My last post raised the question “when should one start training a dog,” and we’ve had a lively and interesting discussion about it in the comment section. Our conversation has raised, as good conversations often do, another issue that I think deserves attention: How do you define training?
Many comments have said that we are training our dogs the second we bring them home, which closely reflects my perspective. However, others have said that they “don’t start training until the dog is older, they just teach them “manners” (which is closer to Kelly’s perspective). One commenter said that her dog knew sit, leave it, polite leash walking, etc, but she didn’t start “serious training” until the dog was older. What a perfect example of how we are all define “training” in our own way.
On reflection, I find that I define “training” broadly, inclusive of all of our efforts to influence a dog’s behavior. Good training, to me, means all interactions that influence behavior, from actively teaching a dog to sit to managing an environment to prevent behavioral problems from starting. Others define it more narrowly, to mean the point in time in which one starts increasing their expectations of a dog, perhaps putting more pressure on him or her to perform correctly, and if I read between the lines correctly, using punishment if a dog doesn’t ‘behave.’
It occurs to me while thinking about this that “dog training classes” must carry an equal potential for confusion to the general public. This is not a new perception, look at how many puppy classes are called “puppy socialization” classes. And note the change from “Obedience classes” to “Training classes” from 20 years ago. (When I began in this field, they were ALL “obedience classes.” I remember deciding with my partner, Nancy Rafetto, to call the classes “Family Dog Training Classes,” and how radical that seemed at the time.)
And what then, is a “trained” dog? If we define “training” differently, we must be equally inconsistent about what we expect of a “trained dog.” Perhaps this is a good reminder to think some more about how and when we use specific words. I use the word “training'” often, but also use “teach” frequently, and like the lighter quality that I associate with “teaching” rather than “training.” And I suspect that I have a conditioned association to the word “obedience.” I hear that term and I think about the dogs in my first “obedience” classes being jerked around on choke chains and hearing people shout NO! in the dogs’ faces. And yet . . . I do expect Willie to be obedient when I use certain cues, otherwise he could never be off leash in the country, and I know plenty of people who have nothing but positive associations with that word.
What about you? What does “training” mean to you? Have you changed the way you talk about how you have “trained/taught” your dog? What does “obedience” mean to you?
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Still cold, will be around zero (F) tonight and windy besides. Most of the snow is gone so Willie and I can’t play frisbee, but that means we can work sheep as long as I can keep my fingers warm enough. We’ll be going to a friend’s farm this weekend to work on cross drives at the edge of his comfort zone (remember my 2011 commitment!). We’ve been working on it at home, but I don’t have enough land with the right characteristics to work him past 80 to 90 yards.
Soon we’re going to let the lambs out with the main flock. In order to do that I need to spray Truffles and Dorothy with perfume… they began fighting like Bighorn rams when I tried them back together a few days ago and I’m afraid the lambs will get smished between them. (If you were reading the blog this spring, you’ll recall that spritzing them with a strong scent eliminating fighting after they had been shorn.) The lambs need out though, so Dorothy and Truffles are just going to have to work it out. The lambs have been in the barn for 5 weeks now, and they need to get those little legs moving . And I won’t mind not having to fill water buckets 3 times a day after smashing out the ice. (The fun part is when the water splashes out onto your face when it’s wind chill of 10 below.) But mostly I want to watch those little lambs get to stretch and frolic. As long as they get enough food they’ll be fine in the cold, and both moms are giving lots of milk now. I will have to train the rest of the flock to stay outside while I let the momma ewes into a pen to get extra food, but that’s easy to do: “if you stay outside, you’ll get “extra food” too (just a LOT less!)
Here’s Jenna, a young mix (herding?) who is being fostered by a dear friend of mine, and is looking for a new home. She came over to play with Willie and I got this photo of her in the snow, all black and white like life is now, outside of the warm, yellow glow of the barn lights when the evening light fades and the sky and snow turn ocean blue.
What a great conversation! I think I was the one who said my dog knew basic commands as a pup, but I didn’t start “serious” training til he was older. So what DO I mean by that?
Well, he knew how to sit and leave it and all sorts of things, but I trained them as a game. They were part of fun-fun-fun time! Time with “mom”! Time with treats! Lots of praise and happy voices!
Of course, that’s how I do “serious” training too, but I guess what I was getting at is that I would never have asked Jack as a young pup to do any of those things when he had other things on his mind. I set him up to succeed and only succeed. I never asked if I wasn’t 98% sure that I would get what I asked for.
So that means, for instance, that I didn’t ask him to “down” in front of other dogs when we were out on a leash (a position many dogs find vulnerable, and indeed it took intense negotiations to ever get him to “down” when another dog was in sight, though now he is very reliable. I had to revert to using a treat as a lure for some time to get him to do it).
I would play the “come-come-come” game outside when we were on excursions, with me and my husband standing quite a few yards apart and both wielding handfuls of treats, but I would not ask for “come” in a situation in which he was occupied with something else until much later.
He knew that “stay” meant keep your butt where I put you, but a stay was only two or three seconds at the most and only when I was right there.
We taught “leave it” using a tug toy and so it was part of the game.
Leash walking was interesting because as a pup he used to grab the leash with his teeth and shake it (only when we started heading home). We worked on that within the confines of short puppy spans of attention, but he was quite a bit older before he would reliably stop when asked. He also walked politely on a leash in most cases, but when approaching a dog face-on he would get excited and try to run, and being more interested in socializing work than in heel work I did not discourage his enthusiasm to greet his doggie friends.
The CGC requirements of staying when someone walks away, of ignoring a friendly dog, and all the rest would have been well beyond him at that stage of the game. For a happy-go-lucky, bubbly pup it takes intense impulse control (IMO) to do the CGC test. I suppose for a milder, calmer pup it might be doable without a lot of drilling, but I don’t really think I could have done it with mine using only positive training. Yet I saw an awful lot of people who moved right up through the puppy classes and were doing CGC already with eight-month-olds.
So we did a tremendous amount of teaching, yes, but all of it in situations where pup was set up to win, and where pup thought it was a game.
I DO think there are puppy training classes out there that are that way. But I do think that even positive training can be detrimental to a pup if too much focus is required at too young an age. Negative punishment is still punishment, and halting pup’s desire to explore and interact with his environment in a stimulating situation is a form of punishment. Too much of that too young (by expecting pup to focus in class for more than a short time and ignore everything else in the room, or by expecting pup to walk perfectly on a leash when other dogs are wagging and play-bowing) can hamper stability, again in my opinion, and I think a lot of trainers who hang out their shingle unwittingly set up situations where pups are getting a tremendous dose of negative punishment in every class.
As far as serious training including corrections, well it does sometimes have to, but a correction can be something as simple as not letting a dog go play if he won’t sit nicely before the leash is unhooked, or putting a dog back in place manually or by body-blocking when he breaks a stay. I think to have a truly obedient dog, at some point some sort of correction (no matter how mild) is always used, at one level or another. So for instance, when my father trained his Chessie on retrieves, once she got down to business if she did not bring something back he would turn and leave. A very serious correction, though painless and force-free. So I guess to me “serious” training is setting a dog up in situations where he is tempted to not comply, and then letting him know in some way that his behavior disappoints you. And that is something I would really want to minimize as much as possible with a puppy.
I would be interested in seeing what Kelly considers “manners” training. But I do really like your example of using “teach” instead of “train” because I think it’s very important to teach puppies a great deal.
Roberta Beach says
I do more “teaching” and “modeling” with my pack of adoptables than formal training. I agree w/Beth – I had a 6-7 month old Black and Tan Coonhound/Dobie foster dog in CGC last summer. The instructor kept excusing his antics. He wasn’t ready for that level of concentration. A factor I had was 19 dogs at home with whom to work to some degree – most participants had at the most 4. I failed Fostering 101 again and have adopted him – I hope to take him through this coming summer when he is almost a year and a half after focused (on my part), intermittent teaching at home in the house, on leash and past the growing calves down the road. Loved the discussion.
It’s fascinating and somewhat alarming how differently people use and define words. If you define training as anything done to mold a dog’s behavior and I define training as any formalized and structured effort to mold a dog’s behavior are we even talking about the same thing?
I taught my children a number of things and I trained them to do others so I naturally adopted the same distinction when working with Ranger. I teach him the kind of behavior I want from him by rewarding the behavior I like and ignoring the behavior I don’t. I train him to do specific tasks by having him practice the behavior repeatedly. I taught him that I like dogs that are sitting calmly at the gate when I come home. I trained him to pull a cart.
Let’s look at those two things. We’ll take sitting politely at the gate first. Ranger had no manners when we adopted him at a year old. His idea of a proper way to greet someone was to leap on them, knock them to the ground and lick their face raw. Not at all what I wanted. If he was a hyperactive jumpy greeter he was invisible. If all four paws stayed on the ground he got some petting. If his bottom was on the ground he got a lot of petting and treats and sometimes even a play time. I think it took him about a week to figure out that sitting was the way to go. Now when I come home there’s a calm attentive dog sitting at the gate waiting for the good things that happen when I come home. I taught him what I liked by rewarding that behavior and not the behavior I didn’t like but it all happened simply in the course of our daily life together.
Carting, on the other hand, was a trained behavior. We broke it down into small steps and practiced each one repeatedly until he was comfortable with it. First, he was trained to wear his carting harness. Since he was familiar with other harnesses it didn’t take long. Then he was trained to accept the traces and then singletree dragging behind him, followed by being trained to stand between the shafts and to accept these metal poles bumping against him from time to time. Each step was practiced many times every training session. Each training session was a designated period of time set aside for the purpose of training Ranger to cart.
That’s probably the big distinction between what I call teaching and what I call training. Training takes place in a designated period of time dedicated to molding a specific behavior. Teaching takes place throughout the day whenever opportunity presents itself.
As for obedience that’s a trickier one. I’ve never wanted an obedient dog I’ve only ever wanted a well mannered dog. I’ve seen dogs that are so obedient they can’t do anything without human direction. That seems pretty sad to me. I’ve also seen dogs that pay absolutely no attention to anything their person does which seems even sadder. Ranger knows how I expect him to behave and he does it because he knows it is in his own best interest.
I consider “training” to be teaching, which, like you, I think we are doing in every interaction with the dog to some degree. However, I would put “management” in a separate category!
For me, training refers to teaching the dogs using any method (check chain or reward based). Obedience refers to competition work, pure and simple.
Deanna in OR says
Puppies are LEARNING about the world around them, all the time they are awake (and processing it when they are sleeping). So to me, “training” or “teaching” is, as Trisha (and others) said, influencing what they are learning toward the things that I want my puppy to learn.
I’m taking full advantage of making it a game, in short short bursts, with my new collie puppy, Sahalie (16 weeks old, now). I’m working on the manners and impulse-control bits, but also having fun with things that will help us with agility learning later (nose-targeting my hand, targeting a yogurt lid, chasing me in circles in the back yard while I am still faster than she is…). It’s all fun and part of creating a relationship with my new pup.
Some of the manners teaching is, by necessity, “not fun”….I yelp when she bites at me, I stop when she pulls on her leash (then she can’t go toward that smell she really wants).
She is spending some time in (a good!) doggy daycare and learning how to interact with a variety of other dogs. She is going lots of places and meeting lots of people (who have good stuff for puppies).
I consider all of this “serious training”, because we couldn’t get to where I hope we will go without this foundation, at least not so easily. But just because it has a longer-term goal or purpose doesn’t mean it has to be drills, or stern, or for extended periods of time, or other things that many people associate with the word “serious”.
I used to have long debates about the difference between “teaching” and “training” when I worked as a computer consultant. We sold business performance software, and I did most of the training workshops. My boss wanted me to train Microsoft style – a scripted, always the same, out of the book set of modules. My background is good old fashioned teaching – recognise different learning styles, adapt the material to the students’ experience, find what they enjoy and build as much of that in as possible, find another way of explaining something that is not getting across, skip through stuff they know already, or that is irrelevant … but that took longer, and needed a deep understanding not only of the software, but of how businesses work.
For me, teaching embraces learning through play, shaping, thinking things through, discovering how to earn good stuff …. training is the repetitive work to get a consistent response, or to get something into muscle memory. Teaching expands knowledge and options, training offers a strictly defined set of causes and effects, Both are necessary, and there is always going to be overlap. Obedience work originated in the armed forces, I believe – now there is an example of regimented training!
Heidi Meinzer says
What a very appropriate question — the definition of “training.” I would like to encourage professionals to think about this not only within the profession, but also to find a way to educate the public.
I am not a trainer — just a dog lover and owner with a smart skittish rescue , so I had to learn an awful lot awfully quickly about behavior and training to keep up with her. I was incredibly fortunate to have been pointed in the right direction by local shelter staff to a wonderful trainer who uses positive reenforcement. But I had no idea at the time what else was really out there, and what the differences were. Now I know just how lucky I am.
Much luckier than the poor woman and puppy in a recent story in which authorities are contemplating abuse charges against a trainer who used forceful methods — to the point that the poor “doodle” puppy had injuries that looked remarkably similar to “shaken baby” cases. Here’s a link to a video that tells it all: http://www.kcra.com/r-video/26395882/detail.html
This story and video has generated a lively discussion on Facebook about how the dog training and animal behavior profession needs to get serious about building standards with humane practices. I can’t agree more. I’m a lawyer with my finger on the pulse of companion animal laws and regulations — it is just a matter of time before states or organizations that may lack necessary expertise start to muddle and try to tackle this issue.
I’d like to do whatever I can do to see that doesn’t happen, and that the right professionals weigh in on this issue. This has to include a component that would inform the public about what kind of “training” is out there, what to avoid, and what to strive for.
I thought of a perfect concrete example that touches both on the more specific “teaching” vs “training” question raised here, as well as on the age question in the prior post, that prompted this one.
As I mentioned above, I taught Jack “stay” when he was old enough to keep his waggily butt still for more than a half-second. Since I didn’t keep a training diary, I can’t give a definite age but if I had to give an educated guess I’d say around 5 months or so (I brought him home at 10 weeks and spent the first few teaching him that he could interact with the world without biting my pants leg).
So he knew “stay” in a puppy sense (two seconds, me standing right there, hand out like a traffic cop). He LOVED our short training/teaching/whatever you call them sessions. He remains to this day the smartest dog I’ve ever had (usually learning simple new behaviors in three or four repetitions, and more complex ones in a couple training sessions). But he was a busy, curious, bold and outgoing puppy and he remains a stubborn dog with true independent thinking/problem-solving skills.
As he put some more months on him, I started backing away a step or two with our stay sessions so by the time he was coming up to a year I could reliably back away and ask for stays of quite a few seconds. He would stay glued to the ground and clearly got the concept. Out of curiosity, when he was a couple months shy of a year, I went around the corner (we were inside, so I could get out of sight within two seconds). I peeked back to see what he had done, and he had immediately wandered off. He wasn’t following me, didn’t have that look on his face that means he is openly defying on me (like a two-year-old child about to pitch a fit). In fact, as far as I could tell, the split-second I disappeared he totally forgot we were working at all. I repeated the experiment once or twice with the same result.
At that point, I shrugged and said “He’s not ready for this work yet” and we totally dropped the subject.
I COULD have spent the ensuing two months “training” him on longer stays, through repetition, reward, and mild corrections (body-blocking, or telling him “no” which he understands not as a scold, for which I use ah-ah; but as a simple “try again, not what I meant”, the opposite of his marker word “yes”).
That would have been work.
Instead, I spent the ensuing two months doing not much of anything regarding stay training, except the occasional refresher in the short work he already knew.
I let six or eight weeks go by, and when I revisited the scenario, the situation had changed completely. I put him on a sit/stay, left the room, peeked back and saw an alert and attentive dog sitting there, ears pitched forward, at attention, waiting for me to give another cue or give a release. He clearly got it this time, understood I was still working with him even though I was out of sight even though we had not once practiced out-of-sight working in the time between the failed session and this one.
The difference was maturity. By letting him grow up instead of drilling him, I was able to keep our training sessions light and fun, and I achieved the same end result with no frustration on my part or my dog’s. Later, a time came when I would need to reposition him and do some drilling (leaving the house and expecting him to stay, for instance), but that was done with the idea that he was now grown-up enough to get the idea that we were working together to figure something out, and was met with eagerness on his part to do the right thing.
A wise trainer will understand when her clients’ dogs need more work vs when they need time to grow up. Many of them do. But many of them don’t, and in much the same way doctors will continue to prescribe antibiotics for a virus even though they know they don’t work (because they have trouble not caving to pressure), some trainers will cave to their clients’ pressure to help them “work” with a dog who really just needs some time to mature.
Roberta, it makes me so happy to hear your CGC instructor excused your pup’s antics as typical puppy behavior! I do think there are more good trainers out there than ever before. There are still a lot who advertise as “positive” who do more correcting than praising, and would probably have been tougher on your pup.
I haven’t read Trisha’s puppy book yet; after reading these interesting posts, I just may have to pick it up.
I have pretty much the same view of training, which is that it is any form of interaction when we are influencing their behavior. So you can be training good habits (petting when he sits quietly) or training bad habits (like petting your dog when he jumps all over). Obedience just means the dog responds to commands. I use the same word whether that was achieved through correction or treats, luring or clicker training. I probably irritate some people with the word, but that’s what it means to me.
With puppies, training things like sit, come and down for me always starts as a fun game, although I do use correction from the beginning in things like blocking them from rushing through a gate or out the door, or nipping the kids, or chewing on things they shouldn’t. As they grow up and get into more distracting circumstances (sheep herding), sit, down, stay, and come stop being optional games and I will enforce with an “aacch” correction breaking a stay (with body block) or refusing to come. I use a long line is used if that doesn’t get it. Early on every thing was trained off leash in the yard or the house and work up to distractions gradually.
Trisha, for those sheep you can get a nice big heated water bucket for them, or several dog sized heated buckets at Fleet Farm, it eliminates ice breaking multiple times a day. That’s what we have.
jackie d says
I’ve not reared a puppy, not since I was a kid anyway. But with my rescue (who had never been taught anything, not even house trained or socialised) I think I mentally distinguish between “manners” such as house training, loose leash walking etc that I regard as essential for any dog, and “training” which is extras – tricks, agility etc – which I do to keep his mind busy and happy. (He is a clever border collieX but with more issues than a newsagents, which rather limits what he can do outside the house.)
In the UK “training classes” vary enormously. A puppy class my parents tried consisted of 20 puppies standing in line practicing ‘sit’ and other obedience commands. Another that I have visited runs with 3-6 puppies who take turns one at a time to practice something in a fun way with the instructors help, then go back to have a rest and be given treats for watching calmly. The puppies are also allowed to interact gently and the owners give each other’s puppy’s treats, too.
Steve Shaffer says
Training: actually you’re discussing a verb here, in other words the method/action not the result. Thus confusion enters in discussing training (verb) in the same breath as manners (noun) or obedience (noun), it’s comparing apples and oranges.
With that said, we like to consider the dog’s total education (a teaching connotation) to consist of two basic parts, much like with people. The first part is more rearing or social skills. In other words, what are the rules and expected behaviors or social mores of the society/social group (human/dog mix) which we are expected to follow. Things like don’t eat each other (bite or cannibalism in the extreme case), don’t make a ruckus 24×7, obey your elders, don’t start fights and so on. The second part is what many would call training. This would be akin to job related skills versus the social skill set above. For our dogs that might include obedience training (sit, down, come, etc.), agility training, SAR, police/military work, herding (you thought I’d miss that one didn’t you Pat?) and on and on.
As far as training goes of either social or work skills that of course consists of somehow indicating and eliciting the desired behavior and rewarding it to increases the likelihood of its re-occurrence, management during training to reduce or eliminate the opportunity of undesirable behaviors during the behavior acquisition phase (which can also be used independently of training to avoid undesirable behaviors without training), and then consequences to undesirable behaviors. Consequences can be game over, time out, or other negative punishments (removal of positive condition). They can also be positive punishments (generally pain inducing) which don’t go well with developing a positive relationship with your dog and are way too easy for primates to escalate to abuse.
So a “trained dog” would be all of them. The point of contention is what “results” we have. Juvenile delinquents are “trained” in that they have learned a set of behaviors that seem to be appropriate in their situation. In the case of a dog we generally wouldn’t consider that behavior to be “trained”. So it seems that usually the consideration of if a dog is trained is that it behaves in a way we consider well mannered and does what it is told (know any untrained children or adolescents out there?). If the dog is trained for herding, we generally just call it a (working) herding dog, or the dog would be called an agility dog, etc. We then specify them by the type of training just as we do with people’s jobs – they are a lawyer, doctor, Indian Chief, etc.
Bottom line is that we consider dog training just as with people. Rather than consider if the dog is trained we consider if the dog is well mannered (obeys the social rules) and then if the dog has specific skills: formal obedience, tracking, herding, agility, etc. Incidentally, we consider sit, down, come, off, loose leash walking and a few other behaviors as the basic social skill set even though there is overlap in formal training. The social skill set however may not require the preciseness of the formal training behavior (eg – crooked sit is okay for social).
Alicia Graybill says
To me, training is an ongoing mission with all my animals (and I say that because I need my cats, guinea pigs and birds to also have some manners when I deal with them). Training is imparting and practicing a set of skills. For my 2 year old Papillon Ricky, those skills are walking at heel, doing a 1-3 minute sit stay, doing a 3-5 minute down-stay, retrieving, leaving the cats alone (a 3 pound Papillon that annoys a 12 pound cat is in serious danger if the cat takes offense) and any other fun thing we decide to undertake. My 12 year old Aussie Lacey is still in training though most people who meet or know her consider her a “well-trained” dog. That’s because training _IS_ our fun. Every time I toss the frisbee for her and she brings it back to me, that’s training. We are practicing a particular skill set. Even though it doesn’t seem as much fun, when I tell Ricky to leave the cats alone, his success is rewarded with play time or a treat or just some cuddling. And let’s face it, we humans get trained every day, whether we like it or not. We learn not to touch a hot stove (hopefully when we are very young). We learn not to text while driving (especially when we rear end the guy who stopped at the light ahead of us.)
For me, teaching is less about acquiring skills so much as acquiring information. Overlap? Yes, of course, but the distinction (and I readily admit it’s an arbitrary one) is important. I’ve known some really great teachers who absolutely _sucked_ as trainers. I’ve also known some fantastic trainers who couldn’t teach their way out of a paper bag. The two skills are not mutually exclusive but they aren’t automatically equivalent.
Behaviorally, I haven’t seen dogs become, as a whole, more badly behaved. What I have seen is people who aren’t learning to enjoy training so they don’t want to do it. I do believe that people are being more impulsive about acquiring dogs again (it was getting better there for a while during the ’90s) with the ‘doodles and the designer dogs leading people to believe one thing about the mixed breeds that they later find out isn’t necessarily true. Truthfully, I still think getting the puppy (and its family) into a structured learning environment asap is ultimately for the best for both dog and humans. Structured isn’t high pressure, though. Training should _always_ be fun.
Andrea Dexter says
What is training anyway?
Seems to me that what it is and what it should be are very different questions.
Does the word imply a “deliberate” action on your part?
If you are trying to have a conversation on the phone and your dog is pestering you with a toy and you find yourself throwing it to get him to go away – are you training your dog something? I would argue yes (and there are many other examples) even if you don’t know it.
Does the word imply that the training is intended to produce some desired outcome?
That would seem to indicate that you know what you want to achieve, have some vision of how your dog would behave or the choices that they would make, but is that always true.
Does the word imply that there is some method or plan of attack involved?
Does the word imply that the dog is actually learning something in the process?
Lots of other questions you could ask that would help to hone the definition if you were so inclined.
Lacey H says
I’m a rescuer, not a trainer – but I have been a teacher (of humans) and am pretty successful with rehabilitation of shy little adult dogs. My dogs do need to learn to “sit”, walk on leash and “go potty” outdoors – also on leash, since many of them will end up as apartment dogs. I make a rather poor trainer, since my timing coordination is bad, and my dogs often take quite awhile to learn “sit.” But the social rehabilitation from shyness is tremendously rewarding, for me and for them. I think this is very worthwhile teaching.
Unrelated to the current topic — I just saw this abstract in the new issue of ScienceDirect:
“The evaluation of systematic desensitization to treat separation-related problem behaviours, such as destruction of property, excessive barking, or house-soiling, has tended to rely on single case-studies. Eight dogs exhibiting separation-related behaviour, and their owners, participated in a controlled experiment using a within-subjects design to evaluate the efficacy of a combination of systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning. Treatment produced significant reductions in both the frequency (T(9)) = 0.0, P = 0.008) and the severity (T(9)) = 0.0, P = 0.008) of separation-related behaviours compared to baseline. Six dogs, for which follow-up data were obtained three months after treatment ended, showed almost complete elimination of the problem behaviour. The use of counter-conditioning, and other behavioural advice, did not appear to be related to the success of the treatment, suggesting that systematic desensitization was the critical element. Speed of progress and final success was not related to the consistency with which the owners applied systematic desensitization, indicating that even when owners apply systematic desensitization haphazardly, it can still be successful in treating separation-related behaviour in dogs.”
I can’t view the rest of the paper, only the abstract, but as a professor you probably have access to it. Thought you might find it interesting! I’d love to know more about the techniques that they used in the study.
I’ve gotten away from using the word “training.” For me it makes me think of Rally-O or some time of behavior to be performed.
I’m more interested in building a relationship with Honey which calls for good manners on both sides. That means I expect Honey to know how to walk on a leash without pulling me down the street. It also means that I recognize when that’s going to be too hard for her and try something else.
I’m not very good at setting up times to practice particular behaviors. But I always try to be aware that we’re learning about each other with every activity we do together. And I want us to be attentive enough to each other that we can participate in lots of fun things together.
I was talking with my father, a retired elementary school principal, this morning. He said the same discussions have been in education for a long time. Funny, but not surprised.
I tend to mean any interaction with my animals in which they are learning a typical way to respond to my cues when I say training. I don’t ever consider any of my animals “trained”. Like others, I believe it is an ongoing thing. Plus, I’m a bit fickle and I change the rules a lot. I change expectations, sequences, criteria and routines whenever I decide the current regime is not as smooth as it could be. I accidentally create problems and then fix them. 🙂
Having said this, I often also say I do most of my training out and about. In this sense I mean practising particular skills we are working on, or spontaneously teaching something new that is relevant to where we are and what we’re doing, or just the fact that a lot of the behaviours I want to change in my dogs happen when we are out and about with them. Lots of conditioning and finding ways to engage with the dogs when there are lots of other interesting things around. This is quite important to me. I guess I’m a bit of an organic trainer, always looking for training opportunities no matter where we are or what we’re doing. Strange dog bothering you? Well, let’s help you learn a non-aggressive strategy to cope with this. It’s all training, even when I’m using functional rewards and my role is quite passive – just making sure my dog is not being pushed too much and that they have success with behaviours they come up with on their own that I like.
Ann W in PA says
Like some others have shared, I tend to drop it all in one bucket – things I do to influence my dog’s behavior. I more often use the term “training,” but I also consider it to be “teaching.”
I’m more likely then to split that bucket into “formal” and “informal” training – with formal training being when I have a training plan, or am focused on a specific behavior. Informal training would be more on-the-fly stuff, including responding to the behaviors my dog happens to offer during course of the day, and a lot of things I probably do now without thinking about it, as part of our daily routine.
It seems to me that often, one way the two are set apart is that the word “training” has a connotation of being more vocational and conveying skills and physical activities to the learner, versus “teaching” being more about conveying information, concepts, and thinking/mental activities to the learner. (As I think about it, there also seems to be some objection to using the word “training” as applied to children, but it’s OK to train adults, as in workplace training – how interesting!) But since training a dog, and training a person to train a dog, require you to influence both of the learners’ mechanics AND knowledge/thinking – I’m not sure you can separate the two.
Lynn U. says
I use the word “training” for the process of deliberately teaching my dog to perform various behaviors — or, if you prefer, teaching my dog what she needs to do in order to get me to perform the behavior that she wants, giving her food. I expect that what it’s appropriate to teach a dog at a given age depends a great deal on the individual dog. For some dogs, learning that it is possible to be out in the world and be safe takes a long time. On the other hand, my Aussie pup is a couple of days shy of four months, and has, amongst many other tricks, a pretty good directed retrieve. She doesn’t know that this is advanced obedience. She just knows it as a fun game that she learned step by step, and that every step of the process involved FOOD. (Food is a very big deal to this dog.) The great thing about clicker training is that it’s all about taking tiny steps. So why shouldn’t even a young puppy learn a progression of tiny steps that leads to a more complicated behavior? Silvia Trkman, one of the world’s top agility competitors, has a video up on her site of the final session of the puppy class she teaches. (View at http://silvia.trkman.net/lolabu/) These puppies are doing very fancy tricks, learning how to use their bodies in various ways, and having a fabulous time.
For me, “teaching” is either something you do with people, or is the day to day education that happens through living together. I might note that my Belgian Tervuren has some educational strategies for the puppy that are very different than mine. I, for instance, would never throw a puppy to the ground and yell at it until it screamed. Taz, however, thinks that this is totally appropriate for certain offenses such as biting too hard or taking a toy he wanted. Works for him, and the puppy seems quite undaunted.
In my brain “obedience” is the particular set of behaviors that are used in an obedience ring, as opposed to the (overlapping) set of behaviors that you would use in agility or freestyle or whatever other human/dog form of entertainment you might want to engage in.
I’m enjoying this very interesting discussion!
Just my 2 cents here: To me, training is changing stimuli within the environment to increase or decrease a behavior when the stimuli is offered. Teaching is changing stimuli within the environment to increase or decrease a behavior. There are obvious overlaps and you can’t train without teaching, but I think you can teach without training.
For example my Britt, Duncan, loves to jump up. Obviously not a behavior we wanted, particularly with a four year old daughter in the home. So when he jumped up, my wife or I would cross our arms and turn away from Duncan. Once he sat or kept all four feet on the floor we would praise him. Now, keeping all four feet on the floor is learned. Duncan offers this behavior all the time. By my definition, I believe this was taught. But sometimes we don’t mind if he jumps up, so we trained “up,” pairing it with a cue, and reinforcing the behavior when it was asked for. It was trained because it is only a behavior we allow under certain circumstances, ie, when the cue is given.
Mary Beth says
What a fun discussion! I’ve been working with dogs for many years, and apologizing to many dogs for all the errors I made training them. I currently have a 3 month old puppy and I’ve been deep in thought trying to decide what direction to take with him so that I can be perfect this time 😉
I guess I look at serious training as the things you work on to proof or finalize a behavior in a dog. Right now with my young puppy, he has had behaviors introduced to him and he is learning the building blocks for future skills, but he doesn’t know enough to be proofed, tested or corrected on those skills. Right now is all about building the base for the complex behaviors that he’ll need to compete in agility, obedience and hunting competitions.
For instance, my puppy understands “sit”. He’s learned to voluntarily sit to get me to open the door to let him in and out of the crate and in and out of the house. He does not, however, understand “sit” as it will be required to line up for a long retrieve, or for a start line stay in agility, or as he’s going to have to do it next to a wheelchair for therapy work, or for a long stay in obedience.
So, my puppy does understand a couple different contexts, but has so much more to learn.
I noticed that his socialization within my pack is becoming very clear but its not so clear amongst strange dogs. If one of my dogs barks, snarls, growls, etc. he responds appropriately. Yet, at a fun day this past weekend, a dog being appropriately restrained by his owner was barking and growling, clearly not happy at being in the presence of my puppy, yet my puppy strolled past nonchalantly as if he didn’t have a care in the world. He’s VERY confident and outgoing. We have a lot of work to do! I don’t want him to fear other dogs, but he should learn a bit more deference and respect!
Socialization and manners are so important right from the start as is building a foundation for the future, but drilling for perfection with lots of corrections can’t possibly be appropriate for a puppy with the attention span of a gnat!
Wendy Gilmour says
Great discussion – even for a neophyte like myself!
I have had a golden doodle since she was 5 months old: she was not well socialized when I got her, but I have had her in ‘doggy day care’ and/or group dog walks consistently since then. I have done a ‘basic obedience’ class, but it was not very good (and taught by an 19 year old who didn’t know much – stay away from the box pet stores!) I then went to a single trainer to try and eliminate a couple of worrying behaviours, but they are so unpredictable, the trainer said not to worry.
But I worry!
Does anyone have advice for:
– my dog pounces, growls and on occasion shakes submissive puppies of her own breed (and once of another breed.) She seems fine and plays well with all other ages of dogs. She also has no problem with assertive puppies …
– and short of never letting her off the lead, I am at a loss to correct the following: she occasionally (once a week perhaps?) takes off at a dead run if she spots a jogger in the distance (at about 100-200 m). When she gets there she barks and jumps, and then comes back. I try and keep an eye out for joggers, but occasionally miss out. And sometimes she just ignores them!
All help appreciated
Great topic and I am fascinated to read all comments from professional to owners.
I am not a professional, just a dog lover and an owner. So for me I do not draw clear boarder between teaching and training…
However, one clear difference in between the two for me is that teaching is an initiation and training is a repetition, e.g. I show some new signs or cues to my dog to initiate his learning and then followed by training (= repetition).
@Beckmann: Just wanted to throw this out as one person’s opion. I agree to point about your last comment, about the difference between “training” and “serious training.” I tend to steer clear of the term. However, that said, from the things I’ve read and trainers I’ve spoken to, I believe when someone says “serious training” they are referring to setting aside some time, getting the treat bag, leash, and any other tools, and specifically working on a behavior or behaviors. “Training,” in this context, on the other had would be the reinforcing of behavior throughout your nomal daily routine such as evoking a sit before you open the door to let a dog go out to potty.
Again, just one person’s opinion.
@ Steve: Thanks for your input and I do agree with your opinion. My personal opinion from a simple dog owner’s point of view is … any dog training is a serious training 🙂 Or at least any dog owners who are trying to teach, train and do something with their dogs feel that way.
I kind of understand that dog owners who are challenging some kind of competitions, shows, etc. and they call the trainings ‘serious trainings’. Not everyone but some of them.
Since our dog has got a little problem, my personal time is more or less dedicated to ‘doing something’ with my dog. Maybe that’s the reason why I feel every one of our games, teachings and trainings are ‘serious one’ 🙂
Tim Reisinger says
According to Dictionary.com
Teach means “to impart knowledge of or skill in; give instruction in”
Train has several meanings
1. “to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior of (a child or other person) by discipline and instruction”
2. “to make proficient by instruction and practice, as in some art, profession, or work”
3. “to discipline and instruct (an animal), as in the performance of tasks or tricks.”
4. “to give the discipline and instruction, drill, practice, etc., designed to impart proficiency or efficiency.”
5. ” to undergo discipline and instruction, drill, etc.”
WIth all these c=definitions to go on (and these are not all of them) how can the use of the word train be the best word to use.
I would like to include the other words used to describe what Animal Trainers do, like socialization, and behavior modification. The list can go on, but I will stop with the most common.
Socialization means “a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.”
behavior modification means “the direct changing of unwanted behavior by means of biofeedback or conditioning.” in the case of animals this is conditioning alone.
With all of the different words used by professionals in the animal training industry, it is my belief that the system of knowledge verification is in need of govenment regulation.