Dog training confusion

(71 Posts)
Hyperfish101 Wed 29-Jul-20 16:43:46

It’s been a while since I had a dog. Our new rescue has some issues that need to be addressed. I am awaiting an appointment with a behaviourist. In the meantime my perusal of online sites has left me confused. Training is very anti-aversive. I get we want to build trust not fear but honestly I am surprised at some of the approaches. Everything is positive reinforcement but I feel I will end up with a dog addicted to treats! Even after a few days she hassles me for them. Also it’s hard to ignore bad behaviour. Surely it’s fine to say ‘no’ in a fierce voice? I’m all for a calm approach but even toddlers are told off occasionally?

I find it all very confusing.

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tabulahrasa Wed 29-Jul-20 17:14:34

How and why is she hassling you for treats?...

It should be a very clear consequence, she’s done something = reward. Yes that can sometimes mean a bit of, hmm dunno what I did there to get that, but hassling? Sounds like more than that.

Also bear in mind reward doesn’t automatically mean treat, if you’ve got a very food oriented dog it might be mostly food, but especially inside with easy training, that could just be part of a meal... but it could also be praise, a toy, a game...

“Surely it’s fine to say ‘no’ in a fierce voice?”

But why? She’s a dog, she has no clue what no means, half the time people who speak English don’t know exactly what no means... what does saying it in a fierce voice achieve and teach her? That you randomly shout at her?...

Ignoring bad behaviour isn’t always just... ignoring... it’s more about not punishing so what they learn is what to do instead, not just that you get angry.

So as an example...a dog that jumps up, you don’t let them just do that, you turn so they’re back on the floor, but without giving them the attention they’re after, some dogs will stay down, they then get the attention, until they jump back up and then you repeat, if it’s a more kangaroo like dog, teach them something that’s incompatible with jumping up, a sit, so when they bounce you deflect them and get them to sit, then they get the attention.

It does depend on what they’re doing though, how you’d interrupt it and what you’d then do.

ViperBugloss Wed 29-Jul-20 18:10:22

Rather than ignoring bad behaviour think of preventing bad behaviour.

My mantra is that dog training is about 90% control and management and the rest is training.

So reward the behaviour you want, prevent the behaviour you don't.

Just as tabulahrasa says above. So if your dog is jumping up scatter food on the floor so they are sniffing the floor rather than jumping up. Over time the behaviour they give you is calm all four feet on the ground and then you can reward for this.

Easy smile

MissShapesMissStakes Wed 29-Jul-20 18:31:39

The trainer I worked with said that the treats are step one in the rewards system. But to also mix it up eventually with a favourite toy, verbal praise or a treat (and even these should be differing - mine loved hot dog sausage pieces and cheese but these are mixed up with less exciting kibble).

The idea is that they learn to link the desired behaviour with pleasure. So they don't always need to get the high value treat (it any treat) once the skill is mastered. Sometimes they should just to reinforce it. But certainly not all the time.

My dog usually just gets a 'good boy' for sitting when I ask. But I'm STILL working on lead walking and so the good stuff comes out for that.

Hyperfish101 Wed 29-Jul-20 18:43:05

She’s knows she gets treats at dinner time if she sits in her bed while we eat. Trouble is, as soon as I start making dinner, she’s sniffing around expectantly. That’s what I meant by hassling.

Thanks for the advice everyone.

OP’s posts: |
ViperBugloss Wed 29-Jul-20 18:57:48

* Trouble is, as soon as I start making dinner, she’s sniffing around expectantly*

Where and when is she sniffing around expectantly and what do you do?

The behaviour you want is her sitting in her bed (I would encourage this to a down) so the only time she gets her treat is when she is calm in position in her bed.

Not if she is sniffing on the floor, and she should not be given a treat to lure her into her bed.

You want her to jump to her bed, ideally be stillish and then treat and reward.

Do not let her train you to give the treat when she is sniffing around expectantly - nothing happens if she does this behaviour.

Hyperfish101 Wed 29-Jul-20 19:06:56

Yes that’s what I’m aiming for. Just means as soon as lift a knife she’s sniffing around my feet. I send her to bed. She gets a treat. She stays she gets a treat. I need her to stay longer so I’m not chucking treAts at her when I need to cook.

OP’s posts: |


ViperBugloss Wed 29-Jul-20 19:35:29

Lengthen the time before you treat each time. Initially I would not chuck the treat (I know this is frustrating for you) but calmly place the treat on her bed . This helps to brings down the excitement.

Really important only give the treat if she is calm not if she is looking at you or demanding you to treat her by thought process smile.

You may want to practice this when you are not cooking to start with - so grab a coffee sit on a chair by her bed and just calmly put treats into her bed when she is not looking at you but just in a quiet calm. Gradually increase the time between the treats.

Also that is why a down may be more successful as it is a more relaxed position so helps to instil a bit of calm into the behaviour. Do this a few times a day with her meal allowance and she will get it in no time

Hyperfish101 Wed 29-Jul-20 20:12:46

Thanks 🙏

OP’s posts: |
Borderstotheleftofme Wed 29-Jul-20 20:24:30

I use lots of treats granted but I don’t agree with ignoring bad behaviour personally.
Especially when it comes to food.

I think it’s important the dog knows that certain things; snatching food out of children’s hands for example are not tolerated and will always result in punishment.

It’s all very well ignoring and ‘preventing’ but you are never teaching the dog a certain behaviour is ‘wrong’ and imo that creates a dog that if the opportunity presents itself, will take advantage, because they’ve never been taught not to abd never experienced any negative consequence in doing so.

Like the nightmare dogs often mentioned on mumsnet that run past children on walks swiping their sandwiches out of their mouths/hands as they go.
I strongly suspect they are ‘positively trained/ignore the bad’ dogs.
Why wouldn’t those dogs swipe the sandwich?
Food is there and they have never been not to..

Borderstotheleftofme Wed 29-Jul-20 20:25:58

never been taught not to that last line should say

ViperBugloss Wed 29-Jul-20 20:28:55

My dogs would never swipe a sandwich from anyone.

Their interest/focus would be on me as I am the chief entertainment manager and the one who doles out the treatssmile. No need to steal just do some behaviour eg walk to heel which they know quarantees them a reward.

Hyperfish101 Wed 29-Jul-20 21:40:30

I do find the constant treating a bit wearing tbh. I get why it works though weaning them off treats must be fun!

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SepticTankYank Wed 29-Jul-20 21:46:28

I personally think balanced training is the way to go. Purely positive is a bit airy fairy for me.

ViperBugloss Wed 29-Jul-20 22:09:10

What do you understand "purely positive training" to mean?

Rewarding behaviour you want will mean the animal will repeat the behaviour.

Constant treating is not necessary. I have collies they would never eat the treats (it would make training easier if they did tbh. The spaniels will though!)

Once a behaviour is understood, then give it a cue and the dog will repeat the behaviour if is understands what is required. I personally do choose to reward my dogs as this keeps them motivated.

Punishment never works. It may initially stop something but that will not last. It is much better to teach an alternative behaviour and reward that.

Why wean off the treats if it works and you get the behaviour you want? I do increase and expect more behaviours to earn a treat or reward.

I have working dogs, the dogs work and get rewarded for working (I get paid for working the dogs) we are all happy smile

tabulahrasa Wed 29-Jul-20 22:19:50


I do find the constant treating a bit wearing tbh. I get why it works though weaning them off treats must be fun!

You don’t really wean them so much as... they’ve learnt something well, then you’re not rewarding it in the same way as while they were learning it.

But I do tend to use food from their meals unless I need something higher value.

SepticTankYank Wed 29-Jul-20 22:24:51

I think punishment is as important as reward. Of course reward and reinforce good behaviour but bad behaviour needs the opposite.

I have an Akita and prior to that a Rottweiler. Prior to that staffs.

My dog will be put on the naughty step, be excluded or have something removed. I'm not saying I beat him with a stick but it's important he knows right from wrong. The punishment changes with the dog. My Akita is unlike any dog I have previously had and is very close to positive training but he gets told off.

Borderstotheleftofme Wed 29-Jul-20 22:26:39

What do you understand "purely positive training" to mean?
I know it wasn’t aimed at me, but I consider it to mean using treats to teach a behaviour and instead of ‘correcting’ an undesirable behaviour, it is ignored and the dog is prevented eg using baby gates to stop counter surfing.

Rewarding behaviour you want will mean the animal will repeat the behaviour
It will, but I have my doubts about this sort of training because it seems to me that if the reward of a behaviour is greater then what your offering the behaviour isn’t offered.
Eg, the dog sees a squirrel, it understands recall but the thrill of chasing the squirrel is more rewarding than the treat and it doesn’t think there will be any consequence for refusing to recall, so it doesn’t and chases the squirrel.

Constant treating is not necessary. I have collies they would never eat the treats
Me too.
I think in part, we are helped by the fact we have extremely handler focussed, biddable breeds (collies and spaniels).
I do wonder how more stubborn, independent breeds fare sometimes.

Punishment never works. It may initially stop something but that will not last
I disagree.
Punishment deters all species.
A cat sprayed with water for example for scratching the sofa often avoids scratching the sofa after a few repetitions because it the water is aversive and unpleasant.
Animals will often avoid a behaviour that causes them discomfort.

I’m not ‘anti treat’ at all, but I definately don’t agree with the ignore (or prevent) bad behaviour mantra myself.

SepticTankYank Wed 29-Jul-20 22:34:18


You said it far better than I could! I bow to thee.

tabulahrasa Wed 29-Jul-20 22:35:03

“My dog will be put on the naughty step, be excluded or have something removed.“

That’s negative punishment, something good stops because of the dogs’ behaviour...that’s part of what is described by positive training. You remove attention, or the reward or whatever.

The two quadrants that aren’t used are positive punishment, ie the dog’s behaviour means something unpleasant is added in, so shouting, hitting, things like throwing hats or coins or those collars for barking and negative reinforcement something unpleasant is stopped by the dogs’ behaviour, that’s how things like choke chains or haltis work.

tabulahrasa Wed 29-Jul-20 22:38:22

That was supposed to be throwing jars of coins... dunno why you’d throw hats...

“A cat sprayed with water for example for scratching the sofa often avoids scratching the sofa after a few repetitions because it the water is aversive and unpleasant.”

Cats will avoid scratching the sofa while you can see them, is what usually happens...

tabulahrasa Wed 29-Jul-20 22:46:05

“instead of ‘correcting’ an undesirable behaviour, it is ignored and the dog is prevented eg using baby gates to stop counter surfing.”

Also, no, not quite... you’d not correct a behaviour as in shout or punish it, you don’t just “ignore” that though, otherwise you’ve a dog on your worktop - where’s the sense in that? You’d get them off.

You might use a stair gate temporarily so they’re not getting free access to your worktops but that isn’t the solution, just a stop gap so you can use the kitchen without training whatever it is you’re training instead, bed or settle or just off or leave... depends where you are with the training.

MysteryParcels Wed 29-Jul-20 22:54:56

The thing is that "stop doing something" is a very hard concept to grasp - dogs/animals/humans are always exhibiting behaviour of some sort, so what you actually mean when you say stop is to start doing this other more desirable behaviour. So stop sniffing around the floor looking for treats becomes go lie on your bed instead. Stop chewing that thing becomes and start doing this other thing instead. It's a lot easier and more effective to teach an alternative behaviour instead of a punishment.

I do think that very very sparingly used natural consequences are okay to use. For example I'm 99% positive only reinforcement but I will occasionally use "no" to interrupt an undesirable behavior, followed immediately by asking for a desireable one.

Positive reinforcement is harder for humans but more ethical and when done properly much more effective for the dogs.

Extinction, or ignoring a behaviour can be HARD but is possible and effective - where people fall down is they don't commit to ignoring all the time each time. My dog is a case in point - she has started barking to get my attention during zoom calls. Because I need her to stop quickly, I either pay her attention to interrupt and redirect the behaviour, or I give her negative attention - either way she sees it as a success. I have learnt the hard way that if I don't successfully prevent the behaviour (giving her a chew, making sure she is tired before a call) I MUST ignore the barking, yapping, whingeing until it has stopped and only give her attention when she has settled - otherwise she just learns that she needs to be louder and more persistent and she'll eventually get attention. Because she clearly doesn't mind if it's positive or negative attention, punishment simply won't work, or i would have to use a level of aggression and force that I'm not prepared to do, it wouldn't be ethical.

SepticTankYank Wed 29-Jul-20 22:57:50

I do shout at him. Usually just an oi to shock. Sometimes a five minute rant about how annoying he is.

I also use a prong collar. It's broken at the minute so am using a harness. I also don't think prong collars are a permanent fixture if used correctly.

My Rottweiler respected a firmer hand and was the best dog ever. We used the cesar Milan dog roll and it worked wonders. If you tried to roll the Akita he'd hate you. I did try to teach him to play dead/roll over so was saying roll over, pushing him over and giving him a treat. He was fuming by the end of it 😆🙄 we've left it since.

SepticTankYank Wed 29-Jul-20 22:59:59

@MysteryParcels I've seen no evidence that stopping doing something is hard for dogs to grasp.

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