More on retrieve

More on Retrieving

In an essay on reliability and the retrieve Suzanne Clothier presents an
argument against forced retrieve training.   The article isn't actually
about retrieving but about two premises held by Ms. Clothier.  The first
premise is that 100% reliability in a retrieve is a myth.  In this
assumption she is correct since the argument for reliability often used to
justify painful methods of force training is patently ridiculous.  There is
no such thing as 100% reliability and there certainly is no reason to expect
such retrieving performance.  I have no disagreement with her first
assumption, the arguments for painful aversive conditioning that is
sometimes used in force training have little logical basis and are
unconvincing at best.

Ms. Clothier's assumption that force training is synonymous with the
imposition of pain on the dog reflects a misunderstanding of force training.
The force implicit in force training has nothing to do with pain and
everything to do with the trainer's force of will, the determination to
impress upon the dog the fact that "fetch" is a command to be obeyed and is not
a releaser that permits the dog to retrieve what it wants to retrieve.
The argument about reliability is irrelevant, force trained dogs accept the
release to retrieve as a command, those dogs that are not force trained
perceive the release to retrieve as permission.  The difference between
force training and non force training has to do with the way in which the
dog perceives the command to fetch.

Force training has wide application in all forms of dog training.  Force
implies only insistence by the trainer.  One does not have to inflict pain
to be insistent so let us dispense with the idea that force equals pain just
because a few ear pinchers call what they do "force training".  Force
training is, in fact, a very diverse array of training methods that are
characterized only by the trainer's insistence and persistence.

My dog comes to me with a retrieved bird and plays keep-away by dancing with
the bird or by dropping it two meters away.  This isn't a refusal, it's play solicitation,
the dog wants me to play with it.  I wish to apply force to this situation and so I turn
and walk away from the dog.  This imposition of force means that I will not play the dog's
game and compete with it for the bird.  The dog accepts this response from me and will
most often pick up the bird and follow me and will ultimately crowd in front of me to present
the bird. Force isn't pain, it's just my insistence.

I throw a training dummy into the bushes and the dog refuses to get it, this
is my problem because I have not trained with insistence.  The application
of force means that I will grasp the dog by the collar and the dog and I
will wade into the bushes together and find the training dummy.  I will
place the dummy in the dog's mouth and praise him and then lead him back to
where I first told the him to retrieve and then I will accept the dummy from the dog,
then I praise the dog lavishly.  This force training isn't painful for the dog.

The dog must always wait for my permission to go through a dorway, this is a fundamental
principle in teaching control switching in which sometimes the dog can decide what to do and
at other times the dog must wait for my explicit permission. The dog is to be forced to learn manners. 
I lead the dog to a door that opens away from us.  I grasp the door knob and open the door slightly,
when the dog tries to dart through the doorway I say nothing but pull the door closed and bump the
dog's nose with it.  I repeat this performance until the dog accepts that the door won't let him through
the doorway, the dog stands and waits.  Then I step through the doorway, open the door wider and
speak for the first time and invite the dog to come through the doorway. This is force training that very
quickly teaches the dog that it doesn't go certain places ahead of me, such as through doorways.

This form of control swapping between dog and human is an important part of the deference relationship
between a pack member and a pack leader.  The dog defers to me at doowrays and this becomes a habit...
it is force trained.
This dog is also ready to accept my control when it points a bird and I walk past it to flush the bird. 
This is just another "doorway" in which the dog defers to me and doesn't move until I give it explicit permission
to do so.
I have force trained a form of steadiness without any discomfort to the dog.

Pain is not a requisite for force training because thoughtful insistence rapidly teaches without negative
reinforcement.  The force involved in these examples is simply my insistence and all good dogs deserve to be trained
with insistence.

Copyright Nov. 2004 by C. J. Walton, Edgecomb, Maine