I heard it again today.
A team entered the Open obedience Ring and the dog was clearly disengaged so the handler pulled the dog for the weekend. Probably a good choice!
Another trainer’s response?
If the dog knew she “had to” work then that wouldn’t have happened; a not so subtle reference to the competitor’s decision to train with force-free training methods – no “have to”.
The handler’s feelings were hurt, which should come as no surprise. Her enthusiasm for a day at the dog shows? Trashed that too.
So, would adding “have to” in training correlate with success in competition? Let’s look at it logically.
In the Open ring, other dogs were also competing. Many of them did not pass. Indeed, in Open A, the pass rate is about 25%, so that means that 75% of the dogs decided they didn’t “have to” on that day.
Does anyone actually believe that all 75% of those dogs were trained without force? That we could raise our pass rate to 100% simply by adding compulsion in training? Considering that force free training is still rather uncommon, you’ll have a heck of a time making that argument.
Honestly, that argument is downright ridiculous because for years and years, “have to” was the ONLY training method around and yet failure is certainly not new. Heck, it’s not even more common!
Dogs fail. The best dogs in the nation sometimes fail when they enter the ring. Attend the national obedience championship and you will see dogs fail. Apparently, they didn’t get the memo about “have to.”
Dogs qualify. Trained with no “have to” at all, dogs get through on a pretty regular basis.
So who cares? Another one of those illogical traditional sayings that makes no sense yet is cherished by trainers everywhere?
I care! Because a person entered the ring today who might’ve become a regular competitor if she had received proper support. Instead, she went home feeling badly about the whole thing and frankly, the sport of obedience has enough problems attracting new competitors without discouraging the rather rare newcomers who decide to give it a shot.
Qualifying in competition is not correlated with “have to.” Qualifying in competition is correlated with good training, a physically and emotionally healthy dog, and a bit of luck. That’s about it.
It’s a sport with good days and bad days. If you want to qualify more often then train better.
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Why would you WANT to force a dog to play the game? It’s a GAME! We do it for FUN! As soon as you make the dog “have to” do it, the fun disappears. I don’t get the point! Chances of qualifying aside, WHY???
In the early 90’s while training with a clicker I was frustrated with my lack of success in the ring and asked a cumpulsuon based trainer about “maybe a few pops?”. He was soo great and i am so lucky because he said, “stay with your method, watch your timing and really watch the teams in the ring, no one is winning all the time.
The rest of the phrase is always left out: “Have to, or else”.
As soon as the leash is unclipped, or the shock collar is off, there is no “have to”. Even in compulsion, the dogs have choice as demonstrated by dogs failing to comply in competition and elsewhere. It’s just that there is an “or else” factor wherein something very unpleasant happens if they don’t.
Personally, I have never responded well to “or else”, and I certainly do not want to be the kind of person that says that to an animal. As Monster said, it turns what should be a fun game into… Something else. Pass.
When more force free trainers produce students who succeed, more people will follow force free methods.
Force free and/or tidbit training has been around for over 50 years. The concept that it is new to the market place is odd.
Like it or not, force free reliable successes are the anomaly in the soup. I hope your school helps with that change.