Thursday, December 4, 2008

Training Rant - Snapping rewarded with a hit?

I have a poll to the right of the page asking everyone what they would like to see more 0f. The first two answers I received were Training Rants, so I thought I'd oblige (please vote to add your opinion so I can work with what you want). This one is one I've been stewing over since I ran into it in the summer while working with a dog that was housed at a boarding facility.

A comment was made that started me thinking about something that I ran into earlier this year; Smacking, bopping or hitting your dog if it snaps a treat out of your hand. I have known many people who hit their dog for the wrong behaviour. It is not a training tool I use or condone. Unfortunately, it is usually used because the people don't know a better way to train.

Have you heard the expression "A Little Bit of Knowledge is Dangerous"?

Here's my example ...

I know a person who breeds and shows dogs who showed me his way of fixing snapping. You know how a dog will sometimes snap a cookie out of your hand? Maybe take it a bit too hard and bite your fingers? Well, his fix is to make a fist (with the cookie in it, of course) and bop them hard on the nose. He guarantees me that it fixes the problem every time! He did admit that sometimes they bite their tongue, but he assured me that it doesn't happen often and that it doesn't usually bleed. *Yeah, 'cause that made me feel better!*

*Asshat* This same guy teaches the dogs to jump up and gives them cookies as a reward for that, so I've already been disappointed by his "training" techniques. Yes, he's moronic. And like so many dog owners out there, is too busy looking for the fastest way to train rather than the best way to teach.

Ok, so I'm not one to be bopping any dog on the nose for this or any other behaviour. Honestly, there are some dogs that come in that I work with that you don't do anything other than feed cookies and "make friends" for the first while. (I'll post a short story about one soon!)

I am a rather average sized person. I have never found force to work with any factor of dog training. I am not loud and don't have a commanding voice. Thing to remember is ... you don't need to be big, scary or mean for the dog to listen and do what you ask. You just have to ask the right way!

What techniques have you found to resolve the snapping cookies behaviour?

I have used the closing your hand on the cookie (but NOT bopping the dog!!). I have also used "Gentle" or "Be Gentle" where you offer the cookie and if the dog is too assertive, the hand is withdrawn. Though I have used this successfully, I have found that both of these techniques used with the wrong dog will actually increase the snapping as they get more worked up when you remove the reward. Like every technique, you have to be careful.

I have also found that if the dog is calm, the chances of a snap for a treat are less likely.

Some of the dogs I work with don't get handed treats. You just don't put your hand that close to their mouths in the early stages either because of safety reasons or because you just can't. (Keep in mind these are the ones that are cowering in the corners of the kennels, can't be put on leash, may try to attack you in the beginning, you can't get near, etc.) Unfortunately, that means you end up tossing the treat to them, which also means they snap it out of the air. I usually try to aim the cookie for the floor in between both of us to reduce the catching, but that doesn't always work. (Like all things in life, you need to pick your battles.)

Akin to all behaviours, cookie snapping is a learned one (I'm sure there is a better word/name for it!). If the dog uses it, and it works, he/she is rewarded and will use it more often.

We can only hope that dog owners can get the word out that hitting your dog teaches it nothing but frustration and may create worse behaviours than the ones you are trying to eliminate.

So do yourself and your dog a favour and don't be like all those owners out there, looking for the fastest way to train. Find the best way to teach. Trust me, it will give you marvellous results when you are done.


GoLightly said...

I LOVE Training Rants!!
Now that AssHat you describe I'd classify as a "hands-on" trainer.
I must respectfully disagree with your assessment of Cesar. His training techniques are all about the owner, not the dog. Cesar redirects misbehaviour by "touch". Not hitting, not slapping, not kicking etc. I have watched every single one of his programs. I have yet to see him rough, with ANY dog. Even two pit-bulls fighting. He rehabs the dogs, he trains the people. I still don't get how he is "hands-on". Sorry. This has been used as a description predominately by people who haven't watched him much. Or they "hear" he is too hands-on. He is VERY unpopular with dog-trainers I've found, anyway. His methods are startlingly simple. Trainers HATE that.
Any dog is "trained" by his handler, for good or bad.
Snapping often follows from teaching the dog to "catch" treats. This rewards snapping at food.
I also think the owner hand-playing with their puppies mouths, or dogs for that matter, encourages this behaviour. Rough-Housing with a canine is almost never a good idea, IMO. Makes the dog think, hey, this human LIKES play-biting. My puppy was taught early on that my hands were "sacred". She was a natural born retriever (go figure, pure-bred herding dog). She brought every toy and bone etc. to her mommy:)
She was taught to never have her mouth on the whatever once it was near my hand. It inhibited her from putting her mouth on my hands. Play mouthing your hands is the beginning of problems. Anyway, it's so cute, because now that she's older, she's learning to place the whatever in my hand, gently. She gets SO excited when she figures out something new! She is still inhibited from playing tug games with me, which is just fine by me, but she's learned to play it with gleeful abandon with her sister. I think humans try too hard to be like their dogs sometimes:)
My puppy was also taught to gently take food from my hand. Gently. If a tooth was felt, no treat.

ahhhhh, Rant over.
Thanks DDF:)

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

The reason I think Cesar is "Hands-On" and classify him as such is because he uses physical means to control the dog. Hands-on in and of itself isn't a bad thing. You are using hands on means when you are using a leash to keep your dog near you. Technically, that is hands on.

The reason I am not overly fond of the hands-on of Cesar is because of the way he does it. Here are a few examples, he uses the alpha roll *another up-and-coming rant of mine*, he pokes, piches, taps (with a kick), and prods the dogs.

I would say I've watched a fair amount of his show. Enough to fairly judge. Like I said, I watched him every Sunday for about 6 months (2 hours - back to back episodes on NGChannel) ... that's a LOT of TV! (well, for me anyway)

Yes, he does work on fixing some things about the people, but not a lot - he pushes dog psychology more (and if you really want to see someone show that the problem is the people and not the dog, watch some Brad Pattison - not all his methods are great, but he really socks it to the owners ... has me in stitches every time I watch) I do like a lot of Cesar's theory, but I prefer to use positive training methods with rewards rather than corrections.

You're right about certain trainers - some look for the complex fixes ... few look for the easy fix.

eleanor_rigby said...

well, I am the least knowledgable person on here when it comes to training dogs and puppies....and yet I have cared for and owned several over the years.....That said, I have pretty much just tried to use common sense, and yes have probably made LOTS of mistakes. I don't have cable, and don't get any of the dog shows :(

When I am giving a treat and I can see that my two little guys are REALLY excited I ask them to sit and start to give them the treat. If they try to jump towards my hand, I take it away and tell them to take it nice, make them sit again, and try again. This works pretty good for me. I also make a fist around the treat, and will not let them have it until they are gentle....this also works good for me, but I would never want to try this with a big unfamiliar dog.

I will admit that I have tried spanking for other behaviors...and ...It DOESN'T work. It's something people do out of pure frustration.

I will say that I am learning, and enjoy the 'training rants',and news stories on DDF.(everything is interesting) Keep up the good work!

GoLightly said...

Oh, boy, disagreement!
He uses the alpha-roll on red-zone dogs, ONLY.
I think he's a god of training.
His mantra of exercise before discipline before affection is totally RIGHT. He uses "touch", not pinches, or pokes, or kicks. Watch him carefully.

Brad Pattison is very good too. I think he's way rougher on his dogs, so there ya go. I do love how he rants at the people. They totally need it. I dislike most of the people he works with, like that witch who decided she should BREED her Goldie, instead of train her. Yuck!!
His dogs look like they're afraid to breathe around him. Cesar's dogs always look relaxed and happy.

When has Cesar used that alpha-roll technique on a "soft" dog? Never. Depends on the dogs' temperament. He uses it on a dog that has just BITTEN another dog, or human. What would you do with a red-zone dog? Talk to it? Dogs of course need touch. They know the difference between a pat, or a tap. I've never had to use any physical means with my softies, thanks to Cesar. I learned that from him.
He has the goods.
As I've blathered before, his methods, after YEARS of reading and learning, gave me the epiphany I needed to really listen to my dogs. I have never gotten the idea that it's ok to be rough, from his programs. Never. Without his help, my Kelpies would have suffered.

Thanks, eh?

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Yes, GoLightly, It seems we do have a disagreement :) Like you, I love his exercise, discipline, affection theories. Like I said - I like a lot of his theory. I just don't like some of his practice (ie - alpha-roll, etc). I have tried Cesar's training, bought his books (and yes, read them) and found it a good base, but it is lacking somewhat and like all trainers, there are some things I don't agree with.

"Red-zone" dogs as Cesar refers to them are common in rescue. I deal with them. Why? Because there isn't much hope for them otherwise.

Honestly, the best way I have found to re-train them? With Clickers and Rewards. I don't touch the dogs if they are in that state unless I am prepared to get bitten. If they are that worked up the dogs will redirect their frustration, etc on the stimuli that touches it (example, your hand). Trust me - I've tried. I thought that was a great way to redirect the attention ... and it's true, Cesar's way does redirect, but it's not the attention you want!

If the dog is going into that zone, you need to do training before they hit the high adrenaline level. There is a LOT of training to do with a dog that preps them for dealing with dogs before you are even in that situation.

Maybe I will put together a post for that this week. I'm sure everyone would like to put their two cents in :) this would give the opportunity