Positive Training vs. Corrections

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So I have been trying a new tactic with Bentley lately.  Previously, I was trying to use ONLY positive reinforcement with him for training.  This works brilliantly for teaching commands and tricks such as “sit” and “go crate“.  But it doesn’t work quite as well with general behaviors such as getting him to stop jumping or to be gentle when taking a treat.  So I have started using corrections with Bentley.  Out in the wild, wolves don’t learn everything by positive reinforcement.  They are corrected, first by their mother, then by litter mates, and then others in the pack.  You cross a line, you get a correction. Life goes on and the pup learns not to do that again.

So I’ve started working on using some corrections with Bentley.  They are sharp, but not harsh. It is very interesting to see the reaction. He is VERY surprised at being corrected, as I don’t think his previous owners ever did. He also doesn’t quite like it. He tries to fight back. But it is absolutely amazing the difference in him when I don’t back down.  You will recall I previously tried to teach him the “leave it” command.  It was kind of working, but he would still jump and lunge at any treat.  Using correction, I was able to within 5 minutes get him to lay down and I could put a treat on the floor and he would not go for it.  I can also now walk him with a loose leash about 80% of the time.  (Still working on ignoring neighborhood dogs, cats and squirrels)

The corrections I’m using are either a snap of the leash or a quick jab/poke in the side of the neck. They are sharp and startling to the dog, but they don’t hurt him at all.

Now, I’m not giving up on the positive training methods for teaching him his commands.  But for a well-balanced dog, you need a mix of both types.

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The Cup Game

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Bentley tries to figure out how to get the treat from under the cup

Bentley tries to figure out how to get the treat from under the cup

Bentley was looking a bit bored, so I decided to try to teach him a new game.  The idea is to put a treat under a cup, mix it with other cups and have him find the treat.  I started with 5 cups.  He really didn’t get the idea.  I think part of the problem was I was using hard plastic cups, so he had a hard time smelling which cup had the treat under it.  Plus he just didn’t really know what to do.

So I reset my expectations and decided to start much much slower.  I showed him a treat, put it under a cup, and his job was merely to get the treat.  That, he picked up on right away!   Still, I don’t think he quite gets that there is a treat under the cup, because half the time he looks at my hand for the treat first before trying to knock the cup over.

I want to get some disposable plastic cups and try this again.  I plan to poke some small holes in the cup so he can really smell that there’s a treat under there.