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Training and Obedience > How much praise? (27 replies)

by SitasMom on 18 April 2011 - 14:04

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I was at a community obedience class with my dog, mainly to deal with a small dog aggression issue. For my dog it was not learning beginning obedience, it was obedience with much distraction.

The first day, she was happy to keep a focused heel, and her sit, down, long down and others were sharp and correct. When she did well, I reward her will exuberant praise/play. It kept her excited and wanting more. The instructor told me to stop and that a calm "OK or Yes and a treat was enough.

After the 3rd class with minimal praise, my dog just went through the motions, the "zest" was gone from her obedience, and she became more interested in bothering the minpins and other tiny dogs again.

I guess my question is, if it works, what's wrong with exuberant praise/play for a job well done?

by Keith Grossman on 18 April 2011 - 14:04

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Nothing; as you have seen, mediocre reward will yield mediocre performance.  The instructor sounds like an idiot.

by RLHAR on 18 April 2011 - 15:04

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Respectfully Keith, this instructor sounds like what she is: A pet obedience instructor.

SM what you describe sounds like typical pet obedience.  Most pet owners don't want their dogs bouncy and prancy like is desired in SchH.  If anything the goal of pet obedience is to kill drive and instill quiet, calm obedience.

Think about it, most pet owners don't want their dogs jumping on them, they don't want a dog to 'fight' them for a toy, they don't want a dog chasing and snapping at a ball.  Most people take their dogs to obedience class to specifically kill those sorts of behaviors, where in SchH we need to encourage them.

by SitasMom on 18 April 2011 - 18:04

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I withdrew after the 3rd dog had improved much with her small dog issue and i got tired of being corrected......

by Slamdunc on 18 April 2011 - 22:04

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by kacey on 19 April 2011 - 01:04

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Oh far as I'm concerned, when a dog does what you want them to do, you can never have enough praise/reward. I'm glad you withdrew from the class. Sounds like that instructor is a real "buzz-kill". My motto is, "no reward, no work". It's kinda like attempting to light a fire in a pit, and only seeing a few sparks...throw a little gasoline on it, and poof!'s party time!!! Dogs are no different. The praise/reward is their fuel. They like to know, there's something in it, for them. One can quickly kill a dog's spirit, with no obvious reaction to them doing a good job. I'm actually glad to hear, you described your praise as "exuberant....It kept her excited and wanting more". That's the ticket, and not many people are comfortable in a social setting doing that. +1 to you.

by ALPHAPUP on 19 April 2011 - 01:04

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sita .. how much is enough ?? or you could ask when is it not enough ..  as stated in other posts.." the dog has the answer" to our questions .. I agree with kacey ... the clue is that even in the amount of praise that you give your dog " she still wants more' .. that is what the dog is telling you .. you haven't satiated your dog or have given to it an over abundance of praise.  --- a point is to add : what is praise in the first place ?? one has discussed reward .. but i imagine enthusiasm , encouragement , approval are sub-categories of praise .. they don't have to be given at the so called 'end' of an exercise , sometimes at the onset and during the exercise as well as the end . for example ... in a young dog , when i call it to me , the exact minute that dog turns it head to me ...and/or the very first step it makes toward me => THAT is the time to so call "praise" the dog  whether that be a word of encouragment, or approval , or a word to let the dog know it is behaving the way i wish .  now the othewr side of the coin: if you continually give feeback to the dog , but you see the dog diminish in motivation , perhaps you are giving to much praise .. i liken that to a husban that showers his wife so much with praise and flattery that after a point , his wife doesn't beleive he means what he says !! sometimes there is to much praise for the wrong reason to boot , that the praise becomes meaningless to the dog .. so to recap .. watch the dog .. he will tell you what your praise is worth and when it is or isn't enough . BTW most pewt trainers don't know their A... from their elbow !!

by kacey on 19 April 2011 - 02:04

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I think, what's important to capture here, is that typically "commercial" dog trainers...yes...those that assist pet owners (with almost ZERO knowledge of the K9 kind), don't really work the reward/praise like those people who work dogs. TIMING + PRAISE/REWARD=WANTED RESPONSE/BEHAVIOUR. can show up with his/her dog, to a dog training class, with his/her bag of treats, and toss one morsel each time, the dog does something good, (with little said to the dog), but honestly, that's going to quickly deflate like a pin popping a balloon.

I don't want a calm dog when I'm training it to do what I train it to do. I want an overly-excited, freak! Unfortunately, to mainstream pet owners, this behaviour is quelled. People can't handle or tolerate it.

But I digress. I liked SitasMom's strategy though. That is an excellent way to deal with distractions. What the's in a chaotic ob class, with a bunch of unsuspecting pet owners. Great idea!

by ALPHAPUP on 19 April 2011 - 12:04

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kacey .. you are correct... but there is an added dimension too ... the majority of epeople that go to a dog obedience class of sorts.. is becuase .. somehwere .. there is an undelying problem .. so in being fair to many so called dog trainers .. their task is to help these owners get the problem / dog under control !! that is the issue .. perhaps most peole are not with the dogs , for the fun of it , in that repsect .. yes the in that repsecttoo  .. your post has merit .. training is a lot more than tossing a morsel to a dog !!

by laura271 on 19 April 2011 - 14:04

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This thread made me laugh since my husband has the exact opposite problem. He's super shy so he's always corrected by our trainer for not providing exuberant praise. The trainer then demonstrates- he booms out: "ATTTAAAA GIRRLL! GOOOOD GIRL!" and then stares expectantly at my husband. My husband will never be the guy that booms out praise but what he does works for our dog- when she does something really well, he bends over and lets her lick his glasses (ew! but her greatest joy in life).

I also agree with the comments on the difference between a pet obedience class and a working dog trainer (for lack of a better phrase). We took our first obedience course in a pet obedience class and felt very frustrated. The class size was too large and so we didn't recieve any feedback about what we were doing wrong or why were doing things. We now drive an hour to take classes with a working dog trainer and it's very different- he's extremely detail oriented- he explains everything- particularly how essential timing is. We did our first off-leash recall and heel in class last week and my husband was so pleased to see Senta do the joyful, bouncy heel.

by sueincc on 19 April 2011 - 14:04

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There's a lot wrong with it.  Too much of a good thing is still too much.  If your dog needs all this exuberant praise to keep him/her from going flat then there is something wrong, either in your foundation work or the dog just flat out doesn't have enough drive.  Keep in mind when you are on the field on trial day in the obedience and tracking phases you are only allowed to praise at specific times, end of exercizes and that praise  is very subdued.  

The joy for the dog should be in the work, they need to love the work, have innate and natural drive, we praise them for that joy and drive.  In the learning phase the dog learns to love the work through his drive because we channel them in that direction.  We only use the ball to teach the dog we want him to always work in high drive, done correctly,  the dog learns he doesn't need to see or have a ball all the time, because it becomes the dogs normal working state, he likes to work in drive, it's enjoyable for the dog, hence the drive state is the reward.

Sitasmom you said this is not a beginning dog, therefore the dog should have already learned to love the work.  IF the dog is only working without going flat because you are the dog's personal cheerleading squad,  there is something wrong.  If the dog does have the correct drives, you need to go back to fundamentals.

by VKGSDs on 19 April 2011 - 14:04

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To me there is praise and then there is chatter.  Chatter is the constant....well, chatter that often becomes habit for the handler.  I think a dog that is naturally a bit flat, maybe lacking in drive or intensity can come to rely too much on this chatter in order to maintain a working attitude.

by SitasMom on 20 April 2011 - 00:04

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Praise is a "good girl!" and some semi hard petting on the shoulder...... sometimes a "Yes!" and short tug game.

My intention was to show her that I'm more fun the the little dogs that were all around her. And that its better to ignore them becasue I'm more fun. It worked because after the second class she was "chill". Even now, when she sees a small dog, she looks to me for fun and praise instead going after them with hackles raised.

As for as working for pleasure, she is happy to work, focus heeling for 45 munutes with only 1 5 minute break was challenging even for me....

thank you all for your input.

by Slamdunc on 20 April 2011 - 01:04

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Who does "focused heeling" for 45 minutes????? 

I would like to see a video of that.  I must have a different defintion of focus and heeling.  Who even trains that way???????

by sueincc on 20 April 2011 - 02:04

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Sitasmom you are completely contradicting yourself.  In your first post you state your dog went flat after the 3rd session because you were only allowed to give her minimal praise.  Now you want to tell us she will do a focused heel for 45 minutes with a 5 minute break?    

I'm with you Slam, I need to see a video, because something is being lost in the translation.  

by SitasMom on 20 April 2011 - 03:04

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we practiced heeling, and heeling and heeling with right turns, left turns, about turns, heeling with 360 turns, stop and sit, etc.........the class was 45 mnutes dog knows that she's supposed to focus on my face when we're heeling...she did her best..... she gave up and just kinda hung by my side....... i had treats, tugs and praise to try to keep her focused for as long as I could, but eventually we both gave up.......

we were both exhausted by the end of each session.........quitting was the best thing i could do......since then I've had to work to get the focus and animation back into her heeling.......what a mess!


by Chaz Reinhold on 20 April 2011 - 04:04

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Biggest mistake was joining that class. You could have accomplished what you wanted by going to the local Petsmart for 15 minutes once a week, without the cookie cutter trainer, paying for the class and burning your girl out.

by sueincc on 20 April 2011 - 12:04

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Here was your original question:

"I guess my question is, if it works, what's wrong with exuberant praise/play for a job well done?"

You should thank the trainer, she showed you where your foundation cracks are.   A well trained dog who works in drive doesn't require a cheerleader to do her job properly.  A well trained dog who works in drive doesn't become a "mess" just because you over worked her a couple times. 

Go back to basics.

Also the fact that you worked your dog too hard and too long is on you, not the class instructor.  You need to do a better job of reading your dog and shouldn't ever let her get to where she has to actually quit from exhaustion, unless you have enough dog and enough skills to teach her she must work no matter what.

by judron55 on 20 April 2011 - 13:04

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uh....I have no interest in the video:-) I can't get up the courage to witness such nonsense!
Poor dog!

by Keith Grossman on 20 April 2011 - 14:04

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"The joy for the dog should be in the work, they need to love the work, have innate and natural drive, we praise them for that joy and drive."

I disagree.  The dog doesn't know what "work" is and what it isn't; it just wants to be doing something.  The joy for the dog comes from pleasing the person.

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