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Humankind. Be both.
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In reading a handful of things mentioned in various threads lately, I'm wondering what people think "positive training" means? It seems that in posts where people refer to using positive reinforcement, a common conclusion is that it means that trainer is "all positive" and uses no aversives. In extreme cases, that has led (not here, but on other forums I visit) to "positive" trainers being called things like "tree-hugging, cookie-slinging, Hippie trainers."

I openly admit to using all four quadrants of OC, but that the vast majority (90%, maybe?) of my training programs are comprised of positive reinforcement and negative punishment, and when I do dip into area such as negative reinforcement and positive punishment, I do so minimally.

So, I pose two questions:

1. What does positive training mean to you?

2. Regarding aversives, please describe what you consider to be a mild, medium or harsh aversive. For example, mild might be a verbal interruptor such as "eh-eh!" medium might be a leash correction (not slamming a dog on the leash) and harsh might be an e-collar. There's no right or wrong answer here. I'm asking for your individual thoughts on aversives.

Just wondering... Thanks for playing! :)
 

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Missing Molly
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Positive reenforcement, to me, means getting rewards for good behavior. Rewards can be anything, getting to play ball, a treat, some pats, getting to do what the dog wanted to do, and stuff like that. The only aversives I use are "leave it" which I guess is a mild one and "ACK" which I guess is a medium one. Interesting thread.
 

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In really simple terms I'd say that "positive training" means that the focus of training is GOOD THINGS - either the dog gets good things for doing what you want, or he doesn't get good things for not doing what you want.

Normally I would define it as "training without aversives," but some people like to be contentious about that and say "it's impossible to train without aversives, you don't give your dog a cookie and that's an aversive, so stop talking about how bad aversives are." That's just twisting things around for the sake of argument — we all know that really there's a difference between not-rewarding and actively adding something unpleasant, especially actively causing pain/discomfort in any amount. There's no way to train a dog to do anything without sometimes having to not reward, but it's definitely possible to train a dog without actively adding something unpleasant. Not everyone knows the scientific terminology, but when we're not just trying to feel like we're "winning," the general idea of the distinction between negative punishment (taking away good things) versus positive punishment (adding bad things) is pretty obvious.
 

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Humankind. Be both.
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Discussion Starter #4
Katie, in your opinion, when it come to adding bad things, are *any* bad things acceptable? IMO, there's a HUGE difference between a spray bottle for barking vs. an e-collar for barking. (Assuming the dog in question isn't traumtized by the spray bottle.)
 

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where the tails wag
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I consider positive training to be the application of a reward based training plan; such as training a go out with a target (and either walking out to reward or placing a treat on the target) versus using a pulley system or an e-collar to get the dog to the go-out spot.

I probably train 90-95% of the time in the positive reward quadrant. I rarely use punishment while training competition based behaviours but will use positive punishment/negative punishment for basic obedience. For example, while teaching stays I will apply pressure with the leash - a light aversive/punishment to me and then release the pressure.

For corrections I would rank the following

Light: The withholding of a reward and removing the opportunity to earn a reward
Leash pressure (not popping)

Medium: For my dogs, this would be a knock it off or on very rare occasions a leash pop

Heavy: Eye contact while telling them off, lifting them by the ruff/scruff for things like fighting.

I would also like to say that I have seen the e-collar used very well and very poorly; I sometimes think the assumption is e-collar trainers are harsh but used as a correction device at a minimum setting it can indeed be a valuable tool and similar to a leash pop - I actually bought one a few years ago, but then had to give it away since I could not bring myself to use it.
 

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Very interesting question/thread.
I'm not nitpicking (well, yes I am) but you asked 2 different questions. First you asked what positive reinforcement is, and then you asked what positive training is, and to me they are two different things. To me, positive reinforcement is the largest component of my training program. Positive training is a training program which uses only positive reinforcement. That again, is just my opinion.
Also, if I read it correctly, you didn't ask what we personally do, you asked what our definition of each thing is, right?
My definitions....
positive reinforcement....the dog is rewarded for correct behavior or responses. The reward is something added; it can be anything that the dog responds to such as food, praise, a toy, etc.
positive training....a method or system of training which uses only positive reinforcement
*one you didn't ask....positive based training....a system which uses MOSTLY positive reinforcement
my personal definitions of mild aversives, medium aversives, and harsh aversives (please remember I am not describing what I use!! just giving personal definitions)
mild....an eye contact stare with no verbal or physical cue, a slight verbal correction such as "NO" or "eh eh", a collar pop on a buckle collar, a gentle rap on the head to get the dog's attention, positioning the dog for a command he didn't respond to (such as sit), a gentle pop on a choke collar, spraying in the mouth/face with a water bottle with only water in it
medium....a harsh pop on a choke or prong collar, repeatedly popping the collar, a strong verbal correction, grabbing the dog by the ear or scruff and forcing it to do something, a very mild setting on an e-collar, forcing the dog roughly into position (I see this done on the DOWN command)
harsh....lifting the dog off the floor by the collar (oh yeah, seen this one a lot), pinching the dog's ear until the dog screams, a higher setting on an e-collar, hitting/punching/kicking a dog, this list could go on and on
 

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where the tails wag
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harsh....lifting the dog off the floor by the collar (oh yeah, seen this one a lot), pinching the dog's ear until the dog screams, a higher setting on an e-collar, hitting/punching/kicking a dog, this list could go on and on
Yes, I have also seen this one way too often - dog doesn't down on the DOR, take him outside and teach him a thing or two about dropping - from above the handlers head of course writhing and panicking as the 'correction' is being set up .. well you get the idea. Some of the things that I have seen go way beyond training and are well into the abusive area. I would consider most of the items in the harsh list to be abusive. Sorry, one of my personal buttons ..
 

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To me, "positive" just means teaching the dog what I want him to do, and rewarding for that, instead of correcting him for doing what I don't want him to do.


FlyingQuizini said:
For example, mild might be a verbal interruptor such as "eh-eh!" medium might be a leash correction (not slamming a dog on the leash) and harsh might be an e-collar.
I think that's pretty much how I would categorize aversives.
For instance, Gunner has always been a barker. I used the old soda can with a few coins in it trick. Now I simply ask him in a stern voice, "Do you want the can?" and it works. I'd probably consider that somewhere between mild and moderate.
 

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Humankind. Be both.
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Discussion Starter #9
Also, if I read it correctly, you didn't ask what we personally do, you asked what our definition of each thing is, right?
My definitions....
positive reinforcement....the dog is rewarded for correct behavior or responses. The reward is something added; it can be anything that the dog responds to such as food, praise, a toy, etc.
positive training....a method or system of training which uses only positive reinforcement
*one you didn't ask....positive based training....a system which uses MOSTLY positive reinforcement
Ahhh, interesting. This is exactly what I was looking to discover... when you say "positive training," what do people think you mean. To you, there's a difference between "positive training" and "positive-based training." I use the term "positive training" for my own training program, even as I willingly admit to using all four quads; 'tho I use MOSTLY R+/P- and very little R-/P+.

Nearly everyone I train with calls themselves a "positive" trainer. I don't know anyone who is ONLY positive -- and by that, I mean they venture into the other quads, even if only P-.

Interesting....

Oh, and yes, I did ask two questions, the latter being your personal thoughts on aversives, NOT what you personally use. I certainly don't USE an e-collar, but I do consider it a harsh aversive.
 

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I use positive BASED training myself :)
 

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I separate my existence with my pups into two areas, everyday life and performance training.

In our everyday life I use mainly positive reinforcement, rewarding with a treat or praise behavior I want to continue or happen again in response to a environmental cue. However, I will use aversives ranging from a no reward marker to telling my dogs no to a scruff grab if one of my dogs is being a jerk to another dog. I have also used an ecollar to train the dogs not to chase deer. In general I like to keep my ratio of at least 15 positive reinforcements to each negative response.

In performance training I use 100% positive reinforcement and negative punishment. The negative punishment comes in when Selli starts jumping up on me and biting my butt when we are running agility. We just exit the course, no correction, no emotion, we just go sit down (although she also does not get the treats she usually gets when we finish a good run). We have also followed the same technique for rally and obedience.

My theory is that agility or rally or obedience is a game I have chosen to play. Selli has never said "please lets learn and compete in agility to earn lots of titles." I have asked her to play my game with me. Therefore, I don't feel right using aversives to get her to play my games the way I want her to play them. If I can make it a positive experience for her so she WANTS to play my game by my rules, that is great, if I can't then I am not a good enough trainer and we won't play the game.
 

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Old Gold is the Best Gold
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Positive training to me is upbeat, happy, and reward based. I do use corrections "No" or "Eh-eh" or a light leash pop. Sometimes I use a hard leash correction on a dog that is absolutely hell bent on pulling or chasing something. Once usually does it. If not, I use a prong. However I use lots of rewards.

I use the above type method to leash train adult rescues with no training and pushy, spoiled natures. I use them on my own dogs if they do something I don't like.

A typical situation might be that my GSD puppy, Spirit, leaps on the door when I go to let him in. I find this to be very annoying. So I say, "NO!" and leave him out for about 30 seconds. Next time as I open the door, he'll generally sit, then I bring him in- his reward! He hates being outside without me, and only goes out to pee for the most part. He very rarely leaps at the door anymore at all, but when he does, that's how I handle it.

With a dog like Jade, my fearful, mild mannered, sweet, abused/neglected foster, I do not do any corrections except "Shhh!" when she is rumbling, but I do it in a kind of comforting way, like, "Shhhh, you silly dog! Nobody here is going to take your food!" in a happy tone. I am slowly instilling confidence. I reward her for everything! Wags, kisses, walking through doors, greeting people, being nice to my dogs... and she is blossoming so well!

People often remark how I sound like a cheerleader when I talk to my dogs. Well, I think that's a lot of why they listen. And why I don't have fearful dogs very often (unless they are total genetic headwrecks). So that's me.

In general, when I see the term Positive Training I think reward based. Pure Positive I think clicker.

BTW I use the clicker or a similar method (just without the clicker, use a word instead) to train almost all new behaviors- or at the very least, I use treats and praise. I would, for example, not use a correction to train commands like sit, down, come, and ring style heelwork. I WILL use them for stay- it works way better for me and my dogs have incredible stays, all of them, and quickly. I use treats, too. But I do correct mildly when they move or sit up and repeat the command. I find this works so fast, and SO well, that I refuse to give it up. I use corrections if needed to train a dog to walk without pulling, too, but any dog I raise from a puppy never pulls in the first place.
 

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1. Positive training means using positive reinforcement. A positive trainer is one who emphasizes positive training but doesn't restrict themselves to it. An all-positive trainer ONLY uses positive reinforcement. I consider myself a positive trainer, emphasizing rewards. Probably about 90% positive reinforcement and then the other 10% stepping in with aversives AFTER the dog gets it.

2. I think the severity of the aversive is in the eye of the beholder: the dog. I've seen dogs submissive pee when just told a no (and not a very harsh no). I've seen dogs not even flick an ear when collar popped. I've heard that some chessies are so hard headed that not only do some field trainers use high-setting ecollars on them, but they wrap them around their belly.

To try and generalize:

Mild - A flick of the ear, a dip of the head or some subtle sign that the dog didn't like it. Annoying, but not painful or emotionally upsetting.

Harsh - painful, dog screams, trembling, dog avoids eye contact, overly submissive
 

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Humankind. Be both.
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Discussion Starter #14
Another point that I find so interesting... The term "pure positive" or "positive only" in the science world would refer to a trainer who only ADDS things. In OC, "positive" means to add -- POSITIVE reinforcement = adding "goodies" for desired behavior in effort to increase it. POSITIVE punishment = adding "aversives" for unwanted behavior in an effort to decrease it.

So by THAT definition, I think it's VERY IMPORTANT that people define what they mean when they say they are a "positive" trainer.

I think the term "positive training" is often misunderstood by people b/c it can mean so many different things to different people. Oddly enough, I think "force fetch" suffers from the same problem. To some, it means a well thought out, systematic training program with roots in negative reinforcement. To others, it's more of a harsh, dare I say, revenge-based (ugh - I've definitely seen it used that way in obedience!), "do-it-my-way-or-suffer-the-consequences" type program.

The reality is, there's no "official" definition of either program.
 

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Humankind. Be both.
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Yes, I have also seen this one way too often - dog doesn't down on the DOR, take him outside and teach him a thing or two about dropping - from above the handlers head of course writhing and panicking as the 'correction' is being set up .. well you get the idea. Some of the things that I have seen go way beyond training and are well into the abusive area. I would consider most of the items in the harsh list to be abusive. Sorry, one of my personal buttons ..
This is one of the main reasons why I have absolutely no desire to move beyond fun classes for my dogs. Some people make it about them and their egos that the poor dogs suffer because of it.

I don't think a dog can be trained without some form of aversion, if you want to be technical about it, like KateandDusty said. If you say you use positive only, someone is bound to come along and say, well, I heard your voice get lower and THAT'S an aversion.

I use verbal corrections, usually just "uh uh". My lab takes a few more "uh uh"s than Danny and Danny takes more than Jasper. Actually, Jasper can get really stressed when I am verbally correcting one of the other dogs.
 

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There are absolutely a lot of people like that. Unfortunately, I know several of them. There are people who love the sport so much that to them the dog is nothing more than an accessory like an expensive golf club, a great bowling ball, etc.
But there are lots of us who compete that don't feel that way. We love our dogs, and I think you will find we are "positive based trainers". Our dogs are the lucky ones.



This is one of the main reasons why I have absolutely no desire to move beyond fun classes for my dogs. Some people make it about them and their egos that the poor dogs suffer because of it.
 

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There are absolutely a lot of people like that. Unfortunately, I know several of them. There are people who love the sport so much that to them the dog is nothing more than an accessory like an expensive golf club, a great bowling ball, etc.
But there are lots of us who compete that don't feel that way. We love our dogs, and I think you will find we are "positive based trainers". Our dogs are the lucky ones.



This is one of the main reasons why I have absolutely no desire to move beyond fun classes for my dogs. Some people make it about them and their egos that the poor dogs suffer because of it.
I totally believe you on that. Unfortunately, the ones who are cruel to their dogs are the reason I couldn't do it. I would just be sick to my stomach if I had to see someone abuse their dog and know that nobody would turn them in. It's better for me to hide my head in the sand and pretend it doesn't go on.
 

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honestly there are several in this area that really turn my stomach.
But to play devil's advocate...there are also those of us who are positive based trainers who have dogs that are VERY successful. And maybe, just maybe, we can influence the newcomers to the sport to see that you can succeed without being cruel to your dog. If I can influence just one person to turn away from the harsh methods and train "my" way, it's been worth it.


I totally believe you on that. Unfortunately, the ones who are cruel to their dogs are the reason I couldn't do it. I would just be sick to my stomach if I had to see someone abuse their dog and know that nobody would turn them in. It's better for me to hide my head in the sand and pretend it doesn't go on.
 
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