, or positive dog training, teaches the dog exactly what we expect, and then reinforces the correct response, until the new behavior becomes automatic. It’s that simple.

The most modern, progressive methods and equipment will always be offered to you and your dog. We will not recommend anything that causes pain or fear, or that focuses on punishment. You will be amazed at how easily you can get your dog working with you, and how much easier it is to use positive methods.