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Dog handler training?

 
Lee Daniels
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Location: Eastern WA -- 5b-6a
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Hello All,

In another thread I made a statement about being "anti dog" I'd like to change that to "anti useless dog"

In my teenage years, I had neighbor who had two very well behaved dogs. His dogs would heel, stay, hold things in their mouth, they would stop immediately if told so, they would guard when needed.... they did anything you would ask......... these dogs were not dogs. They were Fur Persons. The male, Rex, was 3/4 black lab and 1/4 german shepard. The female, Ginger, was all german shepard. I one time watched Jim, the owner, take Ginger out and herd and load cows. Rex would go hiking with us - even had his own doggy side pack bags. Rex was also an excellent bird dog - grouse in the timber and pheasants in the stubble fields. Other bird dogs were always spaztic crack feinds looking for a fix, snorting all over. ol'Rex just sat there, looking up, waiting for Jim to say "work" Rex knew we wanted birds. His dogs never needed yelled at or tied up for misbehaving. I grew up in mono crop farm land, wheat, pea, and barley fields, not cattle farm land. So a dog that worked was a rare thing. Just no need for them.

One thing I believe is its more the trainer/handler than the dog. Jim's dogs weren't anything special. He just worked with them. Is there a class/course/book available that excels at instructing handlers in proper techniques? Verbal control would be a must. I don't want an animal I can't trust, and I won't be drug around by a dog on a leash. I'm out in the country, so city leash laws aren't an issue.

I'd want a dog that knows what I'm thinking. I know that will only come with time working the dog. practice makes perfect. I'd want it to help me more than hinder. A livestock dog, a guard dog... a Fur Person.


- L. Daniels
 
Su Ba
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Based upon my own dog experience, Jim had the right breed make-up in his dogs to make them receptive to what he wanted to train them for. Both labs and shepherds are instinctively attuned to working closely with a handler. Not all breeds are. Each breed was created with a purpose in mind. So to have a chance of being successful with a particular breed, one needs to match your vision to the breeds' characteristics.

The dog shelters and rescues constantly have to deal with people's poor choices. For example, when the movie Babe came out, audiences got the misconception that Border Collies were calm, receptive, and naturally obedient. People went out by the droves and bought BC puppies, primarily from pet stores and puppy mills. When they discovered that their puppies were hyperactive, fixated on bad behavior, ran amuck, and didn't obey, they dumped their "damaged" dogs at the shelters. Thousands of mistakes because of lack of research.

To be successful with a dog, step one is to research the breeds. Find ones that meet your criteria. Second step is to contact lots of breeders of those type dogs. Look for the general consensus about the different breeds. Keep in mind that some of those breeders may be just money oriented rather than true aficionados. Step three is to evaluate the parents and relatives of the litter you plan to buy from. Not all bloodlines adhere to the breed's noted characteristics.

Now I'm sure plenty of folks will scream at me about my being a purebred snob. They will say to go "rescue" a dog at the shelter or rescue. That may be fine for many would-be dog owners, but I'm hesitant to suggest that for a person who wants a working dog, who abhors a useless dog. I've had my share of working and also useless dogs. By far my working dogs were purebred or crossbred. That's not to say that my useless dogs weren't great family companions. And given a few years, even most of my useless dogs became proficient at some farm task.

After getting the right breed match, now it comes time to train the dog. Even with young puppies, I always started from day one when they arrived. But just as with teaching young children, one cannot expect quick learning and instant success with a pup. If you would like to follow somebody who has recently acquired a new pup and who is training it, I would suggest reading Jon Katz's recent posts to his blog about the pup called Fate. He is giving some great insight about how to go about steering a pup to use its instincts while learning commands. www.bedlamfarm.com As Jon points out, one of the main tasks a trainer has is to prevent a dog from making mistakes in the first place.

I've read plenty of dog training books. None is perfect because one style cannot apply to all the various breed types out there. And within each breed there are plenty of different temperament types. But really several books will be a good start.
 
Troy Rhodes
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There are many paths to a well trained dog. Some are straighter than others. Some are kinder and more ethical than others. You are absolutely correct that a poorly trained trained or completely untrained dog can be worse than useless.

I would recommend two resources:

First, Don't shoot the dog, by karen pryor. She is the lady that did the research that made training cetaceans possible in a big way. I cannot emphasize enough how fantastic this book is. It's not primarily a formulaic book that says, do X and you will ger Y result. It's more about learning what motivates dogs and how to harness that. Once you get the idea, you will be unstoppable at training dogs. It is sometimes known as clicker training and it is based on the positive reward feedback loop.

It is so powerful and so effective, there is almost no limit to what you can train a dog to do.

My mom raised liver spotted dalmations for many years. Talk about an intelligent and high drive dog. Clicker training works fantastic on these dogs.


As an experiment, I trained my girlfriend's cat to:

come on command

stay

sit

heal

roll over

play dead

retrieve (not 100% successful, but ran out of time)



The second resource is to find a local obedience class. May or may not involve clicker training, but still very useful to see it done by an experienced instructor in person.


There's a lot of online and youtube resources for clicker training.


 
Michael Cox
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Clicker Training

It is amazingly effective and fun for both trainer and dog.
 
Lee Daniels
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Su Ba wrote:The dog shelters and rescues constantly have to deal with people's poor choices


I do not want to be a contributor to that problem. I want to be trained and confident before I even get any dogs.

- I also have ordered the suggested book and viewed a few youtube videos. Thank you. I have a few more questions now, hahaha.


Here would be the scenario. ant village, the dogs would help moving livestock around, never hurting or harassing other livestock, does not (unless told to) chase deer, - running them off is ok but not taking off through the woods like a fox hound. - but will alert to and defend against livestock eating predators. Ideally would take directions from others when working, not just me... instead of, or without me. I am including duck and chicken with livestock... all farm critters you'd like to keep alive. Another thing would be willingness to work with other dogs, good dogs, not useless dogs. Useless dogs eat chickens... 2-3 dogs total (for me) I would assume others would have dogs also.

In the field reward? I won't walk around with treats, so that is out. I'd rather not stop to play tug of war or fetch, until we're finished. So no toys either. By then, the reward may be to late..?.. If trained to treats, would the dogs keep working without their treats? Also the reward has to be something others have to reward them with..... I can only think of large/dramatic/playful amounts of praise. Are these questions answered in the suggested book?

Breeds? Given the above criteria, which breeds should I start my search with? Low "personal" dog upkeep would be nice. Not a breed that needs haircuts, yet WINTER hardy.

Training? Once I'm trained, should I get one dog at a time or raise/train them all together. After reading the above suggested blog again, I'm leaning toward one at a time. The first one trained can show the others what I'm trying to say.

Here is a link explaining Ant Village; http://www.permies.com/t/44793/labs/ant-village

- L. Daniels




 
Michael Cox
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Lee - regarding the treats...

We trained our dog initially using treats, and he always responds much more enthusiastically when he knows treats are on offer. However, he will still do his tricks on command most of the time when we are out and about. I say most of the time, because we have been relaxed about continued training once we had the basics right. One real plus about clicker training methods is that it makes for a very strong bond between you and your dog. You are always the bringer of good things.

One tip that was helpful for us was an approach the author of the book described as "nothing in life is free". If you dog eats dry food then bag it up to take out in the field with you and make them earn it. Spread a meal's worth of treats out over a half hour training walk and you will have a super motivated dog who is doing their tasks while out and about.

Also - what have you got against having a few treats for the dog on you when you are out? It is so simple yet so powerful from a training perspective.
 
Su Ba
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Wanting to be a proficient trainer before getting your dog is much like having analysis paralysis that so many permie wannabes suffer from. Focusing upon getting it perfect before making a move means that you may never get a dog. Plus expecting the dog you finally pick to be the perfect decision may lead to becoming very disappointed and frustrated with the dog. Life is full of uncertainties and learning experiences. I usually suggest people who contact me to aim for being 80% prepared, then give it a go. Waiting to be 1090% ready may sound admirable but i believe it translates into never taking your plunge.

I think you may be asking way too much from a dog. Surely too much for an untrained dog. Great farm dogs take years to be made, not weeks. My current working farm dog was doing pretty well after one year but didn't blossom until the second year. By the way, he doesn't chase off intruders or predators, nor even bark a warning. So as much as he is one fantastic working dog for me, he fails your criteria.

As for breed, there are several. A lot depends upon availability. A working shepherd comes to mind. I have one that comes off 7/8 East Garman and Czech lines and 1/8 Great Pyr. His failures to your criteria is that he does not take orders from strangers and hates turkeys. But he is our farm guardian and does an excellent job.

Initially I used food to train all our dogs. Clickers are a valuable communication tool. So is praise as long as it is not overdone and turn the dog hyper. Food can always be phased out later but still used at choice times to reinforce behavior as needed. Not all behavior needs reward because depending upon the breed(s), some is innate and just needs to be channeled.

Since you need experience seeing training techniques, I'd suggest watching at numerous dog training classes. Obedience. Agility. Show handling. Sheep trials. Hunting trials. Make friends and ask questions. Don't argue-- just listen and absorb. Learning to train a dog the way you desire will take a lot of observation and time.

As for grooming. All dogs benefit from a bit of daily grooming. I run a soft brush over even my short haired dogs every day, look inside their ears, check their teeth, look at their eyes, generally run my hands all over, pick up their feet. This helps establish a bond, sets you as the leader, gives the dog trust and confidence in you. I see plenty of people with problem dogs, but they never handle their dogs unless attempting training or discipline. Their dogs either don't trust them or have taken the upper hand, depending upon the nature of the owner and dog involved. And even short haired dogs benefit health wise from weekly bathing as long as good quality shampoo is used. My own dogs get bathed every Friday.

Keep asking questions. Invest the time and effort into learning. I think you have the stuff to be very successful as long as you don't expect perfection.
 
Troy Rhodes
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Clicker training and positive feedback doesn't mean a treat every time to get the dog to do something. I just gave the barest of sketches about how it works.

The click itself becomes more powerful than any treat. Eventually, you only give occasional treats to continue to strengthen the training.


I would just jump in and you and the dog both learn as you go.


Perhaps half of the dogs of the suitable breeds have the drive and the intellect to achieve everything you want, after a year or two or three of serious work.

You're setting the bar pretty high. Not that you can't achieve it.

You're talking about training (almost) every day, perhaps 30 minutes to an hour broken up in 2 or 3 pieces...for a long time. It's like developing a deep friendship.


 
Julia Winter
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Training with treats doesn't mean you have to have treats on you all the time, especially if you have a working type dog. However, if you have a dog, and it's being fed kibble, you can get SO MUCH learning out of giving out the kibble a few pieces at a time, from a pouch you're wearing on your waistband. You just measure out a day's worth of food, load up your "treat bag," and go about your business.

There are many ways to teach dogs, I'm a fan of clicker training, but I rarely have a clicker on me. (For serious training, like an agility class, or I'm training a chicken to peck at the red triangle, then I use a clicker.) My husband has a really nice pop he can do with his tongue, that he uses as a clicker. The dophin trainers use a short blast on a whistle. The sound marks the behavior you like, and lets the animal know they are due a reward of some sort. Some dogs really get into the game and don't even bother to collect their "pay," believe it or not.

I agree that working breeds, like a (good) lab or a (good) german shepherd are more human oriented and more likely to become the worker that you want, I have to report that my all-time most amazing dog was a complete primeval mutt, with likely some coyote in there, and a fair amount of husky or akita, neither of which are known as well behaved dogs. She was difficult to train (she is why I ended up learning about clicker training in the mid-90's) but she ended up being the most amazing companion, who never needed a leash. You could do really well with a mixed breed, if the dog is predominantly from working breeds like labradors, german shepherds, collies, retrievers, cattle dogs, kelpies, rottweilers (but beware because they vary quite a bit) and not the independent breeds like terriers, livestock guardians, huskies or malamutes and lap dogs. A bit of pit bull is fine (they are generally pretty human-oriented dogs), too much and the jaw power may lead to excessive animal death.

I think the most important thing is your time and attention. If you get a young dog, and the dog spends almost all its time with you, it will learn what to do and what not to do. Techniques like clicker training can speed up the communication process, but dogs are pretty good at figuring out what their people like and don't like. Dogs are good at what they do all the time.

With regards to poultry, I was taught that puppies have a key development period at 12 weeks. Critters that they've become accustomed to prior to 12 weeks of age are "in," and much less likely to be killed. However, this is not rock solid. I've had two dogs (Java the Doggy Primeval and Mocha the German Shepherd) who learned to not kill chickens despite first meeting them at 5 yrs and almost 1 yr of age. It worked well with a cattle dog mix we had in Wisconsin. My current dog was really good with the chickens, even helping me catch them, until the day that she was out in the yard alone, and saw a chicken escaped from the pen, and decided it needed catching, and then, well, chickens are irresistably killable. Next thing you know, my sweet puppy is eating a chicken.

However, I THINK we've come to an understanding that the chickens are MINE and she is not to mess with them. I don't ask her to catch them for me anymore. I've also figured out how they were getting loose and fixed that. She's able to be loose with loose chickens and there is no bloodshed, at least not lately.

I think that an ant could have a dog and that dog would spend almost 24/7 with its master and would likely learn to be fabulous. Most useless dogs have owners who work out of the home and they spend way too much time at loose ends. Dogs need a job. My advice would be to go to the land dogless, get some of your systems going, and then ask around about a good farm dog puppy.
 
Lee Daniels
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Michael Cox wrote:Also - what have you got against having a few treats for the dog on you when you are out? It is so simple yet so powerful from a training perspective.


I was envisioning a dog skills/agility course handler, or Westminster dog show handler, running around with a bag constantly feeding the dog to get it to perform.... an example to me that the dog doesn't work without treats. I also thought of "treat" as something special, not the same old dog food they eat everyday. I since have been informed that "treats" work very well and can be weened down, so I'll most likely try it to start. I'd like to get to where I feed the dogs when I eat. They'd get fed when the job is done, or during a break.

Thank you EVERYONE for the very detailed replies. As you can tell, I'm new to this. It has been 20+ years since Rex and Ginger and they are still the best dogs I've seen. I hear stories of other great dogs, so I know they exist. They are just rare.

Here's a thread specifically about Wheaton Lab/Ant Village dogs. http://www.permies.com/t/26860/labs/dogs Paul lists some of his requirements also. At the bottom of this link, in the "Similar Threads" is Dog training I found very helpful.

- L. Daniels
 
elle sagenev
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The usefulness of an animal is in the eye of the beholder I'd say. When we had 6 dogs they all had different jobs. Some hunted, some guarded, some were trained to pull a wagon or carry things. They were all house pets, and still are. So you'd probably see my great pyrenees sleeping on the couch or being behind a fence as useless, I see him as the animal I turn to when something is scary or when I need the kids taken care of. Our weim is a terrible hunter and gets worse the older he gets but he can clean up a food mess like none othe,r and with 2 toddlers that is a valuable resource. The akbash is dumb as a box of rocks but he's cuddly, tolerant and super large so he intimidates people whilst wagging his tail. Useless or useful? Depends on who has them.


Anyway Lee, you start with treats and you build up to praise. My dogs do have excellent recall and I started all of that with excessive treats. Now I can call them and they get nothing but a pat for listening well. I must say my dogs do listen to me very well, I simply have low expectations. Although one thing I have always expected was tolerance of body checks. If I ask a dog to come over and let me look at every part of it's body it will allow me to do it without fuss. All that fur on a great pyr means stuff gets stuck and hidden in there. We've had to cut seeds out of our pyrs skin. He laid there and allowed it without complaint. That is golden imo.
 
Julia Winter
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Maybe show dogs can be given treats when performing, but when a dog is running an agility course, there are no treats allowed. The dog can't even wear a collar! Of course, by the time you are competing, the dog is doing it for the joy of doing it.

The only downside of feeding each and every bit of kibble by hand is your hands get all dog-slimed. If you are an ant, working outside in not-fancy clothes, this is probably not a big problem.
 
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