I got the following response to a recent blog:
“I’m pretty sure I’ve heard YOU use No Reward Markers in your training.”
I have no idea how to respond to that.
You should see what I do when a squirrel cuts across the front of my house and all three dogs go careening and screaming from window to window when I’m too busy to stop what I’m doing. I yell something along the lines of, “DAMN IT STOP THAT!” Two out of three generally take note and settle – for that moment anyway. For those two, staying in my good graces via direct communication worked – you can call it punishment if you’re quadrant focused if the behavior gets less common over time. For the third? Not so much.
I’m being irritable. Let’s call occasional yelling a form of management or training based on the fact that I’m human, and my entire life is not structured around my dog’s preferences. I exist as an independent being too! I’m interrupting the behavior at that moment so I can finish my conversation or activity in peace. The fact that the careening behavior happens again for the next squirrel strongly suggests I’m accomplishing nothing long-term, and if I really wanted to change that behavior then I’d need to commit to a training plan but right now that’s not a priority so I yell, two dogs care that I’m annoyed so they stop and the third will quit on his own when he realizes his cohorts have abandoned him. And honestly? Some dogs would get the message and change their behavior; the punishment would work. Fine. People matter too and if the dog is not melting down over the occasional human tantrum then I’m not going to either.
Good training? Of course not. Since training requires change, I think it’s fair to say it’s not training at all in my house. It’s just me being crabby and too lazy to deal with the dogs properly but it may well work in another house with different dogs.
Being a positive reinforcement trainer doesn’t mean I’m some kind of Buddha. I’m just not there as a person. My husband has to put up with the fact that sometimes I’m grumpy and irrational. My kids have to put up with the fact that sometimes I’m grumpy and irrational. And the dogs? Same deal – sometimes I’m grumpy and irrational. And if they are afraid of me, all I can say is that all of the relevant players are hiding it quite well.
If I take a five minute video of my training, within that five minutes I will easily be able to pick out good decisions, bad decisions and everything in between. Since I put my training videos on my blog and I often train in public, anyone is welcome to watch a five minute video and pull it apart. Have I used NRM’s? All the time! Do I think that they are helping my training? Not much, but that’s a different question. It’s just me being human; being a bit frustrated at the moment. Im okay with that.
I follow a philosophy of training – I strive to be kind and effective with dogs and people. I test variables and I refine my techniques constantly. But as often as not, I’m muddling along. Maybe I’m muddling at a higher level than many other trainers, but muddle I do.
It’s good enough for me. If you’re looking for the perfect trainer, keep looking.
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Well stated. Yeasterday was a trying day for me. I use kindness, positivity every chance I can. I’m an animal communicator with 9 rescues. Nine personalities. Nine levels of wanting to please me.. nine different needs at nine different times. I expect order. Yesterday I yelled. Stop it! I need space ( like they understood) I demanded less chaos. Not in the mind frame to deal individually with their needs. Get over it dogs. At the end of the day, you are safe, fed, and lived. Good for you Denise. This perfect all the time is bull shit and too much guilt arranged. I’m over it.
Thank you for this. I am just a pet dog owner who has enjoyed the learning experience with my dogs but I too am not perfect. I have raised my voice many times out of frustration because I either didn’t know how to fix a behavior or was not interested in fixing it. Like you, I try to be as kind and positive as I can but life happens.
Some days, the dogs just have to deal with the fact that their owners are human.
After nearly tripping me several times on a walk the other day, Leo got yelled at to quit trying to kill all of us. Definitely not training. It was just me being frustrated at a dog who kept getting in my way in an area where I needed to watch where I was going, or risk a sprained ankle.
Yelling at her might have made me feel a bit better, but it didn’t keep her from getting in my way. We all survived, though. And I do know that I need to work of loose leash walking. By themselves, they are fine. Put them together, and it turns into a contest of who can pull the hardest.
THANK YOU!!!!! I try telling myself all that you said in this blog post and it is very reassuring to hear it from you! I don’t yell at them during training, but when the UPS delivery arrives and my house unexpectedly errupts into noisy chaos…yes, I yell. Thank you for this encouraging post.
Wow! You’re human!
Thank you for this, I feel inner guilt when I have these moments. It is great to hear that you too have experienced them and it reminds me to be more understanding and patient with myself.
Thank you for writing this. We’ve all been there, and it’s always heartening to see someone that you admire so much say, “Hey, it happens to me, too!” Acknowledging that we aren’t saints is one of the most important things we can do to help others feel more welcome in the positive reinforcement community! You don’t have to be perfect.
Thank you for this.
I always tell my students that there’s a difference between *teaching,* in which you’re making deliberate decisions to try to effectively communicate and affect behavior, and *reacting,* in which you’re trying to be a decent human being and remember that you won’t actually want to throttle your dog 15 minutes from now, despite your inner monkey’s desire to screech and fling poo.
Reaction, the good, bad, and ugly happens. Is unfiltered, unthinking reaction usually an ideal component of teaching? Nope. But in real life, actions have consequences — and sometimes those consequences involve getting an adverse reaction from someone who doesn’t like what you just did. Dogs, like any social creatures, understand that from both sides of the growl!
(I also tell my students that it’s not fair to expect their pup to always cheerfully tolerate things he doesn’t like and to never be grumpy or short-tempered until they’ve mastered that level of serenity themselves!)
Imperfect beings unite!
Thank you, I really needed to hear this today. Permission not to be perfect granted.
Great post, Denise. I love my dogs and do everything I can to live & work with them in ways that foster their confidence, security, and well-being. But I also value peace, and living with dogs ain’t always peaceful. Not talking about fighting, just bursts of energy and well, being dogs. And yes, I will shout out a hearty “knock it the heck off!” now and again.
Since I don’t believe in such a thing as human perfection, I really don’t have a problem with my own occasional lapses/outbursts. To take it further, I actually make sure, when raising a pup, that s/he knows to expect periodic verbal intensity (let’s call it) from me, and teach them that a) it’s not the end of the world, b) it’s meant to be instructive versus a reason to run and hide.
Know thyself (and thy dogs) and all that.
You are more than perfect enough for me!
Thanks for the read, some chuckles and a whole lot of continued respect.
Love your “muddling” description. I use the term myself and I got it from you. Great fun muddling through training challenges.
Love you, Denise!
We’re not perfect.
We just try harder than average to be kind to our dogs (and hopefully, everyone else we share the planet with, but I digress) in as many moments and ways as possible, and we don’t routinely use our frustration as a training tool.
That is a hard enough endeavor (and worthy enough!) for most of us, without adding the burden of trying to be a Saint.
Very well said! There is no perfect, we are all humans and it is so refreshing that you are always honest and tell it like it is. We are humans, they are dogs, and all of us are going to have our “moments”!
Oh thank Dog because earlier in the week I yelled at my dog and I felt like I was gonna be struck down by the R+ gods (it worked BTW she stopped yelling at me because the pet tutor jammed)
I could have written that myself because I see me in that blog. Thank you for sharing. It always helps to know you’re not the only human out there. We do our best we love our dogs. We love our kids and strive to be our best. But sometimes we are just human. And yes our dogs still love us, the wonderful creatures they are.