Training and Trialing by Yelling

When attending trials, and this applies to all venues, or when watching people train, it’s shocking to hear how much yelling goes on with the teams. And it isn’t the dogs being vocal.
Why is this? We know that dogs hear higher pitched sounds better than we do. They also are much more sensitive to volume. Do we really need to resort to yelling or harsh sounds?
Here’s the thing. Just because we’ve always done things one way doesn’t mean it is the correct way. This is very true in a lot of dog training. “I’ve trained dogs for 10, 20, 40 years” preface our justifications for relying on the same methods or variations on them. Those methods will work but they will also break down. That’s when the yelling and harsh sounds appear.
Good dog training uses a blend of classical and operant conditioning. Most agility behaviors fall under operant conditioning. There is a nifty little visual aid that shows four quadrants to operant conditioning techniques. They are positive and negative reinforcement and positive and negative punishment. Dogs respond to all of these techniques. They respond very, very well. If our training is a mishmash of these 4 quadrants we have likely confused our dogs or worse yet, lost their trust. And by losing trust it doesn’t mean having a hand shy dog. The dog’s thinking on the agility field might go something like this – “he/she has told me to do so many different things! They must not know what they want. So I’ll go do my own thing.”
This happens and we resort to a vocal response.
Here’s a plea on behalf of your dog. You may “save” our run with that “call off” but please, let’s go home and you do your human/opposable thumbs thing and look at how we train together. We’ll both be happier.

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