We have a new trainer -- what do you think?

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Charlie- Chaplin

A day without- laughter is a- day wasted
Barked: Fri Apr 5, '13 9:39am PST 
Well, we met with our new trainer. She was more than gracious with her time, we actually went 45 minutes over our hour lesson without her saying anything.

She started in training personal protection dogs and now does a wide variety (she has trained service dogs and does so annually for people in our city)... She's not purely rewards based training, we do use a prong collar and she's trying to get me to cut down on treats (something I do need to do) but... I'm worried she might be too harsh. Chappy is super happy go lucky and I feel like he may not be after this.

What I don't like is how she insults just about every trainer I've mentioned but is a big fan of CM -- I'm not saying CM is bad I just wouldn't ask him to help me train a SD that doesn't have any behavioral problems. I thought the whole point when training a SD is making so he likes his work so he does it -- not because he's worried he'll get a collar snap.

The thing is, Chaplin does lack a lot of discipline, Portuguese water dogs have a long maturing process and in the hour I was with her I saw him change his demeanor in a lot more responsible way (of course it was a low distraction location). So I definitely think the prong is needed but I feel like she relies too heavily on it.

We saw one of the best positive reinforcement trainers in Chicago and Chaplin wasn't learning he needs to do it to do it not just because getting yummies is awesome.

I saw her work with two of the dogs she's training. One, a lab, was very slow with his movements and didn't seem at all to enjoy what he was doing. The other, maybe a cattle-dog/lab cross was much faster and to the point.

I can't help but remember a comment I read in reaching the animal mind. "Poisoning the cue" is all that popped into my head when watching that lab... I don't want Chappy to seem unhappy when working but I also need a trainer that will help me teach him that not only should he like it, he needs to do it...

I only see her once a week. Do you think it's gonna be too big of a deal if I take from her what I think is good and then just not "go all the way". For instance, to speed up his downs she wants me to apply a lot of pressure on his leash, Chaplin absolutely won't go down when I do it and is much more eager if I point -- I see nothing good happening from the pressured leash so when I was there I just tried to make it look like I was adding pressure... She claims that if I keep practicing what I'm supposed to and we work well at our private sessions he'll get his CGC in two weeks and we quite possibly may be able to pass our PAT in 5-7 weeks. Oh yea, that's a plus, she actually knows what a PAT is and how to give one.

What do you think? Especially those of you who use "balance" training?

Barked: Fri Apr 5, '13 9:47am PST 
He just turned a year old. Even if he were to pass the PAT in the next two months, there is no way he'd be a mature adult. The fact that you seem uncomfortable with her methods, that she badmouths all trainers but CM, and that she thinks a service dog can/should pass a PAT before it is physically and mentally mature would all make me look elsewhere for a trainer.

Barked: Fri Apr 5, '13 9:51am PST 
Did you talk to her about these concerns?

Of course you can just take from her what you want and ignore the rest, but that may not be very effective. Some training methods don't work well if you only do them halfway. In addition, your dog may get confused if she does things one way with him and you do things another way.

I mostly use reward based training with Isaac, although I do correct him when needed. I used a prong collar for a short time with him because he pulled on the leash a lot and I'm not physically strong enough to deal with that any other way. I haven't used it in a long time, though.

I am not a fan of CM at all. I think his methods are borderline abusive and if she emulates him, I would personally find another trainer.

I want my dog to enjoy his work, and he does. Oh, once in a great while I ask him to do something when he'd rather do something else, like a couple weeks ago he was busy playing with a toy and I needed him to unload the dryer for me. But he normally loves unloading the dryer. Training should definitely be fun for a dog. Isaac thinks it's a great game when we work on training stuff. He loves it.

Charlie- Chaplin

A day without- laughter is a- day wasted
Barked: Fri Apr 5, '13 9:53am PST 
He wouldn't be considered fully trained, she just thinks (and I agree) he should pass a PAT or a test similar before I start training him in public locations that aren't dog friendly.

Thank you Isaac for your input. I think I'm going to remain on the trainer market and look on here for more responses to get a better idea of my feelings.

How can I find a good trainer for this?

Edited by author Fri Apr 5, '13 9:57am PST

Toto, CD, RN, CGC

We don't do- doodles!!!
Barked: Fri Apr 5, '13 3:14pm PST 
I would keep looking. If you are already having bad feelings and you don't agree with all her training methods, you are going to have trouble only using what you want. And, she is going to quickly figure out you are not applying all she is training. It's not fair to you OR to Chaplin. You still have some time to do it right, he's still young.
Not to mention, the constant bad mouthing of other trainers would REALLY turn me off!
Perhaps you could check with any area dog clubs and find a trainer. Even if they are doing group classes, many of them would be perfectly happy and able to take on individual lessons to help train a SD. If they are using good, positive methods they will also use those with you AND they will certainly study and find out what YOU need. Good trainers want to learn, too, and are always happy to learn new tasks to help you with.
I "only" do group classes, but I have done individual lessons to help with two people and their SD's, and both did great! It is extremely easy to find out information on the PAT testing, and a good trainer knows what the responses should be and can tell when you and your dog are ready, based on their previous experience observing handlers and dogs, even if they haven't had experience with a SD yet.
Good luck!!

We speak out- against- discrimination
Barked: Fri Apr 5, '13 5:09pm PST 
Hey Chappy smile

I rarely post here these days but I'm working with a Portie SDIT prospect as well. Mine is 6 months. My parents had a portie when I was growing up and are on their second.

The breed has it's own "flavor" so to speak. Some of them are lumpy couch potatoes for sure, but most are high energy, quick dogs. They can be challenging and can challenge you as well.

I'm working with a Pawsitive trainer that has graduated the Karen Pryor academy. This is the first time I'm learning the clicker training in depth as opposed to just using it as a marker.

Please, do NOT let this trainer talk you into a prong on your little guy. No matter how tempting the bandaid solution is, it is not a good training method for this breed.

From what I'm seeing if a clicker trainer or positive reinforcement trainer is not being effective it's usually one of two problems. Either the trainer is not familiar enough with the psychology behind the clicker training methods and how and when to apply them, or the trainer is not good at passing that information along to their students to effectively keep up the training at home.

Normie is 6 months now, and while we're still dealing with puppy chaos and some mouthiness which is typical for the breed, he loves his training and to practice his "job". Check out the Karen Pryor website, and consider finding a trainer that is a graduate of the academy and really does "pure" clicker training. They will be your best resource besides patience.

Our more local puppy class trainer for example only uses the clicker sometimes, and never really explains any of the theory behind it in depth. I see people not coming back to her class because of a lack of results due to this lack of consistency. Conversely our "master" trainer will spend hours on the phone with me discussing my technique, including my timing and cue usage, setting up staircase training plans, and the psychology behind everything we're doing.

With this breed any negative tools or techniques can truly create behavior problems out of what would normally be a passing puppy phase. I would definitely pass on this trainer for your pup. Good luck, and if you want to find me on FB send me a PM.

Bed warmer
Barked: Fri Apr 5, '13 5:10pm PST 
The trainer that I work with gave me a prong collar to use and I haven't been very good about using it but would like to get back into the habit of it because Bella isn't reacting to my leash tugs like she used to. I was very hesitant to use the prong collar at first but if that is the best teaching tool which I can use, that is what I need to do for the best interest of myself and Bella. There are some things that are problems when we go out on walks, like trying to chase lizards, where she refuses to listen to verbal and physical directions and I feel as though it is in her best interest to learn that chasing lizards isn't safe for her or myself since she's pulled me over before trying to get to a lizard. That being said I feel that using a prong collar isn't an inhumane thing but would much rather use a prong collar than a shock collar. I see the prong collar the same as I do the compression camisoles I wear, it's a reminder to me to keep my posture good so that my back doesn't hurt as much after a long day. It's a tool to remind Bella what behavior I want from her.

We speak out- against- discrimination
Barked: Fri Apr 5, '13 5:35pm PST 
Bella, there are also halters like easy walkers and head collars that will save you from getting bowled over. I use an easy walker however I also train norman that when he hits the end of the leash, he gets rewarded for coming back towards me until the leash is loose. The easy walker simply helps him feel where that end is in a more pronounced way, it's not a long term substitute for training.

A dog should respond to your voice commands, not to a leash tug. If it takes a leash tug, or the dog is pulling on the end of the leash then you are working the dog above its threshold for that situation and you need to step back and work on the command with lower distractions.

I've used prongs too in the past, and yes, they get results, but they are bandaid results and only train the dog to not want a leash pop. They don't actually train the dog to listen. There is a reason even the guide schools are moving away from them.

Barked: Fri Apr 5, '13 6:31pm PST 
A prong collar is never necessary, period. Some people may choose to use it, but please don't think you need to because there are no other options. (If there *were* no other options, think about what that is actually saying: would you really want your health/independence contingent upon a dog that needs to have pain inflicted in order to perform his job correctly???? I sure wouldn't!)

I'm not against the occasional correction when absolutely necessary, but if a dog needs a correction more often than once in a while, what it really means is that your dog isn't fully trained yet. If your dog is constantly making mistakes, he's still learning. Which is totally fine, but consider whether you want to be inflicting pain on a dog that is still learning how to behave. Seems rather cruel, no?

And then on the working side of things, Charlie, you mentioned your dog was responding better to your trainer after your session. Of course! Because he knew that if he didn't do what he was told, he would feel pain. So in reality, if he wanted to avoid pain, he had no choice in the matter. That's not the type of training I want in a service dog who is going to be working for me. I want my SD to *want to work with me* rather than working because he knows there will be consequences if he doesn't.

I've been affiliated with a guide dog school as they've undergone the transition from older methods of training (the collar pops) to newer, positive training methods. The difference in quality of guide dog coming out is simply incredible. Not that the old guide dogs weren't solid, but the new positively-trained guide dogs are on a completely different level.

EDIT TO ADD: Sorry, OP, I didn't directly answer your question. I believe this trainer's methods to be actively harmful. Like I said, I'm totally not against an occasional correction for an already-trained dog that needs a reminder, so I'm not one of those anti-correction people, but I recommend staying far, far away. I would look up trainers from the Karen Pryor Academy as a starting point.

Edited by author Fri Apr 5, '13 6:34pm PST

Charlie- Chaplin

A day without- laughter is a- day wasted
Barked: Sat Apr 6, '13 10:54am PST 
Thank you all. I was nearly brought tears yesterday thinking about how I was going to ruin Chaplin's cute little personality but I didn't know if I was just being sensitive or not.

I've just gotten in touch with a Karen Pryor trainer. We will be talking this evening.
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