Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why I don't believe in training with force

Before you say "You forgot to post about Tori's last Control Unleahsed class!" let me just say that I've had computer problems, and all in all it was an uneventful class. We practiced Off Switch games, going from playing tug to lying on a mat, Tori aced it. We worked on Look At That dog while the other dogs in place were moving around and playing, Tori aced it. We worked on Whiplash Turns, which she didn't quite ace (mostly because she was being distracted by Cathi, whom she loves), but still did very well. Classes where basically nothing happens is exactly what we want...she is working under threshold, and is happy with the environment. That makes me very happy.

Now back to why I don't believe in training with force. This morning I let Shadow and Pirate outside to go potty before I left for work. I went back to get them about 10 minutes later, only to find that the gate had been left open, and they were running around the neighborhood. Pirate, who has been trained primarily with positive reinforcement, came running back at my whistle. Shadow was a different story. For those who know anything about Shadow, they know that his roaming habit has been a problem for a long time. It has been better lately, partially because of training, and partially because he is getting older and doesn't feel like running off quite so often. Today, because he had already been wandering for some time when I called him, he made it quite clear that there was no way he was coming back. Honestly I don't blame him. When he was a puppy we took him to local obedience classes, where we were instructed to put choke chains on our dogs, walk to the end of a 6' leash, call the dog, and yank him toward you if he didn't immediately move toward you. Shadow has an independent mind for a Border Collie, and this just didn't suit him (do ya blame him?). He very quickly learned that when he was not on leash, he wasn't under my control, and because I was such a jerk (literally!) to him when he was on leash, he didn't really want to stick around. I was lucky to only be 15 minutes late to work this morning, and luckier to work in the dog industry, so my tardiness was well understood. I had to bribe Shadow to get into my car by throwing treats out the window. He also woke up most of the neighborhood by making all the neighboorhood dogs bark...although I didn't feel that bad since they were the ones who left their dogs in their yards.

My two girls, Layla and Tori, also have awesome recalls, and neither have ever been at the end of a choke chain. When they see me, they don't think "Haha! You can't get me!" they think "Mom may have cookies!". While some traditional trainers argue that your dog shouldn't be working for food, my younger dogs are infinity safer than Shadow has been throughout his life because of my liberal use of food rewards. They are very unlikely to be hit by a car...Shadow is missing his tail because of a car. They are not going to be shot on neighbor's land for chasing livestock...I've worried countless times about that very thing happening to Shadow. They live better lives simply because they are willing to come back to me. I think I'll keep the cookies.

- Megan