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Using Training Tools

May 30th, 2006, 05:05 PM
Lately, I have been really shocked at how many dog owners are completely dependent on training tools. I used to be of the opinion that you do what works for you and yours so long as you are humane an evenhanded with your dog. But it just seems to me that very few people actually use training tools appropriately and often go to the most extreme tools first (chokes and prongs) instead of more positive methods. To be frank, the only way that I think training tools should be used is with a rescue who hasn't been properly trained/socialized, otherwise I think it is our responsibility to train our dogs right from the start.

Also, seeing as I have tried a few training tools myself, I honestly find that using a training tool is more work then training through the problem. I have a lot of friends who compete and really push the prong because it makes the dog more precise - well to me, if I have to force that precision, then it really isn't fun for my dog anymore.

Any thoughts? I would be interested to hear all opinions as it could be that I have overlooked something in forming mine!

May 30th, 2006, 05:25 PM
We took classes. Even with food or toys in front of her snout in the lowest distraction environment there was no walking nicely. Ever..

My trainers worked with her, it wasn't improving. Got a GL was in heaven.. She pulled all the time so it wasn't being used right, but she couldn't pull hard enough to hurt me.. Started getting worse though, tried a bunch of harnesses.. she hurt herself, and was still pulling.. Got a prong. Walked nicely for about 3-4 months..

It was nice to have a calm walk finally.. Starting agility no prongs allowed.. class one she was a freak.. So we spent a week working on LL walking again. And I found that at like 20 months she'd finally matured enough to work with me on it.. It's still not perfect, but we are still working, and we've come a long long way...

I needed the tools to pass the time, otherwise she wouldn't have gone out in public for a year, but don't feel she learned anything on them except I pull and it hurts so I better not. We had to go back to basics again when the tools came off.

May 30th, 2006, 11:09 PM
It depends on the dog. You have to do what works for your particular dog. Some dogs work well for praise alone, while others need more correction.

For Boo, a choker works really well. I don't even have to choke and he just walks properly, but if you give him an inch, he takes a mile, so flat collars just don't work on him. Boo LOVES to get yelled at. Some days, you can see him trying to provoke us. It's like he needs it to feel ok or something (he was beaten before we got him). Without negative attention, we lose him. He just goes weird on us. It's hard to explain, but people at my park have seen it. Sometimes you yell and he wags, it's really bizarre. He listens, but he wags. :confused: Masochistic doggy.

Jemma on the other hand is a puller, choker or not. She's better off leash than on a leash. It's weird, but for some reason she does amazingly well when she knows you trust her to do the right thing. If you yell at Jemma, she gets SO upset. You just can't yell at her or near her at somebody else. She only goes for praise.

For both though, I phased out the cookies pretty well. There are some things though that Jemma KNOWS get her a cookie, so she'll do them and go sit by the cookie jar (i.e. ear cleanings, baths, nail clipping, etc). She won't leave the cookie jar until she gets what is owed to

But I agree that people are dependent on tools and more often than not, they are the wrong tools for their particular dog.

Like chokers- if you have to choke your dog 10 times to get him to listen, a choker is by far not the tool you should be using (and you have to change your commands and body language too). The right tool with the right technique should work right away or it won't work at all and you have to move on to another tool and method.

May 30th, 2006, 11:16 PM
Without negative attention, we lose him. He just goes weird on us.
LOL Boo likes what he likes!! He wants his "negative time" LOL

May 30th, 2006, 11:23 PM
I think it depends a lot on the dog. And of course you need to know how to use tools if you have them. My dad did not know how to use the check chain and my dog would pull him along even if she was gasping for breath. (Needless to say, after hearing about this I wouldn't let him use the check chain on her again.)

But if I used it, she was fine, because I knew how to use it and she knew what to expect. Once she learned about the chain, I never had to pull it taut; a gentle tug that barely made the links chink would be enough for her to realize "oops, I'm going too fast, I need to slow down." Or there was the tug that meant "I know you see that squirrel, but I expect you to ignore it!" I really feel the check chain is a more able tool for communication than a regular collar and cringe whenever I hear of it being abused or mishandled.

May 31st, 2006, 09:17 AM
We started using choke chain yesterday afternoon - not harshly, just gentle tugs. Our 2 year old Eskimo is a very serious puller and barker - not aggressive, but puts his whole body into it. Last night my husband used the choke and as took our dog in a different direction. Several comments were made re what a beautiful "girl" he is and how very well behaved. This was a shock! We just came in again and he didn't even bark or lunge at the street cleaning water truck. He saw a squirrel and while he of course wanted to chase it he declined. He is a very smart dog - the smarter the dog the harder to train. He picked up very quickly that he couldn't lunge with me holding the leash to half its size and that the choke could be slightly uncomfortable. Every few minutes I check to make sure it isn't too tight or caught in the double ruff of his neck. As his re-training continues he will graduate to a Martingale collar and then most dogs to a flat or rolled collar. But since he has 3 good harnesses I expect we will go back to those - helpful to see him in snow etc. as he is so white (when he hasn't been rolling in mud). So for less than a day the change is astounding. He barked his head off for 10 minutes when new trainer arrived - does not like people coming into the house with 1 exception. So will work on that as well. But he was very quick to realize that he wasn't going to win that battle and after I put the choke chain on him we went outside and she took him on a tour of the back yard with the Heel command and sitting etc. He redeemed himself. When we came back in, we removed the chain and leash and he sat calming by her feet. When he goes to socialization tomorrow I will use his choke chain to walk from car to groomer's and then switch it for harness - he will be fooled into thinking it is business as usual - but as he goes for a walk in the ravine with the dog walker, I want him visible in his orange vest, with all of his ID - plus will be easier for her as she will have a few dogs with her. We are just looking to improve his manners. As far as his toys and food are concerned, they are his. I know some people consider all property theirs and that the dog can play with toys as dispenses and only eat when told to - I don't want his toys, they are his. When I put his food down, it is his. He is a happy dog - although he is worried about the choke chain.

May 31st, 2006, 12:51 PM
I think it depends on the dog, but most 'training tools' have 'side-effects' ...

Those who've been following my story obviously knows Matty's far from being an angel, even then I find that through experimenting with different tools most of them are just gimmicks.

For example Matty pulls on the leash a lot, and I got a choke collar for him but it doesn't really work ... the first few days it sorta worked, but afterwards he'd still pull if there's anything that attracts him ... doesn't care if the choke collar chokes so hard that he can't breath.

Eventually we spent more time on the "leave it" and "Close" command and while I can't say he doesn't pull anymore, but at least he's behaving much better than the days when we relied on choke collar.

IMO Love and patience are the best tools for dog training ...

But, every dog is different, so I can't say training tools don't work at all.

May 31st, 2006, 02:41 PM
sprayeddog, that's exactly how my dad used the collar with Ebony. And, as he discovered . . . it doesn't work like that. ;) Not with a dedicated puller! ;) The idea behind the collar isn't that the dog realizes it's choking and stops pulling, but rather that you are able to give the dog a correction with it--but to do that the leash MUST be slack! When the dog starts pulling, you have to put your arm FORWARD, creating slack in the leash/collar, pull back sharply and quickly while saying "no pull", and then instantly let the leash/collar go slack again.

So, as you can imagine, a check collar can actually be more work at first, as you will be doing the arm forward/snap/release over and over again until the dog starts making an effort to stay "in bounds." But once you and your dog gets used to it, it's great and very communicative.

Just a note, if you use a check collar, try to keep the dog to one side on your walks because if you have the collar on "backwards", it will not slacken the way it should and can be dangerous! The way I learned it is that if you walk with your dog on your left side, the collar should hang like a "P" as you put it on (facing the dog head-on) for "patience." If it looks like a lowercase "q", that's for "quit" because you have the collar backwards! :) And of course never leave a dog unattended while wearing one or use it in lieu of a regular collar when the dog is offleash.

May 31st, 2006, 04:23 PM
This discussion is RIGHT up my alley. Training tools and their (mis) application are constantly debated in the horse world.

Almost every training tool out there from the mild (flat collar) to the harsh (shock collar and beyond) has a useful application for some combination of problem and dog type/personality.

The issue is not the training tool, the issue is three-fold:
- Does the handler have the experience to understand the purpose and application of the tool?
- Does the handler recognize when a specific tool is or is not appropriate?
- Does the handler know when the tool is being used as a crutch?

Its sort of like the current bias against training (check, choke) collars. Is the problem the collar or that so many people don't understand the momentary application required to use the tool. Itís a good and simple design because it can provide such an instant release of pressure, but it requires timing and body awareness on the user's part. It takes two to pull and many people don't realize that they are pulling.

Problem is, many dog owners aren't educated in the tools like a trainer (hopefully) is. They are told "Here's the tool, use it this way" but aren't really told why, when its appropriate, when it is in-effective etc. All of which is fairly important information.

June 1st, 2006, 07:54 PM
I am not sure I need to participate here. You know how we feel about gimmicks and treat training. I was just on an APDT chat room and a trainer was talking about 'machine gunning' her treats for the stay. I was dumbfounded.
When I read about other trainers methods taking so long and then weaning them from the gimmicks or treats - it amazes me. Really the training itself should take no time at all, its just reinforcing it through distractions and as the dog goes through developmental stages.
That people are now even chatting up the 'e-collars' calling it e-touch! Like that makes the shock any less painful. Shock collars are illiegal in parts of Europe, yet trainers here are still talking about them like they are a great alternative.
I just don't get it!

June 1st, 2006, 09:56 PM
I am not sure I need to participate here. You know how we feel about gimmicks and treat training.

How very interesting - I am so glad you did post! As my original post suggests it never even occured to me to include treat training as an overused tool:o .

I've never considered treat training a tool because I do not use treats everytime Dodger's does what I ask (its used as an extra incentive in the beginning stages of the learning process) and since it doesn't cause a dog harm it wasn't a training tool in my mind. But now that you mention it, I can definately see how it is a tool and how it could cause more work when people do not use it properly!
Having said that, because it is a positive tool and because Dodger is always training in a new doggy sport (that often requires him to do un-dog like things), I will continue to use them (I am really amazed and embarassed that my brain didn't say that treats are a tool as well!:p )

Thank-you to everyone, I appreciate you sharing your opinions... :)

Esaunders - you bring up valid points as well - just a collar and leash are training tools. And you pose excellent questions that handlers should answer before considering a training tool.

So from what people have posted so far and from my own observation, training tools are used/relied on because:

- the pup isn't mature enough to be trained??
- the dog is independent/a puller/exciteable??
- the handler has not trained the dog from the start??
- the handler wants a quick fix??
- the trainers are not informed??
- the handler is small (or older, injured) and the dog is young/strong??
- naivety/belief in trainers/vets/dog owners that believe in tools

Which I think basically comes down to the handler not being informed or prepared to devote the time to set boundaries (act preventatively)?? Obviously this doesn't include people who have rescued/adopted older puppies/dogs...

I still don't see how someone who has had the pup from 8-14 weeks would need a training tool if they were informed and prepared to "do it right from the start"... I tried the halti and prong after a past trainer explained that it was the best/most gentle ways of getting your dog focused and ready for competition. After a few days of that, I thought to myself, if I need to force Dodger to work with me and get precision in the ring, then I am doing something wrong (not Dodger)!
But I am told that I haven't come across a "stubborn" dog and that when I do, I will understand the need to rely on a training tool. I am not convinced.

June 1st, 2006, 10:05 PM
Love your list of 'reasons' - because I think the entire population of APDT trainers use gimmicks and treats. Yet they are supposedly the experts! I can only shake my head in wonder.:confused:

June 1st, 2006, 11:25 PM
Experts my hiney! When I walked in on the trainer at the kennel I worked at about to give a jumpy boxer the back of his hand, the idea of a cheap "expert" trainer completely died (it was already dying before that though). No trainer should ever need that kind of force to get his way with a dog. NEVER.:sad:

June 2nd, 2006, 09:32 AM
An **** started a thread on another forum about treat training. Put it down 100% yelled, screamed called anyone who used it stupid, it was a mess.
I don't use treats 100%. I use them to get a new behaviour.. and then often praise is enough. I didn't realize before that thread though, that people sometimes used them indefinately..
Like their dog can't sit unless they see the treat. Yikes.