Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Training by the Wish method revisited

Way back in August I posted about an incident that happened to one of my students and her dog while they were in the Novice A obedience ring doing stays. The following comment was just posted about that entry. However, I get the feeling the writer in question may have actually attempted to read some of my earlier blog entries. How many? Who knows, but it does appear to me that perhaps reading comprehension skills may not be quite up to par. Either that or my ability to tell the story using words, pictures and video is just not up to the task at hand.

So, first the comment:

Patty Sontag said...
It really sounds like many of the people posting think the only way to train a dog reliably is with force and harsh corrections. I trained my Kerry Blue to his UD with positive reinforcement - no ear pinches, collar corrections, prong collars or electronic collars. HE NEVER BROKE HIS STAYS, EVEN WHEN OTHER DOGS CAME UP TO HIM AND GOT IN HIS FACE. He NEVER NQ'd on stays on his way to his CD or CDX - NEVER! I proofed and proofed his stays and they were solid before I stepped foot in the ring - my instructor made sure of that. Perhaps other handlers, instead of showing their 9 month old puppies in Novice, should wait until their dogs are a bit more mature and have more self control before putting them in situations that they can't handle. I know I would certainly appreciate that. The problem isn't positive reinforcement, it's the people who are in such a big rush to get their OTCH by the time the dog is 2 or 3. Don't shoot the method, shoot the stupid person at the other end of the leash who has entered their dog WAY too early without being sure that their dog can handle the situation. Anyone who knew him wanted to be placed next to him - they knew he was solid. Unfortunately, I lost him to cancer 3 weeks ago and picked up his ashes this morning. He was one GREAT dog.

Now for my comments:

Dear Ms Sontag,

I am truly happy for you and your success with your Kerry Blue. I'm sure your hard work and patience brought you much closer to this dog of your heart than you have ever been before. I'm also so sorry for your loss and know that the grieving process is at best a difficult one and at times a seemingly endless process of grey and dreay days, followed by cold and sometimes sleepless nights.

Know that the grieving process will one day complete its course and your lost KB will take a special place in your memories. Meanwhile, time marches on in a most relentless fashion.

From your writing you leave the impression of a dog who was a middle of the pack sort of terrier who never actually turned on to his true terrier nature. In a word, he was a "cold" rather than "hot" terrier. It does sound as if this was an ideal sort of dog for you and where you were/are in you travel up life's hill.

Your stated way of showing a dog what you wish him to do with, to or for you does work with a small percentage of dogs with a very specific temperament type. It is not confined to just a few breeds, but can be found across the total broad spectrum of domestic canines. Just because you happened to be lucky enough to stumble on one does not in any way guarentee you will ever have another one with the same skill sets. What is most likely is that any and all dogs you own from this point on will be much closer to the norm.

I do remain curious about the nine month old puppy you mention. Is this someone you know? It certainly didn't have anything to do with the dogs belonging to the students I have blogged about. The main student dog in "Training by the Wish method" was a Yorkshire Terrier who was almost 10 YEARS old. The Kerry Blue that is the feature dog in the "Taming of the Beast" is almost 5 YEARS old.

Ellie the Yorkie was a throw-away dog who had also been labeled a special needs dog. It was claimed that she was dog aggressive, people aggressive and killed things smaller than herself. Brandy the Kerry Blue came only AFTER two other trainers had failed her, she had seriously injured more than one dog, managed to land a bite on a human and been labeled by her country of residence as potentially dangerous. Quite frankly I'm still waiting to be introduced to the trainer/owner/dog combo who has successfully rehab'ed a dog with these labels, put obedience titles on them and seen them move successfully back into their respcetive communities.

Where is Ellie today? She is a hard working "school" dog. Her job is to demo just how to go about the business of training a toy breed to behave like a proper dog rather than a battery powered toy. She also helps train all the children who come here. With her help they are able to learn good, careful, thoughtful, kind handling skills. Skills that will go far to help them in many areas of their lives in the future. Oh, and yes she did finish that C.D. with a second first place and a HIGH IN TRIAL. Most of the time we think she is a very fine little critter. On occasion she slips back into her old ways and gets called "that little rat" and then quickly does something special to mend her slip.

Where is Brandy today? She has finished her C.D. with nothing less than a second place. She was entered in 4 trials. She qualified in all 4 trials. Currently she and her owner are busy putting the final touches on the Open exercised with plans on a C.D.X. spring of 2011. They have also started Utility training and plans along with our hopes are to see them in the utility ring by late fall of 2011.

Brandy is without peer when it comes to scent work as seen in these two video clips.


Brandy now has much better things to do than wasting time on small or medium untrained, not-dogs. What is a not-dog? It is one of those sorry, twisted creatures who have no jobs, no real training, no responsibilities and so are forced to spend their days slowly growing more and more stupid due to lack of metal stimulation and challenge.


  1. Pam and Cabot9:11 AM

    I would hesitate to make general comments on methodologies based on the experience with one dog. Having now titled 3 dogs from different AKC groups (Working, Non-Sporting, Toy) and also having trained dogs from all the groups, I feel confident that all dogs respond positively to training at Applewoods Dog Training.

    Having helped to whelp more than a few litters, I can also feel confident that dogs do not see the world thru a purely positive lens... There is not a dam out there that has not physically corrected their offspring, and the puppies have survived to adulthood much better off for the corrections.

  2. I have some confusion over the conflation of "any correction" to "harsh correction."

    I also have a breed that thrives when given a clearly defined task--and that means letting them know what's wrong as well as what's right. Any attempts to do otherwise result in a frustrated, demotivated dog, as repeated experience has shown me. The answer lies in balancing the two for the dog's needs. My primary trialing dog is known for his joy on the course (about which I coincidentally blogged just today).

    I also have a young dog with a sensitive throat who gags on any collar other than a pinch (no, not during "harsh corrections;" during normal casual leash activity.) In a pinch collar, he struts with pride and confidence. I struggle to understand how this can be seen as "harsh."

    A good trainer or owner knows that the right tool is the tool that's right for THAT dog--and keeps a full toolbox around so as to have the best possible choices from which to work. The tool, however, is only as good as the trainer using it.

    (I love the comment about the natural correction of young puppies by the dam. Sometimes we humans get disconnected from nature.)