Sunday, October 24, 2010

Positive Punishment in Verbal Form

Hi Everyone,
It has been awhile since I have posted to my blog and I am sorry for that.  I am sitting at the airport waiting for my flight to return to sunny San Diego and can't wait to see my human and furry family.  As I sit here and I think about all the information that I heard presented at the APDT conference as well as the interactions of people and thier dogs, I can't help but write about it.

I was not that impressed this year at the APDT conference and feel it is time for a change.  A time to start changing not only the use of positive punishment physical methods, but verbal as well.  Anything that a dog views as punishment should be removed from dog training.  Well, that is my opinion and that is what this blog is really about.  My opinion, methods, techniques, and all things that I believe in.

While at the conference I saw many people using verbal punishment and that includes saying "NO, Eh Eh, etc...".  I even think that sometimes the way things are said can be punishing to a dog.  If you use their name in a harsh tone and that tone always means you are upset with your dog.  No reward markers are punishing to dogs and time outs can be punishing to dogs if used too frequently and with the intent of punishing.  I am just jotting this stuff down and really should be mapping out this article, but I am about to board a plane.  :)  I will write more about this when I have time.

I also think that forcing a dog to perform when clearly the dog is stressed and showing signs of stress is punishment.  A dog that is yawning, lip licking, running off stage, tail between the legs among other anxiety related body language or behaviors.  I felt badly for the dog that this happened to and could not watch.  I just got up and left.  I know that many many many people enjoyed the performance and maybe if they had picked up on the stress related body language of the dog, they would have felt the same way that I did.

I am now boarding my plane and will continue this conversation at a later date.  However, when I get home, I will be spending time with my dogs and husband.

Have a great day and think about the things that your dog might think is punishment.



  1. I agree in my head with you!!! But being only human...I make similar verbal mistakes. Then I back track, trying not to over react to my lack of impulse control thereby stressing the dog even more!!! arrgghh. On the bright side, these episodes are becoming less frequent. But now I am seeing colleagues training clients and dogs way beyond the dog's learning threshold and now I have to "leave the room" more often. Perhaps we just need to learn that an hour lesson does not have to be spent forcing the dog to work beyond reason. I am now rambling. Can't wait to hear more of your thoughts on this, Pam! Cheers

  2. PAm,
    Are you a member of the email group at Truly Dog Friendly? we started that group years ago to guide and advocate for change within the APDT. At that time, they were advertising seminars of shock collar trainers! We are still trying to make that effort. We feel that the ethical statement of the APDT is a good one, but it is not being enforced among it's listed trainers, and some of the conference agenda does not fit the ethical statement. At TDF, we are currently looking at an ethical statement that must be signed by our listed trainers. Trainers on our list have been "vetted" and have all stated they use only positive methods with no coercion, force, etc. I feel that "no" and "eh eh" are coercion. Please check out and join the email group. We need more people like you who can advocate strongly for change in the APDT, and even throughout the world!

  3. Hi Pam,

    I so appreciate your honesty. I, too, feel that I have "outgrown" the apdt conferences. Education is a great thing, however it's only valuable if the students are listening, hearing, and reacting to it.
    Even though the conference is in SD next year, and only a 6 hour drive for me, I doubt I'll go. My money can be better spent learning in a different environment - one that is geared more to the science of training and to specific topics. Thanks for posting.

  4. I so agree and I continue to say where knowledge ends aversion begins. People may not know what else to do and I think you are right, it is a time for a change. Obviously more education is needed as show me. Show me how, show me the results, show me why. I know it, you know it...and thank you for an honest and refreshing post.

  5. APDT needs to be rejuvenated, perhaps by people like those on this forum and the TDF forum. I think part of the problem is APDT, in an attempt to avoid being an elitist organization, went too far in "overlooking" some aversive techniques in the name of education. I have attended several conferences, and I must agree...the platform needs to be updated to meet the needs and the higher knowledge possessed by the current membership. I discontinued attending the conferences a few years ago and am studying animal behavior instead. That and changing my own behavior has very enlightening.

  6. I agree that some of us need to step up try to help rejuvenate the APDT. I am planning on putting in a few proposals to speak. I have never spoke at such a big conference before, but I know that I could do it. I have a lot to say and a few topics of interest to me. :) I am a member of TDF and have many friends that are as well. There are so many GREAT trainers that I know and they should also put in a proposal. :) Thank you for your comments! I really appreciate them! I would love to keep chatting, but I have laundry to do after being gone for 5 days. Also, I have to go back to work tomorrow. :((( BLAH!

  7. BTW on the flight home I started writing up my proposal and lecture for the 2012 APDT conference. So, I am getting a head start. :)

  8. That is GREAT! I guess I should renew my membership and put my two cents in.

  9. I agree about APDT - am seriously NOT renewing. But I also am not so sure about the objection to -P type "punishment". All punishment, as is the case also with reinforcement, is a matter of degree. just as all behaviors have consequences, -P done well is very effective. If my dog cannot hold a clean "heel" during a dummy walk-up, turning around and not letting her retrieve is a form of -P. Yes, it's frustrating for her, but the option is to teach her it's allowed, by simply adjusting to her. This is what had happened. A couple of short sessions of walking up at an angle to the thrown dummy with 270 degree turns and a couple of resets, basically all strictly speaking -P, since she knows a walk-up is straight on, but doing so until the heel is correct and the sit-at-stop is good is the new consequence. And the +R is the release to get the dummy.
    It's all a matter of degree, timing and methodology. Doing this so long that the frustration level goes through the roof is aversive. Small steps with lot's of praise/reinforcement for the success of the small steps, is not.
    Just my $.02

  10. @musicofnote1 - frustration does equal learning, but as you pointed out, it is how it is applied that is key. In your example, you put the dog possessing a training history, in a learning scenario. No verbal corrections or nagging. And I am quite certain that the absence of that type of interference allowed your dog to solve the problem without emotional fatigue that would have shut her down.Simplistically put on my part, but I think that is the gist.

  11. Well, I wanted to make sure that you all know that I was talking about +P in this blog entry, but I have used -P before. I think that -P is not bad, but that as trainers we can set the training situation up in a way that allows the dog to be successful. Sometimes we are only human and we do not plan ahead or things end up going differently than we thought they would. Life happens! However, I do feel that -P should be used as little as possible or never if possible. Set up the training so that the dog is right and successful.

    I also wanted to say that I am not anti-APDT, even though I may have sounded that way. I know that I will renew, but I will try to get more involved and my first step will be to submit a proposal for the 2012 APDT conference. I think that trainers need to learn how to change the way they train with solid methods, techniques, and be able to put what they learn into their training as soon as they leave the conference and go home.

    I also saw many presenters showing video of their dogs under stress and frustration to prove that those behaviors that are viewed as "dominant" by others are in fact not "dominant" at all. However, I personally would never try to get my dogs into a stressful or frustrated state just so that I could video tape to prove a point. I was disappointed and a sickened by that.

    I also had some discussions with trainers that told me they use noise aversion and low stimulation shock and their rational was that they saved that dogs life. Well, I say there is a better way and those trainers need to learn how to "save dog's lives" without having to use +P. Many think that being a "balanced" trainer a trainer that uses all 4 quadrants of Operant Conditioning is how one should train. I am just proposing that 2 of the quadrants should not ever need to be used. Like I said, this is my opinion.

    I am very pleased with all of your discussions on this subject and hope that you all will continue to discuss it. Please respect each others thoughts is all I ask. I know you all have so far and I appreciate that.

    I wish that I could be involved in this discussion more, but I am back from the conference and back to my busy real life. :) I will try!

    I hope all of you have a great day!


  12. Ooh, I so want to add something brilliant to this conversation. All I can think of is "Yah, me too." I also, intentionally, try to use only two areas of the quadrant. I have secret fears that either life or my bumbling self inadvertently stumble into the punishment realm, however slight, (could this be the reason I have an EX-fiancee?). Yikes. I think I need to go and hug my dog now and remind him of what a good dog he really and truly is. Better hug myself to remind myself that I would never do this on purpose. Waiting for your article, Pam. Glad you're back and can't wait to see you. Sara

  13. Bravo, Pam!

    I have learned a great deal from the APDT, but also agree that a time will come when the organization actually has some sort of standards.

    I cannot, in good confidence, recommend any of the trainers listed on the APDT site simply because they are listed there. Members may use a variety of corrective tools and techniques - I cannot just send someone a listing and say, "here, this person will not shock your dog."

    I can, however, do that through personal referrals and Karen Pryor Academy referrals. KPA grads are policed and must adhere to the standards of force-free training. Shock a dog, you're out. That gives me so much more confidence when making a training referral.

    Casey Lomonaco, KPA CTP
    Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training

  14. Hey Casey!

    The APDT trainers listing has been a problem with me as well. I recommend it with the caveat that is is a list of trainers that belongs to a group that promotes positive training methods. I then give the dog owner my handout on choosing a trainer to use as a guideline. Of course, that is if I do not know anyone in the owners' area.
    BTW, I have not gone to KPA. Thought about it, but I already adhere to their training practices and thought the expense to be added to a list of recommended trainers was a bit much. So, convince me. :>)

  15. Just as President Obama is helping American citizens to create better behavior patterns in the economic arena, a White House dog trainer should help the First Family to create positive behavior patterns in their new puppy. As we all know, the more we can establish good habits from the start, the less problems there will be to undo later.

    Socialization is one of the most important matters for any canine White House resident. Not only will the pup be exposed to a variety of people on a regular basis, but he will also be expected to remain calm in the face of reporters, cameras, microphones, and other daily intrusions.

    Leadership is another key area that is important for any pup. Just as President Obama has demonstrated a positive, easy-going yet firm style in his political dealings, so should this type of leadership be implemented with the First Dog. Dog owners everywhere would benefit from seeing a well-behaved puppy who has rules and boundaries that have been established in a gentle manner.

    Of course, training is crucial as well. Any pup needs guidance in order to grow into a well-behaved adult, and hopefully the Obamas will choose a trainer who uses the type of positive, gentle methods that are promoted by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

  16. Right on Pam! Thanks for being brave in standing up for this issue. I hear so many eh eh's and see dogs being pushed over threshold without breaks all the time, and hearing you talk about it via blog and hopefully a conference is really validating!