View Full Version : Problem with training methods in class

Coco's mom
18th January 2007, 06:33 AM
This was Coco's second week of Obedience 1 training classes. I loved the trainer of her puppy classes. I stuck to the same obedience club, but we have a different trainer for this level. I'm starting to realize that her training methods aren't quite as gentle as the puppy kindergarten's trainers. It's all supposed to be positive reinforcement.
There are 3 main issues I have concerns with. I could REALLY use some advice please! h*lp

1) This week in Coco's training class, we were working on prevention of lead pulling. Coco was pulling a lot (there were so many treats on the mats from the earlier puppy class), so the trainer told me that she will never stop pulling while wearing a harness. She actually told me to attach the lead to her collar. I told her that she's never worn a lead on her collar and explained why. She didn't know about SM but she stopped pushing for the lead on the collar.
Well, I don't think it's true that a puppy can't learn how to walk
properly on a harness, is it?

2) I was also uncomfortable with how she taught us to "correct" the dogs if they try to grab something from our hand too roughly/quickly. She said we should "whack" them (gently :? ) in the nose/muzzle. I can't imagine doing this to Coco. It seems too harsh, especially for such a sensitive breed as a cavalier. Am I overreacting? I am new to dogs and training, but we didn't have to do anything like this in the other class.

3) She also taught us to correct the dog on the lead if the dog pulls by quickly snapping on the lead. Ive never done this either and I'm not crazy about it. The idea is that as the dog pulls ahead, the owner gives a sharp snap, the dog looks at the owner, and the owner smiles and praises the dog. So the dog is supposed to think the "corrections" are from his/her actions, not the owner.

I am really perturbed after this class. This trainer is so different from the previous one. What would you all do? I know people here have more experience than me. I really value all of your advice.

18th January 2007, 06:51 AM
I had a 50 lb lab that pulled and pushed while I am 5'2". My trainer suggested a halti for any dog that pulled, including her German Sheppards, so did my vet. He said if I ever saw an exray of the damage done, I'd never walk a dog on a collar.

I am also reading now to refresh my puppy training methods "My Smart Puppy" by Brain Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson, and I don't see such corrections there either.

The smacking the nose bothered me so I looked up ways to cure it and I really like this method to teach them not to snatch over smacking a puppy's nose (which teaches it to be afraid of your hand, not respect it)


Dear Maureen & Family, This starts in puppy hood, before the dog learns to judge where to aim his teeth and can become a little clumsy with those sharp little teeth, making us pull our hand away when he does so. The effect of pulling our hand away, encourages him/her to start snatching food before it is pulled away and of course this is very common practice with children, as there fingers are more sensitive than that of an adults. So, we firstly have to stop moving our hand away and the best way of doing this is to hold the titbit between our finger and thumb and curl our hand round to make a fist before offering the dog the back of our hand. As the dog goes to snatch the titbit he will bump against the back of the hand and then usually take a step back or hesitate. The moment he does this uncurl your hand and give the titbit on your flat fingers, which will stop him from biting them. He will soon learn to wait until the hand is uncurled and the titbit is presented in this fashion which will have the desired effect of stopping him snatching the food reward. Incidentally, many dogs learn to snatch food from children's hand as they are walking around eating. To prevent this either make sure the children are sitting down to eat, or restrain the puppy until the food has been eaten by the child as it is not good practice to allow. Never tease a dog with food or he will start to lunge for it and could, unintentionally bite, which would not be the dog's fault at all. Gill."

I dont know, I'd be inclined to print it out and hand it in as I requested a new training class.

18th January 2007, 12:33 PM
Sounds like she is teaching the old school method. I wouldn't be happy either and would be inclined to find another trainer.

For the pulling on lead I've heard this method works but you have to have a lot of patience. When she pulls... you immediately stop. They love their walks so once she pulls, the walk stops. It may take hours to get down the driveway..but if you're consistant, they get the point. Like I said, it takes tons of patience which is why my girls still pull on lead :? and another good reason to use a harness!

The treat curled up in the hand is excellent. We used this with while using the "take it" command. They'll go crazy trying to get at the treat..licking, pawing, at your hand, but as soon as they stop you uncurl their hand and they get what the want. They get this one really fast ;)

I would never snap the lead like she says. This is very old school.

Goodluck 8)

18th January 2007, 12:58 PM
I agree, it sounds like old school training. BUT, if you had a 100 + pound mastiff grabbing food from your hand-- you might HAVE to use stronger training techniques. Cavaliers as a breed are "soft" and harsh corrections can be too much.
When I have a dog that pulls-- I do 90 degree turns saying "watch". You can turn away from the dog or into the dog-- it makes them have to watch and listen for cues. I also carry treats and when they start to do what I say, we treat often and slowly just treat occasionally. Sandy

18th January 2007, 01:11 PM
Good for you for holding your ground.

I'd switch classes too.

Any trainer who still believes you need to 'correct' a dog for not understanding what you want, rather than reward it for getting it right, is not OK in my book.

It is easy to teach a puppy not to pull on a harness, or any dog, but sadly many trainers still subscribe to the very old training methods that involve correcting dogs rather than rewarding them (the latter, incidentally, is how expert animal trainers get such precisely trained animals for Hollywood films -- animals will not perform when they are afriad of punishment; they perform because they love it and are willing to work hard for a trainer they respect). Rewarding the puppy to walk near you rather than jerking it into position very quickly stops pulling -- but an owner must keep practising this as pulling won't stop on the basis of classwork alone.

Dog Training Ireland recommend harnesses for many dogs -- espoecially cavaliers and small breeds -- and have trained hundreds of dogs successfully using harnesses, so it simply is not true that you need a special piece of equipment for effective training. If you REWARD rather than PUNISH, a harness or collar makes no difference. The only 'advantage' of a collar for punishment/correction-based teachers is that it allows you to more effectively jerk and startle (and hurt) a dog when it does the 'wrong' thing. Because rewards based training guides the dog to do the right thing and consistently make that choice, and because this approach doesn't require jerking the dog around, collar/harness makes little difference and a harness actually offers *more* control for many dogs. :) Dog Training Ireland regularly recommend harnesses for big dogs that are hard pullers and hard to control for this reason; I've seen how much easier it is for owners to work such dogs on a harness because I've sat in on many classes there.

I think that teaching cavaliers thru a punish and correct method demolishes their self confidence. Cavaliers learn easily because they like to learn, and as long as it is fun for them and you it is rewarding. If it is distressing to them they become very unhappy. Who wants to 'teach' by frightening an animal into obedience rather than working with them towards goals?

I'd quit the class and ask your puppy class teacher if she can recommend a class with similar methods to hers. Or ask any prospective trainer before class what his/her approach will be -- do they use choke collars, do they use corrections, do they ever use punishment -- sprays, slaps, etc? Any goodtrainer will allow you to sit in quietly on a class and watch how they train.

Why you shouldn't punish a dog:


Great advice from rewards-bsed trainers:


18th January 2007, 02:00 PM
Another way to get a dog to walk without pulling, is to keep the leash relatively short and use the word..."heel".

As the dog walks calmly beside you, reward either verbally or with treats.

If they pull, say "turn" and go the other way....redirect, in other words.

I've found that works....when we walk, there are two kinds of walkies, the "fun" walk when there's time to stop, sniff etc. and the more "formal" obedient walking.

Constant verbal rewards seem to work for my dogs...we did use treats with Charley when he was a puppy.

I'm in agreement with NOT punishing dogs....IMO, it's wrong.

Good for you, let them know you're not happy to use their methods on Coco. :flwr: :flwr:

Cicero's Mummy
18th January 2007, 02:42 PM
Oh my... I was shocked when I read number two!! :yikes

You should never whack anything in the face!!! Dogs, Children, your annoying hubby (lol)... ethically, I would have had a problem with this too!

Having my early childhood education degree... I have always been drilled on POSITIVE reinforcement! For me, this carries over to my dog too!

18th January 2007, 03:05 PM
Oh my... I was shocked when I read number two!! :yikes

You should never whack anything in the face!!! Dogs, Children, your annoying hubby (lol)... ethically, I would have had a problem with this too!

Having my early childhood education degree... I have always been drilled on POSITIVE reinforcement! For me, this carries over to my dog too!

99% of the time I agree-- positive reinforcement is a much better way to build a relationship. BUT will Pits, Rotties, Corsos and Mastiffs-- they have to KNOW you are alpha or someone will get hurt. This is why breed specific legislation is sweeping the country. Even with early childhood education, you must realize a child has a choice, to behave or misbehave. If you misbehave there must be consequences.

Sandy (former licensed Daycare Director of a school with 50 children)

Cicero's Mummy
18th January 2007, 04:18 PM
While I respect your opinion, hitting is NEVER an option for me, be it a child or a dog. I was abused as a child and have seen first hand the products of people's physical actions. Time-out with redirection (for kids) and positive reinforcement have always worked well for me in both situations with children and dogs. :)

18th January 2007, 04:34 PM
I don't think showing you are alpha requires hitting a dog or jerking it around, though I do respect that some good trainers can use training collars effectively. The problem is most owners don't -- they think choke chains are literally supposed to choke the dog for being 'bad', they loop the chain together backwards and cause it to throttle and pinch rather than give a quick brief correction, and they read up on all the dominance mumbo jumbo spread around by trainers and use harsh methods on theor dogs, exacerbating existing problems anbd creating new ones in large, strong, potentially domineering dogs. I'd suspect that the fact that these methods are used so often with the 'problem' breeds may be one reason why they are so often, problem, aggressive breeds; especially because they are so often owned by a certain type of boy or man who feels he is proving he is the macho alpha. :(

I've seen the convincing transformation of several aggressive dogs -- some quite scary -- using rewards based training in only two days, in one of Dee Ganley's seminars over here -- that's what really convinced me rewards based training wasn't just about nice approaches to friendly dogs and average owners, but the *right* approach for any dog and the ONLY approach for aggressive dogs that doesn't risk burying a problem that comes out in other ways.

There have been plenty of bull breeds, mastiffs, rotties, dobes and GSDs in Dog Training Ireland classes, all trained in rewards methods, and all worked very well. :) Dee Ganley for that matter trains border search dogs and police protection and competitive dog teams amongst others using rewards methods only -- very macho guys handling very macho dogs and winning awards for the performance of their teams. She shows some videos of training approaches with those dogs which are fascinating, especially ways of trainign Fish and Wildlife dogs to sniff out different types of fish!

From her biography:

Have had an extensive back ground in teaching personal protection and working with many Police and SAR, Service Dog handlers. ( haven't done the personal protection stuff for 18+ yrs now). But still work and coach SAR Refind and relationship skills & Police dog handlers for competition type events on dog handler relationship and skill training (NO physical Corrections). But definitely time outs. The last team I worked with won the 2003 OB,scent and obstacle course events and was # one all around in Canada. With a K/9 that was very "sharp". Even had the hair on my back "Standing up" on occasion but who in the end trusting me too. But was hair raising to start with;-)

from http://deesdogs.com/about.htm

18th January 2007, 04:38 PM
To set the record straight---- I don't hit children. I have successfully raised two daughters who ranked in the top 2-3% in the USA for their age/grade.

And I have been bitten by dogs and I've seen dogs that KNOW they are alpha. If a firm smack on the nose keeps a child from getting mauled by a large aggressive breed-- I am all for it. Children get injured and even killed from dogs that aren't taught that all humans are above them in rank. My point was each breed of dog requires special thought in its training.

20th January 2007, 02:44 AM
I suppose it also depends on the individual dog and individual circumstance. I do think harsh methods are wrong for *any* breed whilst a puppy. Mainly because I've seen my uncle literally thrash a labrador pup that was intended as a gundog for making a mistake in the house. Classic case of punishing after the fact... so wrong, and if it wasn't for the that I at that age was also scared of my uncle (he can be an intimidating man) I would have said something.. the squeals that pup made stayed with me for some time.

...but what do you do with a dog that is proven to be vicious? I suppose motivation is part of it. Harsh methods with a dog that is snarly because of low confidence/fear is not going to help.. but could gentleness be misconstrued as weakness? I also did teacher training, and there's a fine line between gentleness and respect and simply letting the kids walk over you. An order respectfully given gets better results.... the key word there is probably respect, now I think of it. Either for dogs or children. Treat the animal or child with respect and consideration, and you'll reap the rewards..

What do UK people think of Dog Borstal? They're strange because I think they give the impression of being harsher than they actually are. I like their method for stopping pulling, but it goes so fast (and I'm partly concentrating on the subtitles) that I can't see exactly what they're doing.

20th January 2007, 04:49 AM
Coco, I agree with your instincts.

Dogs CAN be taught to walk on a loose lead while wearing a harness. Both Cedar and Willow walk well on a lead (at least in training classes :roll: ) with their harnesses. (DH has been too lax with the girls on walks, so they dont think walkies requires good leash manners)

One issue I did run into with harnesses is that, if you do the CGC, you might have to get special permission to use the harness during the test (AKC rules state a standard buckle or training collar are required).

Another strategy to help if the dog pulls (along with the going the other direction, which works well apparently with cavvies!) is to have the dog sit and do a "watch me" when it pulls. This redirects attention back to you and stops the walk. when you're the focus, try again.

I've found that, with cavaliers especially, a vocal correction is all that is necessary (rather than a physical correction). I use a "EAHHH!" sound when the dog does something inproperly. The only time I've had to resort to physically correction is with the obsessive licking my girls do, and then it's just to push them away. (I tend to push them to DH, who lets them lick, which is why we have the problem in the first place. See a pattern here???)

If you have the option of switching training classes, it might be worth looking into it. If not, simply take from the class that which you find useful. Afterall, the trainer does not have the final say on how you treat your dog. You do. Just being in a space with other people and dogs is a good experience, even if you never use the training techniques you're shown.

Coco's mom
23rd January 2007, 07:21 PM
I'm sorry I took so long to reply to this. I had to get my thoughts together. I feel so much better after reading all of your replies. I just didn't know what to think after that class. I knew I couldn't follow her methods. It was so reassuring to hear from you all. Thank goodness for this board. :flwr:

Jackie, the method you described for teaching them not to pull on the lead is pretty much what I learned in puppy kindergarten. We also treat when she looks up at me or does what I say, as you suggested Sandy. Now that she is learning the "watch" command, I'll try that one too! I really don't feel the need to snap her lead. :( Poor Coco. Just the thought of it makes me ill. I'm so glad to hear it IS unnecessary.

Kody, that's a great idea about holding the treat curled up in my hand to teach the pup not to grab the food. I'm going to try that.
Thank you for all the information, Karlin. After reading these posts, my anxiety level is back down. :)

Moviedust, I think I am going to take your advice and just take what I find useful from the class. I don't need to follow all her techniques. I'll see how the next class goes today. I have no problem speaking up if I am not comfortable with something. I'm a little nervous though!
I talked to a woman who has a wonderfully well-behaved sheltie in the Obedience 2 class with the same trainer. The sheltie went through Obedience 1 with the same trainer too. The owner said that she didn't have a problem with the trainer; she just followed the advice she liked, and ignored what she didn't like.

Before getting Coco, when researching Cavaliers, I read over and over again that they are a sensitive and soft breed. I was so careful in choosing a training center for Coco, one that uses gentle positive reinforcement techniques. It's so disappointing and surprising that one of the club's trainers is so great and the another still uses these old techniques. :x I hope things get better. If not, I know how to deal with them now.
Thank you so much.

24th January 2007, 03:50 AM
Glad to hear your less anxious.

OK totally unrelated... the Puppia in your picture is quite the "hot" pink. The ones I see online are softer, so is it the camera lighting or did you order one someplace that has them brighter? Sorry your avatar just catches my eye all the time now!

Coco's mom
24th January 2007, 05:38 AM
thanks! :)

hehehee. It isn't just the picture. It is a really bright pink. I don't know why, but they always seem to picture pink puppia harnesses in a soft pink online- I don't know if those are actually available though. I've only seen bright pink puppias in stores. :flwr:

24th January 2007, 03:09 PM
Having worked with and trained dogs such as Mastiffs, Rotties. Staffies, Pit Bulls etc I would NEVER recommend tapping or hitting on the nose. Lisa and I are very interested in these breeds and have attended seminar in UK detailing the categories of aggression found in Pit Bulls.

As regards description of "Alpha" in previous posts I feel it lacks an understanding of breeds such as Pit Bulls and Rotties etc. I guarantee if you challenge such a breed with slaps on the nose because you feel the dog is trying to be an "Alpha" that they may not retaliate towards you or an adult but they will certainly retaliate against a smaller adult or a child if the dog feels the child is going to slap it on the nose and this is where accidents occur so infact this kind of advice has been the cause of many dangerous attacks on dogs. Slapping causes dogs to associate the hand with something negative. It is far more complex than that. We cannot advise slapping dogs on the nose in an attempt to demote them down a rank - this is highly dangerous and irresponsible. Also each time you administer a slap the dog will become used to it so next time the slap must be harder and harder and where do you stop. Also to administer punishment in this way will cause the dog to go into protection mode and if you are causing a Rottie (guarder) to protect itself then you are opening a whole new can of worms.

Basically dogs with aggressive tendencies need the root cause of the aggression categorised and then dealt with. If the aggression cannot be treated then the dog can either be managed or pts depending on the category and level of aggression and the ability of the owner.

It is not about "Alpha" or showing who is boss. It is about showing the dog what you expect, how he/she is expected to behave, that when they get it right that all rewards are theirs and when they get it wrong punishment will be in the form of loosing rewards and isolation. But this can only be done with dogs of SOUND temperament. Dogs with core temperament issues must be pts IMO. Harsh but that is how I feel. And I am not specifically speaking of Rotties, Pit Bulls etc. I would do the same with a cavalier king charles if it had serious core temperament issues. Temperament is FIXED (if you are born round you won't die square), behaviour can be CHANGED.

As regards dangerous dogs and if anyone feels the need to show their dog who is boss because of aggression it is not as simple as dominance and submission or rank reduction. The alpha wolf in a pack DOES NOT administer punishment to subordinates by pushing it around constantly. The alpha DOES NOT eat first as many incorrectly believe, who eats first depends on the availability of food, whether females are whelping, if there are pups being raised etc. The Alpha wolf in a pack is a calm, controlled individual who will only administer punishment when absolutely required and who will avoid conflict.

Too many of our ideas on Alpha and Dominance are based on incorrect information.

For those of you who believe dogs can be dominant or want to assume top position I suggest you read any articles by Ray and Lorna Coppinger and that you purchase a book by Barry Eaton called Dominance Fact or Fiction.

So aim to be a good teacher for your dog. Give clear signals and learn how to understand their body language.op

24th January 2007, 03:43 PM
You assume that smacking the dog was a training technique-- NO. If a dog bites my hand - I will give a smack to the nose with a loud NOOOO. Biting is an extreme behavior that I won't tolerate.
Not all dogs want to be dominant. Some would not take that role.
I live with a pack of dogs-- there is a heirarchy-- definately. Just try to feed them with one bowl.

24th January 2007, 04:26 PM
Sandy I think Tara was responding to the original post -- in which smacking the dog on the nose was a direct instruction from the trainer as a training technique.

2) I was also uncomfortable with how she taught us to "correct" the dogs if they try to grab something from our hand too roughly/quickly. She said we should "whack" them (gently ) in the nose/muzzle.

Also there's no denial here that dogs have their own hierarchies and their own chosen alpha (indeed it is Tara and Lisa who have talked many times to me about what the ranking likely is in my own household, as most people guess Jaspar -- which is wrong! -- based on typical mistaken assumptions about outward behaviour from alpha dogs. J. is actually a very submissive dog who will roll on his back before most dogs he meets including oldies and females! :lol: . Leo, who is exceedingly sweet tempered and polite, rules the roost and will put impolite dogs in their place despite his small size. Fascinating to watch him manage this is a firm but purposeful way).

It's the mistaken transfer of ideas about what being alpha means within a canine world to what is means for a human' to be alpha' -- and using demotion etc as training techniques that Tara is referring to and which I also agree with as those training appraches are based on very old and what is widely seen in animal research circles as mistaken analysis done on captive wolves. Someone earlier posted a very relevant article about Dr Ian Dunbar that addresses this whole area, which is very complex and interesting.

I would never smack a dog under any circumstances, personally, though I recognise that people have their own approaches and philosophies. I have seen from quite a few training programmes and seminars how conditioned some difficult dogs are to just lash out in response -- so agree with the trainers I've worked with that is is a potentially dangerous way of admonishing a dog, especially dogs that have guarding or fighting backgrounds bred into them.

Training like feeding is always a fraught area of wide opinions but with cavaliers I agree with longtime breeder Barbara Garnett-Wilson in her new book, that cavaliers learn easily when their desire for having fun and to please is encouraged and rewarded, but the training relationship is stifled and damaged when corrective or physical methods are used.

24th January 2007, 04:55 PM
There are an abundance of ways and reasons to train -- (OR even raise children). We don't have to agree. Especially if people are successful in doing it their way.
NOW, if anyone has a successful way to keep dogs from barking when they hear the doorbell (even on tv)?? I would love to hear it.

31st January 2007, 11:18 AM

Just saw this one. Yes I was speaking of the ORIGINAL trainer and their methods. I usually don't get to read all the responses and reply to the original response.

To clarify I respect everyone on this board and know that you all love and care for your dogs, that goes without saying.

I do have a huge problem with trainers and those in training positions, who are listened to and copied, dishing out irresponsible advice.

Hope that clarifies ;)